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Archive for November, 2009

Missing in Inaction

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Sunday, I decided I would like to get out a project that just has not worked out yet. I made a front/back and sleeves for a funnel-neck top, back in December of 2005 (see photo). I used my knitting machine to make it, which was a bit of an experiment. To say the least, I am under-experienced both in machine knitting and sweater knitting,  but I did figure it out for the most part.

The pieces came out the right size. However, I did odd things on the edges and found the shoulders difficult to sew together.

Mind you, I am highly skilled with a sewing needle. I don’t know what was so hard, but I’ve tried to sew this thing together several times over the years and ended up with nasty holes on my shoulders each time.

The Missing Piece

SO Sunday I decided I would figure out some way to connect those sweater pieces, any way that worked, even if it were not an ideal solution. And I went to my box of unfinished projects. And got the sweater out. And it was missing one sleeve.

Ack! I could not find the dratted sleeve. Now, I’ve been promising myself I would organize the yarn/project stash for a long time. I did make it look pleasant not long ago, when our friend Rev came to stay with us. But that was looks, not function.


So this became the time to act. I pulled out bins. I made sure things were in the bin they should be in. I found a few bins for un-knit yarn which had half-knit projects in them, and separated them properly. Still no sleeve.

A Rogue Ball O’Yarn

When I went to put a box back in its appointed cubby, I looked more carefully. There was a red ball of yarn stuck between the back of the shelf unit and the wall! It looked pathetic, like a prisoner held captive.

This ball has never belonged on the top shelf of these shelves. However, that is the only way I can figure it could have ended up where it was this weekend.

Go figure. It took some pushing and prodding with knitting needles to get it free. Still no sleeve.


Organized Like Never Before

I opened my big “trunk” full of unfinished objects (UFO’s). I literally took everything out, wiped out the inside clean, put each project in its own clear bag and put it back in the right spot. Still no sleeve.

I untangled some epic messes, yarn balls attached to projects which were not related at all. I threw away more yarn than I thought I could bear to part with… all bits and pieces not useable for anything, but tossed just the same.

And then when it was getting down to the last 10% or so, I looked down next to the big trunk full o’projects. And there, sitting next to the three sweater pieces which had previously been sewed together… on the floor… was the missing sleeve. Back from its visit to a black hole or Narnia or some such place.

Beats me.

By this time, it was so many hours past midnight, I could not start sewing. Another day.

Back to “Normal?”

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

I think there is no normal, really… and especially none from late November to early January. My family did what we call Thanks-Christmas in late October (?), so we start early.

This past week we had Brian’s family Thanksgiving, and my birthday on Saturday. My first standard yearly holiday party will be held this Wednesday, and I’ve got a birthday gathering to attend Friday.

There will be a few more gatherings the next week. I love it that we celebrate loving one another at this time of year. I don’t love the extra-booked schedule that can happen.

In this weather, I like staying home but that must wait until January. I’m trying to anchor myself a little during this time of celebration and schedule-upheaval.

As a self-employed person, I can be the meanest boss I ever had. I don’t usually get a whole day off, but I am good at counting a half day as a mini-rest/vacation. My ability to sit still and write is often best after dinner, so I tend to work past midnight (though I do get up later to make up for it).

So it was odd and wonderful, that I gave myself a week off. I did not teach from 11am last Tuesday and I’m due in to teach at 6pm Monday. It was a true rest.

Now, sometimes I take vacations, and sometimes they are that long, but almost always that means I travel and visit with loved ones. I can not remember the last time (if ever) I stayed home for a week to rest.

I remember back in about 1988 I stayed home a week to work on my house, a full time work load renovating a 1940s house which had been rental for decades. I do love to travel, so I often will take a long weekend to Toronto or Chicago (both driving distance) or even a day trip to Ann Arbor or Grand Rapids.

Home? Rest? Not me. Not until this week.

So it was a good discovery to find that I really had a good time. It did take me a few days to sit still and knit for my personal projects, without feeling a bit guilty. But I got into it and actually did relax a bit. I did a little reading, a lot of surfing, and a good bit of knitting.

I hope I remember to do this again, sometime. It was nice.

It’s My Happy 51st Birthday Today!

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

My life is so good now! Thanksgiving always brings home how real that good is. And today I turn 51.

I’m grateful, I look good these days, better than I did in college. Mom has always looked much younger than her calendar age, and I got good genes in that department!

EudoraAladdinsThe gray hair (which I do not cover up) is beautiful, if you ask me… I earned every one the hard way. Each is a badge of courage and learning.

Here is a photo of me performing as Eudora (at New Aladdin’s Restaurant). The photo was taken this spring. This is what 50 looks like, at least on me.

I wish I had some photos of me in college. I gained about 35 pounds in just over a year. I was a very unhappy person and food comforted me. But if you could see the photos of me at 20, you would understand how delightful it is for me to feel well and lovely at this time in my life.

No, I’m not old yet. However, many of us yearn for youth and I am not one of those people.

I shared this one last year, but it is the only photo I seem to have of myself as a young person which is in digital form. I believe it was taken on my 18th birthday (before my large weight gain).

I was just a kid. I liked “costuming” even back then, can you tell?

I am here to tell you, though, that I would not go back for any amount of money. Youth, for me, was a time of turmoil and angst. Thank goodness I was born an optimist, so I did not notice how much upset I had and how little I laughed. I thought things were pretty good, and that got me through.

Please Join Me for Birthday Dinner/Fun

Anybody out there who is in driving distance… come on down to Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine on Michigan Avenue in East Lansing tonight. Jen Sygit and Drew Howard/Cap’n Midnite are playing, and I’m just inviting others to go to dinner there when I’m going to dinner there. The music is from 6:30-8:30.

It’s not a party, per se… I have too much stuff so I emphatically ask that no gifts come with you. It’s a gathering and a celebration. Life is good, let’s eat well and laugh, and sing, and listen to significantly incredible musicians sing/play for us!!!

Plan A, Plan B, Plan C…

Friday, November 27th, 2009

(Disclaimer: All photos today were not taken this week, they are from archives.)

The Best-Laid Plans

The good news is that I gave myself 2 days to not do work-related things. No knitting for pattern development or store samples. No showing up at a yarn shop (I do that a lot, and did even more about a week ago).

Thursday we cooked then had Brian’s family gathering. I took 2 projects to knit. One was not a sure thing (blue mohair sweater which measures fine but sure seems huge even to me).

Plan A, stalled

mohairsweaterB50I knit a collar on it that I do like, but the sweater seems too wide at the shoulder. Will rest on that and figure out what to do.

This sweater is intended to replace one I wore out. Last I measured, it looked the right size. However, the fabric on the new sweater is thicker and less flexible than the original.

It’s not looking right. I may rip her out down to the waist, though there are other solutions as well (one being to cut the knitted fabric, which I am willing to do if it’s the right answer).

Plan B, Needs Ripping

scrapbagfingeringyarns400The other project (a felted bag) seemed innocuous, but I found a pretty big mistake in it and just set it down for a while. Must rip, there is no other way to fix it… and I’ve already ripped that one a huge amount once already. Sigh.

Eternal Optimism, Try A Again…

So on Friday, determined not to do work knitting, I started on a sleeve for the mohair sweater. It is even looking more huge than it did yesterday. Must stop. Optimism will not fix a bad fit.

SO… I went into my UFO/Unfinished Object stash. This is a box and a half of balls o’yarn and partly knit items, stuffed into plastic bags. Oh, my!

In Search of Plan C

scraps5The box has some things in it I have allowed to rest for long enough you could call it hibernation. There are two tank tops in there in varying stages, neither half finished. There is a shawl I started but don’t like enough to finish, but I really don’t want to rip it out. Must figure out what I can make out of the already-knit part.

There is another shawl, fun and lovely, but which requires far too much paying attention for today. It would be perfect in-the-car knitting on the way to a performance up north, perhaps. Not today on the couch.

There is a project I’ll give to a friend when it’s done, a small project but boring yarn. I see a good number of socks in progress, many started to test a pattern I wrote. When the pattern gets released, I don’t always get back to finishing those pairs.

miteredtopyarnpile400I also have a mitered-square tank top sitting there. It’s pretty tempting. However, at this point, after dinner on a holiday/vacation, I think I want something more immediate. After two losing propositions, I need a bit of immediate encouragement.

Something Small & Simple

But then I found a tiny bag with a largish ball of yarn and two rather small socks in it. The socks turn out to be footies/low-cuff tennis socks, finished except for two afterthought heels. For me. This means small. Yippee!

pileosocks33I guess I know what I’ll knit next. Now off to get a good cup of hot tea and refill my hot water bottle with hot water to keep my feet warm. Couch, here I come!

So Much Gratitude

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

juneflowers09I am bursting with thanksgiving and gratitude today. Feeling serene, grateful, lucky, content, delighted, fulfilled, fortunate, loved, nurtured.

Once (for many, many years) I struggled; life was difficult and confusing. My “new” life (not that new at this point) is sweeter for the turmoil I knew before.

May you all feel at least a portion of the good I am thankful for today. You are part of my good life, and I appreciate you.

“It’s in the Bag” Blog Book Tour!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Its-in-the-Bag-coverI am  delighted to be part of the blog tour for Kara Gott Warner’s “It’s in the Bag” knitting book.

Kara’s blog is called “She Knits in the Loop.” Yesterday’s tour included a visit to Glenna’s “Knitting to Stay Sane.”

Kara pulled together projects by many designers, and unified all four dozen patterns into one book with a theme. Each option is intended to be good knitting on the go. Put it in your bag, to “take and make” wherever you go.

Melissa Leapman has three sweater designs in this book: One for a child, one for a man, and one for a lady. I had the great pleasure of spending some time with Melissa a few weeks ago while she was teaching in Lansing, Michigan, for Rae’s Yarn Boutique. (If you ever get a chance to study with Melissa, go out of your way to do so!)


Our chats were spread out over the course of two days, so it was not as much an interview as two knitters discussing projects between other topics. She talked about approaching these designs while knowing the projects were for travel knitting.

The stitch patterns and designs needed to fit into that framework. Although Melissa is expert at the most amazing cables I’ve seen, cables did not fit into the concept here.

In the book, the Dual Texture Tunic grabbed my eye right away. (Ladies’ sizes Small to 2X, woohoo!) OK, it is brown in the photo. Not my color, but the shape and length really piqued my interest. Love the length, in particular, and the nearly-square neckline.

For those who know me, my affinity toward this silhouette would be no surprise. As a dancer, I like to wear “leggings” (tightly-fitting knit pants) and then a tunic-length top over them. I have seen tunics in stores but have noticed precious few of them in knitting patterns.

DualTextureTunicThis pattern has no shaping in the below-bust part of the design. Of course, this allows knitting “like the wind” but at some point can become monotonous.

Before you have knit stockinette far enough to be bored, there is a change in the fabric. You work a decrease row to accommodate the double-seed-stitch pattern in the empire bust detail, followed by some shaping for armholes and neck.

I think this piece could be worn as shown in the book, as a sleeveless top… or as a sort of vest/jumper with perhaps a thin cashmere turtleneck underneath for cooler weather.

I am thinking that the neckline would be particularly flattering on women with a few curves. However, the model is in the “standard model” range of sizes, and it looks good on her as well. It would be very different knit in a negative-ease size, than in the fashion/wearing-ease sizing shown in the book.

OutbackBasketWeavePulloverMelissa’s Outback Basket Weave Pullover (Men’s Small to 3X) is in a rugged marled yarn, worsted weight. It has a sort of box/check pattern which is 3 stitches wide and 4 rows tall. This pattern is simple to do, not boring, and creates a flexible yet flat fabric. I’m partial to this sort of stitch pattern, it looks good for any age, and many types of projects.

The version shown on the model in the book makes me think of football Saturdays early in the season. It would also be comfy to wear while doing light chores oudoors, to avoid wearing a less-stretchy jacket. Walking the dogs, perhaps, or sweeping the deck?

Melissa’s Saucy Stripes Pullover (child sizes 2, 4, 6 & 8) is colorful and adorable. This one has no shaping in the body, a modified drop sleeve (shaped on one row), and an easy-to-see stripe pattern. The colors could keep me happy throughout. There is shaping on the shoulders and the sleeves.

SaucyStripesPulloverOnce I made a toddler sweater with stripes and rolled collar (in a machine-knitting class), and it is now being worn by the second toddler. The kids who have worn it loved the striped colors, so This “stitch pattern” is interesting to a child, with the colorful addition of stripes.

This is definitely a winner kid sweater. It’s wearable by boys or girls, and boy sweaters can be hard to come by! Adorable.

You can see Melissa’s enthusiasm for sweaters when you see these designs. Even though the focus was keeping things simple enough to  not need a constant row-count tally or complicated chart, these are designs that are real-world wearable. The impact is much deeper than the structure, because of well-placed detail.

You know, now I’m thinking how cute this toddler sweater could be, in bright girl colors. Imagine pairing it with the fun hat on the front cover of the book. My kindergartener-friend, Isabel, would definitely enjoy that combination.

Tomorrow, the blog tour ends with Faina Goberstein’s blog, Faina’s Knitting Mode. Perhaps you would like to go over there and read on.

Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

For some reason I have never shared my recipe for pumpkin pie here with you. I seem to have more and more people in my life with food sensitivities for a zillion reasons, every day. Now that we’re on Thanksgiving week in the US, I think it’s time to share.

I realize that some folks find holiday special foods so appealing that they will cheat and eat them rather than choose health. Fortunately, I was diagnosed in the spring and knew I’d want pumpkin pie by November, so I started right away experimenting with how to make it in a totally new way. It took 6 full months to get something I liked.


I made a few pies at first (years ago) that were substandard in different ways. I made one batch I could not eat at all. I think I have it nailed well at this point.

I’ve been making these now for probably at least 6 years, and I think the filling is quite excellent. Folks who can eat other standard pies will eat this and not realize it’s “special.”

There are two things that may impact a food-sensitive person’s ability to make this. One is that I use soy milk (the unsweetened, unflavored one with ingredients only soy and water). If you can not use soy milk, try almond or oat milk.

I personally want to experiment next with powdered goat milk, reconstituted and subbed for the soy. I do well with that product in baking, and it’s a good protein boost. Cooked powdered milk does not have any residual “powdered” flavor at all. In fact, it’s in a lot of processed foods.

I’m having trouble with crust. For a long time I would buy spelt crust in the health food store’s freezer section. However, spelt is a relative of wheat. This means it is not gluten free, and since I am more and more wheat sensitive, I want to avoid it.

If you know a good crust recipe that works for you, by all means use it. Please!

I have only made two crusts ever… and the first was inedible and impossible to cut, even with a knife! Last night I made an ugly duckling one that tasted fine and had a good texture, but anything tried and true is surely better than my second experiment.

However, I will share with you my “Alpha Version” of the crust I used last night. It turned out flavorful and flaky but nearly impossible to roll or thin out in the pan properly. I’d rather share something with you than leave you crust-less.

(If your only issue is gluten, this crust recipe looks promising. With my allergies, it does not work… so I’ve not tested it.)

For the record, I’m including brand names of products. In allergy cooking, the brand name truly can impact the final product. Sub as you must, but understand that cooking times and texture may be affected.

LynnH’s No-Nothin’ Pumpkin Pie
No Egg, Wheat/Gluten, Dairy, Tree Nut, Potato, Yeast, or Corn

2 Unbaked Pie Crusts in 9″ pans
2 sm cans or 1 lg can (total 3-1/2c) Pumpkin (Libby’s has less water in it than generic, cooks faster) NOT Pie Mix
1-1/3 c Boiling Water
1/2 c Bob’s Red Mill Flaxseed Meal
2 c Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1-3/4 c Soy Milk (check ingredients, no sweeteners. I use Westsoy Organic Unsweetened)
If you can tolerate cow’s milk or goat milk, these should substitute well, or try Oat Milk or Almond. I have not tried these options but what I know about baking says they should work, with different baking times.)

(Use any or all of the following spices. I like all of them together, but leave out or use less as sensitivities/preferences require.)
1-1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Cloves
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 Tsp Allspice
1/2 Tsp Ginger Powder

Preheat oven to 375F.

If you are making your own crusts, make them now (see my recipe below if you have no recipe of your own). If you purchased frozen crusts, pull them out and separate them before they melt together and don’t want to let go.

Boil water. Measure into medium-sized bowl/heatproof container. Slowly whisk in flaxseed meal (I use a wire whisk). Make sure it’s well mixed, cover and leave to thicken.

In large bowl, place pumpkin and spices. Add milk and blend thoroughly with whisk.

Return to flaxseed mixture. Add brown sugar and whip until thoroughly mixed. Add this mixture to the pumpkin mixture and carefully combine until blended completely.

Fill unbaked pie crusts with filling. Do not overfill, as the pumpkin mixture needs to boil in the oven. If there is left over filling, place in a greased ovenproof glass/pyrex pan and bake with pies.

Bake. Depending on the moisture content of your ingredients, it will take no less than 50 minutes and easily an hour or more. Watch the pies, and when the very center of the pie filling is boiling consistently, it is done. Do not be too eager, it’s better if you let the center truly cook through.

My pie pans are glass/pyrex. You may find your baking times will be different than mine if your pans are a different material.

If you take a clean wet butter knife and insert in the center of the pie, it should mostly come out clean. Not as clean as a standard pumpkin pie, though… just not with what looks like pudding attached to the knife.

LET THE PIE COOL. This pie will manage significantly better if you serve it cold. Refrigerating will make it cut perfectly. Barely warm works, too, but it really does need to “set up.”

Experimental 2nd-Try Gluten-Free Piecrust

This is imperfect crust to say the least, it’s the first one I made that really tastes good. It does not handle well, though, and was frustrating to get in the pan in a thin layer.

1 c Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat flour (buckwheat is not related to wheat and has no gluten)
1/2 c Bob’s Red Mill Teff Flour (If you can not find, try substituting Brown Rice Flour)
1/2 c butter (dairy product), or stick margarine (can substitute lard or shortening, but they are not healthy by any stretch)
Salt if you wish
Appx 4-6 Tbsp Very Cold Water (different flour brands will need different amounts

Mix flours and optional salt in large bowl. Place cold butter/margarine in bowl and mix in with pastry blender, wire whisk or cut in with two butter knives. Mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Try to keep the mixture as cold as possible, you do not want to melt the butter.

Sprinkle in about 3 Tbsp of water in and mix gently with a fork. Keep adding water until it feels like the dough will stick to itself but is not all the way to sticky.

Handle the dough as little as possible, keep hands cool as much as you can. Separate the dough into two portions, one for each 9″ pie crust (mine are glass/pyrex).

Here is where you play it by ear, my friends. Supposedly you can “press” the crust into the pan. I had a lot of trouble making this work.

One crust stuck to my warm hands and came apart, I patched it. The other I could not push down enough and it was very thick in the middle. Again, less handling is better so I was afraid to push it around too much. You want those little crumblets to sort of stack themselves on top of one another like Greek fillo (sp) dough, which makes it flaky.

I think if you used just a little more water than I did, perhaps you could roll it out between layers of parchment paper? It’s just a guess, but what I did was imperfect, as I did it.

In the end I had crust under the pie and on the sides but none for decorative edgings. It tasted great, though one was really thick in the center. I’m going to keep trying, but I wanted to post this pie recipe (the filling is time-tested) for those who feel deprived entering into this week’s holiday baking.

Final Notes For New Food-Sensitive Bakers

The Flax meal and flours may need to be purchased from a health food or healthy grocery such as Whole Foods. Worth it.

If you can not find ingredients locally and have time, you can order online from Bob’s Red Mill for the Teff and Flax meal. Their buckwheat flour is very different (coarser) than Arrowhead Mills, though, and not recommended for this crust.

If you can find Hodgson Mills Buckwheat it will probably sub for Arrowhead well, and some food co-ops have buckwheat flour that will work. You want it more powdery than sandy in texture, more like all-purpose flour to the touch.

Lookie! (Um, what is it?)

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

I decided to spend a few hours, Saturday night, experimenting with chevrons and decreases. I did have an idea what I might end up with. This is not entirely different than what I expected. See?


So, what would you declare this to be? Is it a Sigg embellishment?


Is it a stuffed ‘mingo hat?


Is it a Christmas tree? (This photo is pre-blocking, look how rigid that fabric is.)


Is it a nosewarmer for a pointy-nosed dog? Rudolph?


What do you think it is? I like it, and comments will not change that impression.

It doesn’t matter to me if you call it something odd, if it makes at least a speck of sense. Truthfully, it was a learning swatch, though I had plans for it as well. But now I have plans to giggle a bit, if you will play along with me.

I think we could have some fun here. Wanna play?

Starting Over

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.
– Maya Angelou

I’m pretty good at “playing life by ear.” I can take whatever is in front of me, and figure out how to make it work. I often make things up as I go. I often can make adjustments as I proceed, which work out at the end.

That is, usually I work that way. At least, usually when I’m knitting.

I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge.
– Igor Stravinsky

Every once in a while, however, I have to cry Uncle, as they say. I’ve been working on a new design and even knit some sample pieces. The gauge of the yarn I chose, was not the gauge I wanted. I did not ask enough questions before picking that yarn, I guess.

Then I made another mistake (one of not focusing while I cast on and started). More disappointment. It was getting harder to make the work I’d done actually fit into the idea I had in mind.

I considered changing the design to fit the work I’d already done. I considered adding a number of options (by then, that would be gauge and stitch pattern)  into the pattern. In the end I decided doing that would make it too cumbersome for my pattern users. I wanted clarity above all.

I put the design on a back burner for a while. Then last week in a quiet moment of clear thinking, I realized I had to start over.

I want a certain gauge for this one. I want a certain stitch pattern. I want a variety of sizes. Any of those things might have been hard to do with the pieces I already knit.

So I cast on two new projects. So far, so good. They fit the gauge I wanted. They seem to work well with the stitch pattern I intended originally. They will be able to be adjusted for different sizes.

It was worth starting over.

…You live you learn, You love you learn,
You cry you learn, You lose you learn,
You bleed you learn, You scream you learn…

You grieve you learn, You choke you learn,
You laugh you learn, You choose you learn,
You pray you learn, You ask you learn,

You live you learn…
– Alanis Morissette, You Learn — Jagged Little Pill

Swatch for Over-the-Top Shawl

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Life is good, life is busy, life seems to keep me away from blogging. I try to post every day. I missed yesterday, but I did knit when I was gone.


I think I’m in love with my Over-the-Top Shawl from Color by Kristin (Kristin Nicholas, author/designer). The yarns I chose are just buttery in my fingers, and the colors really seem to reflect my style so far.

I decided to do a tiny swatch (well, tiny compared to the number of stitches I will cast on when I start the full thing). I am doing one repeat of the larger pattern (I have not reached that point in this photo, and in real life I’ve only knit 3 rounds of it).

The bottom bobble edge is purple baby llama. The next blue stripe is one strand of angora/nylon held with a laceweight mohair. The green is a pima cotton. The darker blue is the most luscious and buttery baby alpaca I have maybe ever touched (it’s Shibui brand). Close to the needles there is a shiny wool/silk, and above that the purple baby llama again.

All of these yarns are drapey and soft to the touch. I think the textures will help the shawl drape and stay wrapped around my shoulders, or that is the idea, anyway. I’m doing the bumpy stripes slightly different than Kristin specified, to make up for the softer non-wool content of those yarns I’m using for the stripes.

The only yarn that is missing from the combination here is an alpaca/silk in raspberry, which I plan to use with the top shiny teal in the main part of the shawl. Assuming I like it when I finish the swatch, that is.

I have had a lot of work to do, both teaching and in my pattern-design business, this week. All I want to do is knit on this swatch, but I have not touched it since Wednesday (when I accomplished all of 3 rounds at 35 stitches per round).

The swatch I have right here, though, is beautiful. It is telling me that I’m on the right road to a shawl I’ll adore.

One-Day Neckwarