March 31, 2014

Trunk Show at the Little Knittery!

Hello LA Knitters! Yarn Crawl Los Angeles 2014 begins Thursday, April 3 and lasts through Sunday, April 6. If you are a knitter in the area, don't miss it. My good friend Kat Coyle will be hosting me for a trunk show of over 40 samples(!!!). Kat is the owner of The Little Knittery, a wonderful LYS nestled in Atwater Village. She will have tons of samples, both from me and other designers, and will also have several demos going on throughout the weekend, including one on Tunisian crochet, which I am going to be very excited to see. Kat has stocked the shop with some of my favorite yarns, including yarns from Shalimar and Sweet Georgia. I will be there to meet and chat from 1-3 on Sunday, April 6, but I also plan to hang around as much as I can Friday evening (open til 7:00), Saturday, and Sunday. Please join us! It should be a wonderful time!

Here are a few photos of set up. We spent several hours organizing and arranging today. It was really fun to see my samples all lined up on display.

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Posted by Julia at 04:33 PM | Comments (933)

November 05, 2013

Yarn Discount!

Hi all,

I just thought I'd alert you to a 10% off sale of yarn in honor of the Gift-A-Long and an update from a new-to-me independent yarn source, Unwind Yarn Company. Unwind is run by Dana of the Just One More Row knitting podcast (a fun listen if you have not heard it before), and her catalog of colors is just stunning. With her kind permission, I am posting a photo of one of my favorite colorways, Morning Sky:

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There will be an update at 4:00 PM today. You can see all of Dana's colorways by following the links at the top of her blog. And then go to her shop for the update. To receive the 10% discount, enter the code "giftalong" when you make a purchase in the shop. Happy shopping and happy gifting!

P.S. Dana and her co-podcaster Brittney are also hosting the Into the Wool Fiber Retreat next May - check it out - it sounds like a blast!

Posted by Julia at 09:32 AM

October 31, 2013

Gift-A-Long & Sale!

Giftalong-logo-200.jpgI've joined with over 100 other independent designers to bring you a really special event and promotion: the Gift-A-Long!

The Gift-A-Long is a chance for knitters and crocheters on ravelry to work on their holiday gifts together with tons of support and prizes along the way. You can learn all about it in the ravelry GAL group. The GAL begins November 1 and lasts through December 31. There is a very large list of eligible patterns from independent designers to choose from, and, in connection with the GAL, all of the participating patterns will be available for 25% off when you use the coupon code "giftalong" during the first two weeks of the GAL - November 1-15.

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The participating patterns from my Mind of Winter line are featured above:

Adiri Cowl | Sola | Adiri Mittens
Frambuesa | Adiri Slouchy | Mexican Wedding
Chalice Cowl | Zucca Cowl | Chalice Mitts

For easy reference, the main pattern photos in my ravelry shop contain a cute little gift-a-long tag.

Happy Holiday Season and Happy Gifting!

Posted by Julia at 09:44 PM

October 06, 2013

Old Friends

I always love seeing others knit my designs, but sometimes the result is extra special. I've been on-line friend of Vicki of Knitorious since we both started blogging - likely about a decade at this point. Back when the knit blogging community was much smaller and blog posts were more frequent I had more opportunities to "see" Vicki online (now I end up following her on Pinterest!), so when she decided to make not one, but two, of my shawl patterns for her daughter's wedding, it was like getting a gift from an old friend. Imagine my delight when I saw the photos she posted from the wedding a few days ago. I was positively beside myself. Here are a few of the gorgeous photographs that Vicki's niece Jena took of Vicki and her daughter wearing Frambuesa and Mexican Wedding. They are copyright J. Schleis Photography, and used with Jena's kind permission.

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Vicki's blog is a great read and her Pinterest boards are beautifully curated, so I highly recommend that you take a peek. She is knitorious on ravelry.

Posted by Julia at 06:01 PM | Comments (2)

August 15, 2013

Working With Hand-Dyed Yarns

Hand-dyed yarns are special. Their tonal quality and striking colors make them come alive in a way that mass-produced yarns do not. They add something indescribable to projects and are a joy to knit with, which is why the vast majority of the yarns I use now are hand-dyed. Like anything special, hand-dyed yarns require special handling to really shine, so I thought I would share a few tips on how to use them to their best advantage.

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The Brennan Cardi, worked in Shalimar's Hand-dyed Breathless DK
First, the uniqueness of hand-dyed yarn is its strength, but also one of its bigger challenges. Each batch of yarn, although made from the dyer’s standardized color recipes, is going to be unique, and vary from the next batch – often quite noticeably. Most of the dyers I know kettle dye in small studios, and there is a limit to how many skeins can happily co-exist in the dye pot – often 6 or less. (If you are curious, ask your dyer!) So you will want to be sure that the skeins you buy were cozied up in that pot together to minimize the variation. For small on-line orders this should not be an issue, as the dyer will organize the orders to make the dyelots within each order consistent. If you buy from an LYS, it will likely be the same, but you should always ask the sales person if the skeins are from the same dyelot or bag. Even within dyelots there will be some variation, so once you get your yarn home, uncoil the hanks and compare them to one another. If there are particularly dark or light skeins, make sure that you alternate them with skeins that fall closer to the mid-range to minimize contrast. Avoid putting a light-colored skein with a darker one. Which leads to my main topic – alternating skeins. Whenever you work with hand-dyed yarns you should alternate skeins. You may be able to get away with not doing it here and there, but why take the risk? Even what seems like a minor difference in the hanks can look awful in a finished object if you don’t alternate. Here’s how to do it:

1. Skein 1/3 of a hank of yarn. This will be skein #1.

2. Skein the other 2/3 rds of the same hank and reserve. This will be the last skein you use.

3. If you are knitting flat in pieces, wind remaining yarn into whole skeins. If you are working a seamless sweater, like my Brennan Cardi or Corazon, wind one of the remaining hanks into three separate skeins and reserve.

4. Work the first two rows of the sweater with skein #1, then change to a second full skein for two rows (skein #2). Continue to alternate these two skeins every other row, twisting them together when you change from one working skein to the other. In most instances, you can change skeins at the end of the row or round.

For a cardigan like Brennan, each end of the work is part of the self-finishing edging, however, so it is best to work about 4 sts into the next (WS) row and switch yarns there. All that matters is that you are consistent about where the yarns alternate. You can choose the location where you switch to suit your purposes. If you have an edging that will show, make the change in a place that is less obvious.

5. Continue to work in this manner, adding in new skeins as needed. When you get to the point where you only need a third of a skein to finish your project, it is fine to stop alternating skeins - just be sure that you have enough of the final skein to finish.

If you are working a seamless sweater where the body and sleeves will come together without the visual break that a seam supplies, you will want to use the hank that you divided into three skeins as one of the alternating skeins at the portion of each piece where it meets the other two. Having at least one skein in common will help prevent an obvious visual line where the pieces meet. Plan to start using one of these "common" skeins about 1-2" / 2.5-5 cm below the point where the pieces will meet.

Happy Knitting!

Posted by Julia at 06:14 AM

August 06, 2013

50% Off August Doldrums Sale!

It's the time of year when everything knitting crawls to a halt, but don't let that happen to your knitting! The cool months of fall are right around the corner, and nothing helps a knitter embrace the crisp seasons more than a fresh knit. To get your creative juices flowing, I'm having my biggest sale to date:

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50% off all individual patterns in my Mind of Winter on Ravelry Store!

No coupon is necessary, just add the pattern(s) of your choice to your cart and the discount will be applied automatically at checkout. The discount applies to all patterns in my Mind of Winter on Ravelry Store (ebook collections and Twist Collective Patterns are not included), through midnight PST on Friday, August 9. There is no limit on the number of patterns that you can purchase. Happy August and Happy Knitting!

~Julia

Posted by Julia at 08:41 AM | Comments (1)

June 25, 2013

New Pattern and Coupon: Brennan Cardi

I have a new cardigan design out called Brennan, and between now and July 4, you can get 10% off your purchase on ravelry by entering the coupon code BRENNANRELEASE at checkout.

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The Brennan Cardi. See more details or buy it now on ravelry.

Summer knitting is for those transitional pieces that will take you from spring’s end to early fall -- and through the office air conditioning in between. Brennan is the perfect little cardigan for the task. It is a circular yoke construction, knit from the bottom up, with sleeves worked in the round. Dart shaping on the front and back of the bodice give it a lovely feminine shape. Finishing is minimal, requiring only seaming or grafting under the arms, where the sleeves meet the body.

Brennan is suitable for intermediate knitters or the intrepid advanced beginner. Please see specific required skills below. Instructions are both written and charted. The pattern has been professionally tech edited to reduce the possibility for error, but if you have questions or believe that you have found an error, please contact me.

The cardigan sample is shown in Shalimar Yarns Breathless DK in the “Last Dance” colorway. Shalimar will be having an etsy shop update including lots of their gorgeous Breathless DK in multiple colorways (there are even more not pictured here). To keep apprised of their schedule, join their ravelry group. I will also be updating information here and in my own ravelry group, which I would also love you to join.

required skills:
knitting in the round (sleeves); increasing (m1, yo); decreasing (k2tog); decreasing evenly across a row; either grafting or seaming (underarms)

instructions are given for:
making bobbles; making buttonholes; short rows; kitchener stitch (optional)

finished measurements
28 (31, 34, 37 / 39 ¼, 42 ¼, 45 ¼ / 48 ¼, 50 ½, 53 ½)” / 71 (78.5, 86.5, 94 / 99.5, 107.5, 115 / 122.5, 128.5, 136) cm bust circumference.

21 ¼ (22 ½, 22 ½, 22 ½ / 23 ¾, 23 ¾, 25 / 26 ¼, 26 ¼, 26 ¼)” / 54 (57, 57, 57 / 60.5, 60.5, 63.5 / 66.5, 66.5, 66.5) cm in length.

Intended to be worn with approximately 1” / 2.5 cm of positive ease. Sample measures 31” / 78.5 cm.

yarn
4 (4, 4, 5 / 5, 5, 6 / 6, 7, 7) skeins Shalimar Yarns Breathless DK in Color “Last Dance”; 270 yds / 247 m per 125 g; 75% merino wool /15% cashmere / 10% silk.

Sweater requires approximately 840 (960, 1020, 1110 / 1210, 1300, 1420 / 1590, 1660, 1740) yds / 770 (880, 940, 1020 / 1100, 1190, 1300 / 1450, 1520, 1590) m DK weight yarn.

For additional information, see the pattern page on ravelry.

Posted by Julia at 07:54 AM

May 09, 2013

Knit to Flatter Winner!

Hi All! Things have been busy between the Frambuesa release and attending Maryland Sheep and Wool for the first time, but now that the bustle is dying down, I have a winner for the Knit to Flatter contest - Kristin EM! I have contacted Kristin via e-mail, and await her response. Kristin, if you have not received an e-mail from me, please check your spam folder. Thanks so much to everyone for participating. It sounds like this is a book that would benefit a lot of people out there. I highly recommend it, and I love the craftsy course as well. They are good companion pieces. I feel like the course has very detailed information and the advantage of showing Amy in person going through the steps with you, whereas the book covers the highlights of knitting to flatter and also includes many lovely patterns that you can modify. My own patterns can be challenging to modify because of the intense patterning going on in many of them, but the cardigan that I am currently working on (due for release at TNNA in late June) is going to be easily customizable using Amy's methods, so keep an eye out. If you enjoy my patterns and are ready to try to make a first sweater, this will be a good one (while still retaining my love of texture). Thanks again for participating in the contest. It was great to hear from all of you!

Posted by Julia at 07:49 AM | Comments (1)

April 21, 2013

Frambuesa Shawl Release!

Wow, you peeps really came out of the woodwork to have a chance at winning Amy's book. You should - it's great! She also has a craftsy course that I am in the middle of viewing, and that is fantastic, too. I will be announcing the winner of the Knit to Flatter contest soon, but right now I have a little news of my own. Frambuesa has been released!

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Frambuesa is my ode to spring. It's a crescent shawl available in two sizes, a shawlette to drape over your shoulders, and a larger full shawl size to wear wrapped around you on those still chilly nights. It is available as an individual pdf or as part of the Fire Collection, which includes Corazon and Mexican Wedding. If you previously purchased one or both of those patterns, the price of the collection will be discounted by the amount of your previous purchase(s).

Frambuesa is suitable for intermediate lace knitters. Instructions are both written and charted. The shawlette sample is shown in SweetGeorgia Yarns Superwash Sock in the "Raspberry" colorway.

Posted by Julia at 09:39 PM | Comments (1)

April 15, 2013

Book Review & Giveaway: Knit to Flatter

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Photos courtesy of Karen Pearson.
Knit to Flatter wholeheartedly embraces the phrase “variety is the spice of life.” In it, Amy Herzog guides us through the process of determining what shape we really are (and it may be different than you think, so do the exercises), and making choices in style and fit that will best flatter us.

Amy divides the womanly figure into three basic, easily-identifiable categories: bottom-heavy, top-heavy, and proportional, and goes into detail with respect to which design elements are most flattering to each shape. I think we’ve all found that certain neckline, length, and sleeve treatments are more appealing to us than others. Knit to Flatter will help explain why that is, and possibly even break you out of a routine choice that may not make the most sense for your shape.

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I'll be sharing favorites throughout the post. These are Chimera and Cypress.

Each of the three shapes has its own chapter that includes several sweaters designed to flatter that body type, and emphasizes the aspects of the sweaters (and in one case a skirt) that make them aesthetically pleasing. The patterns also include text boxes where Amy discusses how to modify the patterns to flatter other body types, so that if a sweater catches your eye, but does not appear in “your” chapter, it is not out of reach. Within each of the three main body types, there are variations – some women will be bustier, others may have a little “junk in the trunk,” as I like to say about my own “enhancements.” Amy has a chapter that covers these variations in detail as well.

The coup de grace is the chapter that brings it all together, where Amy discusses how to make the alterations that you will find yourself wanting to implement in all of your sweater projects. This is the chapter that will get dog-eared by many, as they use it over and over again. It covers waist and bust shaping (darts and short rows), changing the position and/or shape of a neckline, and changing the length of the bodice and sleeves. The information is clearly and simply presented, and geared to the average knitter who has not modified a sweater or does not do it on a regular basis.

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Flutter and Elora. I looove those sleeves.

The variety in Knit to Flatter is not limited to body types, however. The book includes 18 patterns (15 designed by Amy herself, and the remainder by well-known designers Elinor Brown, Kirsten Kapur, and Caro Sheridan). It is clear that care has been taken to provide a variety of details within each body type section and throughout the book. There are some factors that are constant. Amy prefers a seamed, bottom-up construction with set-in sleeves (I am also in this camp – give it a try, ultimately you may be, too), and ample use of Stockinette stitch in key places for ease of modification. All of her sweaters include vertical darts, which can be further modified.

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Dansez and Stoker.

Within the base patterns there are 8 cardigans, 2 wrap sweaters, 6 pullovers, a tank, and a skirt. At least two of those patterns have alternate patterns included, one of which is a vest version. There is great variation in necklines – crew, scoop, V-neck, U-neck, turtleneck, square neck and cowl neck. Body lengths vary, as do sleeve lengths – full, flutter, ¾ length, short, and sleeveless. There is something for every knitter: 6 sweaters employ cables, 5 utilize lace, 3 are textured, and 1 involves colorwork. The patterns are very accessible, and are all the type that will become wardrobe staples – perfect for work or weekend. Knit to Flatter is a book that every knitter who wants to understand modifications should own. And one of you can! Leave a message in the comments telling me what routine modifications you either make or want to make to enter to win a copy of the book. Comments will stay open until the 22nd, and I’ll choose a winner by the 30th.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about Knit to Flatter and Amy Herzog you can catch her on her blog tour:

Monday, April 15: Rock and Purl - Ruth Garcia-Alcantud
Tuesday, April 16: Mind of Winter - Julia Trice
Wednesday, April 17: Mary Jane Mucklestone
Thursday, April 18: Moth Heaven - Julia Farwell-Clay
Friday, April 19: Baby Cocktails - Thea Colman
Saturday, April 20: Knitting At Large - Julie Matthews
Sunday, April 21: ADD Knitter
Monday, April 22: Savory Knitting - Amy Christoffers
Tuesday, April 23: Carole Knits

Posted by Julia at 09:53 PM | Comments (95)

April 13, 2013

On the horizon

This is Frambuesa, a crescent shawl that I hope to have published within the next two weeks. Griffin kindly agreed to model it for me so I'd have some project shots to share. He is such a little ham. It cracks me up. Pink is his favorite color, so he was really into this one. Frambuesa will be offered in both shawl and shawlette sizes (shown). It's a quick, fun knit and adds a perfect touch of spring in SweetGeorgia Superwash Sock in the Raspberry colorway.

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April 07, 2013

Sola Coupon for Shalimar Release

I've somehow managed not to post my last couple of designs, so I'm going to start now. The most recent is Sola, a quick tam worked up in less than a skein of Shalimar Yarns Breathless DK in the Curry colorway. Breathless is a cashmere merino blend that is currently available in DK and fingering weights (keep an eye out for a fingering weight design in late spring or summer). Shalimar Yarns will be having an etsy update for BDK on April 10 at noon eastern time. (For more info, see their blog or ravelry group.) With any purchase of BDK you will receive a coupon for $2 off Sola, which you can use to buy the pattern from my ravelry store. At $3.50 it's a great value and an excellent way to use up the remainder of a sweater quantity of yarn or to try a skein of something new.

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You can find additional details and photos of Sola on ravelry. The Shalimar shop update will likely sell out within a day, so if you are interested I suggest popping in at noon EST on the 10th for the best selection. There will be a wide variety of colors available, including five new colors that are exclusive to the etsy shop. Here are a few of the etsy shop exclusive colorways:

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Shalimar Breathless DK in Billie's Blues, Mystery Date, and Radio Flyer
Posted by Julia at 10:57 PM

January 29, 2013

Coming Soon

I worked up a cute pair of mittens to go with all the other Adiri patterns, and since Adiri is a lace pattern, there is a pattern for an "undermitten" as well. The undermitten is worked separately, so the pattern ended up being a two for one. You can make fancy Adiri Mittens, plain undermittens, or both to really warm up your hands in winter. The other news is that I have finally put together a real website. Don't worry - I plan to keep the blog! But for all other things yarn-y and pattern-y, you can check out the site. It has links to all my Mind of Winter and Twist patterns in pdf, and links to the patterns that you can purchase in printed form as well. I also plan to feature the independent yarn companies that support me, and take you a little bit behind the scenes of what they do, as well as discuss the specific yarns I've chosen for a pattern, and what I like about them. It will take time, so if you are interested, stop in every once in a while to see it all grow.

I'm also running a contest. If you head over to the new site and subscribe to receive e-mail updates on pattern releases before the end of your day on February 1, you'll be entered to win an Adiri Mitten pattern. I hope you'll all stop by!

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Adiri Mittens
Posted by Julia at 08:35 PM | Comments (4)

January 09, 2013

Asher Hat and Zucca Cowl released

You can find the patterns for the Asher Hat and the Zucca Cowl for sale on ravelry - yay! I have another accessory coming this month, and then it's sweaters, sweaters, sweaters. It has been very fun to cleanse my palette on this little stuff, but I will be excited to sink my teeth into the challenges again, too - new year and all that. Hope that 2013 is treating you all well.

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Another view of the Asher Hat, modeled on Griffin below.
See details on ravelry or buy it now.

Asher fits both me and Griffin and there is a second, larger size for those of you out there with real thinkers on your shoulders. It's unisex, very warm, and knits up quickly in The Plucky Knitter's Primo Aran. It's shown here in the "Flannel" colorway, a new favorite of mine.

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Zucca, with Lake George in the background. Fall seems long ago.
See details on ravelry or buy it now.

And here is the Zucca Cowl, knit in SweetGeorgia Yarn's Superwash Worsted, colorway "Ginger." This is the same colorway I used in Griffin's Yesternight sweater. It's just divine. Like the hat, the cowl is unisex and can be worn by a child or an adult.

Thanks for stopping in. I'll see you when the next accessory is released or when Griffin and I have another crafty weekend. Both will likely happen soon.

Posted by Julia at 02:46 PM | Comments (1)

January 07, 2013

A new hat

The great thing about having a four-year-old who likes my knits is that he likes my knits. The bad thing about it is that he steals things from me the second they are off the needles. It is impossible to answer in anything but the affirmative when that little voice asks "Is this for me?" Yes, it's for you. Everything is for you.

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Griffin rides again!

Anyhoo, this is the latest off the needles. It's a fun, fast cabled hat in The Plucky Knitter's Primo Aran. This is the first time that I have used Sarah's yarn, but it won't be the last. The base is lovely and the color is to die (dye?) for. I am going to try to get this pattern out pretty quickly, so look for it in the next few weeks. If you would like to be notified when it is released, leave a note in the comments and I will add you to my mailing list.

Posted by Julia at 08:16 PM | Comments (2)

December 23, 2012

Paper Garlands!

On the weekends, G and I have turned the dining room into a Christmas project workshop. Making the paper garlands was a lot of fun. All you need are decorative punches or "paper shapers," multi-colored construction paper, thread, and a sewing machine. We used two circular punches, one 1 1/2" and the other 2 1/2". It's nice to have some variation in size to make the garlands more interesting. You can use these two punches to make moons and to make Saturn-shaped rings, which G was quite good at. It's a nice project for a smaller child because they can pick colors and punch the circles without help. Once you have your shapes cut, you sew them into a garland using your sewing machine. You can either stick with a single layer or sew two circles together and then fold them so that they make a 3 dimensional shape. Remember to leave long tails of thread at each end of the garland so that you can easily attach it wherever you like.

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The Dude in his Garland Production Factory


There are also fancier punches (and I have it on good authority that Santa is bringing mommy a few fancier punches for her stocking), but I like the simplicity of the circles. You can make garlands for any occasion - black and orange for Halloween, red and pink for Valentine's Day, or multi-colored for birthdays, etc. They are easy and a ton of fun for the kiddies - highly recommended. If you are looking for other last-minute holiday craft ideas, you can also check out my How-to's, Tips, and Fun Things to Make Board on Pinterest. It includes almost 300 crafty ideas - some are inspirational photos, and others are tutorials with full instructions. Enjoy!

Posted by Julia at 11:10 AM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2012

Haven Update in the Shalimar Etsy Shop and Pattern Discount!

Hello all! Just a quick post to let you know that I'll be running a special on the Adiri series of patterns during Shalimar Yarns' update of their etsy shop today through the 23rd. Shalimar will be taking orders for Haven and a beautiful new yarn, Breathless DK. Haven is the gorgeous yarn that I having been using relentlessly for the Adiri series.

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Kristi and Lara of Shalimar Yarns sporting their Adiri sweaters in Haven in the "Water's Edge" and "Mandarin" colorways.

You can get details on the Adiri Slouchy Hat, Adiri, and the Adiri Cowl, including yardage requirements, by clicking the photos below.

Use the coupon code "shalimarupdate" to get 10% off of any and all of these three individual patterns when you purchase them during the Shalimar update period - today through December 23rd.

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I hope that you will check out Shalimar's offerings. They are a wonderful company that produces beautiful yarns, and these patterns were designed specifically to showcase those yarns to their fullest. The updated yarns are only live from today through the 23rd, so get your in your order while you can!


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A parting shot of the lovely Lara.

Posted by Julia at 07:50 AM

December 07, 2012

Silver and Gold

(Queue Burl Ives.) We at Chez Hoolia have been crafting up a storm in preparation for Christmas. Every year I say to myself that I should start earlier, and this year I actually did it! For me, the trick is to avoid knitting gifts for the most part and instead focus on crafts that adorn the tree and brighten up the house to get us in the holiday spirit. With Mr. Griffin to help I tackle a mini-project every weekend. Just something simple that is sure to turn out lovely. One weekend we make cookies with frosting, on another stockings, and on another gilded pine cones! I have become a little obsessed with pine cones. I even started a pinterest board dedicated solely to them. It's pretty cool.

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The Pine Cones in various stages of done-ness.

I've realized in the course of pinning that I like my pine cones regal, with their dignity intact. It is very unlikely that you will find me hot-gluing googly eyes on them. So gilded pine cones were right up my alley. I've seen tutorials for gilding pine cones on the internet, but the process is so easy you don't really need a link. You just gather pine cones, put them in a box with lots of space in between so that you can turn them over, and spray paint them with metallic paint in the box. The in-the-box part is really the only thing to remember. It keeps things neat. If you can, do it outside. The fumes won't make you as high and there is less chance of stenciling a box-shape on your living room floor. You can also use chopsticks left over from Chinese take-out to maneuver the pine cones around and get an even distribution of paint (you'll need to do that several times for good coverage). It takes only about 20 minutes and the results are stunning. Plus what four-year-old doesn't want to get in some tagging practice at an early age? It's fun for the whole family!

Next weekend: paper garlands!

Posted by Julia at 07:11 AM | Comments (3)

December 04, 2012

Adiri Slouchy

I've been working on calculations for a sweater that I'll be publishing, and while doing that I found myself with a gap of time where I was not far enough along in the planning to start knitting the sweater sample, and nothing on my needles - gasp! The horror. Actually, this happens to me quite a lot now, and I've discovered that the most satisfying way to keep my hands busy while I am in the throes of the other aspects of pattern writing is to cast on for an accessory. Which is exactly what I did. I started on Thanksgiving Day and knit between turkey bastings, and was done by the next night. It was that easy and that fun. And now I have another pattern out in no time flat. This is a good one for last-minute knitting. There may be one or two more in my immediate future!

The Adiri Slouchy Hat

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You can find it on ravelry by clicking here or on the sidebar where it has a semi-permanent home.

I hope you all had a great turkey day. Ours was wonderful, with good food, good football, and good knitting.

Posted by Julia at 07:11 PM

November 26, 2012

New Pattern: Yesternight

I designed Yesternight for Griffin’s fourth birthday. He says things every day that I hope I will remember forever, but wistfully know I will not. Griffin calls last night “Yesternight,” and I love it too much to correct him. The sweater is my way of remembering all our Yesternights together.

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The pattern is suitable for advanced beginner cable knitters. Instructions are both written and charted, and a detailed schematic is included. Like all my patterns, it has been professionally tech edited.

Enter the coupon code "sweetdreams" when you purchase the pattern through ravelry to receive a $1 discount, good through December 26.
Happy Holidays and Happy Knitting!
Posted by Julia at 09:58 PM | Comments (4)

November 15, 2012

Another Twist

And it's a good one. You can find my contribution here.

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Esme.


Posted by Julia at 12:10 AM | Comments (4)

October 31, 2012

I love my pouty boy

I just finished a sweater for Griffin and had to beg him to wear it. I got some cute photos of him laughing, but I love this pouty look that he gave me initially. He loves the sweater, but he did not feel like playing model. At all.

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Calvin Klein: Obsession.

Just kidding. More photos on ravelry.


Posted by Julia at 10:59 PM | Comments (7)

October 18, 2012

Ahni: How I add Character to my Knits

One of the things I've learned over the last few years of designing is to pay attention to elements that I like in clothing, and to try to understand why I like them and what feel they impart to a design. For me, this comes in handy when I want to tweak a design to create a specific mood, but it is also useful for any knitter who likes to personalize a pattern with modifications.

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The original sketch submitted to Twist.

Ahni uses a couple of different elements to achieve various aspects of its overall look. I started with the stitch pattern. I love texture of all sorts, but I tend to knit a lot of lace and cables, and I wanted to explore other textures. In looking through stitch dictionaries, the little scale pattern stuck out to me. I haven't really seen it used much (at all? I'm sure someone somewhere has used it!), and it has a lot of nice advantages: 1) it's easy to work; 2) it's fun to work; and 3) it has a very small pattern repeat which makes it a dream to grade. The third advantage won't matter to many of you unless you decide to tweak the pattern, but believe you me, it makes any potential tweak so much easier. The little scale pattern on its own has a pretty amorphous character. Worked in a sport weight yarn it could be delicate, but at a worsted to aran weight it has a much more substantial, rugged feel.

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Check out that lovely textured stitch.

I've noticed that designs that really draw me in have an element of the unexpected, even if only subtle. So after deciding on the textured stitch pattern in the heavier yarn with a woodsy feel, I wanted to juxtapose it with some femininity. A good way to do that is with the neckline. Necklines are really important to me. They may not be radical, but they are always purposeful. The scoop neck on Ahni is a perfect example. It's sexy. And do you know why? It's all about the collarbone. Everyone has one, and when showcased properly they are just lovely. The scoop neck highlights your collarbone by creating those long rows of ribbing that all lead to it, while at the same time not revealing a lot of shoulder or cleavage. That means sexy, but yet everywhere appropriate, which is a nice feature. It elongates the neck in a swanlike manner. You can use a scoop neck like Ahni's on just about any pullover and instantly give it a touch of romance. It's a nice tool to put in your arsenal.

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With the model's hair pushed back you can really see the neckline.

I wasn't quite ready to stop at femininity, though. I wanted just a little more character. Unlike many of you folks, although I love the look of vintage on others, it doesn't usually work out so well on me. (And I prefer to design things I can wear!) There are a few exceptions, however, and one of them is deep waist ribbing. Add deep waist ribbing and you can give a sweater an instant 1950's feel - va voom! - yet still have the piece look modern.

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Dr. Steph of ravelry models her finished Ahni.

The last thing I decided on was the sleeves. I went with set-in sleeves to continue in the vein of femininity. There is just not another fit like them (well, maybe a contiguous sleeve, but that's another adventure), and when you want to portray a touch of elegance a fitted set-in sleeve is a good way to go. The deep ribbing on the sleeve was an easy choice - that was simply to blend. It mirrors the waist and neckline nicely and doesn't draw attention away from either.

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I love this photo - vintage-y and fun.

So that was the thought process. If you don't already have a good idea of what you like and why, I highly recommend going into your closet and noticing things like neckline, waist, and sleeves and thinking about what they do for you and how they make you feel. Then the next time you want to change the aura of a pattern up just a little bit, you will have elements in mind to draw on. I had great fun going through this process with Ahni, and I hope that those of you who end up knitting it enjoy the details as much as I did.

Posted by Julia at 10:47 PM | Comments (2)

October 10, 2012

Adiri Pre-Release & Shalimar Yarns Haven Promotion!

The Adiri Cowl is now available on Ravelry ($6), and the Adiri Pullover is available for pre-order at a discounted rate, valid until the pattern is released ($6.50). The two are also available at a discounted rate in the Adiri Set ($8.50). When you pre-order the Pullover, you will receive a downloadable spec sheet with everything that you need to know to get ready to start the sweater, including yarn amounts and a detailed schematic. The Pullover will be released by October 20 at the latest, and you will automatically be sent an e-mail update with a link to the pattern at that time. When you order the Adiri Set you will be sent a link to the Cowl pattern and a link to the Pullover Spec Sheet.

In conjunction with the Adiri Pullover Pre-Release, Shalimar Yarns is kindly offering a discount of 10% on all Haven purchases for a limited time. Visit the Shalimaryarns Etsy Store between 7:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, October 11, and 7:00 pm on Saturday, October 13, to receive the limited time promotion.

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Posted by Julia at 06:34 AM | Comments (1)

September 26, 2012

Coming Soon

The Adiri Pullover and Adiri Cowl are due to be released in early October.

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If you would like to know when they are available, please send your e-mail address to mindofwinterATgmailDOTcom, and I will add you to my mailing list. I do not share my mailing list or any information you send me with anyone. I e-mail infrequently, as designs are released, and you can opt to be removed from the list at any time.

Posted by Julia at 03:53 PM | Comments (2)

August 10, 2012

Ahni

God, I am the worst. It seems like I only post when I have a new design coming out. I guess that means that the designing is productive, right? This is another piece in Twist Collective, called Ahni. I can barely express how thrilled I am with how it was styled and photographed. It really shows off the design exactly as intended.

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All photographs taken by Jane Heller for Twist Collective.

Posted by Julia at 11:10 AM | Comments (6)

June 17, 2012

Passerine


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Passerine, available at Mind of Winter on Ravelry.

I have this very weird things with songs. I am highly suggestible. (Is suggestible even a word?) Any word that can be associated with a song can put that song in my head. The link can be so tenuous that sometimes I have a hard time tracing it, but if a song pops into my head you can bet there is a reason why. To give an example, a long time ago when I worked in downtown LA I used to park at 6th and Beaudry and walk over the highway to get to work. About halfway over the bridge every morning I would get "Close to you" stuck in my head. I couldn't figure out why and it nearly drove me batty. Then one day I looked up and noticed that one of the buildings has "Carpenter" across the top in big letters. The Carpenters sing "Close to you." Weird, no? Anyway, that is just a long way of explaining the name of this design. The slipped cable pattern is called "Little Birds" so when I knit it I get "Small, Swift Birds" by the Cowboy Junkies stuck in my head. Passerines are a family of small swift birds - swallows I think. So there you have it. You can find Passerine at Mind of Winter on Ravelry. Please run over there and give me some love. No matter that I have published many patterns at this point. I am still nervous about every one. It's like throwing a big party and fearing that no one will come. Sometimes I wonder why I do it to myself!

Posted by Julia at 06:01 PM | Comments (1)

April 15, 2012

The Spring 2012 Twist Collective is Live!

Yay! It's always so exciting to see Twist come out. There are some beautiful spreads in this issue. I especially like Rain Date and I Feel Pretty. The photography is gorgeous. And, of course, I'm partial to my own contribution. The yarn I used, Blue Moon Fiber Arts Marine Silk Sport, is lovely. I highly recommend it. Enjoy!

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Photography by Jane Heller. She has an etsy shop, too!

Posted by Julia at 06:53 PM

March 13, 2012

I'm on a roll........

Another pattern in SweetGeorgia Superwash (this time sock weight) in the Cayenne colorway. It's so pretty I just can't resist it. This is a little scarf / shawlette that I named for our wedding (eight years ago this month) in San Cristobal.

Mexican Wedding

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See more photos here.

The photos were all taken in Big Sur, where we had a very enjoyable and much-needed vacation. Here are a few of G since you haven't seen him in a while:

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Posted by Julia at 04:24 PM | Comments (3)

February 12, 2012

Just in time for Valentine's Day

Knit to your heart's desire - Corazon.

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Available on ravelry.

Posted by Julia at 11:12 PM | Comments (2)

September 01, 2011

And then there were three...

The Earth Collection is complete. Wee hoo!

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Posted by Julia at 12:30 AM | Comments (1)

August 02, 2011

New Twist!

You probably already know this, but the new Twist Collective is up! I was fortunate enough to get two designs in this issue. I'll write about them more in a bit, but for now I just wanted to say "They're here!"

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Evendim

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Maree




March 28, 2011

Chalice Cowl Now Available

The first pattern in my fall collection - and the only one I am pre-releasing - is ready. Squee!

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If you haven't seen them earlier, there are more photos of the cowl and a little more about the collection here. I'd love to write something substantive, but it is waaaay too late for that. If you would like to be notified when the rest of the collection is released, just leave me a comment with a valid e-mail address. Night, night peeps!

Posted by Julia at 11:55 PM | Comments (4)

March 20, 2011

New PDF: Ayako's Vest

Ayako's vest is a design that I worked up for Classic Elite's Farmer's Market pamphlet, published last year. When I regained the right to self-publish it in January, it was something that I intended to get around to, but it wasn't at the top of the list. The lag time between designing and publication is significant and then the time that has to pass before certain rights revert just adds to it. At the end of it all, I am no longer focused on pieces that are already published because I'm excited about and wrapped up in the next thing on the horizon. That is why being able to see FOs on ravelry is such an amazing thing. I think I have moved on from a piece completely and then someone does something fresh and wonderful with it that makes me fall in love with it all over again.

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In honor of my friend Muskten, I will be donating 50% of pattern sales
to the Red Cross to aid Japan through July 31, 2011.
Buy now, or see more details on ravelry.

In this case, I was agonizing over how I was going to find the time to get this design ready for self-publication when I was working on so many new things, and I was really dragging my feet on it. Then Marnie e-mailed me with the subject line "Have you seen this?" and a link to muskten's photos of her take on the vest. I loved it. She used the same yarn as I had and worked the design without modifications, but she added wonderful embellishments. It was just so fun and different that I got excited about the vest and had no trouble finishing the layout for the pdf. Muskten was definitely my muse for the publication and I thank her for the use of her photos and for the happiness she gave me with her interpretation of the design.

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All photos copyright muskten, 2011. To see larger versions, click here.

Ayako's Vest contains the original instructions I wrote, and it varies from the version that Classic Elite published in several important respects:

1) There are 6 sizes, rather than 5.

2) For sizes 37” / 94 cm and above, actual (or close to actual) crossback measurements are used for the back width at the crossback. The Classic Elite version was edited to make this measurement significantly wider.

3) For all sizes, the chest circumference is slightly different - this should not be very significant but there is a difference.

Smaller sizes will appear the same in both patterns, but larger sizes will have a more fitted appearance when made following this pattern. As in the Classic Elite version, the lace instructions are both written and charted. For other stats, you can visit the ravelry page or keep reading after the bump.

finished measurements
31 (34, 37, 40 , 44, 47)” /
78.5 (86.5, 94, 101.5, 112, 119.5) cm
body circumference.

ease
Designed to be worn with approximately 2”/5 cm positive ease.

yarn
4 (5, 6, 7, 7, 8) skeins Classic Elite Soft Linen in 2225 “Smoky Rose”; 137 yds / 125 m per 50 g; 35% linen, 35% wool, 30% baby alpaca.

yardage
Vest requires approximately 548 (685, 822, 959, 959, 1096) yds / 500 (625, 750, 875, 875, 1000) m of DK weight yarn.

needles & notions
US 4 (3.5 mm) 24” circular needle
US 3 (3.0 mm) 24” circular needle
US 3 (3.0 mm) 16” circular needle
OR sizes necessary to make gauge.
4 (4, 5, 5, 5, 5) locking stitch markers
1 oblong button, approximately 1.5” / 3.75 cm length
embellishments such as colored buttons, rickrack (optional)
darning needle

gauge
20 sts = 3 ¼” / 8.5 cm and 32 rows = 4” / 10 cm in lace pattern using larger needles.
Because of the side-to-side construction, row gauge is very important to the fit of the vest.

construction
Vest is worked side-to-side in two pieces – right front & back, and left front – and then seamed together.

Posted by Julia at 10:19 AM | Comments (3)

February 14, 2011

Knit Sexy! Valentine's Day Sale

This entry has been re-posted to reflect the availability of my patterns in print+pdf format.

I'm slowly adding patterns to my ravelry store and to my page on magcloud, where you can find my patterns in print+pdf, for a slightly higher cost.

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To celebrate the unveiling of my printed patterns and impending V-day, I'm offering my sexy little Vaguely Reminiscent Tap Pants for $4 in the pdf version and $4.80 for the print+pdf version. (The usual price is $5 for pdf and $5.50 for print+pdf.) These are great little sleep shorts that whip up very quickly - so quickly that you still have time to make a pair for the viewing pleasure of that special someone in time for the big day. For those of you who are flying solo (as it felt like I did for most of my non-married life) - don't forget to be sexy for yourself, because honestly, who do we really dress for? For more info, read the extended post after the bump.

Knit Sexy!

More photos can be found on flickr.

Tap pants for sleepwear. Although not designed for maternity, I wore these when I was 8 months pregnant very comfortably and found them to be really cute, which is why I kept the maternity shot as the cover of the pdf. A version of these was originally published in Kristi Porter’s Knitting in the Sun as part of a sleep set. This pattern is for the tap pants only, with revisions for a shorter crotch depth and slightly longer overall length to give a tailored, less revealing look, and expanded sizing options, including plus sizing. The lace pattern is both written and charted, and a detailed schematic is included. It has been professionally tech edited to reduce the possibility for error, but if you have questions or believe that you have found an error, please contact me.

finished measurements
25 ¼ (28, 31, 34 ¼, 36 ¾, 40 ¼, 43 ½, 46 ¼, 49)”
64 (71, 78.5, 87, 93.5, 102, 110.5, 117.5, 124.5) cm
circumference at waist.

21 ¾ (23 ½, 25, 26 ¾, 26 ¾, 28 ½, 30 ¼, 31 ¾, 33 ½)”
55 (59.5, 63.5, 68, 68, 72.5, 77, 80.5, 85) cm
circumference at leg.

12 ¾ (13 ½, 14 ½, 14 ¾, 15 ½, 15 ¾, 16 ¾, 17, 17 ¾)”
32.5 (34.5, 37, 37.5, 39.5, 40, 42.5, 43, 45) cm
length.

Designed to fit a 34 (37, 40, 43, 46, 49, 52, 55, 58)” / 86.5 (94, 101.5, 109, 117, 124.5, 132, 139.5, 147.5) cm posterior.

Posted by Julia at 03:34 PM

February 04, 2011

Knitwear never looked so cute

G brought my handspun cowl over to me the other day and said "Mine Mommy?" "You make it for me?" So, of course, I had to say sure, it could be his, and he immediately put it on. Too cute!

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On the collection front, things are going very well. I have yarn from Carol at Sunday Knits already, and I have written the first pattern and am knitting the sample now. I am so excited about all of this stuff that it is really going to be hard to hold it all back. I'm actually not sure I'm going to. I still have to work out the sales model - do I release several patterns in pdf before the collection is done? Do I just put the cowl out there? If I don't pre-release patterns do I go ahead and post some photos? How important is the element of surprise? I'd love your feedback. If you've purchased collections like Romi's Seven Small Shawls or one of Ysolda's Whimsical Little Knits collections, what did/didn't you like about their models? Other thoughts?


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Posted by Julia at 10:07 AM | Comments (4)

January 24, 2011

A little preview

Despite making absolutely no New Year's resolutions, I have begun turning over a new leaf this year, and a rather big one, too! For years I wanted to do more designing, but I always put it on the back burner and just designed here and there, generally when a friend had a book coming out. Then in 2008, when Pam Allen contacted me I started publishing designs with Classic Elite, and things began to change. Since then, I've published pretty consistently - I think it just took a nudge from someone I admired to set things in motion. Now, after two years of publishing with other people, I've decided to jump on to that already overcrowded bandwagon and publish for myself.

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The chalice cowl worn pulled down over the shoulders.

I've been working on a collection of designs -- both accessories and garments -- that I will publish this fall in pdf and pdf+print versions. I am really excited to be working with yarn from three great yarn companies -- Sunday Knits, SweetGeorgia, and Quince and Co. These were my top three choices when I was deciding what kind of yarns I wanted to use for the collection, and I am grateful that all three agreed to provide yarn support without hesitation.

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The cowl worn loose, "infinity" style. Few things make me happier than the return of the maxi cowl!

The chalice cowl pictured above was worked up using a discontinued Rowan yarn, but the pattern and sample for the collection will be worked in a current Quince and Co. yarn. My plan is to pre-release the cowl in the coming months to give knitters who are interested a taste of the patterns to come. Hopefully you will enjoy it. I had a great time knitting it, and it gave me something to do with my hands while arranging details and waiting for yarn to arrive. If you would like me to notify you when the pattern for the cowl is released, leave me a comment "signed" with your valid e-mail address and I will contact you when it is out. I am really, really excited about the collection, and I hope you will be, too.

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The cowl shown from the back to highlight the lace pattern.
Posted by Julia at 10:23 PM | Comments (36)

November 14, 2010

The Winter Twist Collective is Live!

Once again, there are many, many beautiful cold-weather patterns in the Twist Collective Winter 2010 edition. I am very honored to be included in this amazing collection. Here are some shots of Wingspan taken prior to sending the sample off. M took them on our trail on a day when it was in the mid-80's to 90's. I thought I was going to melt, but I love the series. Enjoy!

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Posted by Julia at 09:03 PM | Comments (9)

November 09, 2010

Lake George 2010

It's been a month since we got back from Lake George (I wrote the last blog entry there), but it seems even further away. It's a brisk day in LA today (and brisk is about as cold as we get), which made me think of the brisk days in Lake George. We go to the lake house for our yearly vacation in the fall, and there is always a mix of *real* weather - a handful of warm, maybe even hot, sunny days, many brisk days, and several days of rain. It makes you appreciate the warm days when you get them, but it's fun to bundle up a little and go for a walk in the woods on the other days or go out for a walk nearby and splash through the puddles on the road. It's also a great place to knit.

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Wearing the Lima shrug at the Adirondack Balloon Festival.
It's a pretty spectacular sight when the wind allows.

Most of the last six months my knitting has been confined to Twist projects (another Twist Collective is out next Monday - yay! - so you'll see the last of those projects very soon), and to re-working Mishka, over and over and over again. Mishka is my white whale of designing. Whenever I think I have finished it, something else crops up that I feel I need to tinker with. I've knit it three times now and I am still working on it. I think that for me one of the disadvantages of trying to self-publish is that I don't know when to stop and I am never forced to push through that final design challenge - and there is always a final design challenge. Wingspan, the pattern that I designed for Twist's Winter 2010 Collection, is more complicated than Mishka in many ways, but I was able to design it in nine sizes and knit the sample in four weeks, whereas I've been playing with Mishka for four years! (Well, three and counting, but still!) There is just something about being on someone else's deadline that gets me over the hump.

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Lima Shrug by the lakeshore in silhouette.

But back to Lake George. I sent off my final pattern and sample to Twist right before we left, so my knitting at Lake George was 100% escape knitting, and it felt great. I finished up a shrug in Rowan Lima that I started at the beginning of the year, which you can see pictured here, and had a chance to wear it quite a bit. It's had to sit in a drawer since we returned (LA had record-breaking heat in October - 107 degrees in the valley - God, I am glad I don't live in the valley!), only to be pulled out yesterday when temperatures finally went down into the 50's and the late fall gusts began. (We may not have real cold, but we get very real wind. I always want to put a tree out on the deck for Christmas but it has to be bungie-corded in place in about 20 directions and usually still falls - it's better to just throw lights on the orange tree!) Anyway, the Lima shrug is complete and will most likely be my first self-pub, ahead of Mishka, which may never end. I love the way it turned out. It's relatively simple to grade so the real hurdle is getting my pdf pattern template polished off and getting out the excel spreadsheet to run the numbers. In the meantime, here are some other photos of Lake George, for those of you who want to see shots of my kid in picturesque places. I think he and his cousins (center shot) are just gorgeous, but, of course, I am more than a wee bit biased. I'll see you again when Twist launches the Winter 2010 Collection next week.

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Posted by Julia at 08:15 AM | Comments (7)

September 28, 2010

Red Oak: Pattern Notes

I think that if you spend enough time doing anything, you develop a style and when you do your best work it is true to that style. I tend to focus on two things when I design. The first is shape. I like pieces with smooth, organic lines, and I generally prefer to have size and noticeable endpoints fall in less standard places - nothing radical, but I am more likely to choose a cap sleeve than a bracelet sleeve, and more likely to make a piece oversized or body-skimming than to give it the standard ease of around two inches. I like shape to influence the overall feel of a piece in an important but subtle way, and make it feel just a little different.

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The Red Oak coat, Twist Collective, Fall 2010.

The second thing I like to do is to limit the number of stand-out details to as few as possible - one is ideal. The fewer details there are the more impact a single detail will have. This concept has come back to me again and again, and my favorite phrasing of it (well, ahem, paraphrasing probably) is that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

When a design isn't working, I look to these two factors to see if something needs to be changed. Is there too much going on? What needs to be taken out? Does the shape flow? If not, how can I change it to work with the details? Often this means omitting something that I really like - maybe even the element that I began with - but ultimately it is the process that makes the pieces I like the best work.

The shape for the Red Oak coat was inspired by a wonderful camel coat I bought in college that I wore for over a decade. It still hangs in the back of my closet waiting for the day that I mend the frayed-through lining and wear it again. It is that good. Red Oak differs from my old coat significantly but it retains the same spirit - refined and classic, but somehow casual. To reach the final shape I omitted many of the elements that made the original special to me - no hood, no pockets, no drawstring cinch at the waist (sounds funny, but it worked!), less ease. Instead of focusing the eye on shaping details, I settled on having a dramatic central motif running down the front panel, but slightly offset. I discovered the oak leaf and acorn stitch pattern that gave Red Oak its name in a Japanese stitch book years ago, but I have since learned that it was designed by Julie Weisenberger and originally appeared on a square in the popular Great American Afghan in 1996. The stitch pattern stayed in my mind, and when I began sketching the coat and realized that I wanted to use a stitch pattern to capture the same refined, classic-yet-casual feel as my old camel coat, I knew that the oak leaf stitch pattern, which was intricate and organic, yet with clean, clear lines, was perfect.

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The oakleaf and acorn stitch pattern used in Red Oak was designed by Julie Weisenberger and originally appeared on a square in the popular Great American Afghan in 1996.

I didn't realize how perfect the oak leaves and acorns were when I drafted the proposal in February, but by the time I was knitting the sample in May the pattern had personal significance for me. My father passed away in late April, so I ended up spending late April and the first part of May in my childhood home in Virginia with my mom. I hadn't been back since my brother's memorial service over eight years ago because the memories were just too painful and the thought of facing our old life completely changed felt totally overwhelming to me. Surprisingly, it ended up being one of the easiest, and strangely happiest, of my visits there. My mother and I had a week to ourselves talking and pulling things together, and after that we had about a week and a half with Griffin there, too, making us laugh and reminding us that there was still life and that it was good.

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Griffin gets in on the photoshoot.

During the week we had alone I spent nights working on the final calculations for the Red Oak coat, and then feverishly knitting it. Our house has a life and a personality of its own, and I often think of it as the fifth member of our family. My parents restored it themselves when we were kids, so we know the ins and outs of it more intimately than you might normally know a house. One of the house's defining characteristics is a fairly severe lean where a huge old oak tree's roots have lifted the foundation out of kilter. Our house is surrounded by old oaks, but the one pushing up the house is by far the largest and oldest. I'm not completely certain, but if two people were to stand on opposite sides of the tree and try to link hands, I don't think they could. When the oak goes, it is taking the house with it, and to me that feels right - the two are inseparable.

At night while I worked on Red Oak I could hear the sound of the trains down by the river, the crickets, and the rustling of the oak leaves. I cannot imagine more comforting sounds.

Anyway, the room that I slept in as I worked on Red Oak was the one right next to the tree - you can touch it if you lean way out of the window. At night I could hear the sound of the trains down by the river, the crickets, and the rustling of the oak leaves. I cannot imagine more comforting sounds. We knitters often talk about the memories worked into our knitting. This coat has more of those than almost any other knit I can think of - rivaled only by husband's wedding sweater. I like to think there is a little piece of my dad in it, too. I wish he had lived to see it on the cover of Twist, just as I wish he had lived to see so many much more important things, not the least of which is Griffin toddling all over his house and garden. But I take comfort in the fact that he left the world just as he would have wanted, reading his morning paper in his house, under his oak trees, and I am grateful to have had the time that I did sitting under those trees knitting, laughing at my son with my mother, and thinking about him.

P.S. As Elli so astutely noticed, there is a photo with a little bit of the camel coat showing on my archive masthead. I don't have a full length photo, and didn't remember that I had any photos at all, so I didn't link to a picture. Although this just gives a little snippet of what it looks like, it's worth a peek if you are curious.

Posted by Julia at 02:22 AM | Comments (14)

September 09, 2010

Happy Birthday G!

The Dude is two. It's impossible to believe, but every day he's more and more his own little person.

Dude is Two


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August 10, 2010

Sometimes A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Elann Ad
Find your yarn here, and the pattern here.
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July 31, 2010

Fall Twist Collective Is Up!

Go see it!

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Red Oak Coat
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July 21, 2010

Fall Accessories

Everything that I have worked on since last fall is going to be published in the next two weeks. It's exciting, but somehow sad, too. It all just goes so fast. The work takes a long time and then "Bam!" It's all out there. Classic Elite is in the process of putting up its fall patterns as I write. My contributions are an over-sized cowl in Kumara featured in their "Bistro" pamphlet, and a Fair Isle cowl and mitt set in their "Sanctuary" pamphlet. Here are a few pictures. I'll post more later when I'm not so sleepy!

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Left photo copyright Classic Elite Yarns, 2010; Right photo copyright Julia Trice, 2010, modeled by Jillian.
Posted by Julia at 10:54 PM | Comments (10)

May 10, 2010

Dude Gardens and Plays with Goats

We've spent the last few weeks keeping my mom company after my father's passing. There are many sad moments, but I don't think there is anything better than a grandchild to help affirm that life is still good. In honor of my dad, we've been working on the garden that my parents plant each spring. My hope is that the life and memories in the garden will help with the healing process. We've also had a chance to revisit many wonderful places from my childhood, including the petting zoo at Maymont Park. Dude is one with the goats.

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Posted by Julia at 07:34 PM | Comments (11)

April 25, 2010

Goodbye, Dad

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May you rest in a place where you can sit forever under the stars watching your children catch fireflies in their pajamas.
We will find you there.
Love, Julia

Posted by Julia at 04:13 PM | Comments (78)

April 15, 2010

One Block at a Time

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The first block.
So I'm quilting! This is the first solo quilt I have ever worked on. I did much of the piecing on the crazy wedding quilt that I made with several of my friends in Arizona, but I have never done the planning, piecing, quilting, and binding all on my own. I was inspired by two things: some really cute Riley Blake fabric that I picked up - which coordinated with some really great Lizzy House fabric I already had - and a desire to escape from my knitting for a bit. Silly, isn't it? Using one craft to hide from another. However, I have been diligently swatching, grading, and charting knits for publication since last summer, and I decided I needed a little break. Plus, I haven't made anything for Griffin in a while, so it's nice to get back to doing a little handmade something for him. The quilt will be for when he moves to a "big boy bed" - hopefully I'll have it done by then! We're in no rush to make the transition, so I am guessing I have 6-12 months.

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The second block.
The fabrics I am using are from Lizzy House's "Red Letter Day" and Riley Blake's "Wheels". I futzed around on flickr the other day and put together two galleries of quilts for inspiration. My favorite is this quilt, and I've planned Griffin's Quilt to follow the same general structure: log cabin blocks, with light-colored sashing - most likely cream-colored rather than bright white. The individual blocks are approximately 13.5" square, and I plan to use twelve squares total - three across, four down.

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The third block.
I've already made some silly mistakes - sewing fabric on backwards, twisting seams in the wrong direction by sewing over them without paying attention, etc. I've fixed the important things and left the not-so-important ones. I have a lot of fabric, so if I decide my early squares aren't up to par later on, I can make more. I'm learning as I go. I think that my seams are pretty consistent, and the blocks are the same dimensions, so things should fit together well enough. After this I may take a class at my local quilting shop (they don't offer one until summer and I'm impatient), and correct any bad habits I've picked up then. I taught myself to knit and eventually made pretty things, so I figure if I futz around with quilting long enough I can pick it up, too! Anyone have any go-to quilting sites or tips for beginners?

Posted by Julia at 12:22 PM | Comments (14)

January 21, 2010

New Pattern Out: Soft Linen Sideways Lace Vest

Ack! Published! No matter how many times I've done this, I still get a huge thrill out of seeing my designs in print. I feel very, very lucky. You can find the Soft Linen Sideways Lace Vest in Classic Elite's Farmer's Market (rav link).

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The photo as it appears in Farmer's Market, copyright Classic Elite Yarns, 2009.

The Sideways Lace Vest is a brain-child of mine from spring of 2008, which was long-delayed due to pregnancy. I finished the proposal just before we left for Italy that year, and got a very nice call from Pam Allen late that July to let me know that Classic Elite would like me to design the piece for one of their Spring 2009 booklets. I was thrilled and began work on it the second that I received the yarn, but soon after that I found out that Griffin might make his appearance in the world significantly earlier than planned - about 6 weeks earlier. I was already finishing up two pieces for Kristi Porter's Knitting in the Sun book and trying to wrap up all my loose ends at work before starting maternity leave, and the thought of knitting the Sideways Lace Vest during the first few sleepless weeks of Griffin's life terrified me. I just couldn't see how it was all going to get done. So I called in a panic and Pam kindly agreed to put off publication until the Spring 2010 Booklets were released. I was able to work on the pattern at a leisurely pace and turn it in in August of last year. Now, nearly two years later, it is finally in print.

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The original styling plan.
Still one of my favorites.
I often hear designers say that the pieces they design don't turn out as they envisioned. For a long time I thought this wasn't the case for me, but now I realize that my pieces turn out as expected only because my ideas of what I want morph along the way to accommodate what the yarn and design techniques I have at the ready can do. So the Sideways Lace Vest started as a more fitted piece with a collar that stood up, but slowly worked its way into a much simpler construction with less tailoring and a "collar" that flows rather than stands. Some elements remained the same - the voluminous nature of the collar, the lace patterning, the sideways construction, and the rectangular buttons. But others had to change to make the pattern more accessible.

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A bit ladylike.
In its current iteration the piece is surprisingly easy to knit, which I prefer. There are things that look complex about it, but that is all a facade created by lace and styling. Anyone who can manage a yarnover and some decreases can make this vest. It is sized up to a 48.5" bust, and could pretty easily be re-sized up to 5X. I think it would look good on a variety of body shapes and sizes, as it has that kind of artsy-flowy thing going on, which flatters a lot of women. It can be made to hit at the waist or lengthened significantly by the simple addition of repeats, so the look is very flexible. By happy accident I figured out that it can be styled in a variety of ways. I've included photos of the six styles that I came up with, and I'm sure with some creative button-positioning you could come up with even more. I hope that people do. I love seeing the different versions of knits that people make on ravelry. It's always fun to see someone riff on your design and take it in a new direction.

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Slightly different than the last,
but enough to make the difference for me.
I would be remiss if I did not tell you about the Soft Linen yarn that I used to knit this design. In these days where everyone is pinching their pennies, it is even more important to buy yarns that we enjoy knitting and to support companies that sell quality products and support designers we want to see more of. Even before I designed for Classic Elite, I designed several pieces using their yarns: the Lush Hoodie from Greetings from Knit Cafe, using, not surprisingly, Lush; Mishka, a piece that I will someday self-publish (really!), in Premiere; and the Vernazza Sleep Set from Knitting in the Sun, in Cotton Bam Boo. I would endorse all of these yarns and work with them again. They are all beautiful examples of the fibers of which they are composed.

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Surprisingly cute this way.
The same can be said of Soft Linen. Its main characteristics are of the fiber for which it is named, and the strongest of those would be stitch definition and stability. Soft Linen holds its shape, but it also drapes nicely due to its alpaca content and is softened by the wool it contains. You will find Soft Linen to be similar to other linen yarns on the market, but with a gentler hand. It may still be challenging to work with for those who are sensitive to working with yarns less resilient than wool, but this is the nature of the fiber. Soft Linen becomes significantly softer after washing than it is out of the skein, and I find that it is more suitable to a wider range of projects than other linens for this reason. It isn't rough against the skin.

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Artistically Asymmetrical.
When I designed the Sideways Lace Vest, I had my choice of yarns to work with, and I chose Soft Linen and designed the piece around that choice, so you can be assured that it is the "right" yarn for the design. In many publications designers have to incorporate yarns chosen by an editor into an existing design. Sometimes that works well, and sometimes another yarn would be a better fit. Designers who contribute to Classic Elite have their choice of all the yarns for the upcoming season and build their designs around the yarn they choose. To me, this makes a huge difference, because I can feel confident that my designs are the best they can be. It is one of the reasons that I chose to submit to them. They have many yarns I have enjoyed working with, including Summer Set, which I used to design a little hat and sweater for Griffin that was featured in Issue 76 of their webletters (both free patterns - go get em!), and Kumara and Wool Bam Boo, which I used to design pieces in upcoming fall booklets.

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School-marmy. I know someone
out there could carry it off.
At this point I must sound like an infomercial, but you can rest assured that the company has never asked me to endorse them. I just feel that it is important to tell you about their yarns because they are of such wonderful quality and because they have pattern support from some really great designers, including Cecily Glowik MacDonald, Carrie Bostick Hoge, Kristen TenDyke, and Edna Hart, who you may not know as well (and you should - check out their work), and established knitting luminaries like Pam Allen (former creative director), Veronik Avery, Twinkle, Jil Eaton, Jared Flood, Kate Gilbert, Anne Hanson, and Kat Coyle (and the list goes on).

Well, I think that covers everything about the Sideways Lace Vest, Soft Linen, and Classic Elite that I have for the moment. I hope you enjoyed reading about the pattern. I am certainly happy to have it out in the world.

Posted by Julia at 05:48 PM | Comments (15)

January 17, 2010

Alpine Shrug: Pattern Notes

Happy New Year! I was hoping to sneak in another design post in December, but no such luck. Knitting-wise, I spent the month finishing up several designs that will appear in Classic Elite booklets this year, and that kept me busy enough that knit-blogging just did not happen. I had a great time with the things I was finishing and I am now completely done with "contract" knitting, which always gives me a sense of satisfaction and relief. I am now "free" to go back to working on designs that I intend to self-publish. Hopefully the practice of meeting someone else's deadlines will push me in the direction of meeting my own deadlines. I am much worse at finishing things for myself than for others, but perhaps the discipline will rub off. One can always hope.

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Playing with Griffin in Descanso Gardens, photo by Jillian. (And wearing the Alpine Shrug.)

The Alpine Shrug was a stealth knit. It surprised even me. I did not intend to make anything from a commercial pattern for myself for quite awhile -- especially given the knitting time constraints that I was under -- but the allure of a quick, beautiful knit that would not require any math on my part was just too strong after drafting one too many fair isle charts. For me, knits like this are a guilty pleasure akin to reading Cosmo or People Magazine on an airplane. (If you can justify reading those mags on a regular basis, more power to you. I just don't have the hutzpah to bring them into the house under the ever-watchful and judgmental eye of the Moxie.) I actually started this shrug over a year ago in a different yarn and abandoned it when I realized that the gauge was going to be too far off, and I didn't have the needles I needed to work the yarn doubled. I wasn't sure it was ever going to get made, to be honest. There are certain patterns that I love and covet but fail to make because they lack practicality or are of questionable wearability. I stalk these patterns and admire the knitters who seem to knit them exclusively, or at least predominantly, but I cannot seem to be that kind of knitter. I have an underlying streak of caution and frugality that prevents me from making many of the things that I would most like to, and knitting many of the more beautiful yarns in my stash. It's stupidity really -- a characteristic to explore in another post and then quickly shed. Anyway, the Alpine Shrug is exactly the kind of knit that runs against my boring streak. It was a pleasure to make and in the making it reminded me that I need to do more things that run against that boring streak. Life is simply too short to be foolishly, slavishly, needlessly self-depriving. It makes no sense. Carpe sweaterem! (Carpe Cosmoem?)

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Flat, before seaming.
Alpine Shrug (rav link), Rowan 42
designed by Sarah Hatton (rav link)
Knit with 3 skeins of Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande (rav link)
on size US11 (8.0 mm) Clover DPNs and US11 (8.0 mm) Clover straights.
Gauge: I did something on this knit that I never do - I didn't make a gauge swatch and I didn't ever check gauge against the pattern. I just knit and it worked - the second time.
Size: One, but this one size varies widely depending on who makes it. Mine is 22.5" x 22.5" unblocked, but the piece flares out substantially at the corners, so it measures 42" on the diagonal. If blocked I think it could easily grow 4" horizontally and vertically, but I have no intention of blocking it.

The Pattern:
This is a quick knit and a well-written pattern. It took me all of a week to knit it and considering that I was working, wrangling a toddler, and often going to bed at 8:30 out of sheer exhaustion, I think it is safe to say that someone with a little more dedicated knitting time could tackle it in a weekend. I love how it looks on. From the front it is pretty and a little understated, from the back it is dramatic. It spices up my usual uniform of jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt perfectly. I have hardly taken it off since I finished it. I am not normally one to make sure that I am wearing the perfect knit at a knitting gathering or fiber festival, but for the Ravelry bash at Unwind this year I must say I felt quite chic in that knitterly way all dolled up in my Alpine Shrug.

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More play with Griffin. The Dude hides, too.

This shrug has also made me re-think the sweater. I've spent six years living in the Southwest (after leaving the happily snowy locales of Chicago and Iowa), and I am just now coming to grips with the fact that a pullover might not always be the best choice for me. I am inherently a sweater girl, and a pullover, turtle or cowl neck girl at that, but here there is little need for a full-on sweater, especially not in an alpaca like the one I used for this shrug. We do have cold snaps and we regularly experience surprisingly chilly mornings and evenings, so shrugs and knitted accessories make a lot of sense. I have a sweater in my design queue and at least one in my commercial pattern queue, too, but other than that I think I am going to make more of an effort to turn out wraps, cowls, hats, mitts, etc. I get a lot of use out of those kinds of pieces. The utility of the Alpine Shrug combined with its beauty makes it a winner and a strong candidate for a high-use knit. I highly recommend the pattern.

Seaming Tips: Avoid seaming completely by knitting in the round and using yarnovers to increase between segments. If you knit the shrug flat, leave long tails at the beginning of each piece (I'd guess about 55", but your mileage may vary) and seam from the center out. You can mattress stitch back and forth between the loops created by the yrn's at the beginning of each row. This is easier to do in the leaf section of the shrug than it is in the garter ridge section. If you start from the middle you guarantee that any error introduced in the garter ridge area isn't propagated in the leaf area. As an added bonus, using the yarn tails means there will be fewer ends to weave in.

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Before seaming again. Nine of these squares
together would be a gorgeous blanket.
Modifications: I substituted yarns, and true to form I was obsessed with making the shrug with the 3 skeins of Baby Alpaca Grande that I had, no matter what I had to do to accomplish that. If the 3 skeins that I purchased had indeed all contained 100 grams of yarn, this would not have been a problem. However, they weighed in at 100 grams, 98 grams, and 96 grams. In most cases not a big deal, but here I would have run out of yarn if I had knit the shrug without modifications, so instead of knitting six garter ridges, I knit 5 and added an extra purl row to the last ridge. This made the shrug 3 rows smaller, which gave me all the leeway that I needed. The fit is a lot closer to the "fitted" versions of the shrug on ravelry, which I prefer, so the yardage shortage was serendipitous. That's not to say that I was happy about it. I always cut it very close with yarn amounts. The lesson learned here is that when I cut it close I need to weigh the skeins. In some cases the shortage would have spelled disaster.

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Two views from the front. I particularly like the one where I look like a giant. In a good way.

Techniques: I would say that this shrug is an intermediate project. It feels easy because you knit on such big needles that it just flies by. But it also requires an understanding of lace, some slightly different seaming, and a working knowledge of the differences between yrn, yon, yfwd, etc. The British yo system is heavily employed here. I think that anyone familiar with lace and not afraid to look up a few terms would do fine with it. I would note that the first 5 or so rows on the needles look pretty sloppy. Don't lose heart - the piece gains stability as it grows.

Working With Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande (rav link): I substituted Baby Alpaca Grande for the Rowan Cocoon called for in the pattern. I would love to work with Cocoon at some point, but I'm devoted to knitting from stash as much as possible, and this yarn was a great substitute. I've worked with Baby Alpaca Grande before, when I knit Mary Heather's Reversible Cable scarf (soon to be re-released and one of my very favorite, most-worn knits), and really loved it. Baby AG is a two-ply super bulky yarn, with each of the plies spun woolen (as well as I can tell from my limited spinning experience). Because of this, I would expect it to pill with wear, but my scarf, which I have worn extensively over the last 3 years, has not pilled a single bit. This may be in part because the scarf is cabled, but I've worn the Alpine Shrug at least 6 times already and it does not show a bit of wear, either. The yarn is also incredibly soft despite its alpaca content. For quality, I would give it a 5 star rating. As I mentioned above, I was not too happy to find that the skeins were short on yardage, so it gets a little ding for that, but that would not prevent me from purchasing it again. As it is, I have 12 skeins of the lighter gray that I used for the reversible cable scarf in my stash, and I am considering dedicating about 6 of those to Iceland from Rowan 42 and then using the rest for my own design work. There is a part of me that wants to use all of it for Faeroe, also from Rowan 42, but I think that the Alpaca would cause it to sag a bit (not a problem on less voluminous pieces), and honestly, I have no real need for a piece like Faeroe. I suppose I could use it as a full body blanket in the winter or wear it in the jeep at night, but that really goes against all I have just written about accessories, doesn't it? We'll see. There is something so outlandish about Faeroe that I might have to make it just because it exists. We may end up living back east someday again anyway.

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One more with the Dude. He's cute and the scenery is beautiful.

Finishing:I seamed from the center of the segments out, and I suggest that you do, too. I've tried it from the outside in and it's much more of a pain. See the blockquote above for tips. I didn't block this because it was already the size that I wanted and I like the texture as is. It isn't a garment that you wear next to your skin, so I doubt that it will ever need to be washed. If blocked, I'm sure the Alpaca would grow.

Special thanks to Jillian for making Descanso Gardens so much fun and taking so many wonderful photos there.

Posted by Julia at 08:49 PM | Comments (14)

November 24, 2009

Finishing colorwork and moving on to lace

I've been happily finishing my Fair Isle design, which will be published by Classic Elite sometime next year. I feel like I was very lucky, because I got the design I envisioned with a minimal amount of swatching. (Not that I don't like swatching - I do! - it's just more time-consuming.) I chose my basic pattern by trying out about five pattern bands in different colors on the needles and then decided how to put them together relying exclusively on my excel spreadsheet. It boggles the mind how well a spreadsheet can approximate the real thing, but it can, and it did, and the result is both pleasing and time-saving. I'm sure not everyone is a spreadsheet fan, but I've gotten into quite a groove with it this fall, charting cables, color, and lace. It's added an entirely new element to my design process. Charting is such a discrete activity - there are clear starting and ending points - that it makes it much easier for me to parse out the work of pattern-writing in such a way that I am more efficient and more creative. I also know my own design more intimately when I reach the point of sample knitting, which opens up greater possibilities for departure. Before I often found myself wanting to tweak something after the knitting was done. Now I can tweak as I go. It's great fun. I highly recommend charting to anyone who dreams of designing, and I am once again going to tout the wonderful tutorials of my friend Marnie. All you need is microsoft excel and a little knowledge on how to set up spreadsheets to chart colowrok, cables, and lace. It's a fabulous tool.

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One of the lace patterns in the Alpaca Sox. The pattern gets a little obscured, but I like the mossy texture the yarn brings to the lace.

So on to lace. Having played with color a bit, I decided to go in an entirely different direction and design a lace shawlette. My goal was to use a skein of Classic Elite's Alpaca Sox. It's in a lovely color called "Dress Gray" and has a very earthy feel to it. My only definitive design concept for this yarn is to find lace patterns that display that earthiness. I'm going for something that would be worn on a walk in the woods on a cold, misty day.

I've been pouring over stitch dictionaries and I have tried out five different lace patterns - four in Alpaca Sox and one in a pretty laceweight merino silk that I picked up while in Portland, Maine this fall. (I acquired the Alpaca Sox at that time, too, so maybe the Eastern Autumn crept into my subconsciousness.) I was a little concerned that the variegation of the Alpaca Sox would be too stark to read well, but I'm instead finding that it reads quite well, and the variegation adds depth and interest. It's really interesting to see how the different stitch patterns work. I've found that an open lace works best for a variegated yarn (or at least this variegated yarn), and for this particular yarn I'm drawn to patterns that undulate because of the way they display the variation in color. I'm planning to self-publish this pattern, so I'm free to share the details of the process as well as some photos, which is a nice little treat. One of the perks of self-publishing is that you have license to share as much as you like, and for me that is a great opportunity to re-connect with you, my knit-bloggy friends.

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Words cannot express how little this photo does to capture the beauty of this lace. Just trust me. When I'm done I'll get photos in natural light.

In the process of swatching the Alpaca Sox, I've also fallen in love with the laceweight merino silk. I actually don't think that the two substitute for one another particularly well, and if I planned to use the pattern that I swatched in the merino silk for the Alpaca Sox shawlette, I would re-swatch it. But in working with the merino silk I've found that I am compelled to make two shawlettes, each very different in character. While the Alpaca Sox suggests the misty woods, the merino silk makes me think of a an open field somewhere in the midwest (most likely in Iowa, where I lived for a few years). I just can't resist the temptation to follow the stitch pattern in this lighter, almost flaxen yarn. The two are like yin and yang. It will be fun to work them simultaneously and experience how yarns of different fiber and color push my design choices in different directions while working within the same shawlette structure.

Posted by Julia at 08:35 PM | Comments (6)

October 30, 2009

Thinking About Color

It's been a while since I wrote about knitting. I've been doing a lot of designing in the last few months, and the only piece that I've finished since my cowl pal's cowl is for publication in spring of next year, so I have very little in the way of show and tell these days. Although I love to see fellow bloggers stretch their wings and publish, it is always sad to me when they stop blogging about their current knits. Many of my blogging "generation" have gone on to publish patterns, author books, and/or mother children, and as a result there is less knitting content out there to peruse. The published content and wee ones are wonderful, but I do miss knitting blogs. As a consequence of missing other blogs, I've decided to try to share some of my thoughts on design and process with you as I work through some pieces this fall and winter. The posts will probably still be a bit sparse, as I've been in more of a doing place than a writing place, and I find myself spread between mommying, wife-ing, working, designing, reading, exercising, etc., which leaves me rather thin. But I miss everyone and I enjoy the back and forth, so I'm going to give it a go.

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Yes, I am lamely posting photos of the books
in this post. But they're good!
Lately I’ve been focused on color. Although I enjoy color, I tend to gravitate to texture and line in my designs, so I really haven't taken the opportunity to design much colorwork in the past. But I've been doing a bit of designing for Classic Elite recently, and when I saw their shade card for one of my favorite CEY yarns, Wool Bam Boo, I was inspired to play with some color combinations for a Fair Isle piece or two.

I started the swatching process by turning to one of my favorite Fair Isle references, Ann Feitelson's The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, and re-read the chapters on technique and use of color. The book was even better than I remembered. Most of the references I've read on color in the past have discussed traditional color theory - primary colors, complements, shades, etc. - and which combinations are likely to look pleasing together. This is all fine and well, but it has never been particularly helpful to me. I understand how to put two colors together, but it's much trickier to put several colors together, and color theory has not taught me much about how to go about doing that. For me, Feitelson's book has the answers, or at least the starting points for finding my own answers.

The Art of Fair Isle Knitting discusses the ways in which color combinations work in different media. In painting, colors blend into one another, creating depth easily, almost thoughtlessly. In quilting, particularly when working in solids, the transitions are stark, creating a one-dimensional “blocky” structure naturally, which can be counteracted by shading, using varying pattern sizes, and other techniques if one is going for depth. Fair Isle, particularly with traditional Shetland wool, falls somewhere in between. There are lines of contrast to be sure, but the fuzziness of the wool allows certain colors to grade into one another in a way that falls in the middle of the spectrum. By keeping this distinction in mind, I began to have a clear mental picture of how different colors of wool would react with one another.

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A new classic on designing with gorgeous patterns.
Feitelson lays down a primary rule of Fair Isle knitting in her book: you must be able to "read" the pattern through the color changes. This seems like a simple enough rule, and one that is probably self-evident, but if you look at enough Fair Isle patterning in designs and stitch dictionaries, you will notice that not everyone follows it. Sometimes breaking the rule works - the designer alternates between segments where the pattern "reads" and sections where it is murkier, creating a pleasant striping effect, which is inevitably a by-product of all Fair Isle designs. Other times, not so much.

As I looked at different Fair Isle patterns, categorizing them in to those that followed the rule and those that didn't, those that worked for me and those that didn't, I was reminded of another good source book that I picked up recently, CookieA's Sock Innovation. Sock Innovation doesn't delve into colorwork, but it does discuss general principles of harmonious design, and one of the take-away messages that I found useful in it was that breaking the laws of symmetry and mirroring in texture patterns is acceptable, and often desirable, but it is important that a break from the expected appear purposeful rather than looking like a mistake. Looking at the Fair Isle patterns that didn't work for me it was obvious that this was the problem. The color combinations that did not work did not read as deliberate choices - they read as mistakes.

In choosing color combinations, Ann Feitelson's personal method, which has worked well for me so far, is to choose two to three color sequences and then combine them. If you have read The Twisted Sister's Sock Workbook, you will recognize this technique. In it, Lynn Vogel discusses how she often combines yarns from two or more different rovings (which are each composed of a color sequence), and knits by alternating the yarns in different ways throughout the sock. The results are stunning and create depth and complexity in a simple, non-patterned sock. Another example of use of this technique is the well-known and well-loved Chevron Scarf, which employs two different colorways of sock yarn that might not usually harmonize well to make a lovely, cohesive scarf. The color combination works because each color grouping within the two colorways reads as a sequence.

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One of my favorite spinning books.
It only makes sense that this would work for Fair Isle design as well. Color sequences can be chosen in a variety of ways using our old friend color theory. You can create sequences of tints, shades, tones, etc. (The Art of Fair Isle Knitting discusses many more ways to create color sequences and provides photographs depicting the results, which is incredibly helpful.) The important thing is that each color grouping used reads as a sequence and that the elements of each sequence are distinct enough that the background and the pattern stand out clearly when knit. To determine whether the colors you've chosen truly from a sequence, Feitelson suggests that you make a swatch of each sequence, simply striping the colors in sequence order (to visualize this, just think of a shade card for house paint colors, ordered to grade into one another in a way that the eye follows logically). When you have two or three sequences that you like, swatch in the Fair Isle pattern of your choice (preferably several) to see how the sequences work together. Sometimes there will be glitches and a color or two will need to be replaced with another, but for the most part the method works.

There are many other methods and tips in The Art of Fair Isle Knitting that teach how the sequences you choose are likely to interact and which colors will pop or blend when used together. If you are really interested in designing your own color patterns, I highly recommend picking up a copy and studying it. Feitelson provides an exhaustive array of swatches to depict her methods and show you how they work in practice. The book also includes a section on the history of Fair Isle knitting and several of Feitelson’s own original designs. The patterns in the book are traditional in shape and should appeal to you if you prefer a classic Fair Isle look, but the color combinations and stitch patterns can also be employed to create more modern, edgy pieces if that is your preference. I generally look for a little edge, and I found the designs to be a helpful, inspirational resource.

Using this as a starting point, I turned to my own color and design preferences. Again, this sounds self-evident, but often the colors that I gravitate to will not effectively achieve the final effect that I am aiming for. Thinking out how to best approach creating the final look early in the process avoids the pitfall of creating a pattern I dislike from a group of colors that I love. So right from the start I spent some time thinking about what I want in a final design. I like a Fair Isle pattern to read consistently, but I generally prefer that the demarcations in the individual sequences and between the sequences not be too stark, so I chose my color sequences with those parameters in mind.

Going about the process deliberately has made a huge difference. One swatch led to another and each pattern suggested a new direction to follow. After a little swatching with different patterns I found a combination that felt right, and several color combinations that worked well together. I took the stitch pattern and laid it out in Microsoft Excel (Marnie has a great tutorial on how to do that here), and played with varying combinations of the two color sequences I chose to create a large repeat, which will serve as the basis for my Fair Isle designs. When the repeat looked right I began to knit. The sequence looks wonderful so far. I love the interplay of the colors. As it has unfolded it has taken me in new directions with the lines of my original design concepts. Next I will play with edgings and finishing treatments, and the process will evolve again….

Posted by Julia at 08:11 AM | Comments (12)

September 14, 2009

A Tiny Bit of Green

I just found out that at least some of our beloved Switzer Falls hiking trail survived the fire. For those of you not in the area, just understand that this is nothing short of a miracle. It literally brought tears to my eyes to read this little bit of good news.

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Zosia in the Canyon at Switzer Falls with a Very Big Stick.

Posted by Julia at 07:59 PM | Comments (6)

September 09, 2009

Happy Birthday Little Dude!

A year ago today I was lying in a hospital bed praying for just a little more sleep and smiling at my new baby boy.

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It's hard to believe that a whole year has gone by. It makes me verklempt. There are so many things that I want to write about this day and that one, but time gives me the choice to either write about today or live it, and I think you all know what I'm choosing to do. Happy birthday, Griffin. I'll write all about your birthday after we enjoy it. Love, Mommy.

Posted by Julia at 08:30 AM | Comments (26)

August 30, 2009

Station Fire

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My heart is absolutely breaking. This fire season has been so mild that I thought we might get through unscathed, but with the heat wave of the last few days fires have broken out in the mountains all around us. It's absolutely devastating. Our neighborhood and home are not at risk, but there are many people who have been evacuated along with their pets, many recreation areas have been devastated and wild animals injured and displaced. It's just killing me. I can barely write about it. If you are in the area and want to help - or if you aren't and want to help - two of the best ways are to donate to the local Red Cross and the Pasadena Humane Society. The Humane Society is taking in the pets of evacuees and also taking in injured wild animals. They now have over 400 volunteers assisting them, but donations are needed. Currently Altadena evacuees are being sent to La Canada High School. You can call 949-751-8963 to see if they need assistance or drop off ice and water, which are always needed. If you have other information on helping, please leave it in the comments and I will add it to this post. The pictures of us at Switzer Falls with Griffin. We were there last weekend, and I am so glad we went. That place means so much to me. I do not know if Switzer Falls or Bear Canyon have been protected from this, but if you know, good or bad, please tell me.

UPDATES:
8.31 Steve's Pets in Altadena is taking in displaced pets. 2395 Lake Ave, Altadena, CA. 626-798-6290

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Posted by Julia at 01:00 PM | Comments (8)

August 26, 2009

Cowl Swap!

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I don't have much time to write today, but I wanted to post few photos from our cowl swap a few weekends ago. I think you can tell from the smiling faces that everyone was pleased with their cowls. There seems to be a definite color preference within our little group, and a few of the cowls were even handspun.

My cowl went to Amiee (brown cowl, green top). It's a wonderful merino cashmere sockweight yarn from Pigeonroof Studios on etsy. I picked up the yarn from some crazy fool at our yarn swap last winter. It's absolutely gorgeous and wonderful to work with. Unlike many yarns with cashmere content, it does not appear to pill, which is especially nice in a cowl. I used the ostrich plume stitch pattern, which is really beautiful, too.

Kat made a cowl for me, and it is beautiful and unusual, as is her signature style. It's really two cowls in one, a delicate lace pattern grading from a soft grey to a bright blue with stripes in the middle. You can wear it with either end up, depending on whether your mood is somber or festive. There's a better photo of it on flickr, though still not as detailed as I'd like. (Well, if I weren't so lazy!)

Sadly, I did not get close-ups of the cowls - I was obviously more focused on the lovely ladies wearing them. If you click on any photo you'll be whisked away to flickr, where the pictures are bigger and will give you a slightly better idea of what all the cowls look like. This is definitely a swap I would do again!

Posted by Julia at 12:26 PM | Comments (7)

August 11, 2009

Mud Season Cowl: Pattern Notes

Wow. So you guys are still out there reading. How cool is that? I would love to be one of those people who blogs for themselves, but honestly I really like hearing from all of you and I definitely think of you when I write. It would be weird to write without thinking of my internet friends, so I'm glad to see you're still here and even a little chatty. These aren't my usual pattern notes, but given the fact that I made the yarn and the "pattern" there isn't really much point to reviewing them, is there? We'll just do this all stream-of-conscious-like.

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I finished the Mud Season Cowl in May. It's hard to say exactly when I started it because I spun the yarn first and I think it's fair to say that counts as part of the full project time. Prior to Griffin's appearance I was a happy member of the Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club - something I highly recommend. My hope was that I would spin up the 4 or so ounces of mystery fiber that Amy sent every month and get back into a spinning groove. I have lived with myself for too long not to know that was a doomed proposition from the start, but I decided that if I aspired to a 4 ounce a month goal I would at least spin 4 ounces a quarter, and for the most part I managed to do that (more Spunky on the bobbin right now, in fact). I bowed out of the club when I was 8 months pregnant, knowing that I would soon become in danger of my fiber stash equaling my yarn stash (and we cannot have that), but maybe if I'm a good girl and spin through what I have left I will allow myself a little fiber club treat.

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This is the photo that shows the colors best. They are pretty hard to wrap your eyes around for some reason - hard to take in all at once. But oh, so pretty.

Okay, so what I think I was saying at the beginning of that paragraph was that I started spinning the Mud Season merino last fall. There was a short period of time when the stars aligned (read: the little dude could not crawl or roll far) and I did a bit of spinning. Then the skies went back to their former state of disarray and my spinning got put away until April. In April two things happened. The first was that I read The Intentional Spinner and got completely inspired to spin again, and the second was that I happened upon Connie's post about her knitting group's cowl swap, and I was determined that my little knitting circle do a swap as well.

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The roving pre-spin, pre-knit.
Here's where I have to make a confession. The cowl you see was originally intended for my cowl pal. But when I finished it there were two problems. The first was that it was very chunky, and I wasn't sure it would be her thing (that's the altruistic reason) and the second was that it was my first handspun handknit adult garment of any sort and I just could not bear to part with it (that's the not so altruistic part). And honestly, I love it - the colors, the chunkiness, it is just so me. I don't think I could wear the cowl in good conscience if I hadn't written this, but I feel certain that my cowl pal will understand if it is indeed a cowl that she would have worn and loved, and that if it isn't she will breathe a happy sigh of relief to have dodged the cowl bullet. (She's getting a lovely merino-cashmere blend cowl, so there isn't too much to be sad about, either way!)


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The singles wound into a center-pull ball ready to be plied.
There is a rather long back-story on the spinning portion of the cowl, but the short version is that I somehow managed to spin the singles in opposite directions and then had to figure out how to make them work together. As it turns out, the answer was not rocket science, though it did escape my poor little brain. All it took was winding each into a center-pull ball and then plying them on the wheel from there. It worked really well, and the difference in ply direction does not make a difference in the appearance of the knitting. I even have a bit of advice for those who employ this method, now that I have gained a wee bit of experience in the area. Leave the singles on the bobbins for a bit before you wind them into center-pull balls. And by "a bit" I mean about a week. This allows the singles to "set" which keeps them from becoming an unholy tangled mess when you go to ply them. Neat, huh?

Other than that the stats on the cowl are pretty simple. It's 100% merino, two-ply, Andean plied, knit in a traditional feather and fan pattern on US10 needles. The colors escape proper photography - you will just have to trust me when I say they are beautiful. It's rustic and organic looking and I had a wonderful time making it. There are few things as satisfying as spinning and then knitting something for yourself. I'm guessing that wearing it is going to be just as good, though.

Posted by Julia at 09:08 PM | Comments (17)

August 07, 2009

Smiley Friday: Griffin's Hat

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I have a couple of blog posts milling around in my head (and yes, they are about knitting!), but haven't had the time or motivation to get them written yet. For now, here are some photos of the hat that Jillian kindly made for Griffin. It is so stinking cute I can barely stand it. Happy Friday!

Posted by Julia at 12:31 PM | Comments (17)

June 20, 2009

Father's Day Tees

A little while ago I picked up a copy of Lena Corwin's Printing by Hand. It's a great book, full of beautiful and inspiring projects and how-to's for many different types of hand-printing. The most interesting for me are freezer-paper stenciling and block-printing. I block-printed in high school, but never tried freezer paper stenciling until now:

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These are father's day gifts for my dad, Moxie, and, of course, Griffin. We call Griffin Little Dude around here, so the theme started with him and radiated out. I think it's pretty darn cute. Moxie pointed out that although he loves the idea of the shirts, worn in isolation, his was a little too flamboyant with the flames and "big dude" combo. Apparently the v-neck didn't help. So I went back to the drawing board and made a crew-neck shirt for him, sans flames. I'm thinking I may need to do the same for the grand dude. He doesn't exactly have a flaming personality, either. The little dude looks adorable in the original version, however, and I have a new obsession. I may end up stenciling everything we own! And the two big flaming T-shirts won't go to waste - they make excellent night shirts. I don't mind a little fire.

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Posted by Julia at 09:54 PM | Comments (11)

June 10, 2009

Knitting in the Sun: Blog Tour!

As I'm sure all you peeps know, I had the pleasure of being included as a contributor in Kristi Porter's new book, Knitting in the Sun (rav link to see all the patterns). I have a lot more blabbing that I hope to do about the two pieces I contributed, but for the blog tour I thought that I would give someone else a chance to talk a bit, and who better than Kristi? One of the things that I love most about working on a book with someone is the opportunity to see a lot of the pieces in person. There are always things that are special about the projects that can be hard to capture in photographs. So I asked Kristi to pick a few pieces from the book and talk about the special features that you might miss just paging through. Here is what she had to say.

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Cover shot featuring Kendra Nitta's Anacapa Wrap.

"You're right when you say that seeing pieces in person is inevitably different from seeing them in print. Not just because you see them flat on the page, but because you don't see them move; you don't see how they behave on a body. I hope that at least some of their vitality comes through in the pictures! Both the photographer and I shared an aesthetic of showing the designs on real women in natural settings. We weren't running around pinning or cinching and telling the models not to move, it was much the reverse, crossing my fingers that he'd get a good picture before a wave crashed and soaked something! So I think the photographs give a pretty authentic glimpse at how the knits really will look.

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Coronado. One of my personal favorites.
One of the things that delights me most about this collection is how wearable the designs are. Like you could put something on in the morning and wear it all day and not think about it. A lot of things I've knit in the past, I love, but the fit is weird or I end up tugging at it all day, or something about it just takes effort to wear. I'm sure every knitter has these. As the one person who has tried all these things on a dozen times (when they arrived, to try to figure out what other clothes to pair them with, to figure out what model they'd fit best...), and coerced many others to try them on too, I can say that the designs look great on a variety of women of different ages and body types. Obviously, different styles will appeal to different people; not everyone is comfortable in a midriff-baring swimsuit, or even in a sleeveless tank, and that's why I was sure to include knits that were comfortable in warmer weather that still provide plenty of coverage.

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Taos. Modeled by Kristi.
To speak about a couple of designs specifically as to what isn't shown, my cardigan called Coronado features two symmetrical overlapping fronts with a very broad collar. If it were a pullover, it'd be a big slouchy cowl. In the book, it's shown open and draped and also pinned somewhat asymmetrically. You can also pin it so it's more like a double-breasted middy collar, or even more asymmetrically. Pair those options with a variety of yarn and color choices and it's a tremendously fun, flexible garment. Also, Stefanie Japel's design, Taos, is modeled as a long vest, but it's designed to be worn buttoned up the front or back, either as a tunic, or, if you add some length before the waist shaping it'll make a great little dress. And, although I'm pretty sure it wasn't your intention, it ends up that the top from the Vernazza sleep set has caught on as a fabulous maternity top! (Julia finished the piece very shortly before giving birth and snapped her own photos in her beautifully gravid state!) Even though it's billed as loungewear, I think it's clear that this makes a great top for daytime too, with or without a bun in the oven.

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The Vernazza Summer Sleep Set - with and without watermelon attachment.

Of course, in a book, you can't show the same piece on a dozen people, or with a dozen different outfits, or in lots of different colors. I'd love to be able to do that, to show knitters the huge potential of each design. I suppose we'll have to wait for people to cast on and get knitting so we can see what they've come up with on Ravelry for that!"

Next up on the blog tour: Beth Casey of Lorna's Laces

All photographs copyright Wiley Publishing, except photos of the Vernazza Sleep Set, copyright Julia Trice and Kristi Porter.

Posted by Julia at 08:40 AM | Comments (1)

May 25, 2009

The Manolo, He Would Approve


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It is never too early to learn the love of the fabulous shoe.

Posted by Julia at 08:20 AM | Comments (6)

May 21, 2009

Diminishing Ribs Cardigan: Pattern Notes

Alternately entitled: "Last things first." This is actually my third FO for the year, but the first that I've gotten around to blogging. I'm a big lame-o. But at least I'm a knitting and spinning lame-o. For those of you wondering how the plying debacle went, I won't keep you in suspense: Andean plying from a center-pull ball worked! So at some point in the future I will be able to bring you tales of pretty yarn. I've been swatching with the finished handspun for a gift for a friend, and it looks wonderful. I'm very happy with it.

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Arty shot of the sleeve detailing.

So now on to the Diminishing Ribs Cardigan (rav link). I love it, too.

I finished knitting Diminishing Ribs while sitting in the doctor's office for several hours about a month ago. I had to get three ultrasounds - one abdominal and two pelvic - so I decided to do it all in one shot and make a morning of it. (No worries on results - just a pesky ovarian cyst.) Sitting in the radiology department ended up being a nice experience. I met three women through my knitting.

The first person I met was a woman wearing a wrist brace. She was knitter for 20 years before her wrist was injured, but will never knit again. She smiled the entire time we sat there together, however, and I felt like she was knitting vicariously. She told me all about the things she made her children when they were little, and the things that she made her grandchildren later. Surprisingly, I wasn't sad sitting there with her. She seemed very happy to have a kindred spirit and just sitting there while I was knitting brought her happiness.

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Enjoying a nice day on the porch.
The second person was a woman in her 20's who wanted to learn how to knit. She crossed the room to sit next to me and watch, so I got out my DPNs and showed her how to knit. She knit a row before her name was called.

The last - my favorite - was an older Asian woman who spoke very limited English. She was able to say "beautiful," and said it over and over. Then she put her hands out for the sweater. She inspected every inch of it - seams (such that there were - it's a top down construction), woven in ends - and then zeroed in on the self-finishing edge that runs down the front panels. The edge is very simple, but it's effective and a very nice design element. I use it a lot myself, especially along the armscyes of sleeveless shells. She indicated that she wanted me to show her how to do it, so I got out the DPNs again and we sat together making a small swatch with self-finishing edges. (Which makes me wonder why I don't do all my swatches with self-finishing edges, actually.) She had a hard time remembering the sequence at first, so I tried to use just one word for each movement and repeat. She knit about 6 rows and then she was satisfied. She smiled and indicated that she had trouble remembering things now because she was older. Then she drew an "86" on the palm of her hand. It made me realize that some day I will be shuffling around in an 86-year-old body and feeling the same way that I do now. Hopefully I'll be able to remember new knitting techniques. In foreign languages. Her husband came out of radiology looking equally spry (probably 90), and the two of them walked out holding hands. It left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. And it beat the heck out of being stuck watching Dr. Phil for hours with a bunch of strangers. It's all in the sweater now.

Diminishing Ribs Cardigan
Spring 2009 issue of Interweave Knits
designed by Andrea Pomerantz (rav link)
Knit with 7 skeins and about 1 yard of Filatura di Crosa Zara (rav link)
on size US6 (4.0 mm) Addi Turbo circulars and US6 (4.0 mm) clover dpns.
Gauge: Before blocking: 21 sts and 32 rows per four inches in Stst. After blocking 19 sts and 26 rows. (This is why you wash and block your swatch, people!)
Size: 32" chest circumference.

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From the front.
Eventually I may add a closure at the waist.
The Pattern:
Most of the time if I go to the trouble of knitting myself a sweater I choose a pattern that is challenging in some way, or involves cabling or interesting construction. Diminishing ribs is a very straightforward pattern with nothing particularly outlandish about it. I was drawn to knit it for its clean lines and clever detailing. The way in which the ribs "diminish" (they actually grow, depending on how you look at it) from the waistline to the hem and at the cuffs makes the cardigan flow in an elegant way that is feminine without being floofy. The design is architectural with just a little touch of "girl" to it, which makes it something that I can wear often and enjoy. As I said above, I also really like the self-finishing edges along the fronts. I don't wear many cardigans because all the little buttons that run up the front of them don't suit my personality. There is something just too "spot on" about them. The self-finishing edges remove the need to have the sweater button up. I will probably add some sort of closure at the waistline, but nothing to visible or fancy. Just something to give me the option of pulling the sweater closed when I want to.

I've been asked to share the self-finishing edge instructions and I am happy to comply. In this pattern it is called an I-cord edging, but it is known by other names, and I know it as slipped st edging. I first came across it in an Annie Modesitt pattern and have been happily using it ever since. The technique is simple, and requires only three edge stitches:

RS: k1, sl1 purlwise wyif, k1

WS: sl1 purlwise wyif, k1, sl1 purlwise wyif

Enjoy!

Diminishing ribs was also interesting for me because it's the first top-down sweater that I have finished. Crazy, huh? What can I say? Unlike the grandmother who taught me to knit, I like seams. Go figure. Still, in this case it was fun to knit top down. It made me consider designing something top-down in the future, which I hadn't really considered before.

Modifications: I substituted yarns, but used the same gauge, so no big modification there. The only mod that I made of substance was to omit the second tier of ribbing on the cuffs and go straight to the third. To my eye, this flows a little better, because there just isn't as much room to transition through three ribs on the cuffs as there is on the main body. Either way, though, I think the cuffs turn out nicely. I also lengthened the sweater just a tad. My goal was to use exactly 7 skeins and I came very close to doing that.


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From the side and from the back.

Techniques: Nothing too fancy here. If you haven't worked top-down before this is a good pattern to learn on. It is very straightforward and well-written and between the increasing, edging and ribbing there is enough going on to keep you from going mad with all the stockinette (as I assume I would on other top-downs). The self-finishing edge is a nice technique, too. Oh, and it's a great opportunity to learn how to cast on invisibly for ribbing and do a sewn bind-off. Neither is strictly necessary, but both give the piece a very professional look. If you aren't particularly comfortable with the sewn bind-off it may seem like a long haul. Start with a sleeve! I took the advice of someone on ravelry and put the stitches to be bound-off on two needles (alternating front and back) and kitchenered them off. It made things very easy and enjoyable for a gal who loves seams.

Working With Filatura di Crosa Zara (rav link): Takhi Savoy (rav link), the yarn called for in the pattern, is a silk merino blend, whereas as Zara is all merino. Zara has enough drape that the substitution works well. I have a real soft spot for plain old plied merino yarns like Zara because they are so soft, squooshy, and such good workhorses. The stitch definition is great, the yarn is resilient, and it's warm but not suffocating in an air-conditioned environment, which is where I will be wearing Diminishing Ribs. I haven't worked with Takhi Savoy, but I would imagine it is lovely, too, and likely a bit cooler for the summer weather. Either yarn seems like a great choice and there are many other fibers that would work equally well. The main thing to keep in mind is growth and drape. Don't use something so heavy or prone to draping that your cardigan risks sagging out of shape.

Posted by Julia at 08:00 AM | Comments (16)

May 09, 2009

Happy Mommy Day

From Me and G. Daddy's making waffles and we're rocking out to 80's music at the top of our lungs and dancing around the kitchen. Flashdance, Come on Ilene, Billy Jean, Men at Work, can you dig it? What are you doing?

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Posted by Julia at 09:07 PM | Comments (12)

May 04, 2009

I May Be Looking A Bit Pregnant

kits.jpgThe photo below was taken last year a few weeks before the Little Dude was born, just before I sent the sample for Vaguely Reminiscent (my working name for this piece) to Kristi Porter for her upcoming book Knitting in the Sun. I'm posting the photo because Knitting in the Sun is available on amazon now, and will be available at bookstores on May 11. The sleep set that I contributed is designed to be a billowy night ensemble for the non-pregnant, but as you can see it works for maternity, too. It was so cute and comfortable on that I had a hard time parting with it.

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Signs of the G, about 8 months ago...

I also co-contributed a little sun cloche to the book. The concept and first draft were mine, but when it looked like the Dude might come early, Marnie pinch-hit for me (as always), and did the significant revisions and knit the sample. Marnie has a piece in the book, as do many other talented knitters. Knitting in the Sun is a wonderful book full of knits for the warm weather months, and I am very honored to have been included in it. I can't wait to get my copy!

Posted by Julia at 12:30 PM | Comments (7)

April 17, 2009

The Unintentional Spinner

That would be me. I've been reading Judith MacKenzie McCuin's The Intentional Spinner with a fervor - reading and re-reading it in fact, which is impressive attention to give to a single book given my current lack of reading time. I would love to say that I'm going to give you a review of The Intentional Spinner, but as soon as I say that I won't get to it, so I won't say it and we can all just be pleasantly surprised if I do. Fair enough?

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The Singles, feigning innocence.

Anyhoo, this book has given me some real "Ah-ha!" moments, so if you are in need of one as an intermediate-ish (beginning intermediate?) spinner, I'd highly recommend it. As far as ah-ha moments go, this book shares a space with the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook and Sew U for me. A real connect-the-dotter.

It would be great to be able to say that I have been practicing all that I have learned from this wonderful book, but so far all my fervor has produced the same type of spinning that I always do, on pretty much the same fiber, with the same preparation. I do want to work on my techniques at some point, but for now the book has simply been inspiration to spin.

So now for the unintentional part. The only way in which I deviated from my normal spinning practices was in the twist I gave my singles. Somehow I managed to spin one S and one Z. I'll give you a moment to contemplate that. One S. One Z. You can't make those play nice together. For all of you non-spinners who are glazing over right now (why are you still reading?) think oil and water, square peg, round hole. I didn't even notice until I attempted to ply them and one became very tight and wiry while the other practically disintegrated before my eyes.

I could have cried. I had been so intent on spinning that I had two bobbins with two ounces of fiber on each. I considered Navajo plying them, but I didn't want long color runs. I was really aiming for barber-pole 2-ply, and the only way one gets that is to ply the singles together. Luckily, I have a great resource in the Spunky Club on Ravelry, and soon after I posted about my spinning woes there were many suggestions about what I should do.

The one that really struck me was Andean plying. Why had I not thought of that? That was a D'oh! moment. I think it didn't occur to me because I've only Andean plied on a spindle, and with each bobbin holding two ounces, that's quite a bracelet. Again, there were several suggestions as to how to tackle that problem, including this nifty idea of "book plying." I am taking the path of least resistance and Andean plying from a center-pull ball.

So far, I have only managed to wind the singles off the bobbins into skeins, and look at them skeptically. There is no reason that Andean plying would not work -- all my spindled yarn is plied this way and I have made some lovely yarn and knit it with success (more on that later - my first FO of the year was a spindle-spun hat for Griffin that I have yet to blog). Still, I feel some trepidation, having managed to forget which way to ply a singles in the space of three months. I'm not sure I can blame it all on sleep deprivation. Cross your fingers for me and hopefully I'll be back soon with tales of pretty yarn.

Posted by Julia at 06:00 AM | Comments (9)

April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

From Little Dude and the Biggest Duck Known to Man. IMG_4649.jpg
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Posted by Julia at 08:30 AM | Comments (10)

March 08, 2009

5 years with the blog, 6 months with Griffin

Edited to add credits and places to find patterns, etc.
Time has gone by so quickly. It's hard to believe that I've been writing this blog for five years now, but it has gotten to the point where the galleries on the sidebar are unwieldy, so it must be true. I've never celebrated a blogiversary before, but I think once you get to five years there is some sort of rule mandating that you do. In addition to it being my blogiversary, it's also Griffin's half-year birthday. That has really gone fast. Below is a little montage of him playing with some of the handmade gifts that I got at his baby shower. These are some of my favorite things, and although not all of them are from bloggy friends, most are. So it is a nice confluence of blog and baby for this post.

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Flannel bibs made by my grandmother for me, 37 years ago.

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Snail knit by Shannon, Pattern from the talented Hansigurumi
She also does a jackelope, a hermit crab and an owl that I love.

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Fabric blocks by Amiee -- red, white and black are perfect.
Very attractive to babies.

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Fabric book gifted to me by Jen, from Exlibris -- it's personalized for G

True to form, as soon as I announce that I am doing something, I stop doing it. So instead of doing just a little simple knitting here and there for the G as I was before, I am once again into everything and have started a ziliion projects and left a lot of the half-finished things that I was working on half-finished. I do seem to be zooming through a cardigan for me and a stuffed bird that I am knitting for G, so hopefully there will be FO's to show off soon. I still need to blog the handspun hat I finished for G in January, which is my only FO of the year. I guess this is the year of beginnings rather than finishings. But watch, now that I've said that aloud I'll go crazy and finish everything. One can only hope. Happy Half Birthday to Griffin, Happy Blogiversary to me, and a happy hello to all of you. I hope you are having as much fun as a little baby with a knitted snail.

P.S. Notice that Griffin is *reading* to his snail. That cracks me up.

Posted by Julia at 06:57 PM | Comments (14)

February 09, 2009

Free Patterns: G's Seeded Rib Pullover & Homecoming Hat

Some of my favorite pieces from 2008 ended up being things that I knit for publication, so they had to stay hush-hush until their release. One of those is this little set that I made for Griffin -- his Homecoming Hat and Seeded Rib Pullover. I'll write about both more as soon as I get the chance, but for now, you can get a pdf of the hat here on my site, and the sweater will be available on Classic Elite's Web Letter No. 76 tomorrow. (The link will work when the Web Letter goes live.) In the meantime, here are a few shots of G enjoying his hat and sweater with his daddy on the trail on Christmas day.

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Posted by Julia at 03:30 PM | Comments (20)

February 01, 2009

Our Gentle Giants

Our dogs can definitely be a handful - as anyone who has had to go through the introduction process (before being allowed to enter our house alive) can attest. But they shine in several important respects. From day one they have both been gentle and loving with the baby and with our cats. Just another plug for German Shepherds and for Shepherds from Rescue in particular.

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Griffin and Zosia


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If you grab Z's face, you are going to get kissed.


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Griffin the Conqueror with Ash the Good Sport.

Posted by Julia at 04:31 PM | Comments (11)

January 24, 2009

Where the Knitting is Now

Like many others, I usually take advantage of the new year to reflect on my knitting - where it has been in the last year, where I want it to go in the year to come. This year that exercise totally escaped me - I forgot about it until I arrived late at Nonnahs' blog and was inspired by her review of the year gone by. Nonnahs' remark that really struck me was that this was a year where she knit little for herself. I realized that was true for me, too, which is pretty unusual. I make no bones about being a selfish knitter. Usually, half of what I knit every year is for me, and the other half of my knitting is comprised of baby gifts for friends. The complex, larger pieces are almost always for me.

This year was very different. The only thing I knit for myself was Norah Gaughan's Bubble Pullover. It was an excellent choice, and a wonderful way to remember our trip to Italy in stitches. Other than that, I knit nine things for Griffin (one before I knew he was a boy, so now it is beloved, but tucked away as too girly), and designed three things for publication - four if you count the two pieces of a set separately. I also started four designs - one for Griffin, two for me and for self-publication (which I never seem to do) and one for publication with Classic Elite. The Classic Elite piece will be finished this year, as will the piece for Griffin. The other two designs have been marinating since 2007. Hopefully I will finish them this year - I suppose that should be a resolution.

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2008: Finished Knits & Knits To Be Completed

I am very much at peace with what I accomplished last year. Little of it was complex, and most of it was small and quick, but it was restful and in anticipation of a time when knitting and life would no longer be about me. Having Griffin has been a surprisingly gentle transition. Moxie would laugh at this, since he witnessed me in tears this morning from prolonged lack of sleep. But overall it has not been the radical life-altering event I thought it might be - in the negative sense. Griffin fits into our lives easily, and I don't think much about the changes in my days or in my knitting. They just seem to come. It's as if I had been reading Yertle the Turtle every night of my life for the last 37 years. Happily. So the knitting has been about him, and I've realized that it most likely will be for quite a time to come.

My knitting has also been much more spontaneous this year - Griffin needs a hat (or three), so I make a hat. Griffin would look adorable in a sweater that matches his hat, so I design the sweater and knit it. Nothing can be too complex, because I usually have to knit in near darkness while he sleeps in the evening, but it's all cute and fulfilling, and seeing him in the things that I've made him makes me so happy it hurts.

I have stopped collecting patterns, too. Somehow with him it is easier just to come up with ways to use what I have. He's little, so I can work with small quantities of yarn in my stash. Something between one and three skeins is always enough. The adult things I've made are almost all for publication, so those are designed by definition. (Everything is for publication this year, which is why you haven't seen it yet.) It's a less complex way of life - using what I have, making things as needed - and it fits this time. At some point I will return to more intricate pieces - cables and lace - but for now there is only the occasional thing that requires real thought amidst rows of stockinette. That's probably why my UFO's are UFO's.

It's interesting, because I've watched so many of you change as you had your children, and sometimes lamented the less frequent posting and knits. But now that I'm here, it seems right. This may end up being as much of a mommy blog as it is a knitting blog, and I may only post twice a month, but I think that these years will be the best.

Posted by Julia at 11:30 AM | Comments (9)

January 21, 2009

Our Walk to the Water

This is for my friend John, and for his wife Nikole and daughter Thea.

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It may not seem like that much of a coincidence that we spent our weekend at the ocean, too, but it was only Griffin's second trip to the beach. After a summer of extreme pregnancy at the beach (the only place where there was any relief from the heat this year), we've been hibernating up here near the mountains. Griffin's first day at the ocean was in October, when it was cold and windy. This weekend it was perfect. We had one of those days that remains as a snapshot in your head. If my life ever flashes before my eyes, this is a day that I will see.




Posted by Julia at 07:54 AM | Comments (7)

January 16, 2009

Old Friends

MH was in town with the ravelry crew and finally, finally got to meet Griffin. When I got pregnant I was so excited to have her around to share him with, because she is absolutely the best with children, but Albuquerque called her away and I lost out. It was so awesome to see her and have her make a new little friend.

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MH and I have known each other for just over five years now. It's hard to believe that time has gone so fast. Even though she's far away now, I know we'll stay close and still get to share all the wonderful things - like babies. But it was still great to see her in the flesh and re-unite. The only thing better would have been a trip to the button wall at our place (Michael Levine - downtown, yarn and fabric).

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MH also had the pleasure of seeing Griffin in the wonderful February baby sweater that she made him, which is absolutely adorable. As a bonus, we got to hang out with Jess and Casey and Kat and Felix. We're getting Jess primed for one of her own. And no, not any time soon, so don't take this as a hint! Still - looks like she'd make a great mom, doesn't it?

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I'd be remiss if I didn't put up a shot of Kat's beautiful son, Felix. He brought along a wonderful dog that she knit him and a doghouse that he and his dad made out of a knitting needle box. What a great kid. Jess has some even better photos - Felix and Casey conspiring over an i-phone together. You'll have to bug her to upload them to flickr or something. All in all a wonderful if brief time together.

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Posted by Julia at 05:10 PM | Comments (16)

January 09, 2009

"He's Not Really An Elf, You know."

Daddy's famous last words. I was working on yet another hat for Griffin, who seems to outgrow them at a breakneck pace, and asked for M's input on whether the top should just be a normal rounded-off shape or pointy, and I got that response. Normally, I would rather dress Griffin as a little bad ass than a cherub, but sometimes you just can't resist.

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The hat in question is made of some of my first and favorite handspun yarn - I really was inspired to knit more handspun items for Griffin after that last post. And in deference to Moxie it has a rounded top. The color is feminine enough, according to M, so we'll let that be as it is. But the elf comment stuck with me and all of a sudden I was reminded of the Meathead Hat that I made long ago. I made it at a smaller gauge than called for, and although it was cute it languished in the closet because there was no way it could be worn by an adult. Happily, it can be worn by a Griffin. How cool is it that this wonderful forgotten knit can be reborn as an elf helmet? Between this and Griffin's Alsace le Monstre Hat (the only other one that still really fits him), he draws quite a few smiles when we go for our walks.

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Posted by Julia at 05:17 PM | Comments (19)

December 23, 2008

Pattern Notes: Griffin's Tomten Jacket

Alternately entitled: "My kid hates wool." I know. Blasphemy. But it's true. Griffin will deign to wear merino, and I would hazard a guess that he would find cashmere acceptable, but mommy's beloved alpaca and all other potentially itchy fleeces are verboten. If I put him in a long sleeved T-shirt he will tolerate his Tomten Jacket for a short period of time, but will eventually scream his head off. I shall have to employ EZ's suggested method of sneaking little bits of wool into piries, slowly increasing the number of motifs containing wool with each fair isle sweater. Sigh.

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James Dean goes Elven.

Cold weather does appear to sway him a bit, though, and when I take him for brisk walks outside Griffin will put up with sweaters, coats and hats of slightly itchier wool a bit longer. I just have to work to make him really get use out of his Tomten. At least I know now, though. The next handspun heirloom sweater that I make for him will be 100% merino. Or maybe I'll just put him in cotton hoodies from Tarzhay for the rest of his natural born life, the stinker.

Modular Tomten Jacket
The Opinionated Knitter
designed by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Knit with 2 skeins of my handspun yarn - one a medium brown alpaca two-ply and the other a merino two-ply spun from Spunky Eclectic "Burning Bush" roving (about 350 yards total)
on size US2 (2.75 mm) Addi Turbo circulars and US2 (2.75 mm) clover dpns.
Gauge: ? sts and ? rows per inch over garter stitch. (I'll fill this in later if I remember!)
Size: 19" chest circumference.

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Take that, Legolas!
The Pattern:
I think I'm something like the 850th person on ravelry to knit the Tomten Jacket, so there is probably little I can say about it that has not already been said. It's one of those wonderful designs that is simple enough for an advanced beginner to complete, yet looks wonderfully sophisticated when finished. The jacket is susceptible to many permutations and modifications, with different closures, edging treatments, pockets, hoods, etc. possible with little extra effort. Most additions can be made as an afterthought. Sizing is also seemingly infinitely adjustable, and the different possibilities for yarn combinations make the jacket a nice choice for handspun. I can see why one might be tempted into making it multiple times in slightly different ways. This could easily become one of those "go-to" baby patterns for me - always dependable, always beautiful. It's just as great as everyone says it is - try it! (Oh, and although I am sure most of you have seen it already, Jared's version is a great reminder that this jacket looks smashing in an adult version, too.)

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The Elven King with his daddy.

Modifications: None! I did follow Meg Swanson's advice, though and leave the armscye stitches live for seamless joining.

Techniques: The most difficult part of this sweater is the I-cord edging (and that is not difficult, either, just follow EZ's directions). It's a perfect beginner sweater - garter stitch and easy seams.

Working With My Very Own Handspun: This was the biggest treat I could imagine. I've spun quite a few skeinlettes of my own yarn and tried multiple times to knit with it, without success. Handspun is very particular about what it wants to be. Or at least mine is. To use it well, you have to be versed in the combining of small amounts of wool in various colors into a grand, harmonious whole. And usually a somewhat folksy whole. You have to walk that line between folk art and fashion, which is not my personal strength. The Tomten Jacket is like a wonderful "cheat." It's a tried and true way to get lovely results and a great way to pull yourself out of a handspun rut.

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The Elven King on his "throne."
Every time I look at Griffin's Tomten I am inspired to spin more, and eventually, in some hour when I am not reading Dr. Suess (for the 100th time) or wiping spit-up off of god-knows-what with my sleeve, I will spin again. And most likely make another Tomten Jacket.

My merino handspun made of Spunky Eclectic "Burning Bush" turned out beautifully. It was squishy, springy, even and seemingly perfect. My alpaca handspun was less so - too tightly spun and inconsistent. They were slightly different gauges, so although I knit on US2's to accommodate the alpaca, the merino would have been well-suited to a US3 needle. If your handspun has these issues, don't despair. The I-cord edging can hide a multitude of sins caused by using a too-fine, overspun yarn. It will work. Just have faith. I did, and it paid off.

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I will walk when I am ready.
For now I am exercising my royal prerogative to be carried.
Onward, Mommy!


[Read all entries on the "Possibly" Tomten Jacket.]


Posted by Julia at 09:42 AM | Comments (27)

November 20, 2008

He's a Knitter!

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Leave me alone lady - I'm biddy! (busy)

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Just one more row?


Posted by Julia at 09:41 AM | Comments (29)

November 07, 2008

Free Pattern: El Hatto Negro & Il Hatto Picollo pdf

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Click the photo to download the pattern.
This is a revised pdf version of my 2005 El Hatto Negro design, offered in six sizes from infant to man-sized. If you find any mistakes or unclear instructions, please let me know. I cannot provide extensive support for my free patterns or give instructions on the basic techniques that are required to execute them due to time constraints, but I am happy to clarify anything that may be confusing in the pattern. I hope that you enjoy the pattern and can get many a warm, well-loved hat out of it!

Posted by Julia at 11:00 AM | Comments (9)

November 05, 2008

Victory Watchcap (Il Hatto Picollo)

The knit that gets the most wear in our house is M's black watchcap (El Hatto Negro), so it seemed only fitting to make a matching cap for Griffin, especially when Grandee (his maternal grandmother) sent him some fabulous black yarn for Halloween.

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"Let's go and knock over a liquor store!"

The hat is called Il Hatto Picollo to go with Moxie's El Hatto Negro, but at least for today I'm calling it the victory watchcap. I finished it last night as we watched the election results roll in, with Griffin sleeping on my lap. It was such an amazing night, and definitely one of the most important historical events I will ever witness. I am so glad that our baby was here to share the moment with us. I am full of hope for our country and proud to have a president that I can believe in again. The most striking thing to me is that both candidates are so clearly devoted to our country and to working together to get us back on track. Obama's speech was the best that I have ever heard, but I was also incredibly moved by McCain's concession. I believe he will play a key role in the years to come, and his grace and graciousness were impressive. So congratulations to us all, Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We can look forward to working together to make this country all that it can be for ourselves and for our children.

Posted by Julia at 05:34 PM | Comments (15)

October 29, 2008

Knits in Action: Baby Bells

I love modeled shots, and I am always searching them out on ravelry and in blogs to get an idea of how a knit is going to look in real life. I especially love shots of kids and babies, because although we all seem to love to make cute little baby things, they don't get photographed as often, and I end up wondering how they fit (and when!) and whether they get used regularly or are just for special occasions.

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These are Griffin's baby bell bottoms, a free pattern by Alison Hansel, and they are going to get some real use for as long as I can pull them over his behind. At about 3.5 weeks old and 8.5 pounds, 22.5 inches he was swimming in them, but now at 7 weeks and over 10 pounds and about 25 inches they look just right. I'm hoping I can put him in them for a few more pounds! I don't know much about average growth for infants, but to me Griffin is pretty thin and long, so these would probably fit a baby that weighed less but appeared chubbier a little earlier. For those who need the info, these are a tad smaller than the smallest size in the pattern, to accommodate the yardage that I had and my gauge. The sizing in the pattern seems on target - at least for this little guy! I will definitely be making more - probably in the 6 month size so that we can both enjoy them a little longer.

Okay, I just looked at the growth charts and Griffin is very long and thin - so definitely size up if you are knitting for one of those adorably chubby little babies!

Posted by Julia at 11:30 PM | Comments (17)

October 26, 2008

Firsts

Almost seven weeks have passed now, with many "firsts":

Smiles

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Baths
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Naps with the Tuna
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Fall Days at the Beach

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It's a good life.

Posted by Julia at 09:09 PM | Comments (30)

October 03, 2008

Angry Baby Models Knitwear

It all started innocently enough with my desire to see which of the wee wonderful knit items that Griffin has accrued fit him. I had actually been quite worried that he would be too big for many things - especially the things I knit. But as it turns out, everything - with the exception of his Saartje's Booties from Aunt Jennie - is a little big, so he will get to wear all these wonderful handmade clothes. The booties are just right and he's napping in them now.

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At this point we are still happily sleeping. Perhaps because our hat is so fierce.

Griffin tolerated the baby bell bottoms that I made him and Marnie's Alsace le Monsteur hat, but as I moved on to his homecoming hat (way too big when he was coming home), he began to get a bit peeved.

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Griffin shows a lack of appreciation for mommy's handiwork.

He found the handspun Tomten Jacket that I so painstakingly made for him absolutely infuriating. As I snapped away with the camera I imagined him yelling at me with the voice of Stewie from Family Guy: "This is an indignity! I will not stand for it! I am going to kill Lois!"

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Is it wrong that I find this hysterically funny?
He reminds me of a protester from the 60's donning a Nehru jacket.
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Get this thing off of me! Now!

Happily, Griffin returned to his normal peaceful self as soon as I put him in MH's February Baby Sweater and Jennie's Saartje's booties. Perhaps it is best if I have other people knit for him....

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Thank god I have been relieved of that itchy alpaca thing. Much better.


Posted by Julia at 01:47 PM | Comments (35)

September 23, 2008

Stop the Government's Proposed Bailout of Irresponsible Financial Institutions!

The federal government, in what will be its most far-reaching attempt yet to contain the financial crisis, is poised to establish a program to let banks get rid of mortgage-related assets that have been hard to value and harder to trade. The plan will cost a minimum of $700 billion and place a burden of $2000 on every taxpayer in the country. The proposed legislation requires absolutely nothing of the companies that will be bailed out and gives no incentives for them to modify the irresponsible behavior that got this country into the current crisis in the first place. There will be no conditions or regulations placed on the bailed-out institutions and the federal government will have no future stake in them to ensure that their reckless practices are curtailed. In essence, these financial institutions will be free to recreate the conditions which caused the present fiasco with impunity while the federal government takes on billions of dollars of high-risk debt at a time when the deficit is already colossal. The legislation is being pushed through at an alarming rate - days - without sufficient thought or discussion of the possibly disastrous consequences to the economy and stability of this country. It could be acted on as early as this week, despite being introduced for the first time last Friday.

If you agree that this issue requires more thorough consideration, PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO CONTACT THE FIVE SENATORS LISTED ON STOP THE HOUSING BAILOUT. You will find their names and fax numbers listed in the left-hand column of the website, along with a link to send two faxes for free. For your convenience there is also a pdf that you can download to use for the content of the fax.

Posted by Julia at 01:39 PM | Comments (14)

September 19, 2008

Griffin's Tomten

In the last few days I've been lucky enough to catch just a little down time when a certain someone zonks out after breastfeeding to do a tiny bit of knitting on that certain someone's Tomten Jacket. I was getting a little sluggish on this one, because before Griffin was born I had my doubts that he would be able to wear it. It looked pretty small, and at this time of year in LA even if he could wear it in his first few weeks it would really only be practical to use it at night.

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I had the jacket within reach during a feeding, so I started knitting it again. Griff fell so soundly asleep afterward that I was able to put the sleeve that was tentatively ready over his little arm for fit.

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It looks pretty cute and there should be enough room in it for him to grow and still wear it. If we have an early fall with actual fall-like temperatures it could even get decent use. He looks so cute in it that I've been motivated to work on it. The going is somewhat slow still, because I can really only steal little bits of time to work on it. (I'm typing this post one-handed!)

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M was out during the fashion show, but I was able to snap a few shots with my cell phone. Technology really blows me away sometimes - not bad!

Posted by Julia at 05:14 PM | Comments (33)

September 15, 2008

Moments with Moxie and Griffin

Let me start out by saying that although he is um, candid, and I often lovingly say that I married the hot version of Larry David, Mox is the best husband in the world and an awesome daddy. He held me in his lap while I went through contractions, he was the only thing that gave me the strength to push Griffin out into the world, and he changed every diaper that Griff dirtied in the first four or so days, and still changes most of them. He dotes on us both, wraps a mean swaddle, and is constantly saying how beautiful we are and how proud he is of us. He is everything to me and to Griff. As you know however, he is Moxie, and I just had to share a few choice utterances from the last few days. I wish I could share photos of him, too, but that is strictly verboten. Needless to say, he's gorgeous, and I'm glad I took the time to relentlessly hunt him down and make him mine.

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Notice that Griff and Ash are lying together on a puppy pad.

So, without further ado, some moments with Moxie:

During contractions:
"Is it okay that I'm laughing at you?"

About the hospital staff:
"Apparently there is an issue with the indoor voice here."

Changing his baby's first diaper:
"Is he supposed to have tar in there?"

To our son, after placing him on the bed next to the body pillow:
"Here, pretend this is someone you know."

To be fair, my contractions were pretty funny, as I did most of my laboring on the floor in various yoga-like positions, many not so dignified. When my doctor came in, I was sprawled in a new-fangled version of a runner's stretch, and he laughed, too. Here's one of my favorite labor photos:

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I'm pretty sure this speaks for itself.


Posted by Julia at 05:45 PM | Comments (36)

September 10, 2008

The Baby Is Here!

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Griffin Samuel
Born on his due date, September 9, 2008
6 pounds, 14 ounces, 19 inches long
Happy, Healthy and Gorgeous


Posted by Julia at 04:44 PM | Comments (190)

September 04, 2008

Changing Cables Midstream

The days since I last posted have been much better. Heat and fatigue can bring out the worst in me, and I think I allowed myself to get a little too sedentary for my own good Monday night and Tuesday, which made for a grouchy Hoolia. Sometimes you just have to kick yourself into gear regardless of how you feel. Although the saying is a bit annoying there is a lot of truth in the phrase "sometimes you gotta fake it to make it." I've clawed my way through a lot of the tougher points in my life using the fake it method, and I'm always surprised at how well it works. My pregnancy, even in the end stages, has been pretty easy, so I probably should have pushed myself a little harder to fake it on Tuesday. I think it is just a little challenging to balance being active and good-natured with staying well-rested in case it happens to be the "big day." It's also a little challenging not knowing when the "big day" will strike. But I know many of you know this, and have even done it multiple times - it's just the nature of the beast.

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A medley of UFO's

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OBL Shell, neckless once more.
I think my particular frustration with knitting has been born of the fact that I am at a "difficult" point in all of my projects. The cabled shell is stumping me in part due to the neckline, but I've also been considering making it longer. If I don't do anything too ornate with the neckline I can easily add a few inches to the body - easily except that I will most likely have to rip the entire thing to do so. I think my method is going to have to involve knitting the neckline on the shell as is, delivering a baby so that I can try the shell on again for length and get a better approximation, and then possibly ripping and re-knitting the entire piece. It's not as bad as it sounds. The whole thing is on US 11 needles, so it zips along. I just feel a little stalled in the process right now.

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Handspun Tomten.
As for my other two WIPs, the Tomten Jacket is well on its way, but I made the mistake of returning to it without re-checking the instructions and just working the last sleeve from memory. Can't believe I did that with pregnancy brain! I need to rip the sleeve and do it again. Not a big deal, probably the easiest of the fixes around here - just have to do it.

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Pensees en mass.
The Pensee Blanket, fabulous thing that it is, is at the point where I need to make some design decisions. Originally I planned to make the pansies themselves the bulk of the blanket, but now I'm thinking that it would be nice to incorporate some knitting in my crochet project and use the pansies to connect some fun, stripey squares, or maybe to border one large, stripey square. I want to avoid having it look too busy and to do that with all those crazy permutations of pansies, I need to focus on giving the stripes a feel of continuity and place things in such a way that it doesn't look like there are patterns flying in every direction. It's actually sounding like more fun now as I write about it, so maybe I'll dabble with that, too. A little time spent sketching it out may not be the worst idea. But you get the picture - it, too, requires work.

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Jubilee Cables. Happy!
So, instead of making myself "work" I changed direction a bit yesterday and returned to another design that I had to shelve last winter. My working name for this one is Halcyon Days, because the cable at its base is called Jubilee, and Jubilee is a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter with the line "When we look back and say these were Halcyon Days, we're talking 'bout Jubilee." I have very strong word/song associations, so it works for me. (One Big Love is an Emmy Lou Harris tune and cables are my one big love - you can play name that tune with a lot of my working names for things.) Although Halcyon is a personal design and requires some planning and forethought, it's one that has been brewing for a while, so a lot of the details have already been worked out. I also have an abundance of yarn to work with, so I can make changes willy-nilly, which is pretty unusual for me. Normally I design in such a way that the piece uses up every available inch of yarn. I considered doing that here, but with 17 skeins of Rowan's wool cotton at my disposal I can easily design two pieces and use up every available inch of yarn - no need to make a robe! The Jubilee cables have provided a nice foil for all the UFO's circling around here - hopefully they can keep this pregnant brain clear for at least a little bit!

Posted by Julia at 01:14 PM | Comments (15)

September 02, 2008

So, Knitting....

For a while there I was on a roll with crafting projects. I finished up two pieces for a friend's book that will be published next spring, which was really rewarding and relieving. I had a huge fear of having way too much knitting for publication on the sticks and too little time to do it all with the baby threatening to show up five and a half weeks early. Yikes. But, because I was good and turned down some work that I really, really wanted to do, delegated out sample knitting to a pinch-knitting friend, and got my butt into high gear on finishing the pieces due around now, I found myself 37 weeks along with a baby stubbornly hanging in, and complete freedom to do whatever I wanted. How often does that happen?

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Photographic proof that I was a happy person just yesterday.
Out waddling with Ash and Zosh.

At first this was a great situation. I was free! I had energy! I ripped things that would never be finished and washed the yarn. I finished other things. I knit another curly purly soaker for the kid. I sewed pillows out of this wonderful Japanese fabric that I bought with Marnie ages ago at the Santa Monica Fiber Fest (And Moxie, who likes nothing, actually likes them and wants more.) I took a few days off of crafting and relaxed with friends at the beach and the pool, which was wonderful, too.

And then I kind of crashed. It's really only been about 24 hours of crashing, but when you have a baby coming at any time, that seems like a lot of time to waste. Since then I've been scattered, sulky, irritable and downright bitchy. It reminds me of the hottest part of summer when I would whine to my mom "What is there to do?" knowing full well that I would shoot down every idea she had, and grumpily at that. (Now that's something to look forward to with children. Not.)

Anyway, my hope is to blog through it a little and then go back to the piece I've stalled out on. I can't blog too long, because I'll get sick of that, too, but I'm giving it a try before I relegate myself to the porch for the nice portion of the day - the morning portion, which is not stinking hot like the afternoon portion. I shouldn't complain - at least it's cool here in the morning and evenings. But I'm gonna anyway. I'm 39 weeks pregnant and freaking vicious. Screw it.

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The first of a few crappy mirror shots.
Hopefully you can get some idea
of what this looks like!
Okey dokey. So I returned to One Big Love, which we'll call OBL, the yummy cabled cashmere shell that I started last year, but shelved at Christmas to work on gifts for Ma and Pa Kettle. It's really pretty, and for a minute there I hummed along on it. I was able to decipher my "pattern notes" such as they were and work out the armscye shaping for the front to work with the back. (I really should write those out neatly but we know I won't!) With the shell part completed, I was pretty pleased. It's a little challenging to envision how a rather slim shell is going to look when you pull it down over a gargantuan belly, but when I compare it to other things in my closet that are about the same length it looks right. At this point even my "long" tanks don't cover the vast expanse of tum I have going here. Thank god for the $20 Tarzhay mumu - that's all I have to say.

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It looks better in photos. It's kind of
hard to post unattractive pictures on purpose.
Alright, so the shell part was great, but then I decided to go and get all fancy on the collar portion and reverse the cable (still a good idea I think), and then pick up stitches sideways along the cable portion of the neck and knit around to the beginning of the cable portion, decreasing as I went for an asymmetrical look. Not such a good idea. Now in a fine-gauge drapey yarn this could be a fun little device to use sometime, but I lost track of a couple of important factors when employing it here. Actually worse - I stubbornly ignored them. I can't believe that after so many years of knitting I still do that sometimes. Actually worse - I can believe it and I am certain I will do it again. How's that for pig-headed? So, the things I ignored: 1) thick cashmere wool blends have lots of loft but not a lot of drape, which combined with knitting that runs horizontally means a stiffer collar; 2) horizontal knitting will not nicely pull in a wide neckline the way that vertical knitting will and this one is too wide for my tastes; and 3) although this kind of collar might not look bad on someone else, it looks like shit on me - too frou-frou in some way - better to keep it simple, stupid. So I'm faced with a little ripping. This wouldn't be a big deal if I felt that I knew exactly where I was going next and felt sure that it would work out as planned. But, of course, I don't.

Here are my ideas:

Option one, a very likely candidate, is to cast on stitches all around the front neck and work a really pretty braid that I used in the design I finished for spring that should serve as a nice turning ridge. I was going to employ this braid the last time, but I couldn't recall how I did it and didn't feel like getting off the couch to look at the pattern. To be fair to myself, getting off the couch is not what it was even a month ago and I have to do it all too often to pee these days, so that bit of laziness can probably be excused. This time I will be sure to print out my own instructions before retiring to said couch. After the braid I will re-work the cable as it is now, but also work sections of stockinette on either side with short rows, so that the front neck spills over in the center and gets shallower at the shoulders like a cowl.

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From the side.
Option two, also likely, is to pick up stitches the whole way around the neck line and work a button band along the side of the cable and along the section of stockinette right next to it, again allowing the cable to spill over and employing the braid as a turning ridge. The button band would be purely decorative as the cable isn't reversible. I like this one, too.
Option three, work a plain old stockinette cowl and jettison the cable completely on the neck - I already have enough cable going on in this piece, perhaps.

Option four is to work a ribbed hem that brings in the neckline a little but not too much - a little on the boatneck side, but not so much as to become a bra strap hazard. Not sure if I'd do a one by one rib hem or try to mimic the bottom hemline a bit. I think the first is more effective, but the second would be more harmonious. Either way it would roll over the top edge as a hem with facing rather than have a cast-off edge - a little smoothness to the line.


What the @$##%!!%#% should I do with the OBL neckline?
  
pollcode.com free polls

I wish I was as talented as Miss Marnie, who would quickly dash off illustrations of each option for you. If for some reason I decide to sketch them out first (I might, drawing could improve my mood) I'll add them to the post. Otherwise you'll need a bit of imagination. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to comment. I won't bite your head off. Promise. My readers have had some great ideas when I've asked in the past, so maybe you can inspire me with a fresh perspective, or just convince me that one of these options is clearly the one to choose. I think just working through it will make me less vicious, though it's unlikely to make me less pregnant.

Posted by Julia at 08:48 AM | Comments (17)

August 25, 2008

Still Pregnant: MindofWinter Swimsuit Edition

I'm guessing the folks at Sports Illustrated won't be tracking me down anytime soon. :) Now I am truly starting to look like the blog banner. It's hard to believe that there was a time that I couldn't wait to look this pregnant. Now that I do, I'm totally fine with the look of pregnancy, but realize that women don't want to look like this because when you look this pregnant you feel this pregnant! And having a 20 lb. bag of baby and water attached to your internal organs pushing them around into novel configurations has its ups and downs. Overall, though, I can't complain. No major complications and except for the initial morning sickness my symptoms have been mercifully few in comparison to those of many women for whom I have ever-increasing respect.

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This weekend at the pool and the weekend before on the deck with the Mox.
Right image blurred to protect the identity of the Moxie.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who left such supportive comments and shared your own experiences. Ultimately, I think the little scares my ob/gyn gave me in the past few weeks have done more good than harm. The bun is still in the oven and we are much more prepared to have a baby than we were before. I've bitten the bullet and managed to gain the requisite 2.5 lbs ordered in the past week (It was tough, but someone had to do all that eating! Ha!) And I am now among the women who can say that it is possible to walk around dilated and effaced for a few weeks without having a baby on the spot. As of today's check-up I am now 3 cm dilated and 90% effaced and the doctor thinks this may indicate that I'll have a fast labor. Let's hope. For now, I'm looking at it as a freebie (the "work" done already won't have to be done during labor) and hoping that the baby will give me one more week and another centimeter. But even if he doesn't it will be fine. I'm not so freaked out any more. I knew this had to happen, right?

I've had a chance to knit a little, too, so if I get that extra week of pregnancy I'll actually blog some knits for you. Wouldn't that be nice?

Posted by Julia at 09:13 PM | Comments (35)

August 15, 2008

Dilated 2 cm, Station 0, Effaced 80%

I only had that first piece of info last week - glad I didn't know about the station and effacement! Has anyone else walked around for weeks like this? I've made it a week so far, but need to go a little longer. I lost a little weight last week, and I want to get it back and onto that baby before he comes out. Comment mommies! Tell me he can hold out a little longer!!!!

Edited to add: Thanks ladies - I know it's okay for me to lose weight at the end in theory - I should have been more specific! The baby, who has always measured big is now measuring small. So the weight gain is doctor's orders, not just my jitters. I've been relatively small the whole time, and my doctor has not been concerned before, so I'm taking him seriously about the weight thing!!!!

Posted by Julia at 05:15 PM | Comments (42)

August 09, 2008

Time to Roll Out the Puppy Pad!

Yesterday, still 4.5 weeks shy of my due date, we found out that I am 2 cm dilated. My doctor who had confidently told me that I probably would last at least another 2-3 weeks a moment earlier, all too casually announced that he wouldn't be surprised if I gave birth next week. Well, he might not be surprised, but I sure as hell was. First of all, the cervical exam was a bit of a surprise - I thought I was just getting a culture until he decided to check everything out without warning. Don't get me wrong, I love my doctor and have all the trust in the world in his capabilities, but he is not always good at telling me when I am about to experience a not-so-tender moment. Back at week 17 I was pretty sure that he was trying to give me an amnio with the pen he used to mark the spot for the needle. Perhaps he could try a nice soft marker instead of just picking up the Bic lying on the counter, eh?

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Not the most artful photo, but you can see that I definitely look pregnant.
Taken a little over a week ago, peeps, and I've gained almost an inch of circumference since.

Let it never be said that Moxie doesn't know exactly what a gal needs and when she needs it. Upon my arrival home (after a last-minute run to Von's to pick up toiletries, tucks and the biggest maxi pads known to woman - ugh), I was greeted with the words every very pregnant woman wants to hear: "I'll go down to the garage and get the puppy pad." When our sweet Caia was getting elderly, we bought a puppy pad for her to ensure that everything stayed dry and comfy if an accident should occur. Ever solicitous of my deepest needs (read ever protective of his precious memory foam mattress), Moxie immediately went to work, carefully determining the outer parameters of where I might sleep in the event that something icky takes place in the night. (Apparently the terms "broken water bag," "mucus plug" and "bloody show" have caused him some concern - who knew?) Afterwards he appeared triumphant, as if now we were ready - everything was in place. Perhaps we should consider installing the car seat? Anyhoo, we're almost as ready as we can be in the event of an an event (the car seat goes in today).

For those of you whose concern goes further than the puppy pad, don't worry, the baby is far enough along that he should be fine. And apparently tons of women walk around slightly dilated for weeks, so this could all be a false alarm. I'm just panicked because I need to wrap up things at work and somehow mentally prepare myself to relax for labor (is that even possible?!), but the little demon responsible for all this hubbub should be healthy and happy. And when he arrives home he will be greeted with a puppy pad to call his own. Maybe even two!

Posted by Julia at 08:02 AM | Comments (37)

July 20, 2008

Bubble Pullover: Pattern Notes

We finally got one of those SoCal mornings that was truly chilly - well, as chilly as a Los Angeles summer morning can be - so I decided that it was a good time to pull out the Bubble Pullover and write up some pattern notes. It's a great knit, and it would be a shame if it got lost in the shuffle of pregnancy and life in general. Plus, I find that once again several weeks have rolled by without a post, and considering how upside down things are about to become, it's now or in many months hence for the blog. Have you looked over at that baby counter? I have seven weeks to go. And that's if he stays in until 40 weeks (please kid, stay in there 40 weeks!) God, it feels like I have been pregnant forever and yet simultaneously time has flown. Completely amazing.

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Enjoying a tender moment with my basketball.

Anyhoo, back to the Bubble Pullover. At the moment I look somewhere between totally ridiculous and kind of cute wearing it - it basically creates a nice clear target on my baby belly and boobs. But I made my friend Laura try it on when she was out here last weekend and on a body that is similar to mine normally it works really well. By the time that I'm wearing it I think that enough of the tummy will be gone that it will be a favorite on colder days. It's wonderfully comfy and cozy when worn.

Bubble Pullover
Knitting Nature
designed by Norah Gaughan
Knit with 5.75 skeins (1254 yards total) of Misty International Hand Dyed Worsted (100% alpaca) in colorway EZ14 "Spring Touch"
on size US6 (4.0 mm) and US7 (4.5 mm) Addi Turbo circulars.
Gauge: ? sts and ? rows per inch over stockinette stitch. (I'll fill this in later if I remember!)
Size: 38" at bust when blocked.

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From the back -- closer to
how it will look when I am
flat-chested and flat-bellied again.
The Pattern: I've been following Norah Gaughan's work for over a decade now - she's one of my all-time favorite designers - yet somehow I have never gotten around to making one of her patterns until now. There was a time when I thought I would systematically go through some of my favorite people and do a few designs from each of their collections, but now I know better. Nothing systematic is ever going to happen in that department - I'm just too fickle to impose that kind of structure on my fun time. I've made one design by Veronik Avery (three times), one by Teva Durham, one by Sarah Hatton, one by Annie Modesitt, and I'm working on an EZ pattern. So really, if I just get around to a Marie Wallin design someday I will have at least one of each - that's something, right?

I've always thought that completing a few things by those women would be a sort of Tour of the Masters, and it really has been. Norah Gaughan, as most know, is a master of unique construction, and as an on again off again designer myself, I've found it very interesting to follow her footsteps through a pattern - either by just reading through the instructions or by actually knitting in this case. She has a real talent for doing something in a unique way and yet simplifying and streamlining at the same time, so that you can do something new and wonderful without it being a huge pain in the ass. It makes her edgy designs accessible to knitters from a wide range of skill levels, which is a very nice plus. Except for a few different techniques (like picking up stitches using the working yarn and the tail end of your cast-on alternately - so clever) most of what goes on in the Bubble Pullover is pretty straightforward and should be familiar to an advanced beginner.


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Dude. If you can't hit this you couldn't
hit the broad side of a barn!
You basically start with a single pentagon and build from there, connecting pentagon after pentagon until you have eight pentagons total which are connected into a tube. From there you simply pick up and knit the bottom ribbing down from one side of the pentagon tube and the collar from the other end of the tube. Add fabulous buttons (I got mine at Imagiknit when hanging out and podcasting with Nicole of Stash and Burn), and voila, you have a great sweater. I thought that I would be bored by the repetition of the pentagons, but watching them come together is pretty addictive, so it wasn't a problem. I knit the bulk of this sweater in Italy, so it is infused with our wonderfully romantic honeymoon (babymoon?) as well, which makes it extra-special.

Modifications: I re-gauged this baby to work with the wonderful Misti Alpaca yarn that I bought for it, but other than that I didn't make any modifications that spring to mind. Re-gauging is much easier than you would imagine if you understand the construction. I actually found it easier to deal with than most patterns for re-gauging. (Don't ask me what I did, though - I didn't write down the numbers and I don't remember! There was a lot of winging it involved.)

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Showing is no longer a concern.
Techniques: This list is going to sound more difficult to a beginner than it is. If you don't know how to do everything already, don't let that stop you - just get a book or look on-line and teach yourself the things you don't know yet. They should come to you and be a good foundation for any sweater: knitting in the round, picking up stitches, working on double-pointed needles, making button holes with yarnovers (explained in pattern) and my new favorite picking up stitches alternating the tail from a cast-on edge and the working yarn. This last technique is one that I haven't seen before, but it is really useful and pleasing. It won't be hard to get down once you have yarn in hand and just try it. This is one of those techniques like Annie Modesitt's slipped stitch edging that I will definitely file away for future use.

Impressions of Misti International's Hand Dyed Worsted:
I know that you must think that I haven't met a yarn I didn't like ever because I am always raving about my project yarns. The reason is that for the most part I know how to pick a yarn that I like without actually knitting it first. I've met many yarns that I loathed, but most of those were encountered early on in my knitting life, well before I worked at a yarn shop or cranked out the volume of knitting that I have in the last few years. Rest assured that when I go on and on about a yarn it is genuine and not without discernment. Not all of the yarns I love are easy yarns - I adore linen, which is hard on the hands in its pure form, and I have happily knit with yarns that others would find splitty, slippery, or difficult. If that is the case, I will tell you the whole story here.

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Folded to show off the gorgeous buttons; Bubblicious laid flat.

With that introduction, Hand Dyed Worsted is not only a wonderful yarn, it is an easy yarn. Personally, the alpaca is up there with the merino sheep for beautiful fiber. The two are tied for my favorite. I know that not all knitters feel this way about alpaca, but if you aren't allergic to it and want to go out on a limb and give it a try, this is a good yarn to choose. Hand Dyed Worsted is one if the softest Alpaca yarns I've used yet. Touch it to your cheek (your hands aren't as sensitive and won't pick up any underlying itchiness) and see if it passes the comfort test. You may be surprised. The colors of this yarn are beautiful, and come in semi-solid varieagateds - I could own several colorways if I weren't already over-run with stash. It is a pricey yarn, but not as pricey as it seems at first glance, because it is sold in 100 gram skeins, so you get twice as much yarn as you would in an average skein of yarn. The sad news is that it is discontinued, so like a fine wine it will be hard to find in the future. It is recently discontinued, however, so your chances of picking some up are still pretty good. It's well worth a little hunt, and maybe if enough of us hunt Misti will consider bringing it back. If not, check out their offerings. Misti is a great company and I really enjoy all of their alpacas.

Possible substitute yarns:
A ton. See what other people have used - Ravel it! Some of my favorites: Olga's in Malabrigo, Jatta's in Araucania (with handmade buttons) and Knittingdropout's in Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Aran.

[Read all entries on the Bubble Pullover.]
Posted by Julia at 12:40 PM | Comments (20)

July 04, 2008

Showered with Knitted (& Sewn!) Love

FebBabySweater.jpg FootieWashcloth.jpg AlsaceHat.jpg
Mobile.jpg PsychadelicBlanket.jpg
SaartjesBooties%26Jacket.jpg SleepSac.jpg Bibs.jpg
TownieMobile.jpgBurpCloths.jpg
AlsaceLeMonsteur.jpgSnail%26Soakers.jpgBlocks.jpg
Quilt.jpgKimonoVest.jpg


Left to Right, Top to Bottom:
First Row: February Baby Sweater (Mary Heather); Footie Washcloth (Amiee); Alsace Le Monsteur Hat (Marnie)
Second Row: Garden Mobile (Mary Heather); Psychadelic Blankie (Kat);
Third Row: Saartje's Booties & Jacket (Jennie); Sleep Sac (Mary Heather); Reversible Bibs (Amiee)
Fourth Row: Townes takes possession of MH's Mobile; Burbcloths (Lori)
Fifth Row: Alsace Le Monsteur (Marnie); Soaker & Garden Snail (Shannon); Fabric Play Blocks (Amiee)
Last Row: Jungle Quilt (Ellen); Handspun Kimono Vest (Lori).



I hate to admit it, but in my impregnated and over-worked state, it is pretty much all that I can do to gather, re-size, watermark, link and code these photos. Perhaps it is time to stop coding absolutely everything by hand and look into automating it by baby time! I think that this bounty of handmade love pretty much says it all (though there is also quite a bit of incredible store-bought love that accompanied it as well). Eventually, I would love to put up a gallery of all the hand knit, crocheted and sewn items that this baby accrues, both from myself and from friends. It's such a wonderful part of the history of a new little life. Whether this - and all the other things I have planned - will ever get off the ground is questionable, but the blog post is a start.

I cannot begin to tell you how overwhelming it has been to have so much support from my crafting friends, both known to me and in some cases, unknown. The gift of a handmade item is an amazing thing, and I will be comforted and feel loved every time either I or the baby uses these amazing treasures. The thought that he will be surrounded by soft, unique toys and clothes that carry the spirits of their makers rather than the usual battery-operated plastic makes me feel like we will be starting him off on the right path. Hopefully I can gather strength from all of you in those first sleepless months. I am also truly grateful for all who have commented on delivery and baby care. I haven't even corresponded with many of you, and yet you have taken the time to leave heartfelt and helpful advice in a time when it is much needed. I love that about blogging - it means that you are always surrounded by friends, whether you are fully aware of it or not. I hope that no matter how busy family, craft and work make my life that I will remember to take the same time and care for you and that we teach this baby the same generosity of spirit through our example and yours.

Okay, I think I'm making myself a little verklempt - must be those hormones - but you get the picture:

Thank you, THANK YOU, Thank you.
Posted by Julia at 08:07 AM | Comments (20)

June 23, 2008

Pattern Notes: Baby Bell Bottoms

I have gotten so freaking lazy about the blog and pattern notes in particular, that it is a little embarrassing. I've been even worse about visiting my pals' blogs and commenting, and I realize that staying in touch with all of you means catching up a bit here and making my rounds, both of which I want to do and have missed doing. It seems like summer is often the slow bloggy season for me, and this one has been especially slow with work, our trip to Italy, and most of all the impending baby. In a lot of ways I like that count down widget on my blog, but I have to confess that at other times it freaks the hell out of me! It's funny how predictable the phases of pregnancy are. First trimester is excitement, disbelief, and constant battling with morning sickness combined with an obsession to eat healthily and get the most out of every little calorie you can keep down. Second trimester is the honeymoon phase - which was well-timed for our honeymoon in Italy - you feel incredibly strong and sexy despite the fact that you are beginning to look like you swallowed a basketball - romance is in the air and you are one with the universe, mother earth as it were. Then comes the third trimester, and like clockwork, the panic of actually having to deliver the basketball sets in. Two weeks into my third trimester now, I look down and simultaneously think how great it is that the baby is growing so well and how much I hope that he grows only to the requisite 7 to 7.5 pounds because I can't even fathom getting him out of me now, when he probably weighs in at 3 pounds! I'm experiencing utter disbelief that this is actually going to work as intended, and words like "tear" and "contraction" cause me to immediately cross my legs and go into denial. I've been second-guessing the whole earth mama no drugs natural birth that I've been contemplating (I hesitate to say "planning," both because I am open-minded in terms of the epidural and because I know full well that babies do not allow you to "plan" anything!) I want to do it if I can, and I think that I can manage for the birth itself, but the thought of having an episiotomy without drugs scares the shit out of me. My doctor does all that he can to avoid them, but there's that no planning thing that comes into play, so I fear that I can't count on not having one.

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It's a boy! And these are his pants!

Anyhoo, I'm beginning the parade of finished but unblogged objects with a real favorite of mine - Alison Hansel's Baby Bell Bottoms. These are the second pair of baby bells that I've made, and the second pair that have gone undeservedly without pattern notes. They are an absolutely great and fast knit. Both times that I made them I was in a bit of a knitting funk, and both times they were the "go to" knit that pulled me out of the funk. Last time I made a pair for my friend Jen's impending baby Graham, and this pair is for our little baby boy. Oh yeah - did I say we're having a boy? We're having a boy! Kay was right on the mark. No pansy binky for us - I'm crocheting a 100% "pensie" binky!

Baby Bell Bottoms
Free Pattern
designed by Alison Hansel
Jen's pair knit with 1.8 skeins (188 yards total) of Artyarns Supermerino (100% superwash merino) in colorway 101;
Our pair knit with 1.2 skeins (125 yards) of the same, with .25 skeins (31 yards total) Rowan's Wool Cotton (50% Merino Wool/50% Cotton) in (956) "Coffee Rich" used for the cuffs and waist.
Both on size US3 circulars - Addi Turbos (3.25 mm) and Inox (3.00 mm).
Gauge: 5.75 sts and 8 rows per inch over stockinette stitch.
Size: Jen's are size 6 months; mine are newborn size (not nearly as practical, but I wanted to use the yarn!)

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Jen's baby's bells.
The Pattern:
I love this pattern, and I already have plans to make it again. It's very easy but turns out an incredibly cute pair of pants. I like the idea of knitting baby pants, because they are slightly different from the usual knitted baby gifts - blankets, booties and sweaters. (Which I also love, don't get me wrong! Variety is nice, though.) The pattern is so straightforward that there isn't much to say - just that I highly recommend it. Go forth and knit a pair!
Techniques:
advanced beginner techniques - cast on, knit, purl, minimal shaping, working in the round, binding off, whip stitching, and braiding cord.

Modifications:
The only mods I made were to use a different yarn, work on two circulars for the body, use a different seaming technique for the cord casing, and substitute I-cord for braided cord.

In regard to the two-circular knitting: Try as I might, socks have never "soared" for me on circular needles. This has always been a sad thing, because I really like Cat Bordhi, and I would love to be all new-fangled in my sock-knitting. Not so shockingly, I am quite the traditionalist and do just fine knitting socks with four DPNs. (Not five - that bugs me, too!) My motto has been much closer to "Socks suck on circular needles!" Baby bell bottoms, however, are a completely different story. They are worked in the round after the legs are joined, and when I got to that point I realized that if I did have a pair of 16" size 3 circs I sure as heck did not know where they were. I was able to find two 24" size 3's however, and those did the trick quite nicely. Because one pair was inox and the other addis there was a .25 mm difference in the 3's, so in addition to having the chance to employ the two-circular method I was also able to verify Elizabeth Zimmerman's theory that it matters not a whit if one of your needles is of a slightly different size. Always good to know. Of course, you don't have to test out either of these methods to make the baby bells, it's just all by way of chattiness that I'm discussing them here.

For the casing, I left the edge stitches live rather than binding them off and sewed down the stitches. It's more trouble for the beginner, but this is the only type of seaming I use on casings because it eliminates some of the bulk. Just a matter of preference.

BabyBellsCIMG3876.jpg
Folded up until D-day.
Finishing:
Very little. Mattress stitch for the legs and sewing live stitches for the casings.

Impressions of Artyarns Supermerino:
For a girl with a lot of yarn I have an incredible propensity to use the same yarns over and over again. When I find something I love, I stick with it. And when I have used some of my stash of a particular yarn I have an almost obsessive need to use every bit that I have left, as is definitely the case with wool cotton below. I had three skeins of Artyarns Supermerino, so I used all of it, calculating that I would have enough to make newborn sized pants with the remainder if I used a contrasting color for the cuffs and hem. My baby's bells took care of two remnants at once, which was very satisfying.

Every time I use Supermerino it comes through for me. It's a great "rut" yarn and comes in fun variegated colors. Prior to this I used every bit of my stashed Supermerino in colorway 111 to make a Chevron Scarf. I loved it then, too.

Impressions of Rowan's Wool Cotton:
This is my go-to yarn. I use it more than any other, and especially for baby things. It is soft, classy, classic, has great stitch definition, and is machine washable. Plus it comes in a lovely array of adult colors. I'm not really a pastel girl, so this is a good choice for me.

Possible substitute yarns:
A ton. See what other people have used - Ravel it!

[Read all entries on the Baby Bell Bottoms.]
Posted by Julia at 12:30 PM | Comments (26)

June 17, 2008

First Handknit Gift for Baby

I got an amazingly wonderful package in the mail today - all the way from France! MJ showered us with adorable socks, long-sleeved onesies, a Phildar knit and crochet book of toys, a lovely watercolor, and the crowning jewel, a gorgeous handknit sweater! I am so lucky to have such a generous, talented friend. Thank you MJ!

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A little bit of France for us....

I have two FO's for the baby myself, which I have been terribly remiss in not sharing (soon, I promise!) and one handspun Tomten Jacket on the needles that is well on its way. But there is something truly wonderful about handknit gifts. I love giving handknits, but I am still shocked at how wonderfully touching it is to receive one myself. This is going to be one stylish baby.

Edited to add: You can find the ingenious free Drops pattern for this sweater here.

Posted by Julia at 06:55 PM | Comments (15)

June 03, 2008

Salve Bellas! Photos from Italia

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Clockwise from top left: Us on the terrace in Vernazza; Horse by the Spanish Steps with a crocheted head dress; M basking in the sun in Vernazza harbor; Vernazza from above; Me & Mishka at Trevi Fountain; Me in Venice; the Colosseum; Us in the Bardini Gardens of Florence; M at Trevi Fountain; Florence's Duomo; My baby belly at Trasimeno lake in Umbria; Vernazza Harbor; Stoic Cats in the Bardini Gardens.
Most photos are clickable, but the ones of Moxie aren't.

We're back! Both tired and happy. It was a wonderful romantic trip and a great way to steal some time for ourselves before the little bundle of joy hijacks our lives. Many knits were worn, and some were photographed. The little snippet of pink in the first photo is the River Stole, Mishka made it to the Trevi Fountain and Rome, the Daktari Skirt strolled through Florence, and several sweaters kept me warm in chilly Venice.

I had originally hoped to finish the Bubble Pullover prior to our trip, thinking that at least Venice would be sweater-worthy. When that didn't happen, I realized knitting memories are created on trips even more than before, and that I would probably enjoy making the Bubble Pullover in Italy more than I would enjoy rushing through it to wear it there. I'm still not quite done. I have about five and a half inches of collar left to knit, two sleeves to seam together and buttons to sew on. I'm going to savor the process and finish when I do. I won't be able to actually wear this big alpaca sweater until late fall, regardless. It has been a lovely journey as well - my first Norah Gaughan pattern after years of admiring her work. And the Misty Alpaca yarn is heaven. I'll try to get some decent progress shots so that you can enjoy it, too.

The Bubble Pullover may well be the only knit just for me this year (gasp!). I have several projects for publication that I'm working on this summer and I'm going to sneak in some baby knits where I can before D-day. I have a feeling that the end of the year will get swallowed up by a screaming, pooping, boob-wrecking baby who has already stolen my heart.

Posted by Julia at 08:15 PM | Comments (29)

May 08, 2008

Knits for an Italian Honeymoon

Well, a pregnant Italian honeymoon. If you've known me since the early days of blogging, you know that our honeymoon was supposed to happen four years ago in Italy. Time and money have gotten in the way, but as soon as I got knocked up I was determined to go to Italy this spring, even if it meant waddling through Rome! Happily, I am not nearly as large as I envisioned at this point, so if the kid can manage not to balloon me out for another month, it should be a pretty easy trip, pregnancy-wise. In preparation for the trip I've been going through my closet to find things that fit with room to spare, because I have a feeling that all that wonderful Italian food will aid in the expansion campaign. Happily, I have much more than I thought because, wonderful things that they are, knits stretch! I'm so glad I tried things on rather than assuming I didn't have anything. The shopping can be confined to Italian shopping - the best kind.

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Knits In Action!
Top to Bottom, Left to Right: River, Birch, After Dark Nightie, Pia (top) & Daktari (skirt), Japanese Motif Skirt (Marnie), Nautical, Deciduous (Marnie), After Dark Nightie ('cause it shows off the bump)

Now I realize that it's no big shocker that the shawls fit, but it is nice to have them to accessorize the cute little empire waist dresses that have over-run my closet. (This one is from J-Crew, and may technically be a beach cover-up. Ask me if I care.) I have a little snippet of lingerie that I've been stuffing myself into, but it's short, so the belly makes it looks ever more ridiculous. The after dark nightie is much more forgiving. The skirts were a bit of a surprise. Marnie lent me the Japanese motif skirt when I visited her in March, and lamented the 40 inch waistline - how fortuitous was that? Fabulous and tons of room. The Daktari skirt still has a lot of play, too. The tops were probably the biggest surprise. Pia is still a little big on me without a blouse underneath it - a testament to how off the sizing was in the first place - and nautical fits perfectly with the aid of that fabulous invention, the yoga skirt. (Seriously back-ordered, but worth the wait if it appeals to you. I have two!) Deciduous is probably pushing it, but with a bella band I could probably manage that, too. Absolutely nothing I'm wearing is maternity. (And I'm showing more than in these pictures - my waist is 7" greater in circumference than it was when this all started.) Between yoga-wear and those adorable waistless dresses everyone is wearing, I've only gone to maternity for things like jeans and shorts. Normally I can't get anywhere near one of those empire waist dresses that pouf out below the bust because they make me look pregnant. Now that I am pregnant, they rock. Comfy, too.

The next time you see these knits of yesteryear they'll be in front of Italian architecture. Yay!

Posted by Julia at 07:38 PM | Comments (23)

May 04, 2008

Definitely Tomten

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Merino "Burning Bush" 2-Ply and Baby Alpaca 2-Ply. Baby bliss!

Work has kept me extremely busy, and when I'm typing away at my keyboard so much, one of the last things I want to do in my free time is type away at my keyboard (or read anything). When I have had a free moment, I have either crocheted a pansy or spun, spun, spun. As a result, the handspun that I talked about in this post is finally all spun up, and some of it is even knit up. No time for any more designing than I already have going on here, so it's definitely Tomten. Plus EZ's designs are all somehow perfect for handspun, don'tcha think?

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Handspun and the bottom half of the Tomten Jacket.
Babies seem just impossibly small!
Posted by Julia at 11:30 PM | Comments (8)

April 30, 2008

The Amazing Disappearing Belly

Okay, you guys are probably going to be sick to death of my pregnancy soon, but this is just too funny. I really am at a stage where the tum is nearly invisible from the front but very visible in profile. M took some photos of me this weekend, including several in front of the mirror in the girls' room. He literally made me stop on my way out on Saturday and said, "Wait til you see these, they'll blow you away." He was right - too funny!

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One of me has a belly, the other does not!

I am no longer a victim of belly envy, either. This "disappearing belly" is unlikely to last long, and just between last weekend and the weekend before I have totally pooched out. The growth spurts definitely happen in waves. I can already tell that full bellyville will mean discomfort and trouble sleeping (gasp! this is my favorite activity right now!), so I'm fine as is. Next time back to our regularly scheduled knitting/crocheting/spinning - promise!

Posted by Julia at 12:00 PM | Comments (22)

April 25, 2008

The Progress of Pansies

Sometimes I wonder if Miss Marnie thinks that I can keep up my enthusiasm for crochet in her absence. I have to admit that it is very fun when she is around, because I have someone who can instantly show me how to fix all the things that I screw up. But it is definitely spring here (some might say summer in the desert given the temperatures that we've had the past few days), and all the little seedlings in my container garden have popped their heads up while the more established perennials are in full bloom. So, it's time to pull out the hook again and make some pansies...

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The entire "collection" of twelve
This does not promise to be a quick project, crochet or not, and doubtless by the time I have crocheted enough of these little flowers to pull together a binky (a binky, mind you, not a full-fledged blankie) I will probably never want to see another pansy again. But my plan is simply to continue at a slow, steady pace, and finish after I'm done making the baby if I have to. I figure these are a good pick up project, since the pansy shape is easy to memorize, so I will just keep materials on hand to pick them up here and there.

Marnie convinced me (by example, not by persuasion) that the "best" method for working this binky would be to work all the flowers first and then link them together afterwards in the manner most pleasing to me. Although I fear it, this does give me a lot of latitude with the final design. I can go square, oblong, or amoeboid at will and play around with the border a bit. So for now I'm simply creating the pansies one at a time and trying to arrange them in a pleasing manner.

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With five colors to work with, I have what I think amounts to 55 different color arrangements for the pansies. Being the crazy gal that I am, I'm going to make a point of doing each and every one at least once, though. I have noticed that there are definitely color combos that work better for me aesthetically. Working under the Mason-Dixon theory of brights and dulls, it is quickly apparent that the dulls do, in fact, make the brights pop, and that leaving the brights together works pretty well, too, but when you get dull on dull - basically putting the lavender and olive together - not so much. Maybe those with subtler expectations will like those flowers better, but I do have to admit to loving the "pop."

I was pretty deliberate in my color choices on this one. I would have loved to pick up some reds, pinks and oranges (still would - wouldn't that be lovely?) but those colors scream "girl!" to me and as much as I would have liked to crochet this for a girl, this was definitely my baby's binky and I didn't know the baby's gender when I made the color choices. So... these are the most gender-neutral pansies I could muster. The brown and the olive ground it all, and the yellow, purple and blue keep it pretty. It has the subtle sophistication that I was going for in a pansy blanket, but I still can't help thinking wistfully of those oranges, reds and pinks....

Are these pansies for a girl?
Or pansies for a boy?
Any guesses on the baby's gender?
Those of you who know, keep hush!

PansyBinkyCIMG3897.jpgI don't know how many of these little suckers I will have to make to get the binky to a respectable size, but I'm thinking I will just go until I only have a third of a skein of each color left (other than brown - there's lots of brown). Maybe I should have a little contest to see who guesses the final number right. Any advice on the proper dimensions of a Linus binky? I'm all ears, or perhaps all pansies.

Edited to add: For those who have asked, here is a link to the Japanese motif dictionary that contains the pansy pattern.

Posted by Julia at 07:48 PM | Comments (16)

April 20, 2008

Belly Shots Anyone?

Not exactly like your college days, huh?* I'm guessing there will be many a perverted googler seriously disappointed by these shots, but I'm finally showing, so I just have to show you:

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Can you see it?


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How about now?

I'm at 5 months on Tuesday - yay! - and even now I don't really show unless I'm wearing something fitted or maternity clothes. I'm having some serious belly envy, but I'm sure that I'll catch up soon. For now, the important thing is that the baby's growth is on target and the amniocentesis came back negative for the birth defects, which is a huge relief. I have a little FO to share as well, but my blogging has been so sporadic that I decided to save that for another post. I hope everyone out in blogland is doing well - I've really missed posting and reading you. Time flies when you are making life. **smile**

*I don't know what you gals did in college, but I have never done belly shots before these. I spent my college days running and knitting and going to bed at 10:30 for fun. Pretty much the same life I have now!

Posted by Julia at 07:14 PM | Comments (41)

April 09, 2008

Best Friend Makes NPR Morning Edition

One of my oldest, dearest friends has long been upset about the housing bubble. The proposed bailouts put him over the edge, so he decided to stop fuming and do something about it by rallying housing bubble bloggers together and starting a grassroots movement to give media attention to the issue. Today, some of that hard work paid off when he and two others were interviewed for a segment on NPR's Morning Edition. I cannot tell you how proud I am of the work that he has done. There is a lot more to do, but even getting the media to focus on the fact that there is more than one side to this issue is a big deal.

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Go to the website! Listen to the interview!
Support the cause! Take a button!

I have sympathy for the individual homeowners who were duped into buying houses by banks who knew better. As someone in her late 30's who has worked hard and saved money and still not been able to buy a house, I understand how tempting it is to trust a bank when it tells you that you really can afford your dream home. They're professionals, right?

Unfortunately, the innocent uninformed purchasers make up a very small portion of those who will be bailed out. The lion's share will go to brokers, bankers, developers, speculators and opportunists. Even worse, with housing prices artificially propped up, many people who have saved diligently will be priced out of the housing market (because salaries are definitely not inflated!) and pay taxes for that privilege. This will affect people in a very wide swath of the economic spectrum. The very rich will still benefit, but even people in the upper-middle class will be unable to afford houses. Minorities, who are disproportionately under-represented among homeowners, will now have an even more difficult time purchasing a home. The gap between haves and have-nots will once again be widened, and for what purpose? So that wealthy people who have been dishonest and taken advantage of the system can continue to be wealthy and take advantage of the system at the expense of responsible, hard-working people who actually saved money to buy homes they could afford. Is this really what we want to do? There has to be a better way!

Clearly, this is an issue that is as near and dear to my heart as it is my friend's. You may disagree with our views, but shouldn't we at least have a voice in the media -- and more importantly with our representatives in the government? Isn't there a way that we can have a dialog that will result in help to the innocent and responsible citizens of this country without giving an unnecessarily huge windfall to those who took advantage of them in the first place? Even if this isn't your goal (or if you think that a bailout can accomplish this), I hope you will take a look at my friend's website, and his links to articles and bloggers who can give you a fuller picture of this side of the issue. If you are in favor, please grab a button. The more attention the issue gets, the more likely it is that the mainstream media and politicians will take notice and consider the issue.

Okay, peace out. No flames, please, but otherwise comment as you will. I am happy to hear from everyone.

Posted by Julia at 08:45 AM | Comments (27)

April 05, 2008

Adventures in Spinning: She Learns to Sample

I have really missed writing to you guys. It feels like time is moving so fast with this baby, and work is so busy that everything is just passing me by. There is so much that I want to document - in both my knitting and pregnant life - and somehow the opportunity eludes me. There are times when I don't write because I don't feel like it - usually I get tired of hearing my own voice and just need to go away to have something new to say - but this has been an involuntary hiatus. If I could I would stop time and just sit here and fill pages.

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Cherry and Burning Bush singles - note the lightness in the singles to the far right which came from the "inside" of the roving.

When work is done I am usually tired enough that I can't do anything that requires math, deep thought, or being at the computer. (I have pregnancy brain so badly already that I went into the bathroom at the obygyn's office to give a sample - not because I had to go but because they needed a sample - and just completely forgot to pee in the cup. It wasn't until I got all the way back and the nurse asked about the sample that I realized I had forgotten. D'oh!) This lack of brainpower has translated into time spent spinning and knitting very simple things.

The spinning has been fantastic (the knitting has also been quite satisfying). I have some gorgeous merino/silk (80/20) roving from Spunky Eclectic in the Burning Bush colorway, that I decided I wanted to spin to make something for the baby. Surfing around on ravelry, I found this beautiful Baby Surprise Jacket done in 2-ply Burning Bush handspun, and fell positively in love. I decided that I would spin my roving up into a 2-ply for a Tomten Jacket. (Also an EZ design and kind of similar).

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Gorgeous rich alpaca singles - slippery after working with merino silk!

The only issue was that I only had 4 ounces of Burning Bush and I wasn't sure how far that would go. (I really need to start documenting my handspun so that I have a good idea of how much yardage I can expect to get out of a given amount of roving.) To make it go further, I decided that instead of plying it all on itself, I would do one 2-ply of Burning Bush and one 2-ply of Burning Bush and Chameleon Colorworks Cherry or maybe just ply all of the Burning Bush singles with some medium brown alpaca that I have 4 ounces of and make it go really far.

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The Burning Bush roving.
I should back up and tell you that when it comes to roving, I pretty much do things the exact same way every time, except that sometimes I will spin a singles instead of a 2-ply, and I also vary the weight. I know, so creative! Anyhoo, although I have read all about different ways to use the same roving and combine rovings, for some reason I just have very little patience for spinning a little, plying it, and seeing if I like what I get. Finally it hit me that my method of spinning was a lot like making a sweater without a swatch. When I taught beginning knitting I would always do my best to make swatching fun - both because it is so essential to gauge and because it is such a great way to get your creative juices flowing. I have always made a point of saying that if you don't swatch, your entire sweater becomes your swatch. It's the same with spinning - if you just pick a method and go until you are out of roving, what you've got is what you've got - your sample is your yarn. Sometimes that is great and a wonderful way to just let go. Other times, not so much.

So, after a very cool ravelry discussion on the zillion different things that I could do with these Burning Bush singles, I decided to take some sage advice and actually sample. I am so glad that I did. I knew that both the brown and the red would dominate the Burning Bush colors, but I really had no idea how much. In this case, I really like the bright crazy colors of the roving, so there is no real incentive to mute them with a solid, but in so many other instances, this would be a great tool to have in my back pocket. In one little session of sampling I learned a ton about how to mute or preserve bright color. I also completely changed direction and decided that for this project I would mute the color and use the brown. I really like the red as well, so I may order a few more ounces of Burning Bush to ply with the cherry for some other baby project.

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The swatches - brown alpaca and burning bush for now; swirled with cherry for later.

I'm also glad that I followed the sampling sequence that I have. To make sampling fun, I spun up most of the singles for the Burning Bush and Cherry rovings first, and also spun up quite a bit of the alpaca as well. I knew that I would be happy with all of these singles at the same weight even if I didn't end up plying them together, and I also knew that I would have more fun if I didn't have to work through all of the singles after sampling. (Again, impatience.) This would not work when sampling different weights, of course, but since I knew I wanted to end up with fingering to light DK weight, it was a great method for my purposes. My method worked out especially well, because the Burning Bush varies quite a bit in intensity, getting much lighter near the "inside" of the roving. When I actually get to the knitting phase, I will counteract that a bit by switching between skeins to get a striping effect.

The sampling part was awesome. I wish I had some shots of the 10 yards or so that I spun so that you could see how different the yarn looks skeined as opposed to knitted. I have plenty more to spin, so I'll be sure to do that later for those of you who are as geeky and new to spinning as I am. I really love both the alpaca and cherry version. Now the only problem is the project. I love the Tomten Jacket and do want to make it eventually (Baby Surprise Jacket, too), but I think for such a special handspun I need to come up with something of my own. We'll see.....

Posted by Julia at 08:38 PM | Comments (12)

March 24, 2008

Take Me To Your Leader

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All inferior non-alpaca life forms should surrender now....

This is really the beginning of Norah Gaughan's lovely Bubble Pullover, which I have no doubt will be awesome, but at the moment it looks for all the world like a big green alien to me. Well, at least when it doesn't look like an extremely ample (yet green) bosom. You'll have to forgive me on that one, but once you finally have boobies, they get in your head. (One of the great joys of pregnancy - breasts! - who knew these things were so great?)

Seriously, though, back to the knitting. One of my favorite things about ravelry, and flickr, too, is that you can scope out a project ahead of time to see which colorways appeal the most to you. When I made the endpaper mitts I scrolled through tons of ravelry FO's to decide how I wanted to handle the colorway I had chosen. It may not sound complex, but with two colors, there are at least four different variations, and the way that you choose a dominant color really affects the final look of your fingerless gloves. Similarly, with the Bubble Pullover, there were certain FO's that really stood out for me, and invariably those were the ones which employed either heathered or mono-variegated yarn. I ended up not having anything in the stash that really did it for me for this project, so I put the design aside for a while, but then I stumbled on some lovely hand-painted Misty Alpaca (sadly, I believe it is discontinued) and voila! started anew.

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A pretty, less extraterrestrial photo of the bubble.

I was a little afraid that the pentagons might bore me to tears, but so far, so good. I'm now on my fourth and still interested. My other fear about this pattern is that it would be difficult to re-gauge (and if you know me, you know that I end up re-gauging everything I knit - this is no exception). In fact, this is probably one of the easier re-gauging jobs I've done. As everyone says, the construction of this sweater is unique. It is not, however, complicated. I don't have any trouble envisioning how it will fit or if it will work. In fact, there is a little part of me that wonders if this will not become the third major route to constructing a sweater - top-down, bottom-up, and pentagonal! No wonder Ms. Norah is so entranced by these shapes - they really can go the distance.

I'm going to stop here, lest I write the pattern notes before completing the pattern. But I do highly recommend this sweater (or one of Norah's other many pentagonal creations) as a good time. I'm making my way slowly through this one (there are baby things to be made as well), but I know I will be so happy to wear it when it is done (well, in LA, several months after it is done). It should serve my not-quite-back-to itself belly quite well next winter. A bubble for a bubble.

Posted by Julia at 07:50 AM | Comments (11)

March 20, 2008

Everything's Coming Up Pansies

Well, not everything, but the crochet sure is. I spent a recent weekend in Portland with Marnie, and naturally was once again inspired to crochet. Ms. Marnie is one kick-ass crocheter. It was a fun, whorlwind of a time, as our weekend crafting visits always are, with plenty of things to be inspired by: the excellent Japanese bookstore, a new bright red motorcycle for Leo, and a great trek out to Abundant Yarn for Larissa's debut of Knitalong, her very first book.

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To me they look like little pansy balloons, flying away..."

I'm really not sure where to start. Abundant Yarn is just that - abundant! It's an amazing store, and definitely tops my list of all-time favorite LYS's. The selection is fabulous with tons of yarn in each colorway, and the aisles go on forever. Abundant Yarn dyes its own line of yarns which are especially pretty, and they carry many of my favorite lines of yarn along with some lines that were previously unknown to me (or at least untouched!). They also have a lovely cafe and seating area, so it is a very easy place to gather and knit, or gather and watch a friend debut her book! The store catered the event (quite nicely and also abundantly) and there was a huge turnout. I haven't read Knitalong cover to cover yet, but what I have read I have really enjoyed. It's a book that has a great deal of written substance in addition to cute patterns (many by Larissa, like the fast and famous Meathead, and several by Adrian Bizilla - who wouldn't be drawn by that?). For me the writing is what is so great about it. It is definitely a book for our community and our knitting "generation" (and by that I mean the internet knitting generation of the 2000's, including knitters from all age groups). It memorializes our time in a wonderful way, and I am really looking forward to immersing myself in it. It's always great to see Larissa. We didn't try to monopolize her this time around, since she had so many other guests to attend to, but we did catch our first glimpses of Sebastian darting through the yarn in his handknit hat. What a cutie.

Other than that, the weekend was very quick and spent predominantly on the sofa in front of one of Leo's legendary fires, crafting away. I utilized every spare moment of my Marnie time to get versed in the language of crochet charts (I love charts - the universal language!), and produced a pansy and a cute little chain. I think that except for when I encounter the occasional exceptionally difficult manuever I should be alright crocheting solo for a bit. My plan is to make many of these little pansy motifs and string them together in a blanket-like fashion to make a binky for the baby. Nothing very big, as I would surely go mad from over-pansying, just something to hold on to, drag around and enjoy. I love the brightness of the cornflower and lavender colors, but to give the blanket a little sophistication I added in several duller shades as well. The dulls seem to help ground everything, but the brights sure are fun to play with.

Posted by Julia at 06:00 PM | Comments (12)

March 03, 2008

Eat for two, breathe for two, knit for two now...

If the title of this post is too subtle for you and you're stuck in some news aggregator, click on over and view my less-than-subtle new and enhanced banner photo. Conceived by yours truly, but brought to life by the artistic hands of Miss Marnie.

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This little stinkpot started off auspiciously enough - conceived on our "insurance wedding" anniversary and chemically detected for the first time on New Year's Eve. Since then, however, s/he has seen fit to wreck absolute havoc on her host body, subjecting me to "morning sickness" (that euphemism for 24 hour a day nausea - morning sickness - what a lie!), heartburn, and other various and sundry heretofore unknown ailments, which I will kindly spare you the details of. Suffice to say, that if the mother's illness is as good an indication of the child's good health as is generally reported, this kid is superhuman. (Second, of course, to Cara's baby, who is on a whole other plane!) It's enough to drive me to cross stitch a whole bevy of "babies suck" pillows and fill the house with them.

Happily, with one foot into the second trimester, I am feeling miraculously better - still exhausted, still wrought with food aversions, still moody as hell - but so much better. It's like I'm a new person. Or at least half the old person that I used to be! Strange, huh?

Anyhoo, there will be lots more knitting (at least for six months...), but much of it may end up being the tiny, machine-washable variety. I would promise to spare you the details of this journey in favor of high-quality knitting content, but I know better. The best I can do is promise equal time to crafting and life-creating for the next little while.

Posted by Julia at 07:27 AM | Comments (127)

February 27, 2008

That Japanese Swedish Aesthetic

So here's the pretty cross stitch:

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Maybe it's just me, but that looks like a snowflake from a wonderful Nordic sweater.

The motif is from a Japanese book called "Stitchworld" that I picked up in Portland when I visited Marnie last May. She has the fortune (misfortune?) of living near a Kinokuniya bookstore. If I want to hit the Kinokuniya here I have to be willing to brave the parking situation. I'm lazy that way, and so able to save a lot of money. Japanese craft books are positively addictive. The original motif is stitched in linen on the lovely tea cozy and napkin pictured below. Since my cross stitch experience is limited to "Babies Suck," I thought it might be prudent to practice on Aida cloth before butchering expensive linen. I was also unable to determine the thread-count on the linen used in the book, so I was concerned that the design might be distorted on the 28-count linen that I have. It is, and I have to say that I do prefer the original, but this version is rather pretty, too. And it could probably be modified a bit to elongate it and give it a more organic feel.

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Makes you want to cross stitch doesn't it? I'm ready to embroider the entire house.
Moxie will love this.

Cross stitch is a pastime that I sorely underestimated. There is skill and intellect involved beyond what I imagined. I am finally getting to the point where I can see why I should cross all my stitches in the same direction (there is a spot where I didn't - it glares at me!), and I am learning a little of the game you have to play to stitch from one area to another neatly. It's fun to try to maximize the areas of hatching and back-hatching (my terms) and to figure out how to move from stitch to stitch within an area without having to skip a single space. It's a spatial puzzle, really, and I think it's got to be satisfying once you realize you've really got it. I have a way to go.

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A sampling of projects from the book.

This little book has opened up an entirely new domestic world for me. It contains hardanger embroidery, which I had never heard of. (You can find hardanger 101 here.) I had seen it before, but it never really clicked with me that real people could make linen look like that. It's definitely on my list. It's a great deal of fun, but let me warn you - if you get this book it can be hard to step away from the thread. ISBN 4-579-11018-8 (The book is NOT in English but the photos and diagrams are excellent.)

Posted by Julia at 06:01 PM | Comments (13)

February 18, 2008

Judy's Grandmother's Baby Sweater: Pattern Notes

So here it is the end of February and I am just trotting out the first FO of 2008. If you had asked me in December what my first FO's of the year would be, I would not have guessed this! I have three to four designs in the works (depending on whether I decide to back-burner one of them or not) and one is very near completion. But I just have not had it in me to do math lately, so I thought I'd make one of the many baby things that I have planned for the spring and get a jump start on things. Voila!

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A little sugar, a little sarcasm. Perfect.

Before I dive into the baby sweater pattern notes, however, I just have to put in another plug for Julie Jackson's Subversive Cross Stitch Book. Very few things could have driven me into the arms of cross stitch. It was just never a craft that I had as much interest in before. Howsomever, between this wonderfully saccharine book and the incredible single-color (almost Swedish) designs in the Japanese craft books I have, well, I just had to go there. And I'm so glad I did. Cross stitch can be a really fun diversion, and used sparingly on a beautiful linen backdrop I find it charming. I would definitely recommend Julie's book. Even if you never stitch a thing, the laughs alone are worth it. I will definitely be making another. (To Moxie's great chagrin - he still doesn't get it. Boys.)

Judy's Grandma's Baby Sweater
Greetings From Knit Cafe
designed by Judy Spector's Grandma
Knit with three and a half skeins (123 yards/skein) each of Rowan's Wool Cotton (50% Merino Wool/50% Cotton) in (955) "Ship Shape," on size US4 Addi Turbo Circulars and Clover Bamboo DPNs.
Gauge: 5.75 sts and 10 rows per inch over garter stitch.
Size: 6 months

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The designated front.
The Pattern:
Extremely well thought-out. If there is an edge on this puppy that can be self-finishing, it is. The construction is interesting, too. You work the sweater from side-to-side, starting and ending with the ties, and leaving live stitches and a bound of edge to pick up for each sleeve later. The sleeves are picked up and knit down to the cuffs, and then seamed along the top edge to finish.

If you've read my previous entries on this (the one on the Observatory), you'll know that there was a point where the sweater became a little tedious for me. The honeycomb stitch can be a little aggravating, because the action happens on the right side while you are knitting the wrong side. The wrong side, for its part, is not easy to read. If you get off by a stitch (which I did four times), you screw up the row. Normally, I am a stickler for fixing errors, but I was in the dead zone when I got off track and simply did not care enough. I kind of wish that I had cared a bit more now, but only a knitter is likely to notice. A six month old baby definitely won't! the honeycomb stitch is worth some effort, though, because it is very, very pretty.

My journey with this knit was not unlike my journey with every single scarf I've made. Somewhere in the second skein I was bored out of my mind, but by the time I got to the third I was into it again. The sleeves zipped by. Highly recommended, especially for those of you who enjoy repeating patterns. I've been in a knitting slump, so I spent three weeks with this sweater, but someone on a roll could pop it out in a concentrated weekend, and definitely over a week of bad TV and re-runs.

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"Front" and "back" side by side. Really, it's fully reversible.

Techniques:
Intermediate techniques - cable cast-on, elastic bind-off, slipping and stranding stitches, knitting through the back loop, and picking up along edges.

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Detail of the flap.
Modifications:
The only mods I made were to use a different yarn, and a different seaming technique for the sleeves. The original yarn is Classic Elite Premiere, which I used for Mishka (same color, too). It has more of a drape to it, which is also very nice. I subbed because I was knitting from stash, but either is lovely. As for the sleeves, I just didn't feel like reading directions. I did a single crochet up one sleeve, across the front neck, and down the other sleeve. I'm sure that whatever the pattern does is fine, too.

Finishing:
Very little. For the most part this is self-finishing. I used the single crochet method to seam and neaten the front neck, as noted above. I didn't block this one and didn't even think to. I don't always block textured knits and the wool cotton is soft without washing. Blocking will add a little drape if you are looking for that effect.

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The parting shot.
Impressions of Rowan's Wool Cotton:
This is my go-to yarn. I use it more than any other, and especially for baby things. It is soft, classy, classic, has great stitch definition, and is machine washable. Plus it comes in a lovely array of adult colors. I'm not really a pastel girl, so this is a good choice for me.

Possible substitute yarns:
For this particular project, there are a lot of good substitute yarns. The original Premiere is a great choice, but you could use something like Tahki Cotton Classic or Brown Sheep's Cotton Fleece. Almost any fiber will do, because the shape is simple and the pattern lends itself to being sproingy or draping a bit. I could see it in a nice bamboo or linen.

[Read all entries on Judy's Grandmother's Baby Sweater.]
Posted by Julia at 08:04 AM | Comments (17)

February 17, 2008

It's a Hoolia Wheel! Crochet and Creativity

I've had a bit of monkey mind lately (just what it sounds like, but here's a link), probably induced by cabin fever. Whenever monkey mind strikes, I feel the need to experiment a little, with no particular goal in mind. Sometimes I am able to do this with knitting (and that 's a great thing), but my knitting is pretty structured, so in the last year or so I've turned to crafts that are newer to me to blow off a little creative steam. These are things I'm not nearly as systematic about - spinning, cross stitch, crochet - and so I feel a lot freer to just do without any planning ahead, and see what happens.

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The Hoolia Wheel.
I am very inexperienced in crochet. Whenever I have Miss Marnie around for a few days I can make what would seem to be great progress, but as soon as I am without a guide, I tend to get lost. I have a hard time remembering how many times to wrap what and how to get from one spot in a motif to another elegantly. I have an easy enough time understanding the charts in Japanese craft books, but I'm not sure exactly where to start and there are techniques and conventions that I just don't "get" yet. I cannot read "written out" crochet patterns to save my life!

Yesterday, inspired by this beautiful washcloth, I decided that I would attempt yet another crochet motif. The only motif that I have ever completed without getting lost halfway through is the granny square. An accomplishment? Yes! Cute? Yes! But I kinda need to move on from there. So I looked through my crochet stitch dictionary and found several "intermediate" motifs that I liked. (Apparently there is no such thing as a "beginner" motif - even the granny square is "intermediate". Seems unfair.) The problem was that all the directions were written out, and I could not for the life of me figure out what to do once I got to the second round of anything. So, back to square one. I decided that since there were illustrations of the single crochet, half-double crochet, double crochet and triple crochet, I would work through those systematically, and learn to use them in rows and rounds. I did that, and I think I understand the stitches better, though to be honest, I have to go back and re-read how many times to wrap the yarn around the needle, etc. again before making a particular stitch to remind myself that I do know how to do it.

I got bored with these exercises, and I really, really wanted to make a motif. Reading the written out directions I just could not get it, though. So I decided that I would just make one up instead. I know the stitches (or can look them up! Einstein said that you should never bother to memorize anything you can look up...), I can work in rounds, and I understand the basic principles of increasing from knitting. I can do this, right?

I did! Voila! The Hoolia Wheel! Can I just say that I love it? Now, I know that I have surely just re-invented the wheel (pun intended) because what I did was so simple that I am sure someone (and perhaps many someones?) have crocheted it before. But. It's new to me, I did not learn it from a book, and so somehow it is more mine than many other complicated things I've done. It's just freaking glorious.

Okay, so here's the creativity part of the title. I had a boyfriend right after college who was wonderful at drawing. He did a self-portrait that I will never forget, both because it was so well-rendered and so introspective - he was really able to capture an aspect of himself that would be identifiable to anyone who knew him. But he would never call himself an artist. Only a draftsman. He explained that a draftsman was someone who was trained in the technical execution of drawing, but that an artist was someone who created organically without having to know the rules, working from within himself rather than from within the context of "art." I question whether he was right about himself, but I think there was a lot in the definition that he gave me.

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Again. 'Cause I like it.
Almost every knitting friend whose designs I admire has told me that she started designing because she found it to be too much trouble to work from a pattern. I realize that in my early knitting days this was the case for me, too, because although I did have access to Vogue Knitting, for the most part there weren't a wide array of commercial designs that appealed to my 20-something sensibilities. I heavily modified a lot of things - a Filatura di Crosa tank became a mini-dress! - and designed some of the more complicated pieces I've done. Not because I was trying to design (I certainly was not resizing!), but because it was really the only way to make things I liked. They had to come from my head. I wasn't limited in the techniques I used, because I didn't have a knitting community to help me gauge what was difficult. I just had June Hemmons Hiatt as a guide, and well, she did everything.

After a few years, I discovered Rowan Magazine, and I fell in love with patterns. I found more and more designers I really loved in Vogue soon after that (can we say Norah Gaughan?), and by the time Melanie Fallick's Knitting in America was released I was a goner. I was such a pattern junkie (still am!), and I gained a lot from that transition, but I lost something, too. Somehow having so much available to me caused me to stop creating things myself. There were good aspects to this - I could learn a lot by following someone else's footsteps and enjoy a way of thinking other than my own. But the more I learned, the more "rules" my structured little mind created. I became more proficient over time (and to toot my own horn I think I became a very good knitting teacher), but I also really boxed myself in. "Designing" and "knitting" became separate things.

My design "technique" now mostly comprises piecing together known elements in new ways. There is nothing wrong with this, and I think it can be helpful to think of design in this way, because for many of us, this is exactly what it is. You see a neckline that you like and think, "Now how could I incorporate that into something lacy and delicate?" and you play around and find a way to mesh things that you'd like to see together. There is creativity there, but for me it's much more at the "draftsman" (craftswoman?) level of creativity - nicely done technical execution with the "flair" originating in the combination of elements.

When I think of artistry, I think of designers like Mary Walker Phillips, Norah Gaughan, Teva Durham, Annie Modesitt, and Debbie New. You may not love, or even like, everything that these women create, but their designs often reach heights that other beautifully rendered but contextualized, structured pieces will never attain. There is something undeniably special about them. These are not the workhorses of your closet that will get everyday use - they are the statement pieces that uniquely define us.

I think that the artistry of these designers comes from transcending the rules of knitting and looking beyond the techniques that are known and on into those places in their own minds which still just contain possibility. For my own little mind, the easiest way to do this is to not know the rules. Structure is so much a part of how I learn that if I have it in place, it is nearly impossible to leave behind. I have to push myself to mess around and do "creativity exercises" if I want to come anywhere close to pushing an envelope. I work to be artistic, and often that takes so much work (almost always, actually) that I revert to being a sound craftswoman - it's my natural mode. Now again, I am not poo-pooing myself or saying that I don't enjoy that kind of creativity, because quite honestly I do, and if I never engaged in it there would be fewer of those great staples in my closet that I rely on. But. There is a real thrill when you do something that is totally out of the blue - really just out of your head - and look at it and think "That is good."

Making the Hoolia Wheel was that way for me. A small thing, really - just a motif - but at the same time a personal revelation. Because of this, I've decided to do two things: First, push myself to do a few more of those "creativity exercises" in knitting, and second, go about crochet an entirely different way. I am not going to seek out the rules, read patterns ravenously, or study it up in the way that I do with everything else. I'm just going to do it and see what happens. It will probably kill me - wish me luck!

Posted by Julia at 07:34 AM | Comments (10)

February 14, 2008

Weekend at the Observatory


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Another wintery day in Los Angeles. Griffith Park Observatory.



I've been itching to write for a while now, but the knitting and spinning have not been terribly interesting, because the Hoolia, she has not been terribly interesting. I've been sick as a dog for several weeks, so the only crafty thing that I've done is plug away on the baby sweater from hell (see it masquerading as a cute, fun project in the entry below), and then only when the nausea let up enough to allow me to knit. Fun! I am probably being a bit harsh on the baby sweater. It's darling, and I will be very pleased with it when the drudgery is over, but I overestimated the thrill of "honeycomb stitch". Honeycomb stitch is just lovely when completed, but it's hard to read as you're knitting it because the bulk of the action happens on the RS while you are working the WS. It's easy to f*ck up and it's about as interesting as seed stitch (but just as pretty, too!). I am only a little ashamed to say that there are at least four places where I screwed up half a row and just left it. I couldn't bring myself to rip out a row of that stuff if the error was not glaring, and my feeling is that the wee recipient, who is likely to barf on it anyway (all hail machine washable wool cotton!) will not notice. One sleeve left to go and I'll photograph it for you, mistakes and all.

Happliy, I was graced with a nausea-free weekend, just when our weather decided to go from a lovely 70 degrees to an even lovelier 80 degrees (for those feeling envy, fear not - we are sure to experience 100 degree weather in May and July-August, with a nice June Gloom sandwiched in the middle - even Angelenos get their due). We took full advantage of both the weather and my wellness for the entire weekend, and enjoyed the great outdoors.

Before the fire, Griffith Park was one of our regular weekend stops, but since then many of the trails have been closed, so we've only gone to volunteer with the recovery effort. The last tree-planting we participated in was in early December, so when we went back this weekend to help out with the planting efforts at Dante's Peak, we were pretty surprised to see that a lot has changed and many trails are now open. I was pretty pooped out from the effort of going to the planting site and back again, but Moxie, who used to run the mountain, decided that he wanted to go back for a run in the afternoon. He got in his exercise while I lazed around on the deck and ploughed away on the aforementioned baby sweater. While there, he also checked out the observatory, which we have not been to since it re-opened, mostly because we aren't big fans of crowds. M was very impressed, and insisted that we get up early on Sunday morning and beat the crowds to the observatory so that we could enjoy the morning there. It was a great idea, because no one in LA seems to be up and about at 8:00 am on a Sunday. I even had a chance to coax my esteemed photographer into doing a Mishka photo shoot....bonus!

Posted by Julia at 08:04 AM | Comments (16)

January 23, 2008

Handspun Handknit Braintrust? Bueller? Bueller?

I feel like I'm a little cursed when it comes to knitting up my handspun. I've tried several times and keep having to rip and re-start. It's funny, because I pride myself on being able to pick the right project for a particular yarn, and yet when it comes to my own yarn I'm a bit stumped. Exhibit A: the wonderful party dress handspun:

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Gorgeous yarn, crappy swatch.

This definitely falls into the category of "what the hell was I thinking?" Clearly, this stitch pattern has got to go - the vertical welts are totally duking it out with the horizontal stripes. D'oh! So many rookie mistakes all in one project - yikes. I've been calling this one "The One in My Head," but I'm pretty sure it's the one NOT in my head - anywhere! I think my first mistake was spinning the roving into too thick of a yarn. It's totally fun as a skein, but for me the practical value of a brightly-colored, striped, bulky thick and thin yarn is questionable. I would have done much better to spin this as a DK or sport-weight. It is wonderfully squooshy, though, and I really do want to use it, so I'm going to soldier on after a little break. I'm thinking something on the diagonal would be good, and something for a child or baby would be well-advised. Maybe a funky chevron scarf for my niece? Or one of those diagonal scarves that everyone used to make with Kureyon? Or maybe even another so-called scarf? Sadly, I'm having trouble being terribly creative with this one! If you have ideas, puleeeze leave them in the comments. I could use all the help I can get! [Edited to add: I've spun it all and have about 310 yards to work with. You guys have already come up with a ton of good ideas! Keep them coming!!!]

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My saving grace: Judy's Grandmother's Baby Sweater.

In general, I've been pretty stumped the last few weeks. I think it's partially because everything on my needles is my own designing and I've reached the point where I really need to either write things down or do some math or both, and my little pea brain just is not up to it. It's a shame, because I was so excited about all these ideas about a month ago, and made some real progress. (Luckily, I did type up the pattern for Mishka during that time period. It still needs to be charted and sized, but the instructions are there rather than somewhere off in the ether.)

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Best part? Komari's little face!
To break this bad knitting mojo, I decided to start a baby sweater. I have a ton of baby knits to make this year - tis the season! - and it never hurts to start early. Ever since seeing LoriZ's grey Rambling Rose (which she needs to get off her butt and photograph! Edited to add: she did!) I have been dying to knit with my favorite Rowan Wool Cotton - the king of yarns. Lori's sweater doesn't even use wool cotton, but the yarn she's knitting looks like wool cotton and that was enough to set me craving for it. The whole time I watched her knit I was dying to snatch the yarn out of her hands and get in at least a few rows. Instead I had to be patient and start something of my own. The other advantage of the baby sweater is that it is involving and yet contained. I want to get a bit involved, but not overwhelmed, so this is the perfect project. Plus, after going through my grandmother's old knits I was pretty inspired. Everything she did was a little work of art.

I settled on Judy's Grandma's Baby Sweater from the Greetings from Knit Cafe book. I have to say that I have been fortunate to be included in two of my favorite pattern books ever, and GFKC is one of them. (The other is Boho Baby, which is bound to get heavy use this year.) I have wanted to make this baby sweater since I first spied it in Knit Cafe over four years ago. It' simply stunning in person and the unique construction makes it extra special. My love for this pattern is rivaled only by my love for Veronik Avery's Gansey Layette, which I have made three times (and will probably make again this year). I can't believe I didn't knit it earlier. Anyway, I am finally able to engross myself in knitting again, and that is a nice relief. I'm hoping that this little respite will allow me to return to my plans for a few other things on the needles. Some things will undoubtedly get pushed to the back-burner, because I have much more than usual in progress right now, but having tasted the fresh air again, I think I will be able to dive back into at least a few of those stalled projects. Thank goodness!

Posted by Julia at 12:25 PM | Comments (18)

January 12, 2008

Love Among the Shepherds

Love takes many forms....

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Kissing (my favorite),

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Hugging,

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Spooning...

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And Dancing Cheek to Cheek ("Heaven, I'm in Heaven...")

On Monday morning I awoke to see snow on the near mountains. The far mountains, which are about 45 minutes away and visible on a clear day, often have snow from November to April, but in the near mountains, only about 20 minutes from our house, snow is a rare treat. The elevation is much lower, and between that and the dearth of regular rainfall, snow only tops them once or twice a season at the most. I hike with the dogs most mornings before I start working, but I usually have a nice cup of tea first. On Monday we just went. I wanted to get as good a view as possible, as soon as possible, and for as long as possible.

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The San Gabriels

This week was my birthday. For a good 15 years or so, growing up and then in my Chicago years, it snowed without fail on my birthday every year. For those of us born near the holiday season, birthdays are a little more low key. Snow is the perfect gift.

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Snow from the rooftops in Pasadena

So off we went. It was a perfect morning. Quiet, clear, beautiful. When people say they don't like LA, I always tell them that they just haven't found theirs yet. There is an LA for everyone. I love ours. The trail is just beautiful. Used by few, with views of the mountains on one side and views of downtown LA and the ocean on the other. On Monday, it took all of my resolve not to go all the way up Angeles Crest Highway into the San Gabriels. But work called, so we drove back down from the trail and I treated myself to taking a few photos from the rooftops in Pasadena before settling in for the rest of my day.

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Happily, mommy-love is gentler than pupper-love.

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Self-portrait of my mid-thirties, with Asher.

Posted by Julia at 09:07 AM | Comments (19)

January 06, 2008

Wash Day: My Knitting Heritage

A while ago, I asked my mom to send me some of the handknits that my grandmother made for my brother and I when we were little. My mom sent a smocked coat, two cardigans and three hats. All of the items had seen fresher days after spending thirty-some years tucked away in a drawer, but they were lovely nonetheless.

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Smock coat for a granddaughter long grown.

This weekend I was inspired to wash the smock coat and a little garter stitch hat with Scottie dog buttons on it. The little hat was worked flat, seamed, and then pulled into a crown at the top with a delicate drawstring. I realized that the best way to wash it would be to untie the drawstring and flatten the hat, so that the wool wash could get into all the nooks and crannies. I did so very carefully, but it was still a bit bitter sweet. I am sure that the last hands to tie this little string were my grandmother's, over 30 years ago. It was a strange, forbidden-feeling sensation to undo something that she had done. Especially knowing what a perfectionist she was. I persevered only because I knew that it was the only way to fully clean, and thus preserve, her work.

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Little Scottie dog hat, close and far.

It has been really interesting to have my grandmother's knitting, so long out of my sight, here in my hands. There were things that I knew already. My grandmother detested setting sleeves and always knit raglan sweaters to avoid seaming the sleeves to the main body of the sweater. She knit with brightly-colored aluminum needles kept in a red plaid tin, which she carried everywhere. She liked texture, and often knit cables into her pieces. She often made those cables into bunnies and owls. (One of the cardigans my mother sent has those owls on it.) The bunnies had little pompoms for tails. She knit a lot of cardigans, and most of the pieces that I remember were in a single, solid color. I never saw her knit lace. I never saw her use circular or double-pointed needles. (Which could explain the flat construction of the Scottie dog hat.) Oh, yes - she liked Scottie dogs. All the women in the family seemed to have a predilection for little Scottie dogs in the 1970's. I'm not sure if that was in vogue, or if it was inspired by my cousin Scott - often called Scottie in his youth. (As an adult he goes by Scooter - go figure. *smile*).

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The raglan sleeves my grandmother loved.
But there were other things I didn't know. I thought that she knit almost exclusively with wool-like acrylic. All the knits my mother sent are 100% cotton (which is probably why my mother, fiber-snob that she is, saved them). And the perfectionist - the grandmother who was never wrong - knit with uneven tension. I feel a little blasphemous even writing that. But it's true. Now to be fair to her, these knits are cotton, so they show everything. But still. The unevenness didn't come out with blocking, either. It was endearing to me that the woman who taught me to knit, and who was so very strict about how it should be done knit so much less evenly than I do. She even misplaced a few yoke decreases!

I think one of the worst things about losing someone you love is that there are all these questions - silly, mundane things - that you want to be able to ask them about themselves. And, of course, there is the corresponding pain of not being able to share things about your life with them. My grandmother never knew that I became an avid knitter - as passionate a knitter as she was. Although she taught me to knit at six, I completed one small potholderish-looking garter square, and then did not pick it up again until my late teens, when she was already afflicted by Alzheimer's and no longer accessible to her family in the same way. And I never got to talk to her about millions of knittish things - how she knit those bunnies, if she worked from patterns or designed. Was she influenced by Barbra Walker and Elizabeth Zimmerman? Did her mother (also Julia) knit? Many of these questions will go forever unresolved. The one thing I do know is something that she probably would never have told me in real life - she made mistakes. And somehow that brings her more to life than almost anything else I could learn.

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The whole shebang, drying alongside a few swatches.

The last time I saw my grandmother was when I stopped to see her on my way back home from Chicago for the holidays sometime during college. She was in a nursing home by then, and had few lucid days. I went to see her with my Aunt Pinky (Scooter's mom - again, go figure!), and we found her in the midst of a "good day". Although she was unable to speak due to a recent stroke, she clearly recognized Pinky as her daughter. I honestly don't know if she recognized me or not. I was still transitioning from child to woman at that point, so it is likely that she did not. But her eyes teared up and she reached for me. We hugged, and as I pulled back she held onto my sweater. It was not a sweater that I had knit, but it was clearly handmade of a chucky, colorful yarn. The link was unmistakable.

Posted by Julia at 07:37 PM | Comments (24)

January 01, 2008

2007: My Knitting Year in Review

It always surprises me that it can be so difficult and take so much time to learn what I like and what I do not, and to learn how to spend my time in the way that really makes me the happiest. With knitting, I feel like I was very capable of doing this for many years before blogging, but that after I discovered internet knitting I often followed a circuitous path. It is really interesting to me that the existence of peers has such an effect - positive and negative - on what I do. Both watching and being watched have impacted me in surprising ways.

I have spent a lot of time in the last year or so thinking about how I spend my time - knitting and otherwise - and if spending my time in the way that I do is fulfilling to me. We are only given so many days and so many hours. I want to use them in ways that will make me happy.

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2007: My Happiest Knitting Year Yet.

This culling of activities is an exercise that reminds me of the time I spent making a budget right after law school. I went through college and many lean years afterwards living on plastic and a prayer, so when I found myself with an actual salary (and real-world law school debts that put my college loans to shame), I decided that I needed to take some action and get my financial house in order. I read a lot of articles on how to best go about doing this, and they all suggested going through a year of bank statements and determining how you spend your money. The ways in which we spend our money are often surprisingly unknown to us. Mine were shockingly unknown to me.

I quickly realized that while I had gotten a lot better at staying away from clothing boutiques and spending a reasonable amount of money on skirts and shoes, I was blowing through cash at TAR-zhay! I am pretty sure that I was spending at Target because those purchases seemed both economical and necessary, based entirely on where they were bought. Somehow, spending at Target didn't seem like spending, because Target is for things like toilet paper and cleaning products - which we need. The thing is, I was walking out of there with twenty pairs of tube socks and three shades of toe nail polish that weren't entirely necessary. I realized that if I gave myself a Target spending limit, focusing on actual household necessities, I could reallocate that extra money to higher goals like savings, and the little splurges that I really wanted, like the boutique shoes I had been steering clear of.

With a large dose of discipline to accompany it, that spending self-awareness has paid off. Five years later I am free of credit card debt, with my private school loans substantially paid down, a nice savings account and 401K, and a closet with a reasonable number of well-chosen shoes. I have had to make some choices to get to this point. I've been driving the same beat up pickup truck since 1996, I eat out infrequently (especially compared to most Angelinos), I scour the sale racks (quality brands, low prices), and you cannot shove me into a taxi cab, because I believe that it is a ridiculous way to spend money. My indulgences are yarn, groceries, and books - likely in that order. And that is absolutely fine, because that is how I want to spend my money.

Budgeting this way is not all about sacrifices, because just like dieting, it is impossible to come up with a successful plan if it is not a plan for life. And life should have carrots as well as sticks. My budget has been about my reality. I like cute shoes. I like having three colors of toe nail polish from Target, as well, but that's not nearly as high on my list. So the answer is to reign in the Target spending, put those dollars aside, and after they accumulate, go out and buy a few pairs of fantastic shoes each year. It's not really about avoiding spending, as much as it is about avoiding spending on things that only bring me a modest amount of pleasure so that I can spend on things that I truly want.

It's also about choosing well. I am sure that there are women out there who actually have 10 pairs of shoes in rotation each fashion season and enjoy that. Those women should invest in those shoes if they can afford to. Personally, I have about 2-3 pairs of shoes for the warm months and 2-3 pairs for the cold months, and I wear them into the ground. That is the way that I wear shoes whether I have 40 pairs to choose from or 4. The rest of the shoes in my closet may be beautiful, but for me they are poor choices, because they will never see the light of day.

Over four years of blogging, I have spent a lot of time knitting, writing about knitting, photographing knitting, thinking about knitting, and coding for the purpose of knitting. I have taken several long breaks, and I have seriously considered quitting the blogging scene altogether. This year, I came extremely close to signing off, but as I thought about it, I realized that for me, this blog is a lot like the cute shoes. I enjoy it a great deal - I love the thinking and the writing and the coding, and most of all the friend-making - I just don't need to spread myself thin with it. For me, blogging too much is like having 10 pairs of winter shoes in my closet. The shoes may be pretty, but they go to waste, and I can find myself unable to find the funds for toilet paper! The balance that I have been slowly striking over the years is working for me. I blog regularly, but not frequently, and when I need a break, I take it. I blog for pleasure and not out of obligation. My pace changes as my life changes. Most importantly for me, I spend more time knitting than blogging.

Choosing projects is much the same. I've found that the more that I have in an "active state" on my needles the less happy I am. Having a lot of WIPs makes me put pressure on myself and doesn't give me a lot of room to follow either knitting or designing bliss. For the last few years I have generally had no more than three WIPs at a time, and that has really added to my knitting fulfillment. To counterbalance that discipline in the active knits arena, I have allowed myself to swatch for whatever I please, and I often have many "live swatches" (swatches that may actually become something) hanging around at any given time. This allows me to explore all my knitting daydreams and provides a great starting ground for design ideas without scattering my energy or resources. It also helps me to see the potential of the yarn that is already in my stash. I have nothing against buying new yarn (and I have a stash to prove it), but I really enjoy using what I already have, and I love using things that have been in my stash for a long time in really pleasing ways.

I think I have become much more in touch with what kind of knitter I am. Kathy shocked (and freed!) herself this year by proclaiming that she is an accessory knitter. I have realized over time that I am happiest as a garment knitter. I do like the occasional "meaty accessory," and I am always good for a cute little baby gift, but on the whole I prefer to make things that I can really get lost in for a month or so. The occasional short story is fantastic and palette-cleansing, but give me an epic novel and I will be truly happy.

At the close of any other blogging year I could give you a list of favorites - winners, losers, what I would make again or wear forever, what I would not. This year is different. There will, of course, be some items that have more staying power than others, but this year was by far my favorite knitting year ever. I made enough items to keep me engaged, but not so many as to overwhelm. There are gifts, designs of my own, patterns written by friends, several pieces that incorporate some very old stash yarn, and a few that employed techniques that I hadn't used in ages. Most of all, each and every piece, for its own unique reasons, has real substance for me. This year my resolution is simply to enjoy doing more of the same.

I hope that your knitting for 2007 has been equally fulfilling, and I can't wait to see what all of us do in 2008. Happy New Year and Happy Knitting!


Posted by Julia at 08:40 AM | Comments (29)

December 31, 2007

Spunky Club December 07: Party Dress

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Makes you want to dive in, doesn't it?
I seem to go through phases where I spin, spin, spin, and then my wheel languishes for months on end. After having my crew over for spinning recently, I was inspired to kick-start my own wheel time. I started spinning a little over two years ago using Amy Boogie's Spunky Eclectic Fibers, and I have never been disappointed in anything that I've gotten from her. More than half of my spindle collection, my niddy-nosty, and much of my past spinning fiber is from Amy, so I decided that it would be fun to keep up the collection and join the fiber club. Amy sends out 2-4 ounces of "mystery" fiber each month to fiber club members, and that sounded like just enough to keep my toe in the spinning waters without the possibility of becoming overwhelmed. Plus I love the idea of being exposed to new fibers (or old favorites) in new colorways. Surprises can really get the creative juices flowing. For December, Amy sent out 4 ounces of brightly colored Corriedale roving called "Party Girl." It looks positively edible to me.

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The Superskein lives!!!


Although I love spinning bright colors, I don't usually end up wearing bright colors in combination. A single bright color? Sure! But three is a bit much for my earth tone wardrobe. So I decided to spin up a bobbin of party dress and a bobbin of white merino superwash that I found at my local spinning shop, Stick & Stone Fiberarts, and ply them together. Perfect. The colors come through bright and clear, but are muted just enough by the white, spongy merino to coordinate with other things in my closet. Honestly, the party dress roving is so pretty that if I couldn't use it for myself I would knit it into something for one of the numerous children in my life, but post-Christmas I am a little gifted out, so it is nice that I can selfishly dedicate the roving to myself!

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Birth of a Superskein, Swatch of a Superskein...

I love the results. I got so engrossed in spinning party girl that I just couldn't stop. The resulting skein is - as you can see - HUGE. It swatched quite nicely, too. I am not sure if I will knit it into something using the 2 by 3 broken rib in the swatch or something else, but I am definitely inspired to start contemplating what this yarn could be. I've only spun about half of the roving I have and already have 180 yards of aran-weight yarn. It feels like there is real potential to get a substantial finished object out of the party dress roving. So far this fiber club thing seems like a great plan!

[See what the spunky club has been doing with this fiber.]
Posted by Julia at 10:17 AM | Comments (7)

December 29, 2007

Last Minute Giftie

DadVestPdfShot.jpgI used to be pretty good about offering the occasional freebie pattern - especially at Christmas. The last few years the freebies have been harder to fit in, mostly because it takes time to write out patterns in intelligible terms. By the time I have time, I'm already on to something else. When Ann showed such a keen interest in obtaining my dad's vest pattern for her knitting circle, I decided it would be a nice opportunity to slip in a little freebie before 2007 comes to a close. So while Moxie was cheering on the Patriots, I was happily pattern drafting. Voila!

The vest is written for a 44" shirt size, with tips for re-sizing. It's a quickie, so please read over the pattern carefully for errors before proceeding. If you spot an error, please let me know. We'll revise as we go along. Happy New Year! xox, J

Posted by Julia at 08:23 PM | Comments (3)

December 27, 2007

What the Elves Made this Year

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One vest for dad, one apron for mom, coming up!

Hoolia Claus did not go unassisted. Townes helped to make sure that the vest was folded completely flat for packing by putting in some dedicated napping hours on top of it, and the dogs assisted with moral support while I sewed by lounging lovingly on the bed. I could not have done it without them. I hope that your holiday crafting was just as merry and well-supported. There's nothing quite like having a good crew to get you through!

Posted by Julia at 06:03 AM | Comments (13)

December 24, 2007

Orange Camo Christmas

At 4:57 p.m. on Saturday I ran gasping into the Fedex Kinko's and mailed off the last of my handmade gifts. The guys at the counter laughed at me, but assured me that my box would get put on the truck - although it would be the very last one. The recipients of said gifts, Ma and Pa T., are avid readers of this blog (well, at least Ma T. is, I'm not sure that Pa T. could survive the excitement of reading about knitting), so that is enough said until Santa has safely made his way to their house tonight and the gifts have been opened.

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Bird's nests. A camouflage Christmas bouquet.

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Singles on the bobbin.
Although it is fun to read about all you crazy knittin' folk running your fingers into the ground until all hours of the night (and early morning), I don't enjoy doing it myself. God forbid that I miss the big deadline, because a gift unmade at Christmas is a loathesome thing - I could never get myself to return to knitting it for the incredible resentment of the obligation. I have been smart enough to limit the handmade gifts to two per year, which keeps the level of insanity at a dull roar, but after the outright panic that I inflicted on myself this year, I've decided to go to an even lower-key system next year. I'm doing no handmade gifts, and will instead spend the season knitting Christmas gifts and ornaments for someday. That way I can enjoy seasonal knitting, look forward to giving handmade gifts sometime in the future, and be stress-free.

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M's homemade sushi. Heaven.
Anyhoo, this is all a long way of saying that on Saturday night I found myself quite happily unoccupied. No work. No obligatory crafting. (That should be a four-letter word, "obligatory crafting.") No cooking. (Moxie kindly went to Little Tokyo and picked up the ingredients for his famous homemade sushi - yum!) So I pulled out the Rose and a tube of merino that Marnie and I picked up in Solvang on our Portland Roadtrip, and began some pre-drafting festivities.


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Looks strangely like the sushi, no?
Pretty soon I began to realize that the color sequence in the tube was very likely to produce something akin to orange camouflage. But I was curious, so I persisted, and pre-drafted about half of the fiber into nests with four nests for each color. I spun half of the nests going in one direction on the "color wheel" and half on a second bobbin moving in the opposite "color wheel" direction. Each bobbin has two repeats of its individual sequence. Then I plied them together, and found that yes, an orange-olive camouflage-colored yarn was indeed produced by this combo, but I kind of like it. I'm not sure exactly what the heck I can knit with it, but it is pretty unique.

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Orange Camo plied on the Rose. Just because.


The best part about the whole thing was that I got back to the (meager) level of spinning expertise that I acquired the last time I was spinning regularly. This is pretty nice, because I've done some "playing around" spinning in the interim that was piss poor, and I wasn't so sure that I would ever get back that feeling of simultaneous relaxation and focus that practiced spinning can provide. Even better, I feel like I am beginning to learn a little more. Some of the lessons that the fiber has to teach are sinking in and I'm beginning to employ some real techniques rather than just hacking my way through. Very exciting. Merry Christmas to me. And Merry Christmas to you, too. I'll see you on the flip side.

Posted by Julia at 07:12 AM | Comments (5)

December 14, 2007

Hmmm...What could that be?

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Mommy's hat with added ventilation.
It tastes like wool. Rather yummy, forbidden wool. It smells like mommy. Do you think it's mommy's hat?

Well, it used to be mommy's hat. Now, not so much. I have quickly learned that Ash loves my knitting. If I so much as leave for even a moment to go to the bathroom without securing it in a place too high for him to "counter surf," I can depend on finding it in his mouth. I am not so sure that he would ventilate it on his own, but with Zosia the destroyer at his side, he can do quite a bit of damage for the purpose of encouraging play.

Surprisingly, I am not that upset. I made this hat in 2003, and it was kind of a silly knit, complete with two pompoms on the top at the end of long I-cord strings. It was definitely fun while it lasted, and I got good use out of it in DC, but in LA it very rarely sees the outdoors. It just isn't practical for this climate, so it ends up neglected in the winter clothing chest, with all the down jackets and snow boots that we used to wear. It's not really my style anymore, either. What I did realize is that it would look great as a thick headband. I love the twisted stitch cables, and with just the slightest bit of re-working (including tightening up that flaring ribbing at the bottom), it will make a beautiful accessory that will get tons of use. In a round about way, Ash actually did me, and the neglected hat, a favor. Most importantly, he gave me a very concise heads up concerning his knitwear-eating activity by chewing on a hat and one swatch that I had made, rather than the absolutely delicious cashmere sweater that I am working on. And I am eternally grateful for that.

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Was that the hat of the mommy who loves us, feeds us, hikes with us?
Why yes, I believe it was.

Plus, I kind of feel honored. I know that this will be knitting blasphemy to those among you who are not animal lovers, but I know that Ash chose to play with my knitting precisely because it was mine. He loves me, and he wants to play with my toys, just like he plays with Zosia's. She doesn't care when he tears her plush toys to shreds. She likes it. I think it's Asher's way of saying that he cares, and that he is so, so happy to be here, rather than in a cold cage at the rescue. I just hope that his intestines get through this intact. I'm not sure how digestible wool is, but I fear someone (maybe two someones?) may be pooping pompoms in the near future.

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We are so happy, so pretty. How could anyone be mad at us?

Posted by Julia at 07:58 AM | Comments (19)

December 10, 2007

Woman on the edge of her 40's

I got a letter from my mom the other day, and inside there was a photo of three older women and one older man. Before I even read the letter I wondered to myself "Why did she send this picture?," because I didn't recognize anyone in it. And then I looked again and realized that I was staring my own mother in the face and hadn't known it, which was rather shocking. Apparently she thought this might be my reaction, because the first line of her letter was "Who are all these old people, anyway?" In my defense, mom is sporting a new 'do that looks pretty different from her usual hairstyle (Ma - Mox says you're looking good!), and it has been a while since we've seen each other in person. But still. Pretty crazy.

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I find that I remind myself of my mom in weird ways now. Last night while reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink (which I stole from my mom last time I was at the house), I fell asleep on the couch in my robe and slippers with a raggedy old blanket and two cats on my chest. This is exactly what my mom would do in the winter. Even worse, it was her 30-year-old couch that I fell asleep on. She had the couch that we grew up with re-covered and sent out to me several years ago when I was couchless, and I still haven't replaced it. Like hers, the arms are in tatters where the cats have sharpened their claws on it. (Not exactly a huge incentive to buy a new couch.)

Then this morning I made stove-top hot chocolate, as I do every morning in the winter. Just like my mom did. (Hey ma - do you still have the yellow ladle with the black handle? That just came back to me.) And retired once again to the couch to read for a few hours before work, under a sea of cats. (And dogs, too - that's my own personal addition, though I am working on getting my mom a dog. She's still not sure, but if you live in the LA area, pop over and look at Kate. She's one of my favorite rescues and she needs a loving - knitting! - home.)

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I have looked like I'm in my twenties for at least twenty years - from about puberty until fairly recently. One of the really interesting things about taking photos for the blog is that I occasionally get a glimpse of myself in a whole new light. This morning I realized that, at least in the closer-up photo, I look like a woman in her 30's, which is pretty good, because I'm actually getting closer to my 40's by the day.

Many of you have lived a few more years of life than I have and will consider this old hat (and maybe even just plain silly), but it is weird when in your mind you're still on the edge of 17 and the person you see in the photo is quite a bit older than that. (Old enough, even, to have a 17 year-old of her own.) I remember my parents at my age and I think they looked younger than me. I'm happy, though. I see myself with a gentle, more approving eye than I would have in earlier years. Many things become gray over time - opinions, perspectives, and hair, and I think that is for the good. Even love becomes an accepting shade of gray, and pulls together the things that we thought had fallen apart. I'm doing pretty well, and it will be interesting to see where this body takes me next.*

I meant to talk to you about the Mishka process this morning, but that will have to wait. It is done (!!!), and I am very happy with it. For those who asked, I do plan to publish it independently, although I am not sure exactly when. The pattern is complete and in a nice format, but only in my size. It still needs to be re-sized and tech-edited.

I did end up using the slipped stitch crochet edging along the hem, which smoothed it out just enough. It was too organic in its loose, wavy incarnation to properly mirror the tidier neckline. The edging brought it into more harmony. Anyway, I will leave that for another day. For now enjoy the photos. Thank you all, as always, for your warm encouragement and great advice. Sometimes it takes a village to build a hemline.

*I'm hoping for snow white - my dad is snow white - and if I don't get that naturally I may have my hair stylist hook me up!

Posted by Julia at 05:23 PM | Comments (26)

December 08, 2007

Mishka is Finished!

Well, I think it is.

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I don't often do the infamous bathroom mirror shot, but this morning it's nippy and I have no desire to take photos of myself in a sleeveless shell in 40 degree weather. In my Chicago days I would have worn shorts on a day like today, but after living on the west coast for several years I've become a big puss! Taking these photos was a fun challenge. I got several good shots of my toiletries. I can highly recommend both lubriderm and secret clinical strength, which is why I featured them here. Ha!

About the finished part. Almost. I'm still vacillating about the lower edge. The stitch pattern makes the bottom edge see-saw a little. I can't decide if I'm okay with that, because the piece drapes well, or if I want to slip stitch the edge. A slip stitch will make that edge stiffer and less resilient, which could be a bad thing. If I do it with a crochet hook a size larger I think it will help with drape, but I'm not sure that will do enough to straighten out the edge? Any thoughts? I also think I'm going to do one more round of blocking, perhaps on a hanger, to open up the lace.

Posted by Julia at 05:25 PM | Comments (29)

December 01, 2007

A knit with a view

The second (and final!) piece of Mishka lies blocking on the kitchen table. I usually block my knits on the side porch, but today it's chilly and blustery (50's!), so I had to move Mishka inside to dry. I'm spoiled, because in the summer even a wool sweater will dry in a day. Now the situation has changed, and I may be looking at two days. The sooner the better!

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This is one spoiled knit, perched in the window enjoying the scenery.

All I have left is a simple neck treatment, side seams and ties for the shoulders. Thank goodness! This is a really pretty knit, I'm happy with my design concept, and I know that I will get a lot of wear out of it, but sheesh have I been dragging my feet on this one. This is the kind of top that I would whip through in a week and a half if the pattern were written, but having to write instructions as I go really breaks my stride for some reason. Happily, that portion of the designing is done. I've finished the whole pattern in my size, so all that remains is re-sizing.

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It's almost as good as watching paint dry.

My reward for finishing Mishka is that I get to cast on for a whole bunch of new knits. Many of them are my own designs that I've been swatching for a while, and one is this fun pattern from Knitting Nature, which my best friend and I are knitting together. (Last year we both made the Marseilles Pullover.) We planned cast on day for December first - and so it is.

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Posted by Julia at 05:12 PM | Comments (14)

November 25, 2007

Double Trouble

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Can you tell which one is Zosia?
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Are you sure?

Our little girl had a big weekend. She was a single gal on Friday night, but now it's Sunday evening and she has a live-in boyfriend. M and I have discussed getting a second dog from time to time, but it didn't feel serious. On Saturday he suggested that we go look at dogs, which we do not do unless we're getting one. We went on-line and found "Bear" at the Burbank German Shepherd Rescue. He's Zosia's twin with about 15 more pounds of muscle, but unlike our sassy little girl, he is totally mellow. What a sweetie. It was love at first sight - for us and then for Zosh. We named him "Ash."

The mellowness is incredible. He fits in perfectly, and as I write this all six of us - two dogs, two cats and two humans - are lying on the floor together snoozing and quietly watching football. So nice. I hope your weekends were peaceful as well and full of good food!

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Our sweet big boy "Ash" on his first outing with us.
Posted by Julia at 06:37 PM | Comments (29)

November 19, 2007

The Shepherd Sheep Herds

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It was **unbelieveably** fun.

If you have any kind of herding dog, you must try this. It is so cool to see them in their element, doing what they were born to do. All three of us are addicted.

And, yes, I realize this puts us about one step away from Best in Show. Don't Judge. I know exactly how many hours a week you spend playing with string.

Posted by Julia at 07:20 AM | Comments (16)

November 11, 2007

Endpaper Mitts: Pattern Notes

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I love my mitts!
Good morning, peeps! Another set of pattern notes for you, though hopefully not quite so long as the last, because you have all knit these mitts before me! As you know, I often end up using the self-timer to take my photos, but this weekend I was lucky enough to have the services of stylist and photographer extraordinaire, Mr. Moxie. Saturday was a bright, chilly morning for LA (think about 50 degrees), so we opted to take the Z for a nice stroll through Elysian Park, which has sections that are about as "forested" as LA metro gets. Elysian also has grassy knolls, city views, and palm trees for scenery, but M was feeling the sylvan landscape, so that's what we did. Excellent choice, I think. I am just ecstatic that it is Endpaper weather here. I can stay toasty while typing in my chilly office or while romping with Z in the mornings and evenings. Quite nice.

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Endpaper Mitts
Free Pattern
by Eunny Jang
Knit with less than one skein (191 yards/skein) each of Rowan's 4 Ply Soft (100% Merino Wool) in (393) "Linseed" and (397) "Teak", on size US0 and US2 Clover Bamboo DPNs.
Gauge: 8 sts per inch over pattern.
Size: smallest.

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Outside & Inside.
The Pattern:
Loved it. I did not find any errors, and the instructions were well-written and easy to follow. I will say that despite the fact that tons of people have knit these successfully as a first colorwork project it is still what I would term an "intermediate" project. So, if you are an intermediate knitter, especially one who has worked on dpns (can we say socks?), you should do fine, but if you are less experienced, don't be hard on yourself if you get frustrated. I had not personally done stranded colorwork in years, so I spent some time ripping back and starting over. If you put in a bit of concentration and effort in the first few hours it will pay off. Don't let the early attempts scare you. It gets substantially easier. From start to finish, with blocking, I did these in about a week and a half. Not long at all for some really lovely mitts.

The best part about this project was that I was finally forced to teach myself to knit continental style. I've always been irritated by the fact that I throw and therefore knit comparatively slowly, but every time I start to teach myself continental, I get tired of struggling and revert. In this case, there really wasn't any choice but to pick with the left. by the end I was choosing to knit the single color knit row in continental, because it was both faster and easier. Huzzah! I still have to work on purling continental style. I think I'm a natural combination knitter when I pick, so I'm deciding whether to stick with that or attempt to modify my ways before they get too set.

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Endpaper Mitts in the Woods.

Techniques:
Intermediate techniques - tubular cast-on, circular knitting with dpns, stranded colorwork, sewn bind-off.

Modifications:
Very few. I used the first variant of the tubular cast-on in Vogue: The Ultimate Guide, rather than the Italian tubular cast-on, with which I am unfamiliar. The Italian version gave some people a hard time, so if you struggle with it, just use a variant of the tubular cast on that suits you. I used the sewn bind-off for one-by-one ribbing from Vogue to finish the mitts - I'm pretty sure this is the same, or close to, the tubular method/kitchener bind off suggested in the pattern. I'm sure you'll let me know if there is a big difference.

I'll just note here that when working one-by-one rib, these cast-on and cast-off methods are really nice to use. They create a professional finish and are worth the effort. I don't use one-by-one ribbing often, though I like it, but if I do, these are the techniques I employ with it. Highly recommended.

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This one is more about Z than the mitts...

Finishing:
The most challenging part of this project for most people will be the final bind off. Sewn bind-offs are like kitchener stitch, and once you get the hang of them they are (almost) fun. The problem is that it usually takes a bit of binding off to get the hang of them. You may want to consider putting the live sts for the first mitt on some waste yarn and coming back to sew them off when you're done with the second as well, to avoid breaking your rhythm. It really depends on whether its more helpful to have something fresh in your mind or to have a task broken up into segments to make it more palatable.

After weaving in the ends, I blocked the mitts by soaking them in cool water with wool wash for a half hour, spinning out the excess water in the washer and laying them flat to dry outside. Although I thought my unblocked colorwork looked pretty decent, blocking made a huge difference in the smoothness of the patternwork and the hand of the yarn. Don't be lazy - block your mitts!

EndPaperMittsIMG_2176.jpgImpressions of Rowan's 4 Ply Soft:
This was my first time using 4 Ply Soft and I really enjoyed it. The yarn did not pill while knitting despite its softness, and I don't think it will pill easily with wear, either. It is soft. That said, the hands are a very sensitive part of the body (especially the wrists!), so even this soft merino is a little itchy when worn. I'm not overly sensitive to wool, so for me they work well, but if you are knitting for someone who is sensitive, consider a cashmere blend. It won't wear quite as well, but that's better than not being worn at all!

I would use this yarn again in a flash. I'm guessing that it would be even softer knit at a larger gauge, and would have a lovely drape for a sweater. The color palette is suitable for mixing, so it's a good choice for fair isle with few colors if you want something softer than Jameison's.

Possible substitute yarns:
For this particular project, any standard sock yarn is probably going to work, though the more resilient the yarn, the better. Colorwork doesn't have much give, so it's nice if your yarn has some give and take. I would probably go with Koigu, Cherry Tree Hill Supersock or Louet Gems Pearl if I were to use a different yarn.

[Read all entries on the Endpaper Mitts.]
Posted by Julia at 10:51 AM | Comments (17)

November 02, 2007

Lucetta: Pattern Notes

Sometimes I knit something that turns out so well I can barely believe that I made it. Lucetta is that type of knit. It's not complicated, and it works up quickly, but you get more than a bang for your buck. It's an absolutely gorgeous sweater. I think that part of my enthusiasm probably stems from the fact that I wasn't sure what to expect from the finished project. It's from Rowan Studio, and those pieces are generally pretty fashion-forward, which means that you'll love them today, but it's a toss-up as to how you'll feel tomorrow - maybe "fantastic!" or maybe "what the hell was I thinking?" Happily it's the former. I feel fun and in the moment in it, but I also think it will stand the test of time. (By the way, I think Rowan Studio is great and I highly recommend the first four issues. Just be aware that it can be uber-current.)

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Some days you just can't give good face, ya know?

Lucetta
Rowan Studio Issue 4
by Sarah Hatton
Knit with just over 4 skeins (229 yards/skein) of Rowan's Kidsilk Haze (70% Kid Mohair/30% Silk) in "Chill", on size US 7 and US8 Addi Turbo Circulars.
Gauge: 24 sts 21 rows per four inches over pattern.
Size: smallest.

The Pattern:

ERRATA:

Body Row 7 of Eyelet Patt: Last 2 Sts should be P2tog, not P2.

Row 1 of Main Pattern should be K all sts in the **first repeat** of each piece, but after that K the P2togs and ktbl on the yos.

In addition to the errata, there are a few helpful things to take note of:

When taking gauge, use the pattern as set up on the sleeves - the main body only has directions for the main pattern with decreases incorporated. It also leaves you to figure out how to increase in pattern. I started with a sleeve because I was too lazy to do a swatch, which is a good way to go. You, too, can be a lazy bum and swatch with your sleeve. It's something I do a lot of.

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Detail of the lace.
With those unpleasantries out of the way, let's move on to all the good things about Lucetta. It is very easy to knit, but it wasn't overly boring due to the funky eyelet action going on. Overall, the pattern is well-written and makes sense. It should be pretty easy to do even if you haven't knit much lace or worked with Kidsilk. You will want to have a certain confidence with your seaming and end-weaving abilities, because due to the nature of the yarn your seams are out there for all to see. You don't want them to be bulky and you need to make the eyelets line up. I love seaming (I know - crazy - don't hate me because I seam), so it wasn't an issue, but I can see the seams making some poor unfortunate knitters very unhappy. If your seaming skills are a bit weak, tackle the seaming portion with an experienced friend or under the protective guidance of your LYS.

I have watched Sarah Hatton's designs since Rowan 35 hit the stands, and have really enjoyed them. I always loved Kim Hargreaves, but I think it's been good for her and for Rowan to make a change. I like her designs better now, and I love seeing the new people that Rowan brings in. Sarah Hatton consistently creates really interesting pieces. I think Rowan Studio is a great venue for her talents. She's fresh and has a unique take on designing. I would happily knit something of hers again.

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Sexy, sexy eyelets!

Techniques:
This is advanced beginner fare - easy but for the tricky yarn and the seaming mentioned above. It requires some shaping and the use of yarnovers.

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Love the blousy, comfy sleeves.
Modifications:
I use a long-tail cast-on, so one of my standard modifications is to do an extra row of ribbing on every piece. The long-tail makes one side of the work look "purl-ish" and the other more polished. I like the polished side to face the world. This is so standard for me that I don't think I've mentioned it before, but if you use the long-tail method and don't already do this, you may want to start. Just add one row to the ribbing and treat the first row as a set-up row (WS) and the second as if it were your first RS row. It's nice.

I also omitted the side-shaping on the body. After years of following (and designing) the standard method of decreasing to the waist and then increasing to the bust on the edges of the work, I've jettisoned the practice completely. It always looks like shit. If you need serious shaping, make the decreases and increases as darts about a quarter of the way in from the sides. If you need to maintain side-shaping but the shaping isn't too severe, try starting with the stitch count at the waist and only increasing up to the bust, rather than having shaping below the waist as well. This won't work for everyone, but it covers a lot of body types (steer clear if the piece is a bit clingy/closer-fitting and you have a little pooch, though). In cases where the piece has some ease, I usually just get rid of the shaping altogether. This worked well for Lucetta.

The last thing I did, which is also really standard for me was to pick up stitches fairly evenly around the neckline, ignoring the stitch count except to make sure that in the end it was a multiple of four (so that the ribbing works out properly). Usually this results in picking up more sts than the pattern calls for and I just reduce down to the correct number on the next round. In this case I was 8 sts short, and just made the collar with that number. It looks great. You need not be too attached to numbers when picking up sts. I think it's better to avoid gaps around the neckline. Just a thought.

Other than those little things, I changed nothing. The pattern is great as is.

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More sleeves.

Finishing:
I seamed using a modified mattress stitch very close to the edges to minimize bulk. The eyelets were a little confusing to line up, because I had to "zig" from the edge of one to the middle of the other and then "zag" from the middle of the second eyelet to the lower edge. When you do it, it might appear at first as if things will not line up. Go a bit farther before making any judgments. If you are off, you'll know.

I blocked the body by soaking the pieces in cool water with wool wash, spinning out the excess water in the washer and pinning it flat to dry. I was lazier with the sleeves, because I really wanted to wear my sweater. I spritzed them with water while the sweater was on my body and tugged! Kidsilk dries so quickly that this works out fine! You will want to block, though - it's much prettier that way. Don't be alarmed by the way the kidsilk looks wet (rather like a wet dog!). It will come around nicely.

Impressions of Rowan's Kidsilk Haze:
When I first used this stuff it was my enemy - hard to see and easy to f*ck up - like dancing on ice. Years later we have become fast friends. I love its delicacy and loft and I appreciate its ability to add elegance to a piece. If you want to know more about it, read about the two pieces that I made with it previously: the Birch Stole that I made for my wedding (same color) and the more recent River Stole. I still love and wear both.

Possible substitute yarns:
The two best substitutes that I know of for Kidsilk Haze are K1C2's Douceur et Soie and Artfiber's Tsuki. At 515 yards/skein for $16 Tsuki is a steal, and can be ordered on line. Douceur has the same fiber content as Kidsilk, and Tsuki is close, with 10% more silk and less mohair.

[Read all entries on Lucetta.]
Posted by Julia at 07:17 AM | Comments (22)

October 29, 2007

What is the sound of one sheep knitting?

That would be "Baaaaaah."

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I have not Clapoteed. I do not Jaywalk. I will not Rogue. I have no Fuzzy Feet, and no French Market Bags. I don't Monkey around, my Yoke is Untangled, my Duster doesn't Tilt, and I do not Fetch. I finished my Birch, Chevron Scarf and Lace Leaf Pullover before you people even thought about starting. I started my River as a pioneer (though I finished it, ahem, a bit later).

Apparently, however, I do Endpaper. And I am enjoying it, goddamnit. Enough said. (Bleated?)

Posted by Julia at 08:05 AM | Comments (18)

October 18, 2007

Some Little Things

You people are going to start to think I'm obsessed with babies - I've been knitting some big people things, but it's the baby knits that seem to make it here. Just a short post for now to show you these cute little things:

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Baby Bell Bottoms, Free Pattern designed by Alison Hansel

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A shot of me with the cute little thing who is big brother to the cute little thing that will someday wear these bell bottoms. Seems like yesterday I was making baby things for him. And then finally a little sneak peek of my tiny contribution to my friend Kat Coyle's awesome first! book, which will be out next month:

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And no, I didn't make the baby - just the footies!

Huh. I think I just blogged. Who knew?

Posted by Julia at 05:25 PM | Comments (26)

June 18, 2007

Manly Cashmere Baby Booties: Pattern Notes

I had originally planned to give my friend Julia something else (I know, scandalous!) with a pair of these manly booties, but my cross-stitching drive failed me and it just didn't happen. So instead, I whipped out a second pair of these manly cashmere booties, which are so well modeled by my friend Ellen's six-week old baby.

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Pretty cute baby, no?

Ellen and I had a nice, quiet day together on Saturday, sitting inside with the baby while the temperatures in Phoenix soared into the hundreds, and then spent the afternoon with friends at Julia's shower (no, not third person, another Julia! No babies here yet!) Ironically, I got a lot more cross-stitching done on this trip. I thought that I would be unable to finish my little project because I just didn't have the cross-stitch bug, but now it seems to have me interested. I'm so enamored of this cross-stitch project that I don't know if I'll give it away to the next sarcastically witty friend to become a mom or keep it for myself some day.

As for pattern notes, here are the basics:

Classic Cashmere Booties
Simple Knits for Cherished Babies, by Erica Knight
Knit with about a third of a skein (123 yards/113 meters/skein) of Rowan Wool Cotton (50% Merino/50%Cotton) in Coffee Rich (brown) (956) with accents of Rich (red) (911); the second pair were made in French Navy (navy) (909) with Laurel (green)(960) accents on Clover Bamboo DPNs in size US3 (3.25mm), in a gauge of about 7 sts per inch in Stst.

This is my go-to bootie pattern. I just love it. You can easily whip out an entire bootie in a single unproductive night, and if pressed it's not hard to make an entire pair in a single sitting. The "embroidered" primitive hearts are my own little addition to the pattern. I think they add something special. Last time I made the smallest size on US4's and they came out about the right size to fit a baby at 6 months. I made these on US3's so that they would fit a little earlier - maybe 3 months. They were slightly big on Ellen's little 6-week old, so that seems about right. I think as long as they fit sometime during the right season (which is essential in Arizona - there will be no summer booties!) it's okay. I've knit these before, so for more extensive pattern notes, check out this post. I leave you with this shot of the two pairs hanging out together on the flannel baby blanket that Ellen's mother hand-stitched for her:

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[Read all entries on the classic cashmere booties.]

Posted by Julia at 07:19 AM | Comments (16)

June 13, 2007

Baby Steps

Sometimes life and knitting fly by, and other times it takes work to slog through either. I'll let you guess what kind of time I'm having. *smile*.

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Chocolate-colored bootie in repose on the newly-planted nasturtiums.
As always, check the side-bar for details.

Still, these booties have been rather enjoyable. I have a second done and waiting to be seamed up, and plan to embroider each with a primitive heart (in red), like I did with this pair. If I'm feeling really energetic I may make a second pair in navy with the baby's initials in green. We'll see - the shower is this weekend, so time is a factor....

Posted by Julia at 06:44 AM | Comments (12)

June 04, 2007

Mishka Progress

MishkaCIMG2261.jpgIt feels like it's been so long since I spent a morning propped up on my pillows, talking to the blog about knitting. Since the last time, I've been slowly plugging away on Mishka - just a row here and a row there - finally over the weekend, I was able to finish and block the first piece.

I always build my designs around a yarn. When I first see a yarn I usually have a fairly clear conception of what I want it to be, at least in the sense that I know if it will be a tank or a cowl-neck sweater or some knee socks. I usually cannot "see" anything other than the type of piece that I first envision for a yarn until it has been made into that initial vision. Later, I can use that starting concept as a building block and move off into other directions, but at first it just has to be what it is in my head. I buy approximately the amount of yarn that I think I will need to create that vision. If I were smart I would buy that amount plus one skein, but usually I cannot manage to make myself do that. I abhor leftovers, and can go to fairly extreme lengths to make sure that I buy exactly the right amount of yarn and not a bit more.

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Flipped to the wrong side to show the shoulder casing.
Worked in Artfibers' Liana.
This was how it went when designing Mishka. I bought the yarn for the piece about two years ago, and envisioned it as a sleeveless shell. As I worked on it, it morphed from sleeveless shell into a draping, flowing top, with shoulder and hem ties woven through casings. The body is worked without shaping, with about four inches of ease built into the width, so that it will blouse and drape. The armscyes are shorter than on a sweater so that undergarments will stay hidden, yet a bit looser than on a fitted tank so that the flow won't be interrupted.

I was very lucky to find that Premiere yarn goes a bit further than expected. I bought exactly what I thought I would need for a fitted shell - five skeins - but with a little ingenuity and advanced planning, I have been able to stretch that amount to work for a blousy top. I worked a slip-stitch edging that I borrowed from one of Annie Modesitt's designs along the armscyes so that they are self-finishing, and also employed a little trick I picked up years ago to avoid the stair-step effect of an armscye bind-off (it also works for necklines and shoulders) to accomplish the same. I worked the reverse side of the shoulder casings in a coordinating yarn that is lighter and of a substantially smaller gauge so as to use less Premiere, but also to make it less obvious that there is a casing present at all. As a consequence, I think I managed to get enough extra fabric in the piece to make it blouse effectively. In addition to giving it four inches of ease, I made it twenty-three and a half inches in length from the shoulder, which should give it a total length of at least twenty-four inches with the ties at the top. Standard length for me on a fitted shell would be somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty inches, twenty-four should provide plenty of blousing space.

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Self-finishing armscyes using Annie's clever slipped edging.
I still haven't decided how to handle the hemline of the piece. I could seam the sides all the way down to the hem and just let it as is, swinging free. Or I could leave it unseamed for the last three and a half to four inches and run a casing along the bottom edge where I can weave ties through so that it gathers in and sits gently on the hip. I think I prefer the second option, but it will all depend on the length when worn. I may be just short enough on fabric that the effect wouldn't quite work without an additional half-inch to gather and blouse.

I'll just have to see when I get there. There is always a little interplay of idea and chance, no matter what the initial concept. Even if it turns out very close to the way I envisioned, there will doubtless be some element of surprise. I think this is my favorite part of designing - reaching the point when I feel certain that what I have done so far will work and that I will enjoy it, but still having some improvisation left on the horizon - a little bit of uncertainty that makes it all exciting.

Posted by Julia at 06:33 AM | Comments (29)

May 30, 2007

I've gone over to the dark side....

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I think the picture says it all.
Back in March, when I visited my girlfriends in Phoenix, I found myself at a "crafternoon" gathering with nothing to work on, because the only thing I brought with me was the Harvey Vest that I was making for Ellen's baby shower. Since she was present, I couldn't very well pull it out for seaming! Instead, Ellen happily gave me a ball of variegated cotton and a crochet hook that she had abandoned and said that I was free to try it if I liked, because she was done with crochet. Unwilling to be without yarn in my hands while surrounded by women knitting and stitching, I decided to try my hand at a single crochet square. I made some mistakes (like not making a loop at the end and consequently decreasing on every row for a few rows!), but overall it was pretty cute. I use it as a coaster on my night stand.
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Marnie's pretty square (top right), my wobbly first square (left), my "volcanic" attempt at crocheting a circle (bottom right)

Truth be told, I have been contemplating crochet for a long time, as two of my closest knitting pals, Marnie and Mary Heather, are excellent crocheters and have made some beautiful things. I have long been able to do simple crochet edgings for knits, but I've always said that I just crochet to get by, and have never taken the time to learn more. My little foray into crochet in Phoenix got me curious, so the next time Marnie visited in April, I recruited her to teach me how to make a granny square. By the time she left, I still couldn't read a pattern, but I could look at something she crocheted and mimic it. Then on my trip out to Portland early this month, I immersed myself completely and picked up some crochet pamphlets from Joann's and some wonderful Japanese crochet books. Since then, I've been playing around with crochet when I get the chance and have even started experimenting for a crochet design that I have in mind. It will be a while before I work on that in earnest, but it's been a fun diversion to tinker with.

For those who are curious, the last two weeks have been hellacious at work, which is why all I've managed to produce for you is a picture of me getting dressed in the morning! I have found time to work on Mishka, my Create Along design, though, and have almost finished the first piece. I'll post an update when I next find a chance. I've had no time to make the blog rounds or engage in proper correspondence, so I will just say here that I'm thinking of everyone and hoping you are well. Thanks so much for your sweet and thoughtful comments - I enjoy reading them!

Posted by Julia at 07:28 AM | Comments (19)

May 23, 2007

What I'm Wearing Today

No time to pontificate on knitting today, so instead I bring you another "knits in action" photo.

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I. Love. This. Skirt.
Posted by Julia at 06:29 AM | Comments (40)

May 17, 2007

Boho Baby Is On Its Way

BabyBoho.jpe

Click here for info on pre-ordering.
This is the second print publication in which I have been able to play a (small) role, and I am so excited about it that I can barely contain myself. Baby Baby is authored by my good friend Kat Coyle, who wrote the majority of the patterns in the book as well. Kat designed the Daktari Skirt and berets that I made from the Knit Cafe book, as well as many other beautiful pieces, such as the LaLa Scarf (shown off to great effect by MH's handspun), and, more recently, the Show-Off Skirt (this is Elspeth's lovely version) from Lace Style, the Indigo Ripples Skirt from the Spring IK (Eunny's lovely version), and a Chuppah from Summer IK (I watched Kat knit this thing - it is huge! Huge, I tell you!).

My own projects in the book are tiny, but I love how they came out, and the book is filled with amazing pieces by Marnie, MH, and Edna. It won't actually be released until fall of this year, but if you have a child under five years old or if you knit for one, I can tell you now that you will want this book. The patterns are different and exquisite. I am so proud to have been involved.

Posted by Julia at 05:54 AM | Comments (28)

May 16, 2007

Create-Along: Back At It!

Several months ago, Marnie and I kicked off the Create-Along, a knitalong where newbies and old hands can design together and discuss their process. If you haven't checked it out - do! - there are some amazing posts over there, and at least two really beautiful FO's so far. We're running through September 15, so if you have a hankering to design and could use some support, please join us. It's a great deal of fun.

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Mishka (named after Mames' beautiful GSD), lounging next to the meager notes I have taken.

I kicked off the Create-Along with a bang, swatching up a beautiful Barbara Walker lace pattern that I intended to use for a very simple shell. I was going to do a boatneck sheath style and run a single panel of lace down the left side. At the time I was very enthused about it, but the weeks wore on and it just never got knit.

I finally realized that the reason the shell wasn't happening, was that it wasn't happening in my head - I was truly bored with my own conception. I think the original idea was a good one, very classic, and something that I would get a lot of use from. But it just didn't grab me. I had been flipping through fashion magazines and pouring over runway knits, and I wanted something more current. Not trendy, necessarily, as I like clothing to stand the test of time, but more in the moment that what I had originally conceived. (I will probably design the sheath eventually, as well, when it is more what I am looking for.)

Marnie and I talked about my ideas pretty extensively one night, and discussed how we felt obligated to stick with the designs that we presented to the knitters in the CAL. She had been struggling with her design, Lily, as well, yet felt that for some reason she needed to stick with the conception she had started with. I realized about half-way through the conversation how silly we were. Why would we do this for the CALers, of all people? The whole point of the CAL was to show process, and almost nothing is more part of the process than scrapping design ideas, re-working and ripping! If you are afraid to do that, you are often left with a piece that you don't like, and which does not really represent your full creative process and personal perspective.

That is a long way of saying that I decided to scrap the original idea, and instead work out a new plan. Here it is: I am going to make a loosely-fitting hip-length top that will have hemmed casings at the top which I will run corded ties through to close. The motif will repeat with sections of large "rib" in between on both the front and the back. I would also like to do casings about three inches from the bottom edge with corded ties to create a blousing effect, but that is going to depend on whether I have enough yarn to manage it. I may have to re-work a bit to accommodate the minimal yardage I have going on here.

I was going to sketch it out for you, but I didn't do that yet in my *real* design process, so it's kind of silly to pretend that I did it for the CAL or the blog! I will probably sketch it soon, and I'll include the sketch here when I do. The thing that I have done already is a rough yardage estimation. I find that really useful, so I'll try to share a post on it soon. In the meantime, I will back at it and knitting away on Mishka - yay! It's about time.

Posted by Julia at 09:03 AM | Comments (5)

May 15, 2007

Nautical: Pattern Notes

Talk about a stealth knit! I was going through my stash and came upon some Filatura di Crosa Brilla that has been bothering me forever. Sometimes I have something in my stash that I like well enough, but that I have in such weird quantities and color combinations that it really bothers me. Brilla has been a major offender in that way for some time, and I am always trying to come up with creative ways to get rid of it. When I do work with it, I love it. I made my friend Jen a beret from some forest green Brilla for Christmas last year that I just adored. But when it is sitting there, I loathe the stuff, probably because it seems so impossible to utilize fully. I was staring at two skeins of Brilla in platinum and all of a sudden I became hell bent on using it up. I had two skeins of deep navy as well, which seemed like a very good combo, and extremely current, given the nautical turn fashion seems to have taken for the spring. My goal was to use every inch of that Brilla, and for all intents and purposes I did. The result is my favorite summer knit top yet - I love it! Thank goodness I had that Brilla hanging about.

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Photos taken in Portland, by the lovely Miss Marnie.

Nautical
MindofWinter Designs
by Yours Truly
Knit with two skeins (120 yards/skein) of Filatura di Crosa Brilla (58% Rayon, 42% Cotton) in Deep Navy (306) and two skeins in Platinum (394), using the Silver Reed LK150, carriage 3, tension 3 for the main body and Susan Bates size US 2 straights for the picot casings. Ties made from Wrights Prestige Ribbon in Organdy Navy, available at JoAnn's.
Gauge: 22.5 sts and 36.5 rows per inch.
Size: 32 bust, 27 waist.

The Pattern:
This is the first Hoolia design of the calendar year to actually make the execution phase. I have done a ton of sketching and swatching and am full of ideas, yet somehow I keep getting distracted by really cute patterns or by the need to use up stash now. I really did find myself driven to remove that silver Brilla from my stash for this piece, so I suppose this falls in that category as well. I went to sleep on a Thursday thinking about my plans for Nautical, and then made the main pieces on the machine on the following Friday evening and Saturday morning. I had swatched Brilla earlier on the little knitter, so I had notes and samples of possible gauges. I didn't even bother sampling the stripes, because I decided that in order to use every ounce of the stuff I had I needed to use a fairly even distribution of the two colors and that I wanted the stripes to be fairly fine - voila! - easy enough.

The part that took the longest was the picot casings, which I did by hand. I could have done them on the machine, but I wanted to leave them until I was finished with the main body just in case, so both edges were done afterward and then hand-seamed, which took some man hours.

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Detail of the top with organza ties.
The coup de grace is the ribbon. Marnie and I made an impromptu stop at the local JoAnn's in Portland, and I got an entire roll of deep navy organza for $2.99. (Since I scored the Brilla on Elann several years ago for about $4 a skein, the entire project cost me all of $20. Pretty nice, eh?) I am not sure how well the photos convey this, but the ribbon makes the top really different and special. It is sleek as a tube top and I will likely wear it without ribbons when I want a rather sexy evening look out of it with some flowing silk pants, but the ribbons really add a little Je ne sais quoi that gives the top a completely unique nautical flavor.

Tooting My Own Horn:
Although this was a relatively simple pattern to draft up and knit, it incorporates two of my favorite features. The first is the use of the ribbons, which is one of my big things in my wardrobe lately - just an easy way to be a little more fun and feminine in approach.

I wove the ribbons through the piece in such a way that they could be removed easily for washing and for the times when I just want an unadorned tube top. I prefer to have a single bow on the left, but the configuration could be easily changed to incorporate two bows, bows at the top, no bows, or to place the bows on the back, which could be really cute. I adore them.

The second is versatility - also a real favorite for me at the moment. I can wear Nautical with about half of my wardrobe. It looks great as a tube top with a simple silver necklace and some flowing black pants for an evening out, but it would also be cute with the organza ties, a denim mini and some navy espadrille wedges for a picnic. Marnie put together the smart ensemble with the khaki jacket (from her wardrobe) over jeans that I'm wearing in some of the photos, and I'm now pretty certain that I can pair Nautical with a suit (khaki, navy, maybe even white) and wear it in a work setting. As someone who prefers to have fewer pieces of clothing that go together in unique ways, the versatility of this little top is a big bonus for me.

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Nautical paired with the white linen skirt I wore with Honeymoon, and some cute khaki capris with buttoned hems.

Techniques:
This would be beginner-easy but for the picot edgings which are sewn down. It incorporates stripes, minimal shaping, and easy yarnover picots.

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With a jacket, for the professional look.
Modifications:
If I knit this again I would make it just a skoosh longer. I only had four skeins of yarn to work with, so I was being uber-cautious with the yardage in the body. I have a little bit of each yarn left, so I may go crazy and add a half inch or so to the bottom edge, but I doubt it. The effort required to take out those picots doesn't seem worth it when I can simply throw on a jacket or add a sash to make Nautical less tarty in feel.

Finishing:
Once again, the most difficult aspect of making this piece is sewing down the picot casings. Even this isn't rocket science if you understand what you're trying to do. I intended to do a tutorial on this for everyone, but I never ended up seaming at a time when it was convenient to snap photos. I make these kinds of picot casings rather regularly, though, so I'm sure I'll have my chance soon.

Brilla blocks really nicely, but as I write this I realize I didn't even bother to block Nautical. It came off the little knitter in good shape and my picots were even, so it really wasn't necessary. I just seamed and went. I do think it will get even softer and have more drape after a wash, though. It's pretty soft and silky right off the needles.

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An open jacket shows off the ties.
Impressions of Filatura di Crosa Brilla:
I have a lot of Brilla in my stash in varying colors, so I do get tired of looking at it, but whenever I knit it, I love it. It hand knits nicely, and machine knits fairly well, though it is prone to snags and is slippery. The thing to know about Brilla is that it isn't going to stay in place if you have live stitches hanging around. It is hard to frog and get back on the needles, and if one of your stitches gets loose it will make a run of it. Just be aware and tink accordingly. From what I know of it, Brilla wears very well, has a pretty, shiny look, and feels gentle and silky. It's a very good choice for summer knitting, and for knits that you want to give a dressed up look to. I won't be buying more any time soon, as I still have quite a bit to use up, but I will enjoy using it.

Possible substitute yarns:
Anything shiny and silky with a cotton or silk content should do. GGH Mystik, which I used for my Honeymoon Cami, springs to mind, though beginners will find it a bit splitty.

[Read all entries on Nautical.]
Posted by Julia at 06:44 AM | Comments (24)

May 12, 2007

Friendship

When I first began blogging, I was very cautious about meeting other bloggers and commenters in person. It took me about eight months to meet with anyone, and almost two years to become completely comfortable with the concept of making in-the-flesh knitting friends from on-line.

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Nonnahs, MJ, LoriZ, MH and Yours Truly. Photo taken by LoriZ's extremely photographically gifted husband, Cam.

Oddly enough, the first person I met up with was a commenter. Mary wrote to me when I had just moved to DC. She volunteered to help out with my job search, and I was so touched that a total stranger was interested enough in me through the blog to lend a hand in that way, that I just had to get to know her. DC didn't end up being the right place for me at the time, but I still have fond memories of sock yarn shopping with Mary, our lunches in Chinatown, and her kind and generous efforts to help. I also met up with Froggy several times during that period. The two of us spent hours upon end on those rainy DC days pouring over knitting patterns and yarn in Teaism. Sadly, I have lost touch with both of these wonderful women. They seem to have departed the knit-blogging world or at least relegated themselves to lurkdom. Girls, if you are out there and see this, know that I dearly miss you both.

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HP and MJ during the vows.
I was still very shy in DC, and regret that there was at least one special person that I did not get to meet up with. I am sure there are even more. But I have made up for that loss of blog-buddy-time since I moved back to LA.

When I came back here almost all of my friends had moved (this is a city of transients if ever there was one), and with M still back in DC for six months my only option was to make friends in any way that I could. I had already cultivated a long-term e-mail friendship with Marnie and met up with her once when we vacationed here, so she was an obvious choice for a *real* friend. (MH has always been a *real* friend, and I met Kat for *real* before I read her blog as well.) From there it just grew.

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MJ looking lovely.
I began to notice more and more LA knit bloggers who shared my interest and passion for fiber and for other topics as well - environmentalism, cooking, fitness, travel. So I started collecting a larger circle of friends - first by e-mail, then at events, and finally friends "for real." It was a process, often taking at least a year of "auditioning" on the part of each person to determine whether we were a good fit. But with this small band of women I have begun to build up a network of what I believe will be lifetime friends, and we, like so many others in the blogosphere, have been truly acting on that feeling of friendship lately. I feel so lucky to have been a part of so many special events in these women's lives.

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I was just a little giddy.
A month ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to assist with MJ's wedding. A generous friend of mine performed the ceremony, and M and I served as both witnesses and photographers. It is a very special thing to be involved in a small ceremony like that, and I see MJ and I as forever bonded by it, even if our paths rarely physically cross in the years to come. (I'm sure Frank sees he and MJ as forever bonded by it, but never mind that!) It was a beautiful and perfect day - the kind that brings friendship full circle.

Now that I have made so many blogging friends, and found them all to be as great in person as they are virtually, I've become much more laid back about meet-ups. I trust my instincts, and if I have read someone for a bit and feel comfortable, then we must meet!


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Owen on his fourth day in the world.
I started seriously corresponding with my most recent blogging friend, Mames, while she was on bed rest during her pregnancy with twins. (Twins!) The hospital where she delivered was just blocks away from where I office on my remote days, so when she suggested we meet there, I didn't think twice. I would love to meet the babies. I met Mames for the first time in the maternity ward, and met Mason and Owen at the same time. It was pretty wonderful. They were so tiny and perfect. (Happy first Mother's Day, Mames!)

Friendships on line really can be lasting and meaningful (I'm writing this from Marnie and Leo's in Portland), so if you are in doubt take a chance, and if you are in town, let me know!

xox, J

P.S. Thanks to all who commented on the fire. I was particularly comforted by those who have seen many fires and assured me that the vegetation will return, along with the coyotes and geckos.

Posted by Julia at 08:28 AM | Comments (26)

May 09, 2007

Fire on My Mountain

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The hills and observatory from our trail.
It is hard to express the depth of sadness I feel at the loss of 600 acres of vegetation in Griffith Park to fire. I discovered Griffith in 1995, while visiting my best friend from college who had moved to LA to work at UCLA. I fell in love with it immediately, and when M and I moved here almost a decade later, one of my goals was to live close enough to the park that we could use it every weekend. We have. Griffith has been a sanctuary for M and I since we first moved here. In fact, I have strong memories of us walking through the park together when M lived here alone and I was still in Phoenix and would come out to visit him on weekends.

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Hiking our trail; view of the city.
The beauty of the park is the kind that is of such a sweepingly grand scale that it is hard to capture. I don't have a wide-angle lens on my film camera, and none of the digital snapshots I have taken have done it justice. I have some photos of Griffith in a post from way back when I started blogging (scroll down and click the text), and MH took a few pictures when we hiked there, but otherwise there are just a few photos that I can find in my recent archives. Most serve as a backdrop to Zosia, who was also raised in the park.

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Zosia big and small.

The view from our deck the other night was both startling and sickening. I can't fathom how I will feel when I see the damage close up. The trail that we hike every weekend appears to have been obliterated by flames. The trees, so precious and few, are gone. I wonder about the coyote who once followed me curiously when I was hiking alone at dusk, and about all the little geckos who flitted around on the sandy canyon walls.

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The night of the fire; the view from the living room as we watched the news - see the red flames filling the window above the TV; the day after.
Posted by Julia at 11:42 PM | Comments (32)

May 07, 2007

Knitting my bliss

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Almost there . . .
I think I mentioned earlier that I generally have a plan for the order in which I will make things, and that once something makes it into my queue, it generally gets knit, or if not, it gets ripped and revised. I do a lot of intellectual dreaming when deciding on a project, but once committed to the needles, I am pretty good at sticking to the plan. Lately, that has not been the case. I finally bought Mason Dixon Knitting, and decided I needed a quick washcloth. Then before I could cast on for the washcloth, I found myself knitting a nightie. Thursday night I went to sleep thinking of some silver and navy Filatura di Crosa Brilla that I had in my stash, and by Friday afternoon I was halfway finished with a simple Nautical top that I quickly designed.

Again and again over the last month I have found myself suddenly enchanted with one thing (a little less so with the washcloth - it's no nightie), and just immersing myself in it until it is done. I think in part this is because I try to restrict myself to having three things on the needles, and right now I am bored to death with the other two things I have hanging about.

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The picots, a zoom out, and a reverse shot.

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Rockin' my 1992 overalls. Good times.
I am working on a black cotton stockinette hoodie for M -- the Man Hood -- which I designed and knit the pieces for on the Lil' Knitter over a weekend about two months ago. I've done much of the seaming, but the miles and miles of black cotton are just boring me to death. The Man Hood is such a slog, that I joined the slog blog and found that I still don't have the drive to work on it or write about it. Imagine if I had hand knit the pieces! I'm also working on the Lacey Tuxedo Top from the most recent Rebecca Magazine. The Lacey Tuxedo Top promises to be good once I get it on my needles (I did the bottom portion on the machine - all stockinette, size 2 needles - ugh), but since I haven't bothered to do that yet, it hasn't bothered to become interesting. Go figure.

I should probably take the rest of this week to get the Rebecca top and the Man Hood back on track -- and maybe I will -- but escaping from those two projects seems to have given me a huge burst of creativity. Although it is simple, Nautical is the first design of my own that I have actually executed this year. (I'm not quite finished - it still needs one more picot hem, seaming and some straps, but I'm almost there.) It feels very good to get something from my head into fabric and have it look the way that I want it to. If having two snores on the needles will get me a nightie and an adorable stripey top, perhaps it's alright to allow those two UFO's to marinate for just a bit longer. For right now, I'm knitting my bliss . . . .

Posted by Julia at 08:34 AM | Comments (23)

May 04, 2007

Warshrag in Action: Pattern Notes?

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I am so channeling my mother in this photo!
I am even washing her 1970's mushroom bowl.
I love the mushroom bowl!
I know you guys must be sick of me prancing around the internets in my nightgown, but I can't help it - it's cute! And I just have to share how versatile it is. You really can wear it all classed up with jeans and a sash, or sleep in it and just pull on some shearling booties to do the morning dishes. (So California, so not fabulous. The Manolo, he would cringe.) It is that great.

As you may remember, the whole nightie thing began with an innocent little warshrag. I am not one to follow the trends in the knitting blogosphere, unless I can follow way behind. (In 2010, I will be making STR Jaywalkers.) I just can't do it when everyone else is doing it, because then I'm not sure if it was my idea. But afterwards? Sure! I'll always follow a trend after it's ridden itself out.

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Takes a lickin', keeps on tickin.'
So I'm knitting warshrags. Just two - enough to happily use up my Lily cotton and jettison the funky sponge that has been living at the edge of my sink.

Ball Band Warshrags
The Folks at Peaches 'n Cream
Mason Dixon Knitting
Lily Sugar 'n Cream Cotton, Colors 1712 (Chartreuse) & 1742 (Turquoise)

As free as I can normally be with the verbage, I can't bring myself to do real pattern notes on a warshrag, so instead I'll just say that I used cheapo Lily cotton from Michael's, and knit it on size 6 needles.

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Click for exciting close-up.
It was fun and I have a good enough attention span that I can probably finish the second one. I could not bring myself to knit thirty. That takes the kind of focus that can only be cultivated on the East Coast. As Garrison Keillor would say, such fortitude and industriousness can only be the product of harsh weather. I bet Minnesotans know from warshrags.

I am happy report that two skeins of Lily cotton create two coordinating warshrags, plus a smidge of another, which is all I need. They stand up to my dirty dishes, still look good, and seem to dry rather quickly as well. They are most excellent warshrags.

Posted by Julia at 05:28 AM | Comments (20)

May 02, 2007

Lookie Kay!

I can wear my nightie with jeans!

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After I wrote Kay to let her know that I had finished the after dark nightie she commented that as soon as she saw it over jeans her work would be done. I was loathe to disappoint, but given the snugness of the nightie, I felt it was best to warn Kay that this wasn't a happening proposition. There just didn't seem to be any good way to get both myself and a pair of Levi's under this thing at the same time. Then this morning, while I was working from the home office and wearing the nightie, I caught a little chill that even my shearling booties couldn't shake off. So I figured there was no harm in at least trying to get the nightie over a pair of jeans. If it was ugly, only I would know, and then there were Kay's feelings to consider - I should at least make an attempt. And then a miracle happened - it fit! A few minutes later, with the aid of a strapless bra and a tight-as-hell yoga top for added coverage, I was ready to roll. Then I remembered something the ladies at Marie Claire told me earlier this spring - never go out in your tunic without a belt (or sash). I think they may be right!

I loved this as a nightie, but as a nightie and a tunic I like it even better. I can see all sorts of uses for it - nights out with the girls, romantic evenings with Moxie, maybe I could even wear it as a cover-up at the beach. We're going to be inseparable, this nightie and I.

Posted by Julia at 12:00 AM | Comments (35)

May 01, 2007

Hiding in Plain Sight

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All my handspun skeinlettes,
with my spindles stored in between.
I've been enjoying a new podcast lately -- Stash and Burn -- which my friend LoriZ recommended in one of her great Sunday surf posts.* I've made my way through all of their episodes in the last week, so I hope Nicole and Jenny will keep podcasting regularly so that I can get my fix.

One of the many interesting topics covered in the podcast is how to acclimate your spouse, significant other, flavor of the month, etc. to the vast amounts of yarn that will invade their lives as long as they remain with you. (I suppose a corollary of that is how to keep them around despite these vast amounts of yarn.) One of my favorite suggestions was to hide everything in plain sight, in order to de-sensitize your significant other to yarn by exposure. This is one I have lived by for quite a while. A few years ago, when my stash reached rather unruly proportions with the advent of internet yarn sales, I purchased a Magiker cabinet from Ikea to store all my yarn in. It's been a great solution. The yarn is protected from dust by the cabinet, but with the glass doors I can see much of what I have. My particular unit is half the size of the one in the link - it is tall, thin and deep, so it scoots easily into every living space we have had and yet accommodates a lot of yarn.

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My fabric stash,
housed in the closet.
Unfortunately, not all of my yarn fits in the Magiker unit, so occasionally, after such major events as that damn Black Sheep Knittery 50% off sale that would not end, I have to do some re-shuffling and organization. My personal stash goals, such that I have any, include eventually having only as much stash as will fit in that cabinet. It's a pretty big space, so that's not exactly an overly ambitious goal - or at least it shouldn't be!

Anyhoo, this week I am completely going through the girls' room (our extra bedroom, so named because it is predominantly used by me, my crafts, and all my girlfriends who craft). My clothes closet is in there, and I have gone through that completely, and am now in the midst of going through the yarn, fiber, fabric, buttons, beads, and ribbon. Oh yeah, and books. Lots of books.

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Ribbon and ball bands,
which I'm saving for a special project.
I'm photographing my entire stash so that I have a visual catalog (to accompany the all-important excel spreadsheet), but I am also finding better and more visible storage for my "little stashes" - the fiber, fabric, buttons and ribbons. These categories of stash are much smaller than the yarn stash, but they haven't been nearly as ingeniously stored in the past. I think it's important to be able to see what I have so that I can use it. For example, I don't have a lot of ribbon, but I do have several pretty, quality yards. These have come in handy as ties for knitwear on several occasions. I used grossgrain ribbon for the straps on Asana, the same ribbon, years later, worked for Thelma's straps, and then most recently, the After Dark Nightie got ties made of a lovely fine velvet ribbon. Having these items on hand in plain sight makes it that much more likely that I will turn to them when I need a little closure. Ouch. That was such a bad pun I'm guessing some may even have missed it.

Just something to think about. How do you store your stash?

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Kitty collection,
napping in plain sight.
*As an aside, I love reading "link" posts and I have three friends who do these rather well: Andrea, the grand mistress of links, LoriZ, and MJ. Definitely check them out. You can find some really great resources. For myself, the link posts haven't happened (not sure why), but I do keep a running tab of links I like on my BIG LIST, which you can find below the names of my closest pals in the sidebar under "links". If you haven't already, you may want to check it out. There are some great links - especially in the techniques and resources section.

Posted by Julia at 07:42 AM | Comments (12)

April 29, 2007

After Dark Nightie: Pattern Notes

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I'm knitting a warshrag. No, really.
As I walked out on the porch to do this little photo shoot for you, Moxie glanced at me and asked: "Are you taking pictures of yourself again? The neighbors are going to start wondering." And then, because I was clearly not uncomfortable enough, he added: "Your internet friends get more of a show than I do." It's true. You guys get the After Dark Nightie and Moxie gets sweats. He'll get to enjoy the nightie eventually, but while it's still just off the needles, you get the good stuff!

This was not an easy shoot. I had to strategically place that warshcloth (and my arms!) and be sure to sit down to keep things from getting tarty. I'm not even going to tell you how many full frontal shots I had to take to get one that qualified as "nice". My hat goes off to the model in the MDK book - she was able to pull off hot, classic and wholesome, all the while not revealing a single bit of what the French so delicately refer to as orange peel. Let's just say that it is no accident that most of these are arty "detail" shots rather than the whole shebang! This nightie is wonderful and I love it, but it leaves nothing to the imagination. (By the time it makes it to Mr. Moxie all will be forgiven for this very reason . . . )

After Dark Nightie
Mason Dixon Knitting
Designed by Alison Will Green
Knit with three skeins (270 yards/skein) of Louet Sales Euroflax Originals Sportweight (100% Linen) in Violet (2454), using size US 3 Boye Straights (garter edge, bust lace), US 4 Addi Turbo circulars (vine lace, short row stockinette), and the Silver Reed 150 carriage 4.5, tension 5 (plain stockinette).
Stockinette Gauge: 5 sts per inch. Gauge for the pattern is 20 sts and 32 rows per 4 inches, but my machine-knit stockinette was at a different row gauge, which I adjusted for.
Size: 32 bust, but I modified the length to be 27" (without straps) rather than 23.5". See below.

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Detail of the top and velvet ties.
The Pattern:
Watch for Alison Will Green. She designed this nightie and the coordinating robe for Mason Dixon Knitting, and she also has a design in the upcoming issue of IK. Alison's designs have a very clean, classic appeal, with nice lines, and run on the Kim Hargreaves-ish side of the spectrum of things that I like. The pattern was well-written and easy to follow. It's also a very quick knit. Using the machine for the stockinette portions, I finished it in a week of very light knitting. If you have more time, you can probably do the whole thing in a week or so by hand. The end product is, in a word, stunning! I've had a great year for knits so far, and this is no exception. It is an heirloom that I will hand down to my daughter (the one I don't yet have) when she is ready to be married and tarty (yet classic).

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Shot of the upper lace band.
The only possible errata that I spotted was in the lace band at the top of the nightie. There is no schematic, but the listed bust measurement for a size 32 is 32". (D'oh!) The lace sits on the top half of the breast, about a half inch above the nipple-line, so presumably it would need to be 32" in circumference, or 16" in width on each piece. There is no change in stitch count between the stockinette and the lace, so for the measurements to remain consistent, the lace would have to have the same gauge as the stockinette. This simply does not happen in nature to my knowledge. Lace will always have a larger gauge than stockinette, and you have to adjust accordingly. The lace repeat is only 4 sts, so it is very easy to adjust the lace. Simply swatch the lace to get your stitch gauge (it will be bigger than your stockinette gauge), multiply the stitches per inch by the width your piece should be to get the total number of stitches you'll want, subtract that number from the number of stitches on your needles, round to the next increment of 4, and evenly decrease that number of stitches across the purl row before the lace begins. It's easier than it sounds - I promise! I am not sure if the decrease row got omitted from the original pattern (errata), or if Alison's lace gauge was close enough to her stockinette gauge that the difference was negligible, and she simply did not need to decrease (not errata, just variations in personal knitting). Either way, the way to ensure your nightie works is to swatch the lace.

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Strapless from the other day.
Sometimes the "candid" shots work best.
Ina wrote me a comment about the side-shaping that goes on in this piece, and suggested that it would be better accomplished through darts. While I don't believe this is errata-worthy, I think she is right. The pieces of the nightie decrease in at the waist and then increase back out to accommodate the bust. All increases and decreases take place at the edges of the work. This is the standard method to use for this kind of shaping. I used it when I designed Honeymoon and Clementine. Kim Hargreaves used it for Bond, and many, many other pieces. It works well enough if you have proportions that are exactly standard, but if you are long-waisted, short-waisted, or like me, just a little off in one direction, this kind of shaping can stick out in a funny, less than attractive way. It is only through two decades of knitting that I have finally decided I am done with this sort of shaping. For me, it is going the way of the stepped shoulder - from here on out I'm doing darts to customize the fit of my garments.

For those making the nightie, I would suggest two things for the waist-shaping: First, move the decreases and increases closer to the center of the knitting. I think the best placement should be in line with where you intend to place the straps. For me, this was about 4 inches in, but this will vary widely, especially in those who have more womanly curvage going on than I do. Find a similar dress or top in your closet, measure where the straps are set, and go from there. Second, knit each piece to the point of the top lace, pin the pieces together and check the fit before finishing the top lace portions. This way you'll know if you need to make adjustments before the top lace panels are finished.

Neither of these adjustments require brain surgery smarts, so I would rate this pattern as intermediate and encourage everyone to give it a try if it appeals. The nightie is short and sheer, but we all have a little orange peel, and our husbands, significant others, lovers du jour, etc. are aware of that. The menfolk really just like to enjoy us as nearly nekkid as possible. Take the plunge and enjoy making the lace.

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Another of the velvet ties.
Just because.
Techniques:
Beginner lace. Beginner in this case does not translate to "easy." If you've never done lace, you will need to be patient, and even if you have you'll probably rip back a few times - I did! The vine lace is the harder of the two laces, as it is a little counter-intuitive. If you think that you are off, you probably are. Get a feel for what each stitch will look like after it is completed, watch the lace as you go and count, count, count! on the reverse side.

Modifications:
I knit this in the original yarn and the original color and I retained the side-shaping (this time!). The biggest modification that I made was in the top lace panel. The first time I knit it on US4's - the same size needle I used for the stockinette. I ended up with a gauge of 4 sts per inch as opposed to 5 sts per inch! (My open-lace gauge varies much more than most.) The piece I was working on was consequently 4 inches bigger than it was supposed to be, giving a total circumference of 40" rather than 32". Clearly a problem.

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The gorgeous vine lace at the hem. Yummy!
Last year I discovered that although one would think that one knitter's lace gauge would vary from their stockinette in the same proportion that another knitter's would, this is not the case. This is something that it appears not many designers realize, so it isn't unusual for gauge to be given in stockinette alone, when you actually need to know stockinette gauge and lace gauge. Hence, the sad demise of the Prairie Tunic. It seems that if the lace involves fewer yarnovers per knit stitch (such as the vine lace), my gauge will stay proportional. But if there are a lot of yarnovers proportionally (the top lace, the Prairie Tunic lace), my gauge will generally grow quite a bit proportionally, such that I need to swatch the lace to make sure all the measurements come out right. Some people will have the same gauge as the designer, so this won't be an issue, but the only way to be sure is to swatch.

There are two ways to fix this issue. One, mentioned above, is to decrease the number of stitches. Another is to go down in needle size. Here, I opted to do both. I could have simply decreased 16 sts to make gauge on US 4's, but I felt that my lace was too open on that size needle, so instead I decreased only 12 sts and went down to US 3's on the lace. Voila!

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Vine lace lounging with MDK.
Another modification that I made was to the straps. Initially, I intended to use a lucet to make straps out of the Euroflax. I had coveted Becky's lucet for a very, very, very long time (can't find the post, but I think its 2004), so when I found one at the Fiber Factory in Mesa while out in Phoenix last month, I jumped on it. Unfortunately, although making cord with a lucet appears easy enough, I am far from accomplished in the skill (more on that in another post). I decided to keep practicing and instead use some thin velvet ribbon that I bought for Christmas ornaments in DC a few years back. It gives a great tone on tone look - it's perfect!

My final mod was the length - I added 3.5 inches to the lower portion, which was perfect for me. If you have rockin' thighs, knit it at the original length - just don't go out on the front porch in it. Hubby will love it, but you won't be able to bend over to scoop up the Sunday paper!

Finishing:
Easy peasy. I dunked each piece in a nice warm Eucalan bath, spun out the excess water, blocked to dry and sewed two long seams. My tip for seams like this with lace at one or both ends is to seam the stockinette portion first, leaving a long tail to finish up seaming the lace afterward. Stockinette lines up really easily, so you'll stay on target for a long expanse and then pick your way carefully through the lace when you get to it. I did the same thing for the Daktari Skirt.

Impressions of Louet Sales Euroflax Originals Sportweight:
This was my first time using Euroflax or any other linen. (!!!) I am a convert. I completely understand why the girls at MDK love this stuff and use it almost as much as they use Tahki Cotton Classic (another old-time favorite of mine).

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And now we return to our previously scheduled warshrag . . .
Euroflax will not be for everyone. It has a rough hand while you are knitting, and no resilience, so if you are sensitive working with it will be hard on your wrists. I am more sensitive to changes in needle size than fiber, so it was just fine for me, but I also only handknit the lace panels and the short-row portion, so my exposure was not what most people's will be. I also had a lot of work to do the week I knit the nightie, so my knitting sessions were short and well-dispersed. If you are sensitive beware, and give yourself breaks.

The resulting fabric is wonderful. It's soft enough to wear next to the skin (though again, I am not very sensitive - try a swatch first), and the stitch definition is insane. Euroflax holds its shape beautifully and has an excellent crispness to it.

Price points on the linen are great, too. I initially bought some of this for Marnie and thought it was expensive at $15/skein. What I didn't realize was that Euroflax has incredible yardage - 270 yards per skein! So compared to your average-sized skein, that works out to about $6 per skein, which is pretty darn good. On sale at Black Sheep for 50% off, it was even better. It took about 2.5 skeins to make the nightie in the smallest size, and I'm pretty sure I could make a tunic version (to wear over jeans, Kay!) in just over 2 skeins.

Possible substitute yarns:
Although I am sure there are other linens out there, I am not aware of them. I would imagine that Hemp for Knitting might be a nice substitute, but not having worked with it, I can't be entirely certain. If anyone reads this far and has other suggestions, please leave them in the comments.

[Read all entries on the After Dark Nightie.]
Posted by Julia at 09:20 PM | Comments (33)

April 25, 2007

Postcard from Yosemite

Thanks for all the sweet compliments on the After Dark Nightie. It's amazing what clever photography and a wonderful knit can do for your self-esteem. Va voom! To briefly answer some questions (more later in pattern notes): First, the linen is plenty soft to wear, and blocks and drapes beautifully - I plan to sleep in it. Second, straps are definitely necessary if I don't want it at my knees! And third, this would make a great knit for many figures, so don't sell yourselves short - you just need to know your body and how to work to accent your better parts - I do not have the gift of the gams, so I lengthened the nightie by several inches. You can easily make other adjustments to highlight your best features and swath the rest in a lovely linen. But before we get too far into nightie land, here's a little photo postcard of our trip to Yosemite last weekend:

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Most photos are clickable, but some of Moxie aren't.

It occurred to me that Yosemite would be a great backdrop for a photo shoot, and I considered taking Bond with me since I owe you pattern notes. But Yosemite is still quite cold this time of year, and it's kind of a waste to take a sweater like Bond, which I get daily use out of in warmer weather, when I could instead pack Kilronin and the Lace Leaf Pullover, which were made for cold and snow. In addition to wearing Kilronin on the hike, I also made use of the opportunity to don my Reversible Cable Scarf, which had previously only been out on unseasonably cold nights here and, of course, on our trip to see the fam in Boston last Christmas. Truly not enough play for such a great scarf. The Lace Leaf Pullover never made it out of my duffel because it poured on Sunday, so we headed back early, but it gets more regular use than poor Kilronin does here, anyway. Kilronin was so warm that for the portions of the hike when we were in the sun it had to come off. It's a heck of a sweater, and easily saw me through my days in Chicago and Iowa with nothing more than a down vest over it.

Our trip was great, and had we not taken our furry friends with us, it might have been perfect. We didn't want to leave Zosh behind for a full weekend, however, and since dogs aren't allowed in many parts of Yosemite, we brought the kitties along to keep her company in our cabin for the times we hiked without her. Poor little Tuna was car sick the whole way, and poor big Moxie suffered for it. She was curled up in his lap when illness struck. Multiple times. It wasn't pretty. It was a little funny, though. (I know. I'm a bad, bad wife.)

Other than that there were hikes, movies in front of the fireplace, good meals and s'mores, so it was a lovely time, if fleeting....

Posted by Julia at 10:03 PM | Comments (13)

April 24, 2007

And its not even dark yet...

Ooooo La La! This is the candid shot I took at ye olde crack of dawn this morning. The After Dark Nightie still needs straps, but otherwise she's ready to go - too cool!

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MDK's ADK is so hot it can transform the glasses and "morning" face - impressive!

The weekend was great, though not as relaxing as the Moxie and the Hoolia needed it to be. Photo montage soon. Once again, work has got me chasing my tail like a silly pup!

Posted by Julia at 07:14 AM | Comments (37)

April 19, 2007

MDK's ADN: Lil' Knitter Rides Again

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After Dark Nightie on the hooks.
At some point I really want to do a post on the benefits of the knitting machine, and why these handy little guys might appeal to some of you. (It's definitely an "extra," but avid knitters and designers could find it useful.) For now, here's a little intro and a summary of the things I use Marnie's for. If anyone has a similar model and gets more or unique use out of it, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

This particular model - Silver Reed's LK 150 - does both more and less than you might expect it to, and I have to be completely honest and tell you that I know absolutely nothing about any other model (in fact, on one occasion MH brought over a computerized model and I had no idea what to do with it! We'll figure it out some other time!) This machine is a fairly reasonably priced model ($350-$400 ballpark, but shop around, it can be gotten cheaper) that is very manual. It looks like a piano keyboard. You thread the yarn through it like a sewing machine, and then slide a cartridge along the hooks to create the loops. Each row requires that you manually push the cartridge across the hooks, and every manuever other than knitting is done manually. You move different stitches around with the aid of "eye" tools to create decreases, increases and cable crosses before you knit the row, then zip the cartridge across to seal the deal. The wrong side is always facing you, which can make it a bit confusing. Its pretty easy to do, but its also amazingly easy to f*ck up, so you can end up spending a lot of time ripping as well as knitting.

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So many good things in this photo.
Do you see them all?
I've been able to short cut a lot of the learning process since Marnie taught me (it's her machine). As a consequence I don't bother to muck around with casting on, casting off or short-rowing on this machine - it just doesn't do them in the way that I prefer, so all my cast on and cast-off edges are provisional and done by hand. Similarly, if there is a short-row section, I do that by hand as well (I can't remember if Marnie found a nice way to do that on the machine or not). This particular model will not do ribbed portions, but it will make slip-stitch patterns (again, you move the stitches individually) and it has - get this - a fair isle cartridge! Fair isle on this puppy is no picnic, as you move the stitches manually and have to manipulate all designs from the wrong side, but the results are pretty cool. It is still a bit faster than fair isle by hand, and I can definitely see swatching for color combos in fair isle or slip stitch on the machine, as you could determine which ones you liked relatively rapidly and then go on to hand knit your chosen colorway.

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My special, patient helper.
I'm not sure I'd often use the fair isle cartridge to make an entire fair isle sweater, because that is something I prefer to do by hand, but I have used Lil' Knitter quite a bit to bang out long stockinette pieces on small needles. For me, that is its best use. If you have fairly even tension, it is not noticeable when you change from hand knitting to machine, surprisingly enough. On my mother-in-law's sweater that I re-created from a favorite of hers last year, I did from the bustline up by hand (It was full of short-rows) and the transition was seamless. I don't think it was my own knitting expertise that made it so - I'm pretty sure that if you've been knitting at an even tension for a little while it won't be noticeable when you transfer from machine to hand.

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Another look at the vine lace.
Ann and Kay's After Dark Nightie (designed by Alison Green Will) is the perfect example of my favorite way to use machine knitting to get the knit I want fast. I love, love, love working with Euroflax Linen, and if I didn't have about a zillion things going around here and very little time, I would knit every stitch of this by hand. Since that is not the case, however, I'm speeding up the process by using Lil Knitter to zoom through the stockinette portions. In this case, I knit the 5 inches of vine lace (seen at the bottom) by hand over the weekend, and then got up at an insane hour in the morning a few days during the week to place the live stitches on the machine and bang out the stockinette portion.

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Sheer and sexy....
Once done, I put all of the live stitches on a smaller straight needle, and dunked the entire thing in some Eucalan to rest and re-shape. Machine knitting tends to leave stitches stretched out for a while after the piece is taken off. It usually requires a decent rest and a significant swish and block to get things to look as they will. In this case, the linen has uber-memory for stretch, so I'm guessing it will take even longer.

Anyhoo, I blocked the bottom portion and laid it out to dry yesterday morning. Today I'm going to finish the second bottom lace panel and the second round of stockinette for the front. That way, I will be able to finish the nightie in the car on our way out of town Friday morning. Moxie and I are taking a little trip to celebrate our anniversary, which was last month. . . more on that soon.

Posted by Julia at 05:29 AM | Comments (18)

April 15, 2007

Sam's Day

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Hollyhocks, kumquats, and red dragon peppers.
My little brother Sam, who passed away five years ago, would have been thirty-three today. Twice a year, once on his birthday, and again on the anniversary of his death, I recognize his "days" by doing something commemorative. Sometimes I do more, sometimes less, but I always try to do something creative and new, that will stretch my horizons a little. Sam was a very creative, vibrant person, with a love of living things, and I do my best to honor him with good living.

This year, M and I decided to buy a citrus tree for a container garden that I've been planning. Choosing just one was difficult, and I have to admit that I do have some regrets about leaving the Mexican lime behind (it just seemed so "Sam"!), but in the end we opted for a dwarf kumquat. The fruit is sweet and sour, and the tree is compact enough that it can easily stay potted until we finally buy a house.

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Seeds and references.
I also picked up some herbs and flowers for a small container-style dye garden. I purchased seeds for the most part, as they germinate easily here and are cheaper, but we bought a small red dragon pepper plant (five times hotter than jalapenos - imagine!) and a few hollyhock plants as well. I'm going to do a little more planning, and then get everything seeded and planted in the next few weeks. It was great fun just to buy the seeds and plants, though. We went to the amazing La Crescenta Nursery in Glendale (sadly no homepage), and were allowed to wander through row upon row of plants with the sweet and strangely mellow Zosia in tow. I wish I had thought to take pictures. It really was a lovely time.

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Hello Trouble!
As an extra bonus, here is a shot of a wonderful calendar that Andrea sent me, which she made on a letterpress. (Here's a great interview with a very talented book maker who uses a letterpress, if you want to learn more.) Andrea also included a print of her cat Trouble, which I believe she made using a hand-carved stamp. I've been thinking of converting my banner photo into a hand-carved stamp version for a while now (after finding this tutorial on whip-up), but Trouble is giving me that extra little nudge. Carving is something my brother Sam loved as well (though he made woodcuts), so that seems like another good reason to give it a go. I'll have to stop by Blick sometime soon, but first I have to finish up some other items around here (like that rogue cross-stitching I started a few weeks ago). For now, I leave you with Andrea's talents.

P.S. So far my container dye garden is going to be very small - coreopsis, cosmos, hollyhocks and marjoram. I may expand it as I get things planted and arranged, but really it's very much an experiment. If anyone out there has done this and has suggestions, please do leave me a comment!

Posted by Julia at 04:09 PM | Comments (22)

April 14, 2007

Stealthed Again: MDK After Dark Nightie

I operate in a fairly ordered universe when it comes to knitting. I allow myself to swatch whatever and whenever I like, but when it comes to projects, I usually think about a piece for a while before I dedicate myself to making it. Generally, I swatch for a piece that I am considering and then let it marinate for a few weeks to see if it still holds the same power for me. If it does, I add it to the queue. I keep the number of projects on the needles at five or less at all times, but I prefer to have just three things going at once, unless one of my projects is a pair of socks. Socks, for some reason, do not require the same mental space that other pieces do. Anyhoo, this is a long way of saying that I don't usually allow the queue to be screwed with unless I am truly struck by inspiration. Generally, if a new knit makes its way in, I've been considering it for at least a few weeks.

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I've been stealthed. Thank you, Ms. Kay. Actually my husband thanks you - he could use some variety!

This one really snuck up on me. I feel like a really, really bad blogging friend, but I have to admit that I didn't get around to buying Ann and Kay's book until a few weeks ago when Marnie and I hit the Black Sheep Knittery Sale (it's going on through May 1 - 50% off everything and Kristal has great stuff. This sale may be the end of me! Please go, so I don't go again.) I knew the MDK book was a good read, and I wanted to pick it up at some point, but honestly, unless it's for charity I don't knit a lot of squares (I know, blasphemy!), so it would get pushed back whenever the new Rowan, etc. would come out.

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A closer view.
When I had a break from work the other week, I finally scheduled an appointment to get my hair done, and I took MDK with me, for the nice long spell under the dryer that I spend waiting for my highlights to "come up." It was heaven. I cannot imagine a nicer afternoon than one spent in the salon having someone shampoo my hair and reading a wonderful knitting book. Even better, as I was reading through, I noticed one choice little non-square item that I might want to make in the future - the nightie. I was also a bit captivated by all the pretty squares, and thought, "What the hell, I'll think about doing the nightie someday, and I'll eek out a warshrag." Everyone loves those warshrags. The smell of our sponge has left something to be desired of late, and a nice new warshrag or two could replace the sponge and eliminate the "off smell" situation. Voila! That kind of stealth knitting is like picking up a sock. You just rotate it in, and don't think twice.

But then Kay left me a nice comment on my China Clouds post, and we got into a little discussion about the nightie. I'm pretty sure that in said discussion I claimed that I was not going to make a nightie, but instead churn out a warshrag. In fact, I'm positive that is what I said. But then Kay wrote something about how she loved that design and was saddened that almost no one had made it, and threw in a compliment about how cute it would look if I wore it over jeans (don't think you fooled me Kay - I know when I've been baited!), and well, I found myself back at the Black Sheep Knittery Sale purchasing a few skeins of Euroflax Linen for a song. Bad, bad Kay! And now I'm knitting a nightie. I may "cheat" and toss it on the machine for the stockinette portion, but all the lace and finishing will be done by hand with love.

Moxie should be quite pleased. If knitting can produce sexy lingerie, I think will gain a whole new respect for the craft....

Posted by Julia at 07:35 AM | Comments (17)

April 08, 2007

Reclaiming Siena

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Lacey Tuxedo Top.
Click to zoom out.
I have the weekend off (yay!) and the weather is gloriously misty and chilly, so I've been devoting myself to cleaning up the loose ends in my knitting so that I can move on to some fun new spring projects that I've been swatching for. I ripped out the faulty seam in Moxie's Man Hood, and then seamed the modified raglans for one full shoulder last night. M is really pressing for me to finish since his birthday was two weeks ago. My disinterest in seaming, cuffing and hooding black cotton stockinette is apparently palpable, and he takes this as a reflection of my life priorities. Clearly, I do not love him enough! Sigh.

Once those modified raglan seams get going, they are rather fun little things, but getting up the interest takes some work. I should probably be seaming rather than blogging, as we speak.

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Unraveling the Prairie Tunic.
I could not work exclusively on that black swath of stockinette, however. The other project I got started on yesterday was the "silk top with lacey center panel and frilly edges" from the latest Rebecca Magazine (No. 33). (Where do they come up with these fabulously creative names for their projects, anyway?) In order to do that, though, I had to reclaim the yarn from the prairie tunic, which gave me such a hard time with its lace panel last summer. (I hope there is not a pattern here!)

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Curly hanks prior to washing.
I often leave a project that I intend to abandon whole until I plan to reclaim the yarn, because I feel that there may be information contained in what I've knit already that I will need again. The prairie tunic was no exception, and retaining it did pay off, because the gauge for the two projects was exactly the same, and with the needles still dangling from the prairie tunic it wasn't hard to remember which size I had used.

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A view of the front.
Lovely, no?
I purchased 5 skeins of Jaeger Siena for the prairie tunic, and had only knit less than two, so I was able to start the knitting phase without having to reclaim any yarn, but since it was the weekend and I had time, I decided to get ahead of things and do the reclaiming, too. Here, in a nutshell, are the steps for yarn reclamation if a knitted object has been sitting around for a bit or if a yarn has particularly strong memory for curl:

1. Frog all the knitting by skeining directly onto a ballwinder.

2. Hank all the skeins on a niddy-noddy (or, in my case, a niddy-nosty (scroll down) - love it!) (If you don't have a ballwinder or a niddy-noddy you may want to collapse these two steps into one by frogging directly into a hank, wrapping the yarn around your knees or the back of a chair.)

3. Fill sink with water (hot if cotton as here, tepid if wool) and a dash of wool wash.

4. Gently immerse the skeins for at least half an hour, a bit longer if wool, less is okay if cotton.

5. Gently squeeze water out of the hanks and place in the washer on the spin cycle to remove water (cotton or wool).

6. Snap hanks and thwack violently against a pole or other hard surface to spank any remaining curl out of them (cotton or wool - really).

7. Place unweighted hanks over hangers to dry outside in the shade.

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Curly hanks taking a soak.
After doing all of that, I left the two hanks to dry, and set out to knit my "silk top with lacey center panel and frilly edges" which we will now call my Lacey Tuxedo Top. The top is made in 100% silk in the original version, but since I have met my yarn-purchasing quota for a while and still do not seem to have a 100% silk of that weight, I am using Jaeger Siena, a 100% cotton. Jaeger Siena is a lot like Rowan Cotton Glace, so it works up in a crisp fashion rather than having the drape of a silk. I think the silk version would be insanely soft, drapey and luxurious, but I think that a crisper cotton version should work well, too. It will be less dressy - kind of a "playclothes" version of the top, which is what the lifestyle of the Hoolia requires.

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Straight hanks,
post-thwacking.
The original pattern calls for US 5 needles, but I made gauge in the cotton on US 2's. The pattern starts with 13 cm of stockinette in the round which is a bit daunting, but I cast on and knit a round. It was a long-ass round. So I had another thought - this is what knitting machines are made for! I knit two pieces flat on the machine and let them sit overnight to settle into their true gauge. This morning I measured gauge again to see if I was on in my guess for the correct machine tension (tension 3, carriage 2) and to seam the pieces together. Looks like it! From here on out, I'll knit everything by hand. Voila! I'm on my way to having a Lacy Tuxedo Top! Oh, little knitter, how I love you...

Posted by Julia at 10:24 AM | Comments (16)

April 07, 2007

Lunch Break in the Garden

For about a week and a half now, I've worked 15 to 16 hour days with very few breaks. (It's finally over! Yay!) And I've re-learned some things about myself in that time. Most importantly, that I just do not have the stamina for those hours on a sustained basis. I'm definitely not in college anymore. I've also been reminded of how wonderful my life generally is, even when I work 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. Last Saturday, Moxie and Zosh stopped by my office to bring me lunch, and we went out in the garden for about 45 minutes to enjoy it. It was a wonderful break. I'm so lucky to work in the setting that I do, where it's not a problem for your husband and dog to come visit, and to have a wonderful husband and a kooshie puppy to do that visiting. I'm very spoiled.



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Posted by Julia at 07:50 AM | Comments (15)

April 05, 2007

Be Careful What You Ask For

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I still love this after all these years.
A few years back when everyone was doing the 100 things, I decided to be cute and do 100 knitted things about me. Here are a few of the things I wrote about my knitting preferences:

22. I covet Rowan 17.

23. If you can get me Rowan 17, I'll give you my first born.

24. Cables are my thing.

25. Intarsia is not my thing, but China Clouds* is an exception.

26. If you can find me a complete China Clouds kit, I'll give you my first born.

27. Unless someone has previously come up with Rowan 17.

All I really meant to do was tell you a little about what I like, just in case someone out there liked the same stuff. Naturally, knitters being knitters, Margene immediately jumped in, asked for my address and gifted me her mint copy of Rowan 17. Just like that. Pretty sweet huh? Over the years, several other kind souls who have spotted that issue on e-bay or find a copy hanging around the house that they have no use for, have written to let me know. (You are a truly wonderful group of people, to even remember that I like that issue, let alone to attempt to procure it for me. ) But until today, there was not a contender for my first born child. It was going to Margene, hands down.

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These colors look pretty promising

With one fell swoop, MJ wrecked what was left of my yarn budget. Except for a little Portland excursion that I have coming up, I had purchased my yarn for the year at Black Sheep Knittery's 50% off sale. However, this kit is really a score. It was just too good to pass up. I think that by the rules, Margene still gets my first born, but it's kind of a tough call. We may have to call Solomon in to split the baby.

Posted by Julia at 10:39 PM | Comments (20)

April 04, 2007

Happy mommy, happy pup

I'm not the only one who suffers when the hours are long. Ms. Z has not gotten her normal mommy-love time, and perhaps more importantly, all the exercise mommy gives her. So today, as a treat to both of us, we had lunch in the park. I picked up Miss Marnie's favorite beef pho for myself and a nice fresh tennis ball for Z. Happy mommy, happy pup. This weekend it's back to knitting and my createalong project...

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Posted by Julia at 09:24 PM | Comments (12)

April 01, 2007

Memories...

Okay, I'm being a little dramatic, but since it's 5:30 a.m. and I just get to post, shower and go back to work, I am waxing poetic about the "good old days" when I used to have my weekends. Like, say, last weekend. Here's a little montage from Eaton Canyon, where we did the Marseilles photo shoot on Moxie's birthday.

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Posted by Julia at 05:42 AM | Comments (17)

March 31, 2007

I think you can guess where I'm going with this

To say that I've been working a lot lately would be the understatement of the year. I've had time to pick up my knitting only once this week (and it wasn't pretty, folks - I sewed the front of Moxie's Man Hood directly to the back when I intended to sew it to the sleeve. We'll deal with that later!) In such times, I find that I begin to build up a bit of aggression that needs a constructive outlet (lest I drive sweet Moxie to divorce). Normally this outlet would be a hike or a run or one of those great sessions with a bunch of other crazy people on a spin bike. However, when you get home after dark when the gym classes have concluded on a Friday night, no such outlet exists.

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The Hoolia gets all subversive with her cross stitch.

Instead, I turned to crafting. Let me just say upfront that I am not a cross-stitcher. This is, in fact, the only cross stitching I have ever done in my entire life. Cross stitching is the last thing that I ever thought I'd be caught doing, and when I was in Phoenix a few weeks ago and my friends there were singing its praises, I have to admit that I was listening to their exclamations because I was feeling indulgent and loving toward them, and not because I actually found the topic fascinating.

Then last weekend, when Marnie was in town, we hit a fantastic sale at Black Sheep Knittery - 50% off everything - books, notions, yarns, everything everything. (It runs through this weekend. If you are in the LA area and can spend a little - go! If you are easily tempted and broke - stay far away!) And I saw this book, and for some reason, probably the promise of the word "subversive," began flipping through it. I laughed my butt off in the store, and since it was 50% off, I bought the thing. When I got it home, I feared that perhaps I had made a hasty purchase (I don't like to misallocate the spending of even a paltry $7), but when I flipped through it again, I was not any less giggly than the first time. Okay, let's be honest. I guffawed. I sat in the girls' room and made Marnie listen to each and every one of these cross stitch sayings twice as I laughed hysterically. (Who's being indulgent now?) They really just hit my funny bone, you know. The saccharine sweet teddy bear next to the words "kill me now" just did it for me.

I am not a converted cross stitcher. In the end, I will probably make one or two of these as gifts and then be done with it. It is hard on my weary eyes, and so far only gives me limited pride in return for my hour of diligence. But I am very happy I bought the book. It totally cracks me up! Now I can go back to work...

Posted by Julia at 06:37 AM | Comments (15)

March 26, 2007

Pattern Notes: Marseilles Pullover

Marseilles pattern notes at last! I've been done with this sweater for two weeks and have worn it on several occasions already. At this point it feels more like an old friend than a new sweater. Sunday was Moxie's birthday, so we got up at a decent hour and immediately packed the Zosh into the car and headed over to Eaton Canyon in Pasadena for a morning hike to the waterfall. If you are ever in the area, this is a great hike if you prefer less strenuous activity and gorgeous scenery. It starts out in a sunlit wash full of wild flowers and cacti, and then moves through a wooded canyon along a stream for about half a mile to the waterfall. The most difficult aspect of the hike is navigating back and forth across the stream. It's accessible enough that a lot of families hike this trail. At the end, you can sit in the shade and enjoy the beauty of the waterfall.

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Marseilles on our hiking excursion to Eaton Canyon with Zosia.

Marseilles Pullover
Designed by Kathy Zimmerman, Interweave Knits, Summer 2006
Knit with nine skeins (147 yards/skein)* of RYC Cashsoft DK (57% Merino/33% Microfiber/10% Cashmere) in Madame (fuchsia) (511), using size US 6 and US 7 Addi Turbo circulars.
Gauge: I'll check my notes soon. Promise.
Size: 38 bust. For me, the final blocked dimensions were 40" at the bust and 25" in length. Unblocked the sweater was closer to 39" at the bust and 23" in length. I made modifications that added drape, but regardless you should plan for growth. See below.

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Smiling, but really cold as hell.
The waterfall is fed by a mountain stream.

The Pattern:
This was my first Kathy Zimmerman sweater, surprisingly enough (I love cables, and cables are what KZ does). It will not be my last. This pattern was extremely well-planned out, harmonious, and nicely executed. You can tell that Ms. Zimmerman either is or has an excellent tech editor - I'm guessing that the former is the case. There are no errors that I could spot in the size 38, and the only thing that I would suggest changing is the number of stitches that you reserve for the shoulders. The boat neck, as written, is not even close to workable for me, nor was it for my best friend, Laura, who made the sweater in the size 34 in RYC Cashsoft Aran. My bloggy pal Marie also made the Marseilles Pullover and followed my suggestions on the boat neck, so unfortunately I can't point to anyone I know on the internet who worked the shoulders/neckline as in the original. (Definitely check out Marie's gorgeous sweater and the awesome montage she put together for us.)

In both dk and aran weights of RYC cashsoft, the neckline was too wide for Laura and I. The instructions have you bind off the center neckline stitches and reserve the shoulder stitches on stitch holders so that you can do a three-needle bind-off of the shoulders when both the front and back are done. Since Laura warned me that the neck was too wide, I opted to keep all the stitches live until both pieces were done, and then played around to see how many stitches I needed to bind off to make the shoulders the perfect width for me. [Go to one of my previous Marseilles posts for photos of this process. Notice the two circular needles hanging from the neckline.] My definition of the perfect width is the point where the sweater is still technically a boatneck, but you can't see my bra straps hanging out. On the size 38 sweater that is twenty-four stitches per shoulder. The original pattern would have you use thirteen stitches per shoulder, so rule of thumb if you want shoulder-width like mine is to add eleven stitches to the number suggested for your size in the pattern and tweak from there. Once you've done the three-needle bind-off on the shoulders, you can simply cast-off the neckline stitches in the round.

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A shot of the garter ridge that runs up the side seam.

Clever and simple.

This is not a beginner's cable pattern. There isn't any complex shaping, but the cable pattern itself is complex, particularly because some of the diamonds are filled with garter stitch. The garter creates a really pretty effect, but until you get the hang of it, working these sections is counter-intuitive, especially on the wrong side. The chart is correct. Follow it verbatim and you'll have a gorgeous sweater - I 've also included some tips of my own below.

One neat technique used in this sweater is a garter-stitch seam. It's interesting because it is very, very simple to seam, and the resulting seam is loose enough that if you leave extra-long tails on either end, you can stretch the seam after you finish it, so that it has the same resilience as the knitted portion of the sweater. It's also very pretty and decorative. Although it wouldn't work for me in every situation, here it mirrors the garter sections within the the cable diamonds nicely.

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All laid out and ready for wear.
Techniques:
Advanced cabling with garter filled diamonds. Minimal shaping. Cool garter-ridge seam (see above).

Modifications:
I substituted a DK weight yarn for the worsted weight Goddess Yarns Phoebe called for in the pattern, so I ended up having to make some adjustments for my row gauge. (My stitch gauge was pretty close to the pattern, surprisingly, and definitely close enough to ignore.) I added a half repeat (notice that my version ends at a different point in the cable pattern at the neckline than Laura's does), and re-worked everything to make the armscyes the correct length on the body pieces. I was able to keep the pattern exactly the same as the original for the sleeves. How's that for serendipity? Sometimes, things just work out well.

Here's a good tip: Use a crochet hook as a cable needle. This is my new thing. When you screw up the garter segments inside the cables you can just whip out the crochet end of the needle and ladder those stitches into the correct orientation.

Finishing:
Easy peasy. Those garter ridge seams go very quickly and make adjusting your seam tension a snap. I washed and blocked per usual, in tepid water in the sink with eucalan, spun the pieces in the washer to remove excess water, and laid them carefully on towels to dry. The big trick here is not to let the pieces stretch too much when you gently squeeze water from them or transport them. There is the potential to end up with a very big sweater if you're not cautious while the pieces are wet.

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Enjoying the great outdoors.
Impressions of RYC Cashsoft DK:
I used this yarn for my Clementine sweater in fall of 2005, and really enjoyed working with it both then and for the Marseilles Pullover. This yarn is not the one used in the pattern, and because it is a DK weight rather than a worsted, using it requires some adjustments. This substitution is entirely unnecessary, as the Goddess Yarns Phoebe used in the original is a great yarn that would work nicely without modifications. I just happened to have the Cashsoft hanging around in my stash, and wanted to use it to clear out room for future yarns. Due to the cashmere content, the RYC Cashsoft line, like the very similar Debbie Bliss Cashmerino line, will show wear almost immeadiately. If you are pill and halo averse, go with the original yarn or a nice merino instead. The Cashsoft works just fine for me, but it does not have a pristine appearance.

Possible substitute yarns:
There are about a gazillion substitutes out there for the Goddess Yarns Phoebe used by Kathy Zimmerman in the original. I personally think that if you are going to purchase yarn, sticking with the Phoebe is a fine choice. The alpaca content will give it drape and durability, and the price is good. If you substitute, I'd recommend a nice alpaca or merino worsted. My beloved Jaeger Extra Fine Merino DK (a heftier DK than the Cashsoft) would be a good choice, and Karabella's Aurora 8 could also do the trick quite nicely.

Tips & Tricks: Although there really aren't any errors that I could spot in my size, I do have several suggestions for making your Marseilles Pullover successful:

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She who climbs up must climb down...
First, be aware that the gauge swatch you make is not going to grow to the same extent that your sweater will. On cabled sweaters this is always the case, because once your knitting reaches a certain heft, gravity is going to kick in and create added drape. This feature will not show up in your swatch because it is substantially smaller and less hefty. Additionally, the sweater has no cables in the sleeve pattern and the sleeve pattern is the pattern used to establish gauge, so the swatch will have even less drape and growth than it would if it were in the cable pattern. So, use the swatch as a guide, and be sure to wash and block it, but realize that you will very likely get an inch or two of growth in the body of the sweater. You can compensate for this by subtracting half a repeat, if you are very petite and think it necessary. Just remember to adjust the pattern so that the armscyes fall at the right place proportionately. I re-gauged the sweater to work with DK weight yarn, and also wanted more length, so I added half a repeat.

Blow up the cable chart, make several copies, and code and color the copies if it will help you. I did. The set up row is tricky, and I find that it's easiest for me to just write out the number of knit and purl stitches to work for that row across the bottom of the chart. I still had to knit each set-up row twice, but I would have had to knit them about five times if I hadn't written out the stitch counts for myself.

Use a crochet hook as a cable needle. This is my new thing. When you screw up the garter segments inside the cables you can just whip out the crochet end of the needle and ladder those stitches into the correct orientation. I made much use of this trick. The fact that the cables have garter inside in some cases makes this pattern a little challenging and unintuitive to work in the beginning. You will have to reign in your instinct to purl every time a purl stitch pops up in the row below in those sections. It's tough!

Some Parting Shots:

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[Read all entries on the Marseilles Pullover.]
Posted by Julia at 12:12 PM | Comments (32)

March 22, 2007

I might have purchased some fabric while in Phoenix

And the pictures below might be of that fabric. But, there was a huge sale at 35th Avenue, so I got the beautiful and whimsical fabrics pictured below for a song - some were as much as 65% off. Here are my plans:

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Chocolate ticking for cafe shades;
Peas & Carrots with co-ordinating orange polka dot fabric for aprons
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Batik sunflowers and stripes for a small quilt; Batiks and florals for a king-sized duvet cover.

It's hard to accurately capture the beauty of the duvet fabrics. They are subtle and range from caramel-chocolate in color to light beige and cream with light grass-colored and blush accents. Here are some close-ups of the individual fabrics, but honestly, they're much more beautiful than they appear here.

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I'm considering using the Yellow Brick Road pattern for the duvet, but I may make some modifications (like perhaps larger blocks) or just create a pattern of my own. Marnie did a very nice createalong post on using excel to design colorwork, which I think could be employed to design a quilt and approximate the color patterns that different arrangements would produce.

Posted by Julia at 07:49 AM | Comments (19)

March 20, 2007

Postcard from Phoenix

I made a whorl-wind journey to Phoenix this past weekend to bask in the company of my friends from the law firm where I worked right after finishing school. These are my friends with whom I made the wedding quilt; now the first of them (Ellen) is very, very pregnant and a second (Julia) is pregnant as well. The last of us left the firm in the fall, and only one of us remains in private practice (she was smart enough to do transactional work, the rest of us are litigators). It's really interesting to see the changes in our lives and careers. It's also nice to see everyone happy.

I feel like each of us has found a way to make life work, which is a far cry from the stressful blur that our first few years of practice were. Phoenix was not the right city for me, but it has a place in my heart because I did so much growing there, and made so many wonderful friends. When you get out of the strip malls and move toward South Mountain or the Superstitions, there is a quiet and an alien beauty to the place that doesn't exist in my current landscape. It was nice to remember that quiet, and to enjoy seeing so many people that I care about enjoying their lives and starting their families. The weekend was filled with happiness and hope. Here are some photos of Ellen's shower, hosted by Julia, who will be having a baby shower of her own soon...


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Photos taken by Me, Jessica and Nick.

Top to bottom, left to right: The proud father-to-be displaying his son's tiny argyles; Julia and Bert's beautiful home; Yours truly happily contemplating life from behind her Mimosa; My gifts: the soon-to-be-blogged Harvey vest and pee-pee tee-pees purchased at Edna's; Close-up of the argyles made by Ellen's mom using the intarsia method; The girls all together: Me, Julia (pregnant), Ellen (pregnant) & Jessica; The radiantly beautiful Julia with her devoted pup Chewie; Ellen's mother and Delana laughing; Ellen's darling niece; A blessedly flattering close-up of my posterior in the Daktari skirt, petting Chewie; Ellen's nephews transfixed by the presents; Homemade cupcakes from Nikki's kitchen; Ellen unfurling the "cuddle quilt" which her mother hand-stitched for her.

Edited to add: I have had a few questions on the baby argyle socks. My guess is that these are not from a formal pattern, but I will make inquiries when Ellen's mother has finished her travels. In the meantime, these very cool posts are a great place to start when making argyle socks.

Posted by Julia at 07:47 AM | Comments (9)

March 17, 2007

What's that, Marie?

Hey, Marie! How is your Marseilles Pullover coming along over there across the pond?
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What's that you said? You're done?

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Let's see!

Let it never be said that I am unwilling to do silly, or even stinky, things for the blog. I am really busy with work right now and find myself without daylight hours in which to do a Marseilles Pullover photo shoot, so to feed my blogging buddies I threw the Marseilles Pullover on over my cycling clothes after I got home from the gym Tuesday and took a few silly shots very quickly so as not to befoul my new sweater. See how much I love you guys?

It will be a little while before I can do a proper photo session, since I will be spending the weekend in Phoenix showering the baby to be of my good friend Ellen and I sincerely doubt that I will be able to wear it there. (Who knows, though? Maybe early in the morning?) Happily, my serendipitous knit-along buddy Marie decided to put together a little teaser for you, using my sweater, Laura's, and her own in a lovely montage. Enjoy!

Posted by Julia at 12:12 AM | Comments (17)

March 16, 2007

Knits in Action: Bond

I really love the idea of knits in action posts, but here's the thing: It's really hard to make them look more candid than my photo shoots, because typically I take my shots early in the morning and I am dressed exactly as I will be for the day. Although I have occasionally dolled it up a little more for you guys, for the most part I try to look as I really will. Moxie and I love to take photos, as well, so our "candid" shots aren't much more candid than our staged ones. I'm pretty practiced with the self-timer, so unless we get fancy with the location, I usually take my own pictures, as well.

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Bond is a great layering basic. I let a little orange frill peek out from underneath.

I decided the best way to give you a really candid photo would be to take pictures of myself getting ready for work (I have a very casual office). So here I am, freshly showered in my hair turban. If you don't have one of these, you need one. It's the best method I know for keeping wet hair up and making it dry naturally faster. You gotta love the turban.

Posted by Julia at 12:00 PM | Comments (6)

March 13, 2007

The Hoolia on Reviews

DeciduousCIMG4496.jpgPrior to writing my first review, I considered writing a blurb on my personal review philosophy for this blog. Here's rule number one: I only review things I like. And for the most part I will only review things that I like a lot. Although I know it may very well be useful for you to hear about things that I don't like, I don't enjoy that kind of writing in this particular forum, and with the limited time that I have to blog and my tendancy toward long-windedness, it's not a hard decision to stick to the things I am actually interested in rather than harping on the things that I think suck. Whether you realize it from my writing here or not, I am a pretty harsh critic (I am a lawyer, after all), but that isn't my role at chez MOW. When I review something here, my goal is simply to share something that I like a great deal with you, my readers and friends. Hopefully you know me well enough to know where our opinions overlap and where they do not (well, at least in the knitting arena). I know you know yourselves well enough to make final decisions on your own, no matter what I say to you.

Rule number two is that I never review anything at the behest of someone else. Period, the end. I will only review a book, podcast, etc. if I feel like it. Similarly, if I talk about anything that a friend has designed, I will let you know in advance, so that you can take that potential bias into account. I will never tell you that a pattern is great if it isn't, even if it is designed by someone near and dear. And I will always let you know if there are aspects of a book, pattern, or yarn that I do not care for, or if there are things that may not appeal to certain sensibilities or skill levels, if those things occur to me. I will do it in a very nice way, and in a way that indicates that I am expressing my opinion rather than a universal truth, but I will definitely let you know. Naturally, sometimes my own preferences are so strong that your preferences may not be in the forefront of my mind, but I will try to be balanced. If a pattern book is involved I will include a healthy sampling of photos, as I think this gives you the best opportunity to make a decision for yourself. (I love thoughtful reviews with lots of photographs. Although I'm sure you've seen it already, here's a particularly good review with tons of photos.)

I recently read a review that was very critical of Lace Style and very critical of reviewers who gushed about it. This review was not aimed at me, and I seriously doubt that the writer read my review of Lace Style or is even aware that my blog exists. It simply got me to thinking about something that I had thought about before, and that is that I wanted you to know what my review philosophy for the blog is, so that you can evaluate what I say in that context. I also want you know that I am not gushing because I am blown over by "famous" (god help us) knitwear designers or being swept up by the vast peer pressure of the "knitting crowd." (What are we, people? Three?)* I am gushing because I truly like something and I want to share it with you. I stand by that gush with my every fiber, and I will no doubt live to gush again. But I also stumbled upon a review with what I felt could be pretty useful criticism of Lace Style, in the sense that it echoes what I can imagine many knitters with a different perspective than mine might not like about the book. It expresses what I can see being the dominant counter-viewpoint. If you read it and it sounds like you, you may want to give buying Lace Style a second thought. (The review also gives some good tips for figuring out if patterns are wonky - watch how the models hold their bodies and hands. Do they need to contort or to pull down an edge to keep a piece in place? Beware!) So, I wanted to share it with you as well. Reading an alternate opinion is likely to make your choices even more well-informed.

Finally, I invite you to let me know what you think of books that I recommend. Are there things that you don't like that I missed? Are there things that you loved that I didn't mention? I always like to know what hasn't occurred to me when I evaluate this stuff. I enjoy different perspectives, and I will gladly add your thoughts to the comments (or, if they're really interesting, to the review itself) so that other people can benefit as well.

* See, she is critical. Where did that come from?

Posted by Julia at 07:00 AM | Comments (14)

March 11, 2007

Marseilles Finished; Tuna Gets Some Play

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Marseilles in Repose

The Marseilles Pullover is all finished and fabulous, but you're going to have to take my word for it that it looks great on, because we are having a record heat wave and I'm not so sure that I can brave the elements to wear it! I predicted that this would happen. The temperature has an inverse relationship with whatever I happen to be knitting. No sooner did I get the Daktari Skirt off the needles then we had a little cold snap. I had about a week to wear it and then I had to shelve it until now.

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Ms. Tuna snuggles up.
It's only 90 degrees after all.
I am unconcerned, however. My strategy is to alternate hot and cold weather knits. That way I will always get to wear something right off the needles. Next up - Essential Tank Top! Get ready for some snow, Los Angeles!

The shot above was actually hard to get, because a certain someone kept inserting herself into the pictures. She likes new things, but she's also kind of a ham. I realized that I should probably have more pictures of her around here, lest you think I have only one little stinky orange cat. I think there are two reasons that I don't have many pictures of Tuna. The first is her coloring. She really is a challenge to photograph, especially on all the dark furniture that we have. The second reason is that it's hard to photograph Tuna in "action." If Townes is a doer, Tuna is a "be"-er. She's a little buddha kitty with exactly one pose:

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And here it is...

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I wasn't kidding....

Posted by Julia at 07:20 AM | Comments (21)

March 10, 2007

Laura's Marseilles

Marseilles1.jpgI've mentioned several times that my best friend Laura and I knit Marseilles together. Laura finished first, which was a huge advantage for me, since I knew that the neckline would be too wide in advance and was able to remedy that issue along the way rather than having to undo the seams later as she did. I've been bothering Laura for Marseilles pictures forever, and she has kindly obliged.

I'll do a comparison later, but for now I'll just let you enjoy these pictures of my beautiful friend in her beautiful sweater. I'm so proud when I look at these. We've been best friends for 17 years now. She's an amazing person and a wonderful mother.

I am so, so lucky to know her.




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Posted by Julia at 05:50 AM | Comments (16)

March 09, 2007

Knits In "Action": River

RiverCIMG0352.jpgI recently found out about the handknit street style flickr pool that Lolly started. (Via Kodachrome - thanks girl! I live under a rock!) I love to see knitters wear their handknits to places other than the yarn shop. One of my favorite moments was in an airport about a year ago when I spotted a woman wearing Kim Hargreaves' First Aid from an older Rowan - how often do you get such a cool sighting? Over the last few weeks I've taken random shots on the days when I wear my knits.

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Zosia napped, too. She opted for fur.
Last Sunday was a wonderful day to wear River. Moxie and I sat on the porch and it was warm enough to enjoy, but cool enough that a shawl was perfect. I found myself getting sleepy, so I grabbed one of my big outdoor pillows (also handmade!) and said "Moxie, I'm taking a nap. Can you take a few shots of me after I fall asleep?" Voila! River in Action!

Posted by Julia at 05:20 AM | Comments (8)

March 08, 2007

Have You Seen...

This? Link via Faith. I nearly wet myself. It's long but worth it. I promise.

Posted by Julia at 09:28 AM | Comments (8)

Meathead Winners

Thanks to all who participated in the Meathead Contest, or who simply went over to Larissa's site to donate to the cause by purchasing a pattern. (If you haven't gone over the pattern is still available until noon PST, so run over fast!) I purchased patterns for the following five contest winners this morning:

Michele mi.yuck (AT) gmail (DOT) com
Alli allirosen (AT) hotmail (DOT) com
Lori jezebel99 (AT) earthlink (DOT) net
Charity stuart434 (AT) shaw (DOT) ca
Sarah sarah.shoemaker1 (AT) marist (DOT) edu

Larissa should be sending you the pattern shortly by e-mail. Please be patient - I'm sure she has many patterns to send out. If you don't hear from her in a few days, however, please let me know and I'll be sure to follow up. Thanks also to the generous folks who agreed to help me knit meatheads for the family. I will contact you to coordinate details as soon as I have more information on sizes and genders.

You guys are the best!!! Love, J

Posted by Julia at 06:22 AM | Comments (5)

March 07, 2007

Last Day of the Meathead Contest

If you missed my meathead contest post, you can still purchase the pattern from Larissa today, and I will be taking entries until tomorrow morning when I randomly draw winners to donate for. I will not know whether the winners purchased the pattern independently, and I do want to earnestly encourage you to participate regardless of whether you are able to donate yourself. I'm going to pay for the five patterns using the winners' e-mail addresses, so each winner will be sent a copy of the pattern whether they need it or not. Please don't be shy - just enter! At last count, Larissa had managed to raise over $600 for Cassie, which is really, really impressive. Thanks to everyone for their efforts, purchases and donations.

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Click the photo for a close-up.
Apologies for the photo quality - the sun is not yet up!
*

Since I really wanted to put my money where my mouth was, I went ahead and whipped out my own meathead on Monday night. It took about an hour and it's adorable. I originally intended to make this one for myself, but I was lazy about gauge and ended up with a child-sized hat. And then it occurred to me that Cassie and her children should each have one of these hats. I know it may seem like a trivial thing to make hats for a family in the face of such tragedy, but I think that although it is a small thing, it is important to have little reminders in our lives that other people care more than we know, and that help can come from unexpected places.

I do not know how many children Cassie has, or their ages or genders, but I am sure that Larissa will get me that information. I've knit a hat that is suitable for a little girl. Since many of you have the pattern, is there anyone who would like to volunteer to make one of the other hats? If you can help out with a hat, please leave me a note in the comments and we'll coordinate to make this happen.

*Worked in one strand of Lamb's Pride Bulky and one strand of Manos on US 13 needles; the leaf was worked using only the Manos doubled, on US 10's, but I think I'm going to re-knit it - perhaps in brown? thoughts anyone?- to make it stand out better visually.

Posted by Julia at 07:08 AM | Comments (14)

March 05, 2007

Another Morning, More Marseilles

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A little clarification on why I referred to my mornings as goofy in my last Marseilles post: This is what I do from 4:30 a.m. until a little before 7:00 a.m. Not exactly typical knitting or waking hours, but I do what I can to make sure I get my knit on. These photos were taken on Sunday morning - same time frame! She is an early bird, that Hoolia....

The Marseilles Pullover is trucking along. Although I've actually done the knitting in a very short period, it feels like it's taking forever. When I started it back in November last year I was in a frame of mind where I needed something mindless, so I began with a sleeve. That has turned out to be a great choice. The body on this sucker takes a long time to knit and with my gauge modifications it takes even longer. I am so grateful to just have one sleeve to slog through now, rather than two!

Here are my tips on knitting this pullover so far:

LENGTH: Whether you knit it loosely or tightly the pullover will grow in length, so make sure that you either plan to avoid this by making a big swatch and blocking it properly or that you incorporate it as a design element. The sleeves will not grow nearly as much as the body, so the swatch that you make to get gauge (which is just the sleeve pattern) will not really tell you how much length you'll get for your buck. I don't usually get surprises when it comes to length and blocking, but in this case I'd say that the sweater gained about three inches in length and I was anticipating it would grow by about two inches. The sweater is designed to be knit in a worsted weight yarn and I knit it rather loosely in a dk weight, but I'm not sure if you would have much less growth if you knit more tightly in the worsted, because the added weight of the bulkier yarn would also have an effect on the length. My best friend Laura knit Marseilles in an aran weight, so I'll be sure to ask her what kind of post-blocking growth she got on her sweater.

I love the longer length of my sweater, so I lucked out. I'll note the measurements in the pattern notes so that others making it have a ballpark figure to work from.

BOATNECK: In both dk and aran weights, the neckline was too wide for Laura and I. The instructions have you bind off the center neckline stitches and reserve the shoulder stitches on stitch holders so that you can do a three-needle bind-off of the shoulders when both the front and back are done. Since Laura warned me that the neck was too wide, I opted to keep all the stitches live until both pieces were done, and then played around to see how many stitches I needed to bind off to make the shoulders the perfect width for me. [Go to my last Marseilles post for photos of this process. Notice the two circular needles hanging from the neckline.] My definition of the perfect width is the point where the sweater is still technically a boatneck, but you can't see my bra straps hanging out. On the size 38 sweater that is twenty-four stitches per shoulder. The original pattern would have you use thirteen stitches per shoulder, so rule of thumb if you want shoulder-width like mine is to add eleven stitches to the number suggested for your size in the pattern and tweak from there. Once you've done the three-needle bind-off on the shoulders, you can simply cast-off the neckline stitches in the round. I hope this helps!

Posted by Julia at 06:01 PM | Comments (14)

March 04, 2007

Modifications: A Designer's First Step

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Debut of the Daktari Dress - with a curtsy!
Right after I kicked off the createalong, I realized that before I can play with my design in earnest, I really need to get the current WIPs off my plate. Except for the Marseilles Pullover, they are all gifts and will need to be gifted soon. The Marseilles Pullover itself is best suited to cool weather, and since LA has such a short chilly season, I need to finish it if I am going to get any wear out of it this year. So while I am finishing what I started, I thought I would participate in the CAL by doing some posts on the creative process in general.

This post covers the basic starting point for most designs - modifications - and borrows photos and an example from one of our very talented CALer's, Samantha. Sam started making a version of the Daktari Skirt (Lacy Skirt with Bows) for herself, but quickly realized that a single panel of the skirt could be modified to make a dress for her daughter. The pattern is the same as the original, except that only a single panel is used and there are garter stitch straps added at the top. These are simple modifications, but brilliant - what a lovely transformation.

I was completely taken by Sam's dress idea. When I was Sam's daughter's age my grandmother had a very similar ingenious idea. She took some of her old slips, smocked them at the top to gather the fabric in, and sewed on satin ribbons for ties. I had several of these slip dresses that I wore as nighties and used to play dress-up. I still remember all the details of those little dresses - that is how much I loved them. (I know that my mother, who reads this blog, has a photo of me in one - maybe you'll send me a copy, ma? I don't know if she still has any of the nighties.)

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Guess who got the "shy" gene...
I am sure that many of you have made some sort of modification like this. We all do a little bit of tweaking to change a pattern to suit our needs, even if it is something as seemingly simple as lengthening the sleeves of a sweater or adding short rows to the bust. Don't underestimate the power of these tweaks. They aren't just useful for the project you just finished - they can also be a springboard for the next project.

Having finished her daughter's dress, Sam can now go on to make other dresses using the first one as a template. She has the measurements from the Daktari dress to use as a baseline, so for the next dress she can use the same basic shape and change the patterning. Or she could go one step further and tweak the shape a little, too. What would the dress look like with a fitted bodice? What if she changed the length a little? A completely new and different dress can be designed using what Sam has already figured out here, and with a few little changes she will have stepped from modification to design.

The same is true of little sweater modifications. I try to keep track of little details that I add to commercial patterns, and I also follow which measurements will tend to work best for me in different circumstances. I've learned over time that a bodice twenty inches in length is my "standard," and will fit in such a way to keep my midriff covered (No muffin-top to be seen here people! ). A twenty-two inch bodice will cover the waistband of my trousers and give a nice elongated look to an outfit (which is why I plan for Mishka to be about twenty-two inches in length). Twenty-five inches will give me a tunic or coat length. Knowledge of these measurements gives me a good starting point for design. I am fairly standard-sized, so I can take my measurements and simply add to them proportionally (more on that later) to get the other standardized sizes in a range, but if you aren't standard-sized you can simply figure out how differently your measurements run from the standards proportionally and then make those adjustments across the board for all sizes in a pattern. The opposite approach works as well. If you are working from a commercial pattern and know that you need to take in two inches at the waist as compared to the usual standard size you can work out that modification before you start knitting so that the piece will fit you in a flattering way.

These are just little things to think of as you design. Don't undervalue your experiences as you go along - use them for the next step. Just look at that dress!

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A stroll on the ocean in Guam. With a backyard like this, would you miss wool?


Posted by Julia at 05:47 AM | Comments (7)

March 01, 2007

The Goofy Shit I Do With My Free Time

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A morning in the life of the Hoolia.

So I've been seeing all these beautifully photographed posts of other people's "studios" and days in their lives and feeling kind of envious. I love doing those kinds of posts, because I like letting you guys in a little on what my life looks like - mostly because I love it when other people do that. But after checking out several of these, I realized that in my current phase of life the only way I could give you a high-falootin' look at chez Hoolia would be to clean up the joint, style the furniture - or maybe just throw it all out and buy some new furniture - and create a big fat lie. Instead, here is my morning exactly as it really is: hair and teeth unbrushed, glasses smudged, trying on pieces of knits and taking photos of myself using the self-timer and the mirror. Ah, the glamor.

The Marseilles Pullover is coming along quite nicely. In the photos above I had the two body pieces on circulars and was using a little trial and error to figure out how many stitches to three-needle bind-off for the shoulders - I settled on twenty-four. One of the genius things about knitting this behind my best friend is that I know its "issues." There's only one and it's simply that the pattern makes the neckline too wide to stay on the shoulders well or hide bra straps. Binding off twenty-four stitches hits the spot.

My excitement for this evening was pinning the front, back and single sleeve that I have finished together and trying it on for fit. It's looking good. Life is so wild I can barely stand it. *smile*

Posted by Julia at 11:27 PM | Comments (18)

February 28, 2007

Contest: Be a Meathead! (For a Good Cause, Too.)

Over years of blogging there are certain knitters that I feel I have formed a tacit friendship with. We may not correspond by e-mail regularly, but we keep up with each other through the blogs, and over time develop a fondness for each other. Larissa Brown of Stitch Marker is one of those bloggers. I've followed her blog for almost three years now since I first saw her version of my honeymoon cami. We've corresponded here and there about trips to Belize and cycling, she knit along in my Charlotte's Web KAL and I knit along in her scrap along. This year, Larissa and her husband have been working on a book about knitalongs, and have run a few really fun KALs for that project. One of them involved a knitalong for Larissa's meathead hats, which she initially created for an art installation. I signed up for the KAL, but the deadline was tight and I had a pattern due for publication at the same time, so I never finished - the pattern and yarn have been sitting in my stash waiting for me to return to them. The KAL was wildly successful and included some really beautiful and unique meatheads, some of which are featured below.

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Click on the photo to see more meatheads.

The pattern was not supposed to be available again until the book release, but then a friend of Larissa's experienced a terrible tragedy - she lost her husband and the father of her children when he was hit by a car while running. When something like this happens to you, there is very little that anyone can do to assuage the pain and loss. Having lost my beloved younger brother Sam a little over five years ago, I understand this. But little gestures help more than anyone can know, and Larissa is offering her friend one such gesture by making the meathead patttern available to us before she publishes it in her book for a mere $4.50, with all proceeds to go to her friend and her children. Because I already have the pattern, I simply made a $4.50 contribution, and if you have $4.50 to spare, I would encourage you to do the same. You will gain a great pattern and the wonderful feeling that you have helped a family who desperately needs love and support right now.

As an additional incentive, I am going to sponsor five meatheads myself. All you have to do to participate in my meathead contest is leave me a comment with your real e-mail address below. (Feel free to put the words "NO SPAM" in it to deter spammers - I can take those out.) A week from today I will randomly choose five people from the comments to donate on behalf of and send a meathead pattern to. If you buy one independently as well, that's great, and I will instead make a $4.50 contribution to the fund in your name. But it isn't necessary. If you don't have the $4.50 to spare and want a shot at the pattern, I really truly want you to participate as well. The goal is to gather up as much support for this family as we can and then knit and wear our meatheads with pride.

Posted by Julia at 09:09 AM | Comments (29)

February 27, 2007

Book Review: Lace Style

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I often plan to write reviews to share my favorite books with you, but somehow I never get around to it. When I picked up Lace Style the other day, I was struck by how many patterns there were in it that I know I will make. It's not uncommon for me to buy books that offer wonderful inspiration or that contain several patterns that I'd like to try out some day, but it's rare that I end up swatching for something just days after purchasing the book. My queue is just too long for that kind of whimsy. Lace Style is an exception - it is just the kind of book that sends you running to the stash to cast on right now. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this book is the forerunner among knitting books for 2007.

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Swatch for the Essential Tank
Lace Style contains 21 projects that vary substantially from one another in form while remaining cohesive in style. The book does an excellent job of showcasing the wide variety of garments that can be made with lace knitting techniques, and includes everything from anklets and gloves to an elegant full-length dress. The projects also vary substantially in difficulty. Beginners should be able to make Vicky Squares' cuffs or Pam Allen's Little Silk Shrug without trouble, yet both of these projects are sophisticated enough to draw the attention of a more advanced knitter looking for a quick lace fix.
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The Essential Tank
I might also add that both projects are excellent candidates for those small amounts of lace-weight handspun that many of us seem to have languishing about. cough::me::cough... Just glancing through, I would say that most of the designs are accessible, with only one or two requiring more than intermediate knowledge of lace. Most utilize short lace repeats to great effect so that you get a lot of glory for fairly average stitching efforts. Even better, many of these designs can be worn by a variety of body types. This is a very stylish book that will appeal to the svelt and the curvaceous among us, and that is no small feat!

Lace Style also has a "design notebook" in the back that covers a lot of ground in a few short pages. It hits the highlights of lace knitting and design very nicely, and I would highly recommend that you take a read-through before starting one of the projects. For beginners, it is a great little primer, but advanced lace knitters may find the section helpful as well. I think that it will help you to better understand the patterns themselves and to fix any little mistakes along the way. Kudos to the editors for doing such a good job in a small space.

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Some of my favorite designs: the Lingerie Dress, Peek-a-Boo Cloche, Long Lacy Gloves.

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Leg Cozies by Lisa Daehlin
The photography in this book follows in the footsteps of the first two volumes in the series, Scarf Style and Wrap Style, but improves upon both books. Carol Kaplan is the photographer for all three books, and her romantic viewpoint is present here, as in the first two books. However, in Lace Style Kaplan and the editors have gone one better than they did in the past - the viewpoint and feeling that we all know and love has been preserved, but the photos are clearer and the knits are in much sharper focus than they have been in the past. Not only do you get a sense of style and beauty from these pictures, you can really tell what the pieces look like and how they will be worked. The information gained from this clarity is indispensable, and really improves on what were already enchanting photographs. Plus there are many more photographs than in the earlier books - often six or more for the more complicated projects. This is what I love to see, because it gives the knitter a much better sense of the project and how it will look on the recipient.

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Lace Edged Corset
I also really love the models in this volume overall. I have always been a fan of the editor's daughter (aka the IK girl) as a model, but I really love the African American model they used in this shoot as well. As Mary Heather subtly pointed out, "She has breasts." And although this isn't a characteristic we share, I think it is really useful to show her as they did here, modeling the summer tops. You get some real live proof that a knitted camisole can be worn by someone above an A-cup. She has a great body for modeling knitwear and I hope that IK will use her in the future. I also love the model who they used for the lingerie dress and peek-a-boo cloche. She's stunning and yet still has the look of a real person. Overall, I think that the editors did a really great job of using models that were the correct sizes for the pieces they were wearing. I know this may sound elementary, but to my knowledge IK always uses friends and family of staff to model. All of these people are cute and real, which is nice, but many of them (the IK girl excepted) are not standard-sized. The unfortunate result is that often a lovely piece is not shown off to full effect, and an otherwise attractive person is made to look unnecessarily dumpy. Not so here.

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A nice photo of
Kat's Show-off Skirt.
For the most part I love the styling in Lace Style. Everyone and everything looks great. The one exception that glares out at me is the Show-Off Ruffle Skirt. This is an amazing skirt, which my friend Kat Coyle - of the many fabulous skirts - designed. I've seen it in person and it is to die for. Sadly, in the book this dark red skirt is shown with a green and pink top tucked into it. The model, bless her soul, looks about as forlorn as one can look in a fabulous skirt, but as one of my friends noted, "Who can blame her? She's wearing cashmere in ninety-five degree heat with an ugly top tucked in in such a way that she appears to be wearing a diaper. It is not her fault." Well said. Please don't tuck shirts into your handknit skirts. And please do give this skirt a second look. It really is a wonderful piece, and can be made in $3 cotton or a pricier cashmere blend.

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Katherine Hepburn Cardigan
My personal picks from the book include Laura Zukaite's Essential Tank Top, which I have swatched already, and which is impatiently awaiting the moment when my US 5 addis are free for use again (Four of the five projects in queue require size 5's - I have several pairs, but not that many! I guess I will have to finish some things!), Kathy Zimmerman's Katherine Hepburn Cardigan, Mona Schmitdt's Peek-a-Boo Cloche, and Lisa Daehlin's Leg Cozies. I adore Mari Lynn Patrick's Featherweight Lingerie Dress, but I don't think I could pull it off without some modifications. (Perhaps I will make some!) I also love the Long Lacy Gloves and need to come up with a reason to wear gloves to my elbow! I predict that the Hepburn Cardigan, the Tailored Scallops Jacket (on the cover), the Essential Tank Top, and Norah Gaughan's Lacy Waves Top are going to be all over the blogosphere, and Veronique Avery's Shetland Shawl Turned Vest will be popular among those who can pull it off. There are also Lacy Anklets and a Lily of the Valley Shawl that are very accessible and which will no doubt get some play given all the sock and shawl knitters out there. But with so many great designs, it's hard to go wrong with Lace Style.



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Sure to be popular: Norah Gaughan's Lacy Waves Top and Veronique Avery's Shetland Shawl Turned Vest.

Posted by Julia at 07:06 AM | Comments (25)

February 24, 2007

Zosh Meets the Osh

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Zosia makes friends with the waves...

This weekend has been downright chilly by LA standards, but last weekend was beautiful and sunny, so we took the opportunity to spend the morning at Ventura Beach in the spot that Marnie, Leo and Panda used to frequent on the weekends. Zosia had never seen the ocean, and when an unexpected wave sent Moxie running, she was not so sure it was her favorite place. In the end, Moxie made a game of running into the waves and chasing them, which convinced Z that the ocean was okay after all. It was a lovely morning. The weather was great, and we saw one friendly sea lion and several jumping dolphins. There's nothing like a little nature.

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Posted by Julia at 09:37 PM | Comments (6)

February 22, 2007

Create-Along: Why the #$%!@?! Yarn Restrictions?

I probably should have written about this in my initial CAL post, but the fact is that I am so annoyingly verbose when it comes to things like this that if I had, no one would have ever gotten around to reading the explanation. Instead, I'm giving the topic it's own post, so I can be as wordy as I please. Feel free to skip this if you are not creating-along!

citrusmoon.jpgThe madness does have purpose, and it was a choice on my part, which I stand by even though I have about seven designs that I'm playing around with now and only one of them is in one of the create-along yarns.

Purpose the First:* One of my favorite recent knitting books is Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature. Gaughan talks extensively in the book about how she is more creative when she has a limitation, and in each of the six parts she introduces the pieces, both individually and as a group, by writing about each limitation - a shape found commonly in nature. This device wasn't invented by Gaughan. If you ever took a high school art or writing class you were probably asked to do the same thing: "Here is a theme that everyone has to work with, see what you can do with it."

I think most of us creative types chafe at these restrictions initially, but it is absolutely fascinating to see what different people do with the same limitation. It really forces you to start to think outside of the box and it gives an insight as to the perspectives and visions of others. I actually find that the first time I work with a theme it is difficult, but that during the process I come up with all kinds of ideas for working with the theme in the future. Sometimes we have to create that first idea in order to be able to move past it. A yarn limitation gives everyone a starting point (and in this case a choice of five starting points), but it's much less restrictive than suggesting that we all attempt to design around the concept of phyllotaxis. Agreed?

Purpose the Second: Yarn is a big part of design, and the way that a particular yarn behaves can make or break a piece. One of the hardest things to figure out as a new knitter or a new designer is how a particular yarn is going to affect the final garment. The second scarf that I ever made was an eyelet pattern in thick, chunky wool. Now if you are intending to break the rules and use big needles to make an over-sized modern scarf that is one thing, but I was fully expecting a lacy, drapey piece that conveyed elegance. My tweedy wool scarf with occasional holes did not achieve that goal. With many people using the same yarn, there can be significant discussion about its characteristics, and we can all learn more about the limits of certain fabrics. The particular yarns we chose are all yarns that Marnie and I have worked with before and have on hand. I chose the Premiere and Cotton Classic, she picked the Calmer and Denim, and we threw in the Kidsilk Haze because it's something we both have that can work in spring weather. Although I know it's ass cold in most parts this time of year, most of us will finish our projects in spring or summer, so it made sense to work with a warm-weather array of fibers.

I feel that our knowledge of these fibers is important for several reasons. First, we have yarn available to design something in each of the yarn selections during the course of the create-along. This will keep us active in the blogging process and in the process of helping other -alongers. We're also sure to have an example of at least one project made in each yarn. As we design there will inevitably be tips we remember that are yarn-specific. Working with each one keeps us present in the process. Second, we already know what these yarns are capable of, and can help guide create-alongers in their process if they are struggling with the materials. Third, and this is important to me, we know these yarns will wear well over all and that the quality of the create-along projects will not be compromised if you use them. It would devastate me if someone designed something for the first time and it looked terrible after only a few wearings. Although some of these yarns are more resilient than others, they are all reliable and you should be able to get significant use out of them.

Purpose the Third: Whenever you design a piece, you will come up against some type of limitation, and usually you will have several. It may be what yarn you have in your stash, the amount of yarn in a certain dyelot, or a specific color or set of colors. If you go on to design for publication, or if you have already designed for publication, you will find/have found that even more limitations are placed on you. In fact, unless you design for a specific yarn company or yarn in particular it will be pretty common for the publishers to look at your design concept and pick yarn and colors for you. Boy, oh boy, is that fun! (I'm not a fan of this convention, as you can see.)

Given this nearly universal propensity for limitations on design, I thought we could use it as a unifying principle. I think knitalongs work best when there is a common theme. I didn't want to go with choosing a specific type of project to design, because I wanted to attract knitters from a variety of skill levels in both design and knitting. I'm hoping that through this process we can take some of the mystery out of design and make it more accessible to everyone. Not all knitters will be interested, but I'd love it if those who are interested would be less intimidated. I feel that if you can start out with more simplistic shaping more people will join. I also think that the common theme of a few yarns can be cohesively repeated. If this is a success, we can do it again with fall yarns, and attract a different set of knitters.

*I've been reading too much Thomas Hardy. This is how he labels the parts of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Anyone remember that book from school?

Photos, from top to bottom: River in Kidsilk Haze; Citrus Moon in Pima Tencel (same fiber content as Premiere); Thelma in Rowan Denim; Birch in Kidsilk Haze; Tea Set in Cotton Classic; and Marnie's Deciduous in Calmer.

Posted by Julia at 06:14 AM | Comments (6)

February 20, 2007

Create-Along: Where I Start

JapaneseFeathersIMG_0765.jpgYarn speaks to me. When I see a beautiful fiber that I want, my little gears start clicking and I begin to think about what that yarn is most suited to become. I just have a general concept at this point, usually along the lines of a silhouette. When I first touched Classic Elite Premiere, which is a 50/50 tencel/pima cotton blend, it was so silky and smooth that I immediately felt it needed to be made into something with long, elegant lines and drape, and I decided on a shell that I could wear to work or out to dinner, but that could also be dressed down with some dark denim jeans. I bought 5 skeins in a light buttery color. (The camera I used does not properly capture the color - my kingdom for my Exilim, which is still in the repair shop!) I felt that the shell should be fitted and just barely clinging, but not tight, and I wanted a lace pattern that I could insert in an elegant vertical line, off-center.

With these general thoughts in mind, I went on to my common second step - browsing through my stitch dictionaries. Stitch dictionaries are wonderful, because each time I open one with a specific project in mind, I see something new. Stitch patterns that may not speak to me in one fiber work brilliantly in another. Just changing the yarn that I start with can give me wildly different results, which is fascinating to me - inspirational and fun. I started with Barbara Walker and almost immediately found what I felt would be the "right" lace. Then I went on to my usual third step - swatching.

If you don't own a stitch dictionary and want one, the 365 Knitting Stitches Calendar is an excellent and really economical way to go. Public libraries also often have several that you can browse through, and the libraries are licensed to allow you to make limited copies of pages for personal use. Alternately, you can browse through books or magazines of patterns that you like and take stitch patterns from those. My first scarf incorporated a cable that I saw on a sweater in Vogue.

JapaneseFeathersIMG_0766.jpgSometimes when I begin to swatch I hit the right stitch pattern or combination of patterns right away, and this was one of those times. As soon as I had a repeat finished, I knew that this was the lace I wanted to use, so I continued it for another repeat to make a very large swatch. I think the final dimensions are about five by seven inches. Other times I need to go through several different patterns to find the one(s) that will work. I will often do this on one large continual swatch with the patterns separated by a few rows of stockinette with a garter-ridge line as a boundary between designs, as pictured in the swatch in my last create-along post. It really just depends on how long it takes me to hit upon a pattern that I'm sure of. Regardless, I always make a larger swatch with a representative percentage of the patterns I plan to use, so that I can see how they work together.

JapaneseFeathersIMG_0767.jpgIf, as here, stockinette is an element of the design, I make a point of putting in a fair amount of it as well, so that I have a good idea of what the gauge will be in both the pattern and in stockinette. I take gauge before blocking, and gauge after blocking, and I make sure to wash and block the swatch as I plan to block the garment. After taking gauge, I weigh the swatch on my kitchen scale to determine how many grams of yarn are needed per square inch, and then I convert that number to yards per square inch. I then put all the information about yarn, needle size, gauge, and swatch weight in a moleskein notebook that I keep for design ideas, so that I can use the numbers later to ensure that I have the amount of yarn I will need to finish my project.

Now that I have my swatch and measurements done, I'm off and running. My next step will be to start sketching....

Posted by Julia at 06:30 AM | Comments (9)

February 18, 2007

CreateAlong!

I have always been a pretty crappy knit-alonger. I like the idea of the knit-along in theory. I love the community experience, and I value the knowledge that knitters are able to share when we make something together. It's the practice of the knit-along that gets me. I love to see cool variations of a project, but by the time I get around to knitting myself, I've seen the piece everywhere and lose interest, even if it is wonderful.

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A swatch of stitch patterns for one of my designs.

I long to find blogs showcasing new and original pieces, and to find knitters who create projects that I haven't seen before or that put an interesting twist on a well-known theme. I came up with the idea of the create along (CAL) in the hopes that I could have the best of all worlds - the community spirit and shared wisdom and the originality.

The create along was also inspired by my desire to draw more people into designing. I think that a lot of knitters are intimidated by design if they haven't attempted it before. But the fact is you don't have to start by making a fitted sweater with set-in sleeves. If design intimidates you, you can start small. Play with a stitch pattern and see where it leads. You may start with a rectangular wrap or a baby sweater with minimal shaping. Begin inside your comfort zone and then move out as you feel more confident.

Remember that you don't have to re-invent the wheel. A lot of what designers do is to simply combine elements that they see elsewhere and like. They find a stitch pattern that works well with a particular yarn and apply it to a silhouette, adding details - perhaps a notched collar, or bell sleeves. All of these things have been done before, the designer simply has the vision to put them together.

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My "studio" at Chez W. last year and the just ducky pillow plans.

Being the geeks that we are, Marnie and I get together and talk about knitwear design ad nauseum. Between the spin-outs, road trips, and slumber parties (aka "business trips to LA"), we have had a lot of opportunity to discuss process together. I am always amazed by the different ways that we choose to attack the same problems, and the ways in which our initial creative processes meet and diverge. I've learned a lot in the course of our knit blab sessions, and I find the process of design an ever-fascinating topic. So fascinating, in fact, that I think it's worth having an entire blog about.

So here's the idea: we'll take five yarns (yarns which Marnie and I happen to have in our stashes - yay! - stash-busting!) and see what our group of Create-Alongers can do with them. The yarns, and our plans to design something original are the common thread, much as the design itself is in the usual knit-along.

Here are the rules:

1. You must use Classic Elite Premiere, Rowan Calmer, Rowan Denim, Tahki Cotton Classic, or Rowan Kidsilk Haze as the main yarn in your design. It is fine to go outside these choices for accents, but one of these yarns should be the main ingredient.

2. Design something original. It can be anything you want - simple, complex, garment, decor, art, whatever.

3. Write about your creative process. This can be your thought process, the actual knitting, mistakes, accidental triumphs, brilliant problem-solving, etc. Feel free to pose questions that others can answer in the comments or give us a little tutorial on a technique or discuss a source of inspiration. As long as it's related to your process (or someone else's), it's fair game. Please keep it to process, though. It's fine to introduce yourself, but please do it in a post with knitting content.

4. Create as many FO's as you like from as many yarns as you want to use on the list.

5. Start now! We'll most likely run from now until September-ish. We'll see how it goes.

Marnie and I will try to get everyone's creative juices flowing early on with posts on our projects and processes. I will be starting with Classic Elite Premiere, and she's kicking it off with Rowan Calmer. To join, e-mail us at create along (at) gmail dot com with the subject line JOIN and we'll send you an invite to the blog, so that you can post.

Go team Premiere!

Posted by Julia at 08:32 PM | Comments (15)

February 14, 2007

State of the Rose

I know that some of you must be curious to know what is going on with the spinning projects. I've been doing much more knitting than spinning lately, both because I have been captivated by the projects I'm knitting, and because my fiber stash is in a place where I don't have too much that I feel I can play around with without having a plan. Right now I feel like playing when it comes to spinning. I have knitting plans; I don't want spinning plans. In between my knitting projects, I have played around here and there with a bit of merino that I got at the Santa Monica Fiber Festival last summer. Marnie spun a bit of it, too, when she was out here for work a few weeks ago. Here's what it looks like so far:

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The first ply

This is a sister fiber to the lovely "mud" roving that I spun up in the fall. You might think that I would make more of an attempt to prepare it differently, but in this case I'm looking for the subtle variations of the "mud."

I have a bad habit of hoarding my handspun rather than knitting it. I have recently been reminded of the great error of my ways by Mary Heather, who I taught to spin in September. MH has not only taken to spinning like a fish to water, she has already gone on to complete her first handspun project (which is freakin' gorgeous!) and has plans for a second. Although I have started two handspun projects, both will have to be ripped (more on that later), so I still haven't finished a darn thing!

I keep telling myself that I hoard because I have been spinning such small quantities of each fiber and that I need to spin more before I have enough skeins that will work together in a finished piece. I have an idea for a handspun turtleneck based on a wonderful sweater from last winter's anthropologie catalogue, and I think I have several skeins so far that I can dedicate to that piece. My hope is that this skein will coordinate with those as well. I think that the more colors I add, the more likely it will be that no single color will stick out like a sore thumb. At least that seems to be the principle that the great color artists like Kaffee Fassett and Brandon Mably operate on. We'll see how well it works out for me. I generally work more with shape and texture, and don't consider myself particularly talented when it comes to the multi-chromatic word. This will be an adventure.

Posted by Julia at 09:14 PM | Comments (6)

February 13, 2007

Postcard to Panda


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The weather is great; we wish you were here.


Posted by Julia at 07:40 PM | Comments (10)

February 11, 2007

Pattern Notes: Daktari Skirt

I am so freaking excited to finally be at the point where I can write up pattern notes for this skirt. As you may know from my last post, it's been a long journey. But the results are so worth it. This skirt is both feminine and extremely comfortable, which is a rare treat. I can feel "pretty" when I wear it, but still feel as comfy as I would wearing jeans. It goes well with both flip-flops and ballet flats, so you can dress it up or dress it down.

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My "photoshoot shot" graciously taken by Moxie.

Lacy Skirt With Bows
Designed by Kat Coyle, Greetings from Knit Cafe
Knit with four skeins (167 yards/skein)* of Twisted Sisters Daktari (100% Slubbed Cotton) in Cappuccino, using size US 5 and US 6 Addi Turbo circulars.
Gauge: 21 sts and 29 rows per 4" in Stst using US 5 needles; 25 sts per 4" in lace on US 6 needles.
Size: small, 26" at waist, 36" at base. This size should fit sizes 0-4. I have a 37" caboose, which it accommodates nicely.

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Close up of the lace and ribbon, with Mr. Townes.
The Pattern
First things first. There is one pattern correction: at the point where you start the waistband, you will begin on a RS row, rather than a WS row. Please make a note of this if you decide to make the skirt.

Other than that the pattern is wonderful, easy to follow, and a surprisingly quick knit. I have watched Kat's work since she was first published in Knitty in 2003, and had the pleasure of becoming friends with her through our work with Suzan on the Greetings from Knit Cafe book. I have long admired her amazing lace pieces, and her incredibly wearable knit skirts.

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The waistline.
Generally speaking, I am wary of the skirt as a knitted item, but Kat's skirts are the exception. She uses a wonderful a-line shape which works beautifully. During the photoshoot for the book I got to see many people try on the Lacy Skirt with Bows, and had a chance to put it on myself. It works well on a surprising range of body types. I generally wear pants myself, and am pretty picky about the few skirts that I do wear, so it's no small compliment to say that I could happily live in this skirt. This holds true for Kat's other skirts as well. I tried on the skirt Kat designed for the upcoming issue of Interweave Knits and it's a keeper as well.

Going back to the pattern, although it looks complex, I think that it's the type of garment that a newer lace knitter could work without frustration. The panels are worked from the bottom up in crest of the wave lace, capped with eyelets for the bows (or in my case, ribbon). Then it's stockinette and another eyelet section for the ribbon drawstring. The lace will eat up much more yardage than the stockinette, so don't be concerned if you get to the end of your first skein soon after your lace is done for the first panel. You will have plenty of yarn for the stockinette.

The knitting goes very quickly. A fast or dedicated knitter could bang this out in two weeks easily.

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Candid shot by Moxie.
This one's for Kodachrome - I wear my knits!
Techniques:
Advanced beginner lace knitting. Nothing overwhelming here, just a fun, lacy diversion.

Modifications: The only modification I made was the use of ribbon rather than a second yarn. I found a wonderful coordinating ribbon in the garment district at Michael Levine. I purchased 6 yards to be safe, but the skirt only required about half of that. (Buy 4 yards to be safe if you go this route - that should be more than enough). I omitted the bows and just threaded the ribbon through the eyelets. At the waistline I did the same. Other than that, my skirt is exactly like the original.

Finishing:
I had some issues with the color consistency of the yarn, so I took special measures to combat those. I am not sure this was the best solution, but it worked. Afterwards, I soaked the panels in woolwash, gave them a whirl in the spin cycle to get the water out, and blocked like mad. I did the panels one at a time, both because of space constraints and because I wanted to use the blocked measurements of the first piece to guide me in blocking the second. The pattern said to block gently, but to get the dimensions I needed I was more aggressive. I'm pretty sure that the skirt would "wear" into those dimensions anyway - knit skirts tend to settle in and grow several inches in length after they've been hanging in the closet for a little while - so there was no harm in moving that process along. With blocking, the panels grew about 5 inches in length and 3.5 to 4 inches in width. Here's a shot of the unblocked panel resting on the blocked one, and here's a close-up of the unblocked lace on top of the blocked lace

DaktariIMG_0697.jpgImpressions of Twisted Sisters Daktari:
Sadly, I had major issues with color consistency within the same dyelot for this yarn - three identical light skeins, one medium skein, and one dark skein. The color also ran substantially, which is another indication that the dying process was not what it should have been. For more details on the color issues, read my last post. If you have read my blog for long, you will know that I do not usually speak ill of yarn companies or designers. If I have constructive criticism, I try to include it in a friendly way, so that my fellow knitters will be aware of the potential pitfalls and the pleasures of working with certain products. My last post was a bit harsh regarding this yarn, but I felt that it was really important for other knitters to understand that they should proceed with caution if they chose to use it. I am pretty easy-going about subtle variations within a dyelot, especially from a smaller distributer. If Daktari were produced by an indie company, you can rest assured that I would work with the individual dyer regarding the problem before discussing it on my blog. I have written patterns, and I have made mistakes, and I know how difficult it can be to monitor quality control as a party of one, or even few. Twisted Sisters is still a relatively small operation, but they have reached the point of growth where knitters will expect more, and I don't want my readers to be disappointed if they purchase something that I recommend. So there you have the pitfalls.

There are substantial pleasures to this yarn as well, which I hope you can see in the finished product. It is a slubbed cotton with a wonderful organic feel, and the colors, consistent or not, are truly beautiful. It reminds me of something that Blue Sky Alpacas might produce if they partnered with Habu Textiles. I haven't seen anything quite like it, and honestly, I might very well purchase Daktari again for this very reason. I will definitely work with it again, as I have a skein and a half left. I will just have to plan for the variations.

Possible substitute yarns:
This is a tough one, as I really haven't seen a cotton quite like this on the market. For the skirt you could use a smooth cotton - something like Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece or Tahki Cotton Classic would look great - but to get a similar texture you'd have to go to something along the lines of Jaeger Trinity (finer gauge), Rowan Summer Tweed, or possibly Manos Cotton Stria. Of those three, Trinity has the best reputation. I have not used the other two yarns, but they've gotten mixed press on wear. Although it isn't a cotton, I think Elsbeth Lavold's Silky Wool (finer gauge) would be a wonderful substitute for this skirt. I may have to design a skirt in it myself. If anyone tries a substitute, let me know how it turns out. I'd love to see the variations.

A Parting Shot:
Naturally, we had to get a photo with our little stink pot in it.

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The Zosh.

*Yarn Market has this yarn listed at 145 yds/skein. I am not sure if Twisted Sisters has changed the yardage or if this is a misprint. For the small size skirt, 4 skeins should still be enough, as I only used around 3.5, but it may be wise to check before purchasing if you have concerns about yardage. I would also highly recommend buying an extra skein to ensure that any color variations can be worked out.

[Read all entries on the Daktari Skirt.]
Posted by Julia at 08:47 AM | Comments (29)

February 10, 2007

Iron Knitter: Battle Daktari

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Ignorance is bliss: the beginnings of Daktari near Kauaii.
2006 was not the year of the knit for the Hoolia. Everything I touched seemed to be destined to have issues, and as a result the few FO's I managed to slog out consisted of the types of patterns I can do in my sleep - socks and berets - or rectangles. My biggest triumphs were both just fancy rectangles - the River Stole and Project MIL (a sweater for my mother-in-law), and those were definitely not without their trials and tribulations. Now that I believe myself to be safely past that nasty year of knitting - oh, the hubris! I am doomed now - I am starting to think it was a good learning experience, because in the instances where I stuck to it and fought back, I ended up with some beautiful pieces. In the end, knitting is like the serenity poem: you must have courage to change the things you can, serenity to accept (and rip) those you cannot, and most importantly the wisdom to know the difference. With that introduction, welcome to Battle Daktari:

My experience with Daktari began quite happily. Despite the fact that I was knitting a skirt which appeared to have quite a bit of stockinette at the top to slow me down, the fabric sailed off my needles. Within the span of about a week I had knit almost all of the first panel. I was excited. Even better, we were getting ready to spend a week in Hawaii on vacation with the family, so I knew that I would have hours of time ahead of me in planes, boats and cars, where I could knit away contentedly on my skirt. Perhaps I could even finish it and take some lovely shots on those lush Hawaiian Islands.... I got pretty far on the skirt over vacation, and blocked the first panel with stunning results soon after we returned. Then suddenly, I hit a snag.
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The not-so-fine line between cappuccino and mocha.
Exhibit A. Do you see the problem here? Within the same dyelot there is a very dramatic shift in the densities of the color. It is even more dramatic than what you see in the photos, though I think its pretty clear from those as well. To be fair, Daktari is a hand-dyed fiber and comes with the disclaimer that there will be variations in the color. The label also wisely suggests that you alternate skeins every other row to overcome this issue. (This works well to combat pooling in variegated yarns as well.) If alternating skeins had solved the problem and just created a little variation, I would have no issues with the yarn. However, alternation of skeins in this case creates stripes (no photos, just use your imagination).

I would now like to draw your attention to the fact that there are four skeins of yarn knitted up in these photographs. The first three skeins flow together fairly seamlessly, with some expected, yet subtle, variation. Given this state of affairs, I thought that perhaps I had a rogue skein, so I decided to go back to my LYS and purchase another. Interestingly, the newly purchased skein, also in the same dyelot did not match the first three knitted skeins or the "rogue" skein, but was instead a shade somewhere in between the two. The difference was not as stark as before, but still not negligible enough that alternating the yarns would do anything to alleviate the problem.

I had several possible plans of attack for solving the problem with this new, closer-to-the-original-color skein, most involving some variation on ripping out most of the skirt and incorporating the darker-colored skein into the lace in alternating rows on both panels, so that there would be less of a noticeable difference both horizontally and vertically. DaktariCIMG5961.jpg
Close-up of the offending skein.
I think that one of these plans would have worked, but at the time I was pissed. So pissed, in fact, that I just could not stomach even looking at the skirt. So I balled it up and put it away.

Then last weekend, when we had that lovely bought of unseasonably warm weather, I was inspired to pull the Daktari skirt out again. I still wasn't in the mood to rip it all out and start from scratch, so instead I ripped out the offending very dark skein, and decided to make use of some information that I learned while blocking the yarn. I knit the rest of top of the second panel with the medium-dark skein, and then I took a little gamble. When I blocked the first panel I noticed that the fabric bled a lot. So I thought why not dip the top portion of the panel in scalding hot water a few times to see if I couldn't get enough of the color out to make it match the rest? Daktari is cotton, and cotton can handle the heat. So I soaked the top of the panel in three changes of really hot water over the span of an hour, and miraculously....it worked. Not perhaps the most reliable cure for this issue, but you can't argue with the results.

This one goes to the Challenger. Next up: pattern notes.

Posted by Julia at 09:21 AM | Comments (12)

February 04, 2007

The Name is Bond. Jane Bond.

I'm still plugging away at the hand-knitting. The Marseilles Pullover is coming along, and I've pulled out the Daktari skirt, one of my older UFO's. I have finished knitting the skirt (I hope - more on that later) and have the first half blocking. I've stretched that bugger out to within an inch of its life. But, as a little respite from all this handwork, I also took the opportunity to dig into the stash and crank out a nice little basic sweater on the machine last weekend. I spent the week hand-knitting the ribbing and seaming, and had it finished just in time to wear for the hottest weekend we've had in a while. When I started this sweater a week ago it was chilly and rainy, but not surprisingly it was eighty degrees for the photoshoot I did today.

BondIMG_0538.jpgThe name that either Kim Hargreaves or the Rowan team chose for this sweater is Bond. I'm not really sure why. It took all my restraint not to stage photos of myself swooshing down the alps while being chased by Russian operatives. Somehow I managed to hold back. Instead, you get yet another shot of me on the side deck. The color is a bit lurid, as my Exilim is in the shop and the Powershot that Moxie got for Christmas hasn't decided to play friendly. C'est la vie.

I'm not in the mood for pattern notes today, so instead I'll spend a few minutes sharing some recent observations on the compatibility of Rowan designs and the knitting machine. I've always loved Rowan, but I have discovered, after going through about twenty back issues in the last week, that until recently most of their designs were, well, boring. What made the magazine so great, and kept it from becoming the knitter's version of the Talbot's catalog, was great styling, unique accessories, and hot models. (How many times have you been suckered by a hot Rowan model? It happens to me all the time. Although I know I probably shouldn't, I'm still planning to knit this silly sweater with butterflies all over it someday because I just can't resist the model. She looks so great covered in butterflies, surely I will, too. I am such a sucker for packaging.)

Boring is not a bad thing, though, or at least not in my book. I think that the Rowan model of style is singularly instructive (although I have been known to make fun of the fact that many of their models do not don pants). Most of my wardrobe is solid in color with classic, tailored lines, and is completely coordinated with everything else. Every once in a while I will buy a zany orange dress or some fun lime-colored slides, but as a rule I wear these things infrequently and stick to my uniform, perking myself up with the occasional fun accessory in a wild color. So a classic, fine-gauged sweater in a nice neutral color is right up my alley, even if it is a bit of a snooze.

And this is why the knitting machine is such a wonderful invention. I want the boring sweater, and I want to use the lovely fine-gauged wool that has been languishing in my stash (for eight years, no less), but if I have to choose between making an interesting sweater in a funky color by hand or knitting endless miles of stockinette, I know what I'm going to do. With the knitting machine I can have it both ways. I slowly continue work on lovely cables and lace by hand, and pound out a wardrobe basic on the occasional weekend. Lovely.

Anyhoo, my advice to those of you who find yourself slogging through Rowan's exquisitely-crafted stockinette sweaters on US 3 needles season after season is to run out and invest some money in a knitting machine. (Or do as I have and beg, borrow and steal one!) It will be worth every penny and you'll suddenly find that you have time to finish hand-knitting that intricate aran that has been sitting in a pile for months.

Posted by Julia at 07:10 PM | Comments (16)

January 23, 2007

Marseilles Pullover: Back at it

PinkMarseillesCIMG6546.JPGDecember and most of January were a period of slowing down for me - adjusting to the new pup, traveling for Christmas and battling several colds occupied the little spare energy that I had, and the knitting was restricted to work on a small item for publication (with a large dose of help from my knitting angel, Marnie). Now as the days are slowly growing longer and Zosia is becoming the wonderful companion we always knew she would be, I'm regaining my energy and embracing my knitting once again. The object of the most love and affection of late has been the Marseilles Pullover. What a treat. Miles and miles of cables that don't disappoint.

BothMarseillesCIMG6545.JPGThis is a sweater that Laura, my best friend from college, and I decided to knit together. I finished a sleeve and most of the back in a period of about 6 days, most of which were spent with Laura and my other college girlfriends in the Outer Banks. Then December hit with its many deadlines and the Marseilles Pullover got cast aside while I finished other projects and rested. Just recently I picked it up and found it mesmerizing once again. I'm now about one third of the way done with the front. Laura, being the prolific knitter that she is, finished hers long ago. I'll have to bother her for a picture of it to post to the blog.

PinkMarseillesCIMG6547.JPGOne of the most interesting things about our twin sweaters is that mine is made using Rowan Cashsoft DK and Laura's is in Cashsoft Aran. Both are knit with US7 needles. Laura is a tight knitter and I knit loosely, but don't worry - that doesn't account for all the difference - our gauges are different. Laura's is pretty close to spot on, and mine is a bit small. Naturally, I made a few adjustments to my sweater. Laura's is in the smallest size and is cushy and cozy in the way that I usually think of a good Aran sweater being. Mine is in the next size up, and also adds a half repeat vertically. If all goes well it should have a bit of drape and elegance that will make it more office-appropriate. We shall see. It was nice to see the back pieces side-by-side and get a real feel for how differently the same pattern could be knit up changing only color and yarn thickness. I love both versions and may find myself needing a cushy cream-colored one for the weekends.

I know the dog-lovers out there will want a little update on the Zosia. I'm posting this picture because it is so darn cute, but you have to know that she is about two months older now and much bigger. She has reached her gangly phase, and is long and lean with big feet. I think she'll get even taller in the next month and fill out not long after that. I'll be sure to post some current shots soon.

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Zosia on the trail at Griffith Park.

Zosh is absolutely amazing. For the first month of her stay here I really thought she was going to do us in with her insane energy levels and teething. Then when we went to Boston for the holidays she had an incredible transformation and somehow became the perfect dog. She fit in well with my in-laws' pack of three dogs and one cat, and she was wonderful with my nephew and nieces as well. The baby could crawl over her and take her toys without concern. Zosh is also an amazingly fast learner and has picked up commands and hand-signals quickly. If anything, we have to be careful of what we teach her, because if you slip and show her something naughty once, she remembers it and will repeat it in the same situation. She's become a member of the family, and I know if our sweet Caia were here she'd love her.

P.S. Thanks to Tola for the sweet comment on Marnie's blog. If you've read me for long you'll know that I take unannounced months off almost every year in the winter or spring as sunlight wanes, but I'm always back eventually. I couldn't miss my community of knitters for too long.

Posted by Julia at 12:45 PM | Comments (38)

November 27, 2006

Zosia

pron. [zoh'-sha]. noun. (1) a tiny life-sucking demon masquerading as a harmless black puffball; (2) an adorable German Shepherd pup, who is related to our beloved Caia; (3) an insanely sweet and loving ball of energy that requires constant exercise, vigilance and attention to the point where her caretakers wonder if they really are ready to have children or if perhaps they should reconsider and put it off for say, oh, another decade; (4) Moxie's new full-time hobby that takes up more time than knitting (!!!); (5) all of the above.

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Pray for our souls.

Maybe someday I will knit again. One can always hope, right?

Posted by Julia at 08:21 AM | Comments (63)

November 15, 2006

Weekend with Friends

DuneCIMG6565.JPG LauraFireCIMG6538.JPG JenSockKnittingCIMG6554.JPG
CroppedIMGP0987.jpg AnnQuiltingCIMG6541.JPG DuneLeavesCIMG6567.JPG AnnInActionCIMG6502.JPG OceanCIMG6561.JPG BothMarseillesCIMG6545.JPG JenBeretPileCIMG6485.JPG
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The Outer Banks, North Carolina

I had a lovely weekend with my college girlfriends: knitting (the pink Marseilles back above is mine), quilting, drinking wine, soaking in a hot tub under the stars, goofing off in the surf. I'm so glad to have such wonderful people to surround myself with, if only once a year. Now it's back to the grind. Man, I miss that hot tub.

Posted by Julia at 06:03 AM | Comments (32)

November 08, 2006

I've Been Nupped!

Seriously, people. The next time I offer to write up a tutorial on anything, will you remind me to shut the hell up? Because honestly, no good deed goes unpunished. Offering to write up a tutorial on how to make sure you have enough yardage is really just a fancy and foolish way of asking, no begging, to run out. (Declaring that you have spun koigu probably doesn't help, either. I have a lot to learn from koigu.) So here it is, in pictoral format, my tutorial on how to ensure that you have enough yardage:

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Look familiar?!

Go back to the freaking wheel and spin some more. Even if you have to order $2 worth of roving to do it. Suck it up, stop being such a scrooge, and for gosh sakes throw away that damn spreadsheet. Just make (or buy) enough yarn.

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, it was the nupps on the Swallowtail Shawl that got me. I am pretty confident that for the most part, my intricate spreadsheet that indicated I would have enough yarn if I made only a few little tweaks and cut out two of the initial repeats was right. The thing is, that even that estimation told me I was cutting it very, very close. And each nupp requires about 5 more stitches than the average stitch - 4 extra go-rounds and another stitch to account for the fact that you have to make them loosely and the stitch that brings all the yo's together is a fat one. And 5 stitches times 5 nupps per branch times about 40 branches (or something like that - I'm done counting!) is, well, a lot. It takes up some yardage.

I don't want to admit how much time I have spent tweaking this pattern and crunching numbers to somehow try to get a Swallowtail Shawl out of 290 yards of fingering. And what for? It is a small shawl to begin with. Why make it so tiny that I can't even wear it?

I realized that I had a problem the other day when my best friend and I were discussing knitting the Marseilles Pullover together. I was going through my mental rolladex of stash and trying to figure out which yarn I had exactly enough of, and eliminating any possibilities that would leave me with too much leftover yarn - say, 25 yards! And I do this all the time. When I make a scarf, I cut the fringe near the beginning of the project, so that I can knit, knit, knit until the bitter end. I weigh my socks in progress, so that they use up as much of the yarn as possible. I did this with the River Stole, too. For many of my projects, I end up making modifications so that I can use some stash yarn that I don't have quite enough of. When the lace leaf pullover was done, I had a four-inch tail left. Almost scary, isn't it?

The thing is, I know myself well enough to know that I will never really learn my lesson. I like spreadsheets, and I like having inches of yarn left when I finish a project. It's just the way I'm wired. But I am going to give in and do the sensible thing with this shawl, because it is my first handspun project and I want it to be great. And I've chosen another yarn for the Marseilles Pullover, so I'm pretty sure that I have plenty of yardage for that. I may even have just enough to eek out a coordinating hat. Hmmm. Maybe I should make a spreadsheet....

Posted by Julia at 06:06 AM | Comments (23)

November 06, 2006

New Life for an Old Knit

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Pia makes her fall debut.
Those of you who have been reading my blog for a really, really long time, might just remember that I knit Pia from Rowan's Magazine 35. I loved knitting Pia, but once it was all done it was a bit roomy. I always intended to do something about this - either rip and revise or attempt to shrink it a bit in the dryer - but for some reason it never happened, which was quite sad given how much I had enjoyed making this top.

Then fall rolled around this year and I really, really wanted a cool vest to layer over tops and blouses. I have one vest prototype in the works and another in sketches and in my head, but both of those have been shelved to make way for Christmas items and a few things for publication, so it will be a while before those vests take woolen form.

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Pia loves Townes.
Just by chance I was straightening up my closet and ran across Pia, which is knit in a wonderfully autumnal shade of green called "Fern". It was like a lightbulb went off in my head and I wondered aloud how it would look over one of my blouses with jeans. Viola! What a great combination! I am loving it, and suddenly a knit that has only rarely seen the light of day is getting worn about once a week. It's a favorite!

The best part is that I think there are several summer tops in my closet that can probably be worn this way. My citrus moon is more fitted, but the colors are the right palette, and I think it could work well over a more fitted long-sleeved shirt. I just had to share, because I'm guessing that many of you have made a knitted summer top that is just a little too big - it's almost a rite of passage in the knitting world. Why not re-purpose it and get something you really love?

Posted by Julia at 06:45 AM | Comments (25)

November 05, 2006

Blogtour: Arctic Lace

ArcticLaceCover.jpgToday I have a special guest here at MindofWinter: Donna Druchunas, author of Arctic Lace: Knitting Projects and Stories Inspired by Alaska's Native Knitters. Donna is touring the knitting blogosphere for the debut of her book, and since I find the subject so intriguing I asked if I could take part and interview her. Enjoy!


1. What inspired you to write Arctic Lace? Were you originally interested in the traditions of the Yup'ik and Inupiat women or was it the Musk Oxen and its luxurious fiber that drew you to the subject?

This is what everyone wants to know! I read an article in the Jan/Feb 1996 issue of Piecework Magazine about the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers' Co-operative in Anchorage. When I read about this group of 200+ Native Alaskan women who knit fine lace with musk ox wool, I was hooked. I could hardly believe that such soft, fine yarn could be spun from the fur of such a prehistoric-looking animal. I was equally interested in the women who did the knitting, the knitting techniques and patterns they use, and the animals that provide the fiber for the qiviut (kiv'-ee-yoot) yarn. The more I read (and I bought and borrowed over 100 books), the more interested I became. Eventually I decided that I needed to write a book about this story before all of the people involved in the beginnings of the co-op died and the information was lost.

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Musk Oxen in a sprinkling of snow
2. I know that you previously wrote a book on knitted rugs. Is lace knitting a long-time interest for you, or was this book a departure from your usual projects?

This was a big departure from my previous projects. The projects in The Knitted Rug were mostly knitted on needles size 10, 11, and 13 while the projects in Arctic Lace were made with tiny needles size 1, 2 and 3! The biggest departure for me, however, was that I had never knitted lace before. In fact, the few times that I tried to knit lace, I failed. I think I had a lot of chutzpah to decide to write a book about knitting lace when I never had been able to knit lace successfully! I was actually afraid that I wouldn't be able to pull it off. But during my research, I found information about a knitting workshop given by Ann Schell to the first group of knitters in 1969. I used her tutorials to teach myself to knit lace. With a few changes to my approach, I found that knitting lace was actually easier for me than knitting cables or colorwork, which I had been doing successfully for some time.

The three keys to my success were:

1) Using charts instead of line-by-line instructions, and understanding how to read my knitting so the chart was not a confusing bunch of symbols to me but a picture of the knitting telling me stitch-by-stitch exactly what to do.

2) Using knit two together through the back loop for the left slanting decrease. The traditional decreases of ssk or sl1-k1-psso never worked for me because they required three motions to create one stitch, which disrupted my flow of reading the chart. K2tog-tbl is done in one motion. It creates a twisted decrease, but this does not show up enough to bother me in the fine lace yarns I used for Arctic Lace.

3) Practicing new stitches on worsted or sport weight wool yarn instead of fine laceweight yarn. I usually swatch on size 7 or 5 needles first, so I can learn the stitch and clearly see what I'm doing before I try to work the pattern in the fine yarn. I also swatch in the laceweight yarn as well before I start the project. I know that sounds like a lot of swatching, but I'd rather make mistakes on my swatches than on my actual project, especially if I am using expensive yarn like qiviut!

I talk about each of these three keys in Arctic Lace and I have included an updated version of the tutorial that Ann Schell used to teach the co-op knitters in the 60s.

3. Is it traditional for the Yup'ik and Inupiat women to knit lace primarily, or this just the facet of their knitting tradition that you found yourself interested in?

Knitting first came to Alaska in the hands of missionaries, so the techniques and patterns that were used were Russian, European, and American. Today, just like the rest of us, many Yup'ik and Inupiat women learned how to knit from their mothers, aunts, grandmothers, or neighbors. And just like knitters everywhere, they each have their favorite types of projects, yarns, and knitting techniques.

The lace patterns used by the Oomingmak Co-op were developed specifically for items to be sold commercially. The co-op was created with the specific intention of providing income to women in areas of Alaska where little or no other work was available. Because the lifestyle of Native Alaskans in rural villages has been changing drastically in the last century (snow mobiles have replaced dog sleds as the main form of winter transportation, for example), the people have more need for cash to purchase commercially available items to make their lives more comfortable and to help complement their subsistence lifestyle.

In the early days, before the co-op was incorporated, the women who were involved in the project (the boss was a man named John Teal who had the vision to start the project and it was the 50s and 60s when pretty much every boss was a man!), did a lot of experiments with spinning qiviut fiber and making different types of sample products with it. After trying many different things, they decided to create a line of lace accessories using patterns that were inspired by various Yup'ik and Inupiat arts and crafts designs.

The lace works well with qiviut because the fiber is so very warm and expensive. I find that I can wear a lightweight qiviut scarf on days when I would normally wear a sweater, and I never feel a chill. In addition, the co-op makes their laceweight nachaqs (hoods) out of just 1 ounce of qiviut and scarves with just a little more than that, so they are able to make quite a few items out of small amounts of yarn. Even so, the items start $175 US and a 1 ounce skein of yarn usually goes for about $65-70 US.

The new Tundra and Snow line of products produced by the co-op combines 100% qiviut in natural color with a wool/silk blend in white to help keep the costs down. These items are incredibly warm, as they are made with stranded color work. I can't imagine wearing them except in the arctic!

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Blocking scarves at the Oomingmak shop
4. Is there a thread that runs through your publications (other than the obvious - knitting!)? I know you have an interest in women's issues and it also seems that you have a particular interest in cultural knitting "niches" that most knitters may not be aware of. How does that interest inform and shape your writing?

I write about whatever grabs my attention. I call the decor in my house "things that I like" and I guess that's my philosophy about choosing writing projects as well. My next book is a pattern book called Kitty Knits that has no history or cultural information. However, I do have a strong interest in women's history, particularly as it relates to textiles. I know how to knit, crochet, embroider, sew, felt, needlepoint... and so forth. My mother and grandmother taught me all different needlework techniques when I was a child. So while I'm focusing on knitting for the time being, I have ideas for books in other areas as well.

I also want at least some of what I write to have a greater purpose. That is, while I like to have fun and produce books that are fun to read and knit from, I would also like to be able to bring awareness to readers about issues that might otherwise fall under the radar. I don't think many people in the lower 48 know much about the Eskimos of Alaska. (The word Eskimo is an umbrella term that includes several related groups of Native Alaskans. In Canada, the term Inuit is preferred.*) There are very rich cultural heritages throughout Alaska and learning about the Native Alaskan peoples and their cultures can enrich all of our lives.

5. Which piece did you most enjoy creating for the book and what is it about that piece that you like?

My favorite piece to knit was the North Star Tam because it was challenging. It starts at the crown with 8 sts on double pointed needles, and you use yarn over increases to shape the hat and at the same time to draw a star on the crown. I also love the color of the yarn. Yellow is one of my favorite colors, and I used a gorgeous gold qiviut yarn from Windy Valley Musk Ox farm for the North Star Tam and Scarf set. You can't see the color in the book because the photos are all black and white, but I think the color is a perfect match to the design of this project. I also enjoyed designing this because it is the only pattern not based on an Eskimo design, so I got to let myself go wild, so to speak. I still stuck to the theme of Alaska, but I did not try to incorporate any existing design elements into this pattern.

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Chevron Scarf from Arctic Lace
6. Did you attempt to stay close to tradition when creating patterns, or did you find yourself branching out on some projects and giving a piece a bit of your own voice?

For most of the projects, I chose a Yup'ik or Inupiat object and let the decorations on that object speak to me until I could figure out how to transfer the shapes into lace knitting. The signature patterns of the Co-op are all inspired in this way and I wanted to create designs that were authentic to their tradition. I did depart from that for the North Star set as I mentioned above and for the Moebius Scarf, which uses a pattern created by Dorothy Reade. Reade was very influential in helping the Co-op test different types of spinning and production techniques, and I wanted to honor her contribution to the Co-op by featuring one of her original lace designs in the book.

7. What was the most difficult aspect of researching and writing Arctic Lace? Were you surprised by anything that you learned about your subject or yourself along the way?

The hardest part of the research -- and writing -- was deciding to stop. There is so much information about each of the topics in Arctic Lace, that I could have spent 10 more years on my research. My original manuscript was twice as long as the book is now. I had to decide what to cut and what to leave in. Some of the information I cut was published in Piecework magazine in an article called Needleworkers of the North. But most of it is just languishing on the hard drive of my old laptop and will probably never be used for anything.

I was surprised in several ways during my research. I was surprised to learn that musk oxen have no musk glands and they are not oxen. They are actually most closely related to sheep and goats. Early explorers misnamed the strange "buffalo" they saw in Canada, and the misnomer stuck.

I was surprised that musk oxen can not survive in areas with deep snow. They can only dig through a few inches of snow to find food, and if the snow is deep for long periods of time, they can starve.

I was surprised that many people in Unalakleet, a village of 600 people I visited, had pickup trucks even though you can't drive to any other town! I'm sure the trucks are nice when it's 50-below and you have to go to the post office or on other errands, but I just had no idea that I would see so many cars or trucks in an Eskimo village with no roads to other villages.

I could go on and on, but I was most surprised to discover that I love knitting lace, and that it is actually easy!


Thanks to Donna for this wonderfully informative interview. I hope it will pique your interest in this book and in the knitting traditions of the Arctic and the wonderful fiber of the musk ox. The blogtour continues. If you would like to follow the story, you can find the schedule here.

*Note from Julia: I was interested in the origins and uses of the term Eskimo, so I looked for a little more information on Wikipedia. The women who Donna worked with while researching Arctic Lace refer to themselves as Eskimo, so she uses it here. It does seem that the Inuit of Canada prefer not to be referred to as Eskimo, however, so I wanted to be sure that my readers understand that the term is only used in the context of the interview to describe people who use it to describe themselves.

Posted by Julia at 06:32 AM | Comments (10)

November 03, 2006

The Stuff of Amy Butler's Nightmares

Although I would have loved to wow you all with my chic taste and amazing sewing prowess for the first journey out on the sewing machine, it was simply not to be. Instead, my sometimes odd sense of humor and extremely rudimentary sewing skills got in the way:

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Whahahahahawha!

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Here's a detail I love -
the towel loop.
Soon after I inherited Marnie's machine and got it up and running, Larissa announced that she was putting together a fundraising auction for Cafe Au Play, a wonderful family-oriented cafe project in Portland, which is slated to take place tomorrow night. In the past, I have done some minimal sewing on the borrowed machines of friends, culminating in much of the piecing work on this quilt. The last time I did any substantive sewing was over three years ago, and it was fairly rudimentary then. Still, I got pretty excited about this apron drive and decided that I really wanted to participate, so I signed up, thinking that I would make an apron or two for myself as a test run and then complete one to mail off to Larissa. Oh, the hubris!

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The bow in back.
Life, as usual, got in the way. I spent much of the last month either working or spending family time with Caia and M, and really didn't allow myself any time to play with the sewing machine. Then this week came and I attempted to cut fabric. Apparently I need to go back to kindergarten, because I cannot use scissors to save my life. Happily, I have a Michael's nearby, so I was able to pick up a rotary and self-healing mat and avoid the cutting issue. But then the issues with the machine itself began. I should probably say the issues with me. I am sure that if I had threaded it properly the machine would have been just fine. Instead, I spent all of Wednesday night meticulously taking the machine's guts out, removing thread, and cursing steadily. I was only set right by a desperate trip to the repair shop during lunch yesterday, wherein the repairman took mercy on me and reminded me of the most basic of sewing steps. Last night, with the deadline looming (thank god for fedex), I was determined to make the apron work. By early this morning it was finished. (Don't worry, I did not sew all night. I took a "Survivor" break and had a nice healthy sleep before returning to stitching.)

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Another view of the pocket.
The resulting apron definitely has its flaws. My esteemed photographer is capable of making it look quite nice in these photos, but if you look closely, you can see the way the stitching at the waist undulates like a series of gently rolling Iowa hills. The fabric is not cut in a straight line (as you can tell by the way that the skulls fail to line up), and there are likely thread ends hanging about, but for all that I still love it. I think that this apron would be a ton of fun for the mother of a little boy, or even for the occasional hip, secure dad (though I suppose even a hip dad would prefer to lose the pleating). It's not vintage, lacy, or delicate, like some of the other lovely pieces that I've seen donated, but I hope that it will fill the niche for fun. Although many of the seams are not straight, they should be strong. I'm hoping that the homemade nature of the auction will draw the kind of edgy Portland types who will like its rustic charm. If not, I am happy to bid myself!

For those who are interested, the pattern is the Pleated Apron from Amy Butler's recent book, In Stitches. It is extremely well-written, as evidenced by the fact that I, who cannot thread a sewing machine or cut with scissors, was able to follow it and produce an actual apron. (Yay!!!). The skull fabric is Talking Heads from the Alexander Hamilton Collection. Personally, I would make an entire quilt for a little boy out of this fabric, but as you know, my fabric taste has been questioned before.

Posted by Julia at 12:27 PM | Comments (15)

November 02, 2006

Thank You to My Knitting Community

At the time of this post, we have gotten 92 comments about Caia's passing and over 50 personal e-mails, and I am not at all surprised. One of the things that I love about this community is that when one of us suffers, others rally around; when someone - or many someones - need help, we pick up the cause and do something; when joyous events occur, we are always available to celebrate.

It's funny, because I know that there are many who are long-time readers who never comment about the knitting content, but who will be the first to delurk for the birth of a child or the passing of our beloved family dog. Although the knitting brings us together, I think it's the little bits of personal content and regular interaction that keep us close.

There is no way that I can write you guys back personally. Every time I read one of your comments or e-mails I get teary. I am not even going to try. But I do want you to know that I appreciate every single note from the long-term friends that I already know about, and from those of you lurking in the wings. I have read and savored each one, and I feel very lucky to have you all.

I also want to encourage those of you who don't always comment to speak up sometimes if you want to feel more involved. (I know some people would rather just read - that's cool, too.) I have to admit that I don't answer comments of the "nice sweater!" variety - although like everyone else, I do love to get those. But I will try to answer any questions that you have in the comments where you left them (so that everyone can see them - we often have similar questions), and I do try to touch base with people who write about an interesting connection that we have. I also periodically check out the blogs of my commenters, and especially lately, this has been a real treat for me. With so many blogs out there, and so many established bloggers who know and check in on each other, it can be hard to find the time to check out new sites, or even know where to begin to look. When you leave an personal comment and a blog link, it's a great opportunity for me to discover you. All of my blogging friends that I hang out with in *real life* were people that I traded comments with first - often for years. Finally, don't feel like you can't be part of the blogging world without a blog. Although it's easier for me to decide that I am comfortable and have something in common with another knitter if I can read all about them on a website, it isn't essential, and I've become friendly with people based only on our interaction through comments.

Again, thank you so much for your notes and thoughts about Caia. She meant the world to us, and somehow sharing her life and her passing with so many wonderful, understanding people helps.

Posted by Julia at 05:53 AM | Comments (18)

October 29, 2006

Goodbye to our sweet girl

Last night we had to let our Caia girl go. It's one of the hardest things we've ever had to do. For the last three weeks I've been working from home, coaxing her to eat, carrying her down the stairs to go out, hugging her, and crying a lot. Finally, at the end of this week, we knew that she was ready to go, and that she was just holding on for us.

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Caia in DC at the Congressional Cemetery, which is maintained in part by the donations and care of dog owners. It's a wonderful place.
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Me and Caia in Lake George on the boat. With tongue.
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Caia with our little niece, Sophie, and both of their toys.
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Caia watching the bass at the dock in Lake George. She would do this for hours.
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Townes giving Caia some orange love in the backyard.
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Caia and Townes holding paws.
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M and Caia sleeping together on the porch on Friday afternoon.

For me, I don't think there will ever be another dog as special as Caia. She was M's as a pup, but she's been mine, too, for the last nine years, from the age of five until almost fourteen. We met through our dogs in the park, and since then Caia has been almost everywhere we have been, from Lake George to San Diego. I have so many memories of being with her - running the ski trail in Iowa, lying by the lake in Chicago, walking along the rim of the Grand Canyon, playing on the dock in Lake George - everything. She has crossed the country with us at least 7 times, raised two kittens into cats, and two silly kids into something approximating adults. She has been the calm in the face of M's surgery and my brother's death. Our furry rock of Gibralter. We will miss her more than any words can say. Caia, girl, we will always love you.

Posted by Julia at 06:33 AM | Comments (105)

October 25, 2006

I have a tall soul*

But apparently it does not photograph well. Clearly, I belong in the front row with the gnome!

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Francesca, MH, Kat, Me, Lori, Shannon, MJ (with gnome), Andrea

I made all the girls at the spin in take a group photo. I think this is the one that best represents the most people. It's hard to get eight people to be photogenic at once! I hope this isn't too boring for those who don't know us personally. I've been too engrossed with tending to Caia to take photos of knitting or spinning, and I did want to share these photos of us having fun with everyone. Here's another cute candid shot of some of us sitting around the table:

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I love seeing those happy knitting faces. Good times.

*This is something I say a lot, because people are always remarking that I seem taller than I am. I'm not!

Posted by Julia at 06:40 PM | Comments (10)

October 23, 2006

Knitting, Spinning, Family

The Knitting:

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Swallowtail shawl in merino tencel handspun: far and near.

It's going well. I thought that I might be a bit short on yarn, so after I finished the tenth repeat, I weighed the yarn I had used (40 grams) and the yarn I had left (75 grams). Then I made a spreadsheet to determine how many total stitches a full swallowtail shawl would take (18,583), and how many stitches I could expect to get out of 115 grams of yarn (~15, 900). I determined that if I took out two budding lace repeats I would have enough yarn, and that if I simply added two rows with 4 yarnover increases before changing to the next lace pattern, I would have the correct multiple of stitches for the following lace patterns. This shawl was actually pretty ammenable to tweaking, so I really lucked out. I'm sure that what I wrote here sounds pretty complicated, but it's doable. If enough people are interested, I'll write up a tutorial on adjusting this type of shawl sometime. You never know when you'll need to double-check yardage and re-adjust. It sounds dull as dust, but I'm happy to forego the excitement of running out of yarn close to the end.

My adjustments may very well make the shawl too small to be practicable to wear, but I've decided I'm enjoying it so much that I don't really care. If I can't wear it, I'll frame it. It's a lovely pattern and a really nice use of the yarn. I'll let you know if it's wearable or not, though, just in case someone else has 290 yards of fingering that they're considering using this way.

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The red sparkly Christmas beret is almost finished, right on schedule.

This is an easy knit. No thinking, no tweaking, nothing. Perfect for a gift, and completely season appropriate. Normally I shy away from sparkly, but this really appeals to me, and the person it's for does sparkly quite well.

The Spinning:

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Heart's Content: 80% merino, 20% bombyx silk from Chameleon Colorworks.

I spun this at the spin-in at my house on Saturday. It's only 57 yards, but I should eventually be able to incorporate it into a project with some other handspun. I love the colorway, and especially after washing, it is really soft.

The Family:

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The crew, hanging out in bed the morning after the spin out.

We never used to allow the dogs (we had two) in bed, but now that Caia is an elder, we just put an old quilt on top and let her sleep wherever she wants. The night of the spin-in she insisted on sleeping with me, and when I finally woke up, exhausted and dazed, I found that I was under a pile of furry love. I slept in that little corner at the top! It's amazing the way the kitties pile on when Caia is in the bed. They find the tiniest crevasse and wedge themselves in. Not much sleep, but a lot of love.

Posted by Julia at 06:56 PM | Comments (18)

October 22, 2006

Postcard for Marnie

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Dear Marnie,

We just wanted to let you know that we miss you! We did much knitting and spinning in your honor, from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. (!!!) yesterday. Much sugar, and some healthful foods, were also consumed on your behalf. Here are some of the highlights, top to bottom, left to right: Andrea shows off her recently completed Icarus shawl; MH chills with MJ's gnome; Nonnahs gracefully models one of my Christmas berets; Francesca shows everyone how it's really done on a spindle; Lori and MJ try to sort out Lori's handspun for Andean plying; Nonnahs and Andrea discuss the finer points of Icaurs' lace border; Lori enjoys one of Nonnahs' homemade cupcakes with buttercream frosting; MH checks under the gnome's beard to see what's on offer!

Not pictured are Kat (who I only photographed holding knitting for publication!) and myself. We also took a few group shots, but those are on my Contax, so we have to wait a few days to get the film developed. We can't wait to see you! Get here soon!

Love, Us

Posted by Julia at 12:08 PM | Comments (10)

October 20, 2006

Hemingway & Faulkner

I've heard it said that if you want to write, you should read all of Faulkner, and then read all of Hemingway to get the Faulkner out of your system. The styles of these two greats are well-known for being at opposite ends of the writing spectrum, and I enjoy them both. (Though if I had to pick, I'd take Faulkner.) This quote found its way into my head after the long ordeal of spinning the raspberry merino tencel was over. After all that precision, concentration, patience, and striving for evenness and perfection, I wanted to spin something positively organic. (Okay, so this is more like reading Hemingway and washing it down with Faulkner - bear with me.) First, I pulled out my Maggie spindle:

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Mystery roving from Spunky Eclectic.
This was definitely an experience on the road to satisfying, and it was fun to play with a spindle again, but it was just a little wisp of roving (maybe an ounce?) and I was looking to make a big hank of soft, fluffy, thick and thin yarn, and really have some fun. So I pulled out the Rose, put it on the slowest ratio on the big whorl, and spun up the last few ounces of the chocolate-covered cherries bfl which was my very first roving purchase ever last year and the first thing that I really spun into something approximating yarn. The ChocCherries bfl has brought me good luck. It was also the first roving I spun on my Rose.

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Treadling with Townes on board.
When you are first spinning, more experienced spinners will look at your lumpy yarn and tell you that at some point you will have to work to achieve thick and thin like that, and that you should appreciate not having to work for it now. (Due to woeful inexperience, no less!) I've taken this to heart and made note of exactly what it was that I've done "wrong" to produce such incredibly large slubs, so that I could later reproduce them at will. If you're just starting, take note - your own foibles put you in a position to learn a lot about making designer yarn. One of my favorite thick and thins from early on was this Tahiti handspun, which reminds me of Manos (but lumpier). I was going for an even more extreme, fluffy version. This is what I got:

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So fluffy! So soft! So fun!

I'm going to set the twist using Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' method of simmering the yarn, but I'm waiting until I have a chance to hop over to the Goodwill and buy some old stockpots, because I think it's probably a bad idea to simmer dyed yarn in the ones we use for our soups and stews. I've been really impatient to knit with some thick and thin yarn, though, so in the meantime, I've pulled out my Tahiti skeins and started knitting a Christmas Scarf for my little niece, Sophie. I really like how it's coming along so far:

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Zoom in, zoom out.

This is almost as good as reading The Bear.

Posted by Julia at 06:26 AM | Comments (13)

October 18, 2006

I Have Spun Koigu

I know. It probably sounds a bit boastful, and when I say it, I don't mean that you should all turn in your KPPPM and start begging me to spin for you. My yarn definitely has some "features" that you won't find in koigu, but that said it is shockingly similar. The funny thing is that it wasn't intentional, and that I didn't even notice until I started knitting with it. I just had a strange sensation of deja vu. And then it came to me. I had managed to spin something a lot like my absolute favorite yarn for socks. Happy, happy co-inckie-dink!

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I cast on for the Swallowtail Shawl last night. Love it.

I think that the beginnings of the swallowtail shawl look remarkably similar to the beginnings of Charlotte's Web.* Oh happy, happy days. And can I just say that although I am only a wee bit into this Swallowtail pattern I am already hooked on it. It's totally fun, pretty and really easy to memorize. Now I just have to pray that I don't run out of yarn. It's going to be a very, very close call, but I'm optimistic. And I'm so into this shawl that I can't stop. May the knitting gods be with me. Tiffany, my spinning mentor from afar (Marnie was my spinning mentor from anear), is spinning and knitting this one with me. Tiffany, hon, you better spin fast. I'm so excited I may whip through this one despite all the other crap I should be doing.

Here's one last close-up for the knitters out there who are sick of all this spinning content:

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See guys? I do still knit! Just with my own brew.

I have several other things on the needles as well, including another handspun project (check the sidebar if you're interested). I've just been so stoked about my handspun that it's been hard to make myself blog the knitting. In this case, it's two for one.

The State of the Koosher
I know that several of you have sent well-wishes to Caia, and I just wanted to let you know that she has improved a lot since last week. Caia is old enough (almost 14) that improvement means we may be able to give her a good quality of life for weeks, or if we're really lucky, months, and that is what we're going for right now. She's not in any pain, and she is still able to enjoy belly and ear rubs, chomping on a bone, and her favorite pastime, naps with Townes. I snapped this picture of them early this morning, before we headed in for her check-up with the vet:

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Townes is obviously having blissful dreams of his true doggy love.

I love the way that these two often sleep in similar positions, or even mirroring each other. If there is anyone Townes is more devoted to than he is to me, it's Caia. It's a little bit like watching Pepe Le Pew and that poor black cat. Undying, almost suffocating, interspecies devotion. When we took Caia to the vet last week, we were very afraid that we were at the end, so we brought Townes along. He curled around her head on the exam table and stayed with her throughout everything - shots, having blood drawn - everything. Even the vet was surprised. He said he'd never seen anything quite like it.

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*Okay, so that was a crappy Charlotte's Web picture, and never let us mind that I didn't ever get further than that on Charlotte's Web. That was what it looked like before I ripped it out!

Posted by Julia at 12:55 PM | Comments (20)

October 17, 2006

Raspberry Merino Tencel

Last week was rough. I pulled some pretty long hours preparing for a presentation in SF that I gave yesterday, and taking care of our sweet Caia girl, who is succumbing to age, despite our valiant efforts and her own. During the week there were only stolen moments of knitting and spinning here and there to maintain my sanity. So on Saturday, I allowed myself to have a complete and total Julia day. I spun the rest of my second bobbin of raspberry-colored merino tencel, plied the singles, spun another skeinlette on my maggie spindle, plied that on my pilchuck spindle, returned to the wheel to spin a wonderful thick and thin chocolate covered cherries singles, knit on one of my gift berets, and then knit some of my handspun for the first time ever. We take our Julia time seriously over here at chez MOW. It was blissful.

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Two bobbins of merino tencel, side by side.

Although I know I'm famous for my long-ass windbag posts (and this will no doubt be one, too!), I'm not enough of a windbag to cover everything I did and saw this weekend (Sunday was another Julia day, spent in SF with Emily at the DeYoung Museum, but that, too, is another post), so I'll start with telling you about the raspberry merino tencel here.

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The plied singles on the bobbin. This made me soooo happy.

As I've said before, the raspberry merino tencel project was my first somewhat longer-term spinning project on the wheel. Before this, everything that I've done could have been accomplished in a single day, albeit a long one. For this project however, I was going for a finer plied yarn than I've created in the past. The singles were so fine that it took me about 6 sittings to spin each bobbin, and I'd estimate that each represents about 8 hours of work at a minimum. The plying took me about 2 hours, and I was afraid that it was going to take a heck of a lot longer.

Moxie played the role of Margene (of whom he is completely and totally unaware) while I was plying. I was so excited to see the finished yarn I was almost jumpy - chomping at the bit. He kept reminding me that I was supposed to be enjoying the entire *process* and that I shouldn't be concerned about getting to the end product as much as enjoying the spinning that I was doing. I knew he was right, but I thought I was going to kill him. I wanted to see the yarn!

When I was finally done plying, I was left with less than two feet of unplied singles. This made me insanely happy, as I have an obsession with using every little bit of yarn - to the point where it is not unusual at all for me to come very dangerously close to running out of yarn on a knitting project. It's stupid, I know, and I always counsel people to buy more yarn than they need when asked, but I can't help it. I save everything, and I can't stand to have half-skeins of unused yarn hanging around.

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Plied singles on my brand spanking new niddy-nosty from Amy at Spunky Eclectic. A truly wonderful tool.

I wound the skein onto my niddy-nosty (love this!) and ended up having about 290 yards of yarn. To be honest, I was hoping for closer to 400 yards, but still, this was almost three times as much as I've ever spun in a single skein, so it was still really impressive to me.

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Here's the skein right off the niddy-nosty.
For a zoomed-out shot click here.

Because I had spun the singles over the space of two weeks, there was no way to tell whether the skein was balanced right off the niddy-nosty. (I warned Moxie of this, and his disappointment was palpable. He revels in the fact that I make him guess whether each and every skein is balanced, just prior to niddy-noddy removal. It is prime entertainment for the entire family.) Here it is all curly, but after wetting it hung straight, and is still straight after drying (I thwacked the hell out of it, but did not weight the skein). It looks balanced to me, though I'm sure that there are more experienced spinners who could chime in and let me know how to be sure. (Hint, hint - chime in!)

I love this skein. There are still thick and thin points, but overall, it represents the most professional-looking yarn I've made to date. I'm hoping to knit a shawl from it. I'm not sure that I'll have enough to make Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail Shawl (I've been drooling over Jared's since he finished it), but I'd like to give it a go. If anyone has a good approximation of how much fingering-weight yarn it would take to make the swallowtail, or even exactly how much lace-weight it took, I'd love to know. In the meantime, here are the stats for the yarn:

Fiber: Raspberry Merino Tencel (70/30)
Weight: 4 ounces
Source: Carolina Homespun
Wheel: Majacraft Rose, fastest ratio on the slow whorl
Yards: 290
WPI: 16-17 (fingering weight)

Posted by Julia at 06:15 AM | Comments (24)

October 10, 2006

Conqueror's Day

For Columbus Day, Andrea composed this post. I do not know how our history will be written, but I hope that it will not continue in the same way that it started.

The other day while driving to the Getty, I heard an interview with Desmond Tutu about the state of democracy in America, and it stopped me in my tracks. Rather than celebrating, I hope we can all take the time to listen.

Posted by Julia at 05:53 AM | Comments (5)

October 09, 2006

She is (was?) Having Fun....

The pink and blue skeins are from the week before last - the yellow one is the Lemon Sherbet, which you've seen before. The pink and blue are Indigo Moon Brushstroke Batts - alpaca, merino & silk - procured for me by Cara, with guidance from Julia FC at last year's Rhinebeck festival. They are delectible. This week there will be very little spinning or anything else - work, work, work! But, in honor of the upcoming weekend in Rhinebeck, I thought you might like to see the before and after shots.


Before.



After!

Cara, would it be too boring to ask for more of the same? I love this stuff!

Posted by Julia at 06:13 AM | Comments (14)

October 08, 2006

I'm a Twisted Sister Part II: How to Turn Pencil Rovings into Mud

When last we left my beautiful Rose Quartz merino roving, I was doing a little experiment to see how the roving would look if I split it lengthwise into several multi-colored pencil rovings and spun it up. If I had actually remembered what I read in the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, or perhaps gone back to reference what the workbook said, I might have known to expect a little mud. Being the intrepid ignorer of the wonderful books I read in preparation for such exercises, I did not. In so ignoring, I have re-invented the wheel and performed the experiment all over again, in living color (or not so much?) for you, dear readers. I give you mud:

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But it's a rather lovely mud, isn't it?

Happily, I think mud might be the preferred color of choice in this case. When I purchased this roving, the name Rose Quartz seemed to fit it better than it does now. It had a definite overall pinkish sheen to it, with tons of other colors as little accents. Photograhed, it appears that purple is the dominant color, with strong accents of green, and when you ply it, that is really how it turns out. I know that I read somewhere that the best way to figure out which colors will dominate is to photograph the roving and see what dominates (I can't remember if this was in Twisted Sisters or not), and I'm here to tell you in this case, at least, it works. I like green, and I like purple, but honestly I *think* I'd rather have brown with accents of both than see the two try to compete in a barberpole yarn. We'll see for sure if that 's the case when I try to figure out how to get them to do that.

As promised, here are some shots of the process:

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One of these bobbins is not like the other...

Here's a shot of the two bobbins prior to plying. The one that looks bigger actually weighs a smidge less. I like how the purple has a bluish cast here. It doesn't make it through the plying.

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The plied yarn on the bobbin.

Here's what it looks like plied on the bobbin. This is where the brown effect really starts to sink in.

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All niddy-noddied up.

When you view it from a distance on the niddy-noddy, the overall effect is a purpley brown. Subtle, and nothing like the original roving, which had a distinct lack of subtlety.

RQLeftoversCIMG6086.JPG
The dregs.

You might remember that I attempted to weigh out the roving so that I would have equal amounts of yarn in the singles with very little leftovers. Even if I had weighed everything perfectly (which is hard to do with a kitchen scale that does grams, but not tenths of grams), my uneven spinning would likely throw the lengths of the singles out of balance. And it did, but not by too much. I'm not sure exactly how much I have sitting there, because two weeks later it is still hanging out on the bobbin, but I'm guessing only about 5 yards at a maximum. It could be worse!

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All skeined up and hanging out with the lantern.

Here's a final view of the skein in its native habitat. This was actually the heftiest skein that I have spun yet - a total of 140 yards. (Woo hoo!) Eventually, I will return to this roving and alternate ways to prepare it, but for now, I'm knee deep in several other rovings which have distracted me in the last few weeks. In the meantime, if you want to see the differences between spinning from pencil rovings and spinning from the fold, as demonstrated by a much more experienced spinner than myself, check out this post from the other Julia.

Posted by Julia at 06:44 AM | Comments (10)

October 06, 2006

Handspun at the Getty

Recently, I had a chance to meet up with Cara and MJ, and take some really fabulous photos at the Getty Musuem.

MeGettyCropped.jpg Checking out the wonderfully high-tech equipment.

Moving through the garden in search of the prized quarry.

MeFlowers.jpg
Will I catch the handspun?

There's a glimpse!

ShootingCara.jpg
For more, you'll have to visit Cara.

All photos of me, taking pictures of Cara, were taken by MJ. My knitwear for this shoot was generously provided by Marnie.

Posted by Julia at 09:54 PM | Comments (7)

October 05, 2006

The Book Meme

I meme infrequently, but I'm always up for a book meme, because I get to share my favorites and also learn about yours. This one was from Kodachrome:

1. One book that changed your life:

Two: Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet and Men in Dark Times, Hannah Arendt

The Prophet belonged to my adopted Mamaw, who died when I was four. I grew up reading it, over and over, and despite the fact that I am not religious (at least not consciously), it is my moral compass in most things. The chapter On Love in particular is close to my heart.

I read the first essay in Men in Dark Times in college. Whenever I feel overwhelmed about the way the world is going and my own place in it, I return to that essay.

2. One book that you've read more than once:

The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Another favorite. "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye." I always wanted to be tamed.

The book that I’ve read more times than any other: The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis.

In second grade, I read the entire the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe series, and read several of the books more than once. I read the Horse and his Boy 18 times.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein. I know it's a trilogy, but that is only because it would be too thick as a single book. It counts.

4. One book that made you laugh:

I cannot for the life of me think of a book that made me laugh. I would say one of David Sederis' books, but I don't laugh when I read those nearly as much as I do when he reads them to me (and to everyone elseon public radio). His essay about having to lick the light switch before he left his bedroom as a kid simultaneously made me laugh myself silly and feel insanely close to this very quirky man.

5. One book that made you cry:

Two. One long, one short. The Wall, John Hersey. Stones for Ibarra, Harriet Doerr. Read them now.

6. One book you wish had been written:

My own.

7. One book you wish had never been written:

I haven't read a book yet that I actually wish hadn't been written, but On the Road by Jack Keroac comes close. I don't know how I finished it. Or why. I was annoyed the whole time. I guess I just wanted to know what all the hype was about. Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook is a close second. Except for the hundred pages about the girl in love with her brother. That was interesting. I assume that Henry Miller would also fall into this category for me, which is why Tropic of Cancer sits on my shelf untouched.

8. One book you're currently reading:

I only read one book of fiction/literature at a time. I've been reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy forever. I'm taking it slow!

9. One book you've been meaning to read:

I'll go with Kodachrome and say Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, I also want to read the latest book by Ishiguro.

10. Some favorite books not on this list:

Go Down Moses, Faulkner.
Beloved, Toni Morrison.
Seven Gothic Tales, Isaac Dineson.
Labyrinths, Borges.
The Awakening, Kate Chopin.
The Planter of Malata, Joseph Conrad (more of a novella or story).

Maybe we need to make lists of our top 30 books?

People to tag:
[Edited to add: I am linking to their responses as I get them. That way we'll have even more book lists to share.]

Jennie
Andrea
MJ
John

Posted by Julia at 10:32 PM | Comments (17)

October 04, 2006

Some Help for Achieving a Balanced Ply

The other day, Marnie wrote about how to check to see if your plied yarn is balanced while it is still on the spindle (or wheel). I found this really useful, and was suprised that I hadn't thought of checking my plies this way, especially since I know a similar trick for checking to see what your plied yarn should look like before you actually ply it. Sometimes the rudimentary things just don't filter down! Anyhoo, along that line of thought, I'm sharing the trick for checking to see what your plied yarn should look like in advance. For most, this will be old hat, but perhaps it will help a relative newbie (like me!).

NightingaleCIMG6055.JPGNightingaleCIMG6057.JPGNightingaleCIMG6061.JPG
Check your ply in advance in four easy steps.
1. Hold a length of yarn out taut from either your bobbin or your spindle shaft.

2. Place a pen (or any other lightly weighted household object with a hook) over the yarn.

3. Allow the yarn to spin until it slows and begins to spin in the opposite direction - don't let it actually backspin, or if it does, let it go back to "zero" where it isn't twisting in either direction.

4. Take a look at the twist - this is what your yarn should look like when it is plied!

The roving that I've been working with is a merino/tencel blend from Carolina Homespun. It's a little more slippery than what I'm used to, but oh, so nice. No pre-drafting is necessary with this stuff - just grab a hunk and spin.

NightingaleCIMG6065.JPG

My individual plies seem very fine, though, in fact, I think the yarn produced will be a DK weight when plied - we'll see. This is a longer project for me. Most of the rovings I've spun up thickly enough that I could easily spin and ply two ounces in one sitting. This roving will take 4 to 6 sessions, depending on how long I spin each time. It's a real exercise in patience, as I am dying to see the finished yarn.

TownesCIMG6067.JPG Here's the roving in its original state, with my patient little boy in the background.

This was a long spinning session for the Nounie as well. He loves to sit close by and watch the wheel spin. (When I knit, he sacks out on my lap.) This morning, I spun for so long that he fell asleep at his post by my flip-flops. He is so sweet it hurts my heart a little to look at him.

TownesCIMG6070.JPG "You're hurting my heart, little boy."

Townes, on the other hand is completely un-sentimental and non-plussed:

TownesCIMG6073.JPG
"I'm asleep mom."

TownesCIMG6074.JPG "No, really. I am."
Posted by Julia at 06:30 PM | Comments (9)

October 03, 2006

Thelma: Pattern Notes

It feels like I am long overdue on writing up some pattern notes for poor Thelma. Happily, what she's lacking in notes, I've made up for in wear. Although we have had the occasional nippy or overcast day, for the most part, it's been a typical Southern California early fall, which means that although it's chilly at night, temps still soar into the 90's in the middle of the day, so Thelma has gotten lots of play.

ThelmaBannerCIMG6025.JPG
Andrea complained that our view never makes it into the photos.
Ask and ye shall receive!

Thelma
Designed by Erika Knight, Rowan Denim People
Knit with four skeins (110 yards/skein) of Rowan Denim (100% Cotton) in Memphis (229) and less than 50 yards of BluJeans Indigo (Medium) on Marnie's little knitter (tension 5, carriage 5). Finishing and hems done by hand using size US 4 Addi Turbo circulars.
Gauge: 18 sts and 25 rows per 4" square.
Size: xs, to fit 32" bust.

ThelmaCloseCIMG6028.JPG
Close up of the keyhole, top hems and ribbon straps.
The Pattern
This is a really quick and easy knit. The machine knitting on the body took me about 3 hours total, including time for swatching and adjusting the pattern. Following in the footsteps of Miss Marnie, I never use the machine's cast on or cast off edges, but instead treat them as provisional and add two rows at each end for easy transfer to the needles for handknitting. I knit the lighter-colored hem at the bottom by hand and all the hems at the neckline by hand as well. This took a bit longer - about 7 hours! You never realize how long finishing takes until you machine knit a piece. In this case, it was 70% of the work.

If you use a machine, don't be afraid to try some hand-knitting in stockinette on a continuous piece. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to match machine gauge, but it really hasn't been an issue. The machine generally knits at the tension of the "average" knitter from what I've found, so since I knit loosely, I go down a needle size for hand stitching. If you knit tightly, simply go up a needle size instead.

Techniques:
Nothing new here for me. It was very fun to knit the picot hems, though. I love me some picots! The hardest part of this little tank is the finishing. I had to sew down all my hems afterward, rather than using the snazzy k2tog method of hem fastening, because I machine knit and then handknit down from each edge afterwards. I could have done the bottom edge on the machine, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it until after the main knitting was done. If you plan ahead, some of the sewing can be avoided.

Modifications: Just a few. The original piece uses a curved hem at the bottom which rolls up slightly. I didn't want this tank to be belly-baring, so I lengthened the body a smidge and then added the lighter picot edge at the bottom. I omitted the pocket, and changed the denim straps to ribbon. I used some leftover grossgrain ribbon from Asana to do this. The color is a really rich green, a little lighter than hunter green, and it happens to perfectly match one of the skirts that I wear with Thelma a lot (not this one). Eventually I want to outfit several different ribbons with snaps, so that I can change colors when I like. I think a deep chocolate ribbon would be nice. All of these mods dress this pattern up a little, which I like, and make it more wearable for me. I still think the original is really cute, though, and I would love to downsize it for my little niece, Sophie. It would be adorable on a toddler.

Finishing:
Much of this is covered in techniques, but if you skimmed there, be forewarned that the finishing is where the work comes in on this piece. It's a beginner knit with intermediate finishing.

ThelmaCIMG6023.JPG
When you work with denim, it always comes out substantially longer (about 15-20%) and a little bit wider off the needles than it will after washing. So part of the finishing process is tossing your knit in the washer (solo, please, in case it bleeds!) and then into the dryer. I didn't check the washer during the soak cycle to see how much bleeding went on, but the color did lighten up (as it should) and the fabric softened and bloomed substantially - in a good way. It shrunk exactly as much as it was supposed to - good job, Rowan!

Rowan suggests that you wash the piece before any seaming occurs, but I went ahead and seamed and stitched down the hems, which turned out fine. I seamed the sides after drying, and added the ribbon then as well. I also steam-ironed the pieces so that they looked crisp. I threaded the ribbon through by clipping a safety pin to the end of it, and snagging that with the tip of a straight needle which I then pushed through the hem. Voila!

Impressions of Rowan Denim:
This is the first time that I used this yarn and I really enjoyed it. Rowan Denim didn't bleed onto my hands while I knit the way that other denim yarns have. [edited to add: Note that Christine mentions it did bleed for her in the comments below - which makes sense since I only hand knit the hems, whereas she knit an entire piece.] I works up very crisply, but it softens and fades nicely once you wash and dry it, and the gaps created by the stiffness of the yarn are filled in when it blooms.

Possible substitute yarns:
I also used some really old stash yarn, BluJeans Indigo, for this project, and it works well, too. It starts out a lot softer, but it also tends to bleed onto your hands while knitting, which is kind of annoying. If it isn't discontinued, the price points are good, though. I have a ton of this stuff and will use it for some other denim projects. The gauge is interchangeable. I think that Elann sometimes carries a denim that would also work, though I haven't seen it in the blue colors on their site lately.

Shots with the Caia Koosher:
I wanted my photoshoot to include Caia girl, but trying to get her in there and get a good view of Thelma was nearly impossible, so I had to do some photos without her. Here are a few where Caia is the star.

ThelmaCaiaCIMG5991.jpg ThelmaCaiaCIMG5989.jpg

What am I saying? Caia is always the star.

[Read all entries on Thelma.]

Posted by Julia at 06:43 AM | Comments (15)

October 01, 2006

Addendum to Prairie Tunic Shooz

Britt wrote to let me know that her lace section turned out to be about 28 sts to 4.5 inches, which would give the correct measurements noted in the pattern for the Prairie Tunic. Others have written to let me know that their measurements for the lace section are closer to mine. So, this means that the pattern is completely fine as written, but you will need to swatch the lace to be sure that your lace gauge is what it should be before beginning.

This was a pretty interesting revelation for me, because I had always assumed (and many patterns out there also assume) that if your Stst gauge is on, your patterned stitch gauge will be as well. It makes sense that this might not always be the case and that some knitters might yo a little more tightly or loosely than others. Since this is the first pattern I've knit using a large swath of stockinette next to a lace panel, I hadn't noticed it before. So, it's kind of a cool learning experience.

Since I can't change needle sizes in the middle of a row (well, I suppose I could with Denise Interchangeables or Knitpicks Options, but I'm not going to!), I'm going to have to knock out some stitches - either stockinette or lace. I'll probably knock out some stockinette, as the lace is more fun, but we'll see. I also may swatch Blue Garter's closed lace pattern option as I kind of like the idea of a little less flash. While I'm at it, I'm going to consider some shaping and other tweaks as well. Ultimately, though, I think this is one that will get knit next year. It's time to move on to wool, while I still can!

Posted by Julia at 12:07 PM | Comments (3)

September 29, 2006

Shooz

I have been spinning up a storm, and reading to prepare for sewing like there's no tomorrow. In part, this is because I'm loving my wheel and excited about the sewing machine, but I've also had each and every one of my WIPs, with the exception of the one I'm designing myself, turn around and bite me on the ass. To wit:

The Prairie Tunic

PrairieTunicCIMG5956.JPG
An approximately 36.5-inch-circumference on my piddly 32-inches-at-most-breasts.
It ain't happening.

Previously, there was a problem with the triangle-shaping in this pattern. Here's the correction on IK. If you don't already, it is a really good idea to check IK's corrections page before starting a project. I knew about this issue, so it isn't what got me.

The problem I discovered, is that the finished measurements and the schematic appear to be off. They might have been calculated using Stst (though this doesn't work out mathematically either) or a different lace gauge than I got (more likely).

Unfortunately, it makes a huge difference in the finished garnment. In the smallest size, the waist and bust have a finished measurement of 33" in the pattern. On my tunic, the lace panel, which is 28 sts wide, measures 6 inches blocked (not the photo below, but a swatch that I have since ripped). So, if you do a little math, ((102 sts - 28 sts) / 6.5 sts/inch)) + 6 inches = 17.38". The schematic shows this as 16.25". Then there's the front, which has two 28 st lace panels, so ((102 sts - 56 sts) / 6.5 sts/inch)) + 12 inches = 19.07". The schematic shows this as 16.75". The total circumference would be 36.45" instead of the 33" as shown in the finished measurements of the pattern. Which might explain why the blogger it looks best on (blue garter, see below) has rather enviable womanly curves.

PrairieTunicCIMG5958.JPG The lace, which is 28 sts over 6 inches of fabric.

Now, it is possible that somehow my lace gauge is way off, but if it were, I would have no way of knowing that, because it isn't included in the pattern. But my Stst is dead on, so I'd be surprised if the lace gauge was this far off. If you've made it, what was your lace gauge? I haven't alerted IK to the problem, but if someone else had similar lace gauge issues, I will.

I did some searching around on the net and found these bloggers who had finished the Prairie Tunic. Their comments give me some pause, but I like the pattern, so I think I will simply revise it for my lace gauge to get a closer fit, and consider adding a bit of waist shaping. I think Veronik Avery has a wonderful sense of style and I don't mind putting in some time to make it work for me. For this year, however, it's going to get put away so that I can make room for the short LA "winter" knitting season.

The upside of this experience was an intro to some great new (to me) blogs. The only person whose site I had visited before was Emily's. Check these out. There are some great pattern notes and photos. I love Blue Garter's Tunic, and Get in My Head's dress (in the same post) is gorgeous. Oh, and if you people don't blogsearch a pattern before you make it, you might want to start - I'm going to!

Frith's comment on Emily's blog

Amandamonkey's post on the Prairie Tunic and her FO shots (love it with the wife-beater)

Drago[knit]-fly's FO shots and notes

Blue Garter's FO shots and notes (evidence that breasts do well in this cami - did she shorten it, too? think so!).

Knits and Pieces' FO shots and notes

The Knitting Dork's FO shots and notes

FO shots on a Japanese site I wish I could read

Get in My Head's awesome dress! and Prairie Tunic

Posted by Julia at 06:26 AM | Comments (14)

September 27, 2006

And now, for a sewing interlude

Right after law school, I moved to Arizona and started work at a small firm with three wonderful women. We were all crafters - Jack, Jessica and I were knitters and Ellen was a quilter. When I got engaged in the early fall of that year, Ellen decided that as a wedding gift, she, Jack and Jessica would spring for fabric at The Quilted Apple, and she would teach all three of us to make a quilt for my wedding. In between margaritas, episodes of the Gilmore Girls, and some rather intense floor refinishing at Ellen's, we got a fair amount done on the quilt before I left Arizona to join Moxie in LA. Then the quilt languished as our lives went on and we married, bought houses, and changed jobs, but eventually, three and a half years after we started it, the quilt somehow got completed and made its way to me:

CIMG5787.JPG The Wedding Quilt

Many hands helped to build this beautiful and cozy blanket. Ellen's mother tied and bound it (and reported that it had to be tied rather than quilted due to the margarita episode). It is one of my most prized possessions, and I will treasure it forever. But here's the real kicker: Moxie, who eschews all things with color, and many things handmade, affirmatively likes it. Shocking, no? But so very, very nice.

I really enjoyed sewing, and made several floor pillows and the occasional curtain. I would even borrow a sewing machine to do some finishing on my knits, but I never had a machine of my own, until Marnie decided to move to Portand and didn't have room to take her machine, or her grandmother's sewing table, along:

SewingMachineCIMG5945.JPG The sewing machine and other wonderful goodies.

So now I have two more really special possessions. Marnie is definitely my LA Ellen, and to me, it is much more special to have a sewing machine that was hers than it could ever be to go out and purchase one for myself. And, I have accessories made by friends, too. Notice the wonderful little pin cushion above? It was made by Mary Heather. (As were the cute little shrinky dink pins.) Armed with such great equipment and knowledge from friends, I think I'm ready to go forth into the world of sewing.

And since friends have made this possible, I've decided to pay it forward, and make one of my first projects for an auction that one of our virtual friends is helping to pull together to benefit a really neat Portland project, called Cafe au Play. Who knows, maybe someday I'll end up there and have a chance to take advantage of this wonderful cooperative venture. I clearly have plenty of reasons to visit.

If you haven't yet, please go visit Larissa's site. She is collecting aprons to auction, and I just know that many of you guys can whip out an apron in no time flat. While you're there, grab a button:

apronsforcafp.jpg

Finally, I have some wonderfully fashionable fabric to show you:

CowboysCIMG5953.JPG KitsNKoiCIMG5954.JPG
Cowboys and Kittens and Koi, Oh My!

Marnie was so impressed with my impeccable taste when I chose the kitten fabric at the Santa Monica Fiber Fest, that I felt she deserved something equally special for her Christmas present. She has gone so far as to coin the phrase "It's so kittens and koi" to refer to instances when people that she otherwise considers tasteful deviate so far in their choices that she just isn't quite as sure about them anymore. I believe the cowboys suit her recent bent toward the manly men. I'm thinking a Brokeback pillowcase may be in order.

P.S. Fear not, Larissa. I promise not to make you a cowboy apron. I understand that Cafe au Play is a family establishment.

Posted by Julia at 04:33 AM | Comments (24)

September 26, 2006

A Dog and her Boy

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Because we can never have enough pictures of the ones we love.

And because my handspun is still drying.

*smile*

Posted by Julia at 07:26 AM | Comments (18)

September 24, 2006

When Something Orange This Way Comes

Another balanced yarn? I'll fix that!
TownesCIMG5876.JPG TownesCIMG5880.JPG TownesCIMG5886.JPG TownesCIMG5906.JPG TownesCIMG5908.JPG TownesCIMG5909.JPG TownesCIMG5910.JPG
Cute, but not exactly recommended.
I particularly like the photo where he's using his back foot for leverage. He is nothing, if not determined, the little stinker.
Posted by Julia at 06:56 AM | Comments (24)

September 23, 2006

I'm a Twisted Sister, Part I: Roving vs. Singles

We're quickly approaching my one year spinniversary, the day that Shirley and I learned to spindle spin under the tutelage of Marnie. When I decided that I wanted to learn to spin, I sought out the advice of Tiffany, whose gorgeous spinning I really admired. Tiffany responded with a great list of books and resources and a care package of fibers to play with. Her number one book pick was the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, and it was the very first spinning-related book I purchased.

RoseQuartzCIMG5847.JPG "Rose Quartz" merino from Carolina Homespun, still on the bobbin of my Majacraft Rose.

The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook will not teach you about spinning per se, and honestly, the best pamphlets I've seen on spinning itself are the free pdfs offered by spin-off, but it delves rather extensively into dyeing, roving preparation, and sock knitting and is incredibly inspiring. I devoured the whole thing in a weekend. I've been meaning to write a review of it for some time, but for the moment I will just tell you one of my favorite things about the book.

The section on roving preparation is very, very thorough, and emphasizes the benefits of taking the time to carefully divide and pre-draft your roving.

RoseQuartzCIMG5854.JPG Here's what my Rose Quartz merino looks like before any preparation.

The author, Lynne Vogel, talks about how she spends a great deal of time considering the roving itself and whether to spin from pencil rovings, created by dividing the roving length-wise, or to spin from the fold, a cross-section of the roving. She determines how long she wants her color repeats to be, whether she wants to spin a singles or a plied yarn. She does all this while simply looking at the roving and contemplating what it might be. The choice of how to prepare the roving will greatly affect the look of the yarn that you produce, and Lynne shows us the differences in beautiful color photographs.

RoseQuartzCIMG5857.JPG For my first skein of Rose Quartz, I made individual pencil rovings and rolled them into bird's nests.

For me, seeing the Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook's pictures of finished yarn next to the roving that produced it was very akin to what I experienced as a new knitter when I could actually see different yarns worked up into swatches. Before you have experience with a given fiber, color, or technique, it can be hard to envision what the result of your efforts will be. (Hence my first lace scarf that I designed using lovely, but thick tweedy wool - not a huge success. Now, I think I could probably finesse a tweedy wool into a lovely lace scarf, because I know the rules and can break them in new and interesting ways. Then, it was just a mess!)

RoseQuartzCIMG5859.JPG See the vast differences in coloring between the individual pencil rovings?

This particular roving is dyed with long runs of lengthwise color, so when I separated it for spinning prep, I ended up with pencil rovings that vary from one another pretty significantly. The result is a pretty obvious transition between one pencil roving and the next on the bobbin, which you should be able to discern in the top photo. I have always spun from pencil rovings, primarily because I find this the easiest way to manuever on my spindles, but I thought that this time I would experiment, and see what kind of a difference spinning from the fold would make in the final yarn. I believe that spinning from the fold will give the yarn a much more subtle, heathered color, as the individual color runs will mix more rapidly, but we'll see.

RoseQuartzCIMG5855.JPG Here's a view of the spun singles next to the roving. Would you have known it would come out this way?

I'm on the second bobbin of pencil rovings right now. Either tomorrow or later today I'll ply the yarn (I'll take pictures of the effects of that, too), and then next week we'll see how spinning from the fold works out.

Oh, and if you are wondering about the scale in the bird's nest photos, I use it to determine how much fiber to prep for each bobbin. Theoretically, if you use the same amount of fiber each time, you should not have any leftovers once you ply the yarn. In practice, I'm so new to spinning and to the wheel, that the difference can be significant, but that makes it a good measure of my consistency (or lack thereof!) and spinning progress. I'll take shots of that, too, if you promise not to laugh too hard!

Posted by Julia at 06:50 AM | Comments (10)

September 22, 2006

I love a beret! Or, 1 down, 3 to go...

Christmas started in September this year over here at chez Mind of Winter. I have realized that if I wait until I am in the mood for knitting Christmas presents there really isn't sufficient time to finish them all, and it becomes a chore to try to cram them all in at the last minute. This year I have six items that I'm making for family for Christmas. This may sound like a lot, but the family, it is big, so six is pretty minimal. Since my side got knitted gifts last year, this year I'm hooking up part of Moxie's family. It is simply not possible to hook up all of Moxie's side in one Christmas. That would make it not fun, and fun is really an essential part of the Christmas knitting spirit. The best part is that I don't have to finish anything, because all the gifts are for people who have stopped growing, so they'll keep. Plus I never let anyone believe that I am knitting a Christmas gift so that the pressure is off. Ah, the things we do to keep ourselves from procrastinating.

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I feel so positively French.

The first knitted items on Santa's list this year are four berets. Which means a beret a month until the BIG DAY. I was inspired by this lovely beret, which was a knit cafe store model for about two seconds, before Suzan generously allowed me to keep it. (This might have had something to do with the fact that I kept trying it on and sighing "It's perfect.") The pattern is the beret designed by my friend Kat Coyle for Greetings from Knit Cafe. The yarn for this one is Katia Gatsby, which Knit Cafe carries in abundance, and which I plan to use in two of the four berets.

Here's the first one, which I just finished, in Valentina di Roma's Angora Print, an expensive little confection that I really enjoyed working with:

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If you want to appear cold, bundle up, look serious, and pretend to be sipping hot tea!

I'm going to leave project notes on this one until all the berets are done, but I can say this: there are no mistakes in the pattern, it is simple and fun to execute, and the results are great. You might want to take the rim out a little further than the original if you are knitting, as I did, with a yarn that does not drape. The original and the Gatsby version are drapey, so the pattern is perfect for them. It works well for the angora, but it could be a teensy bit drapier and a wider circumference might accomplish that. I used US 3 needles and exactly three skeins of this yarn, which has rather limited yardage (55 yds/skein). Other than the snippets cut off from yarn tails, there was less than a yard left.

Posted by Julia at 07:52 AM | Comments (14)

September 19, 2006

Crater Lake

It's hard to believe that Crater Lake is so far behind us now. It seems like a lifetime and yet only a day. I had a hard time deciding which pictures to post, since there are so many I like, so I opted for a lot. Eventually, I will put up a gallery, so that I don't have to choose. The last thing I'll say, is that we were in Crater Lake at the time that Episode 34 of Cast-on aired, which was significant to me. In that episode, Jennie Spotila spoke about her knitting, her disability, and her remembrance of Crater Lake with such eloquence and poignancy that I will never forget it. For me, it crystallized a beautiful day in my life and made it so much more. Thank you, Jennie. If it is possible to enjoy such things vicariously, I dedicate these pictures, and the spirit of our happy day to you. I am so glad that you saw Crater Lake when you could.

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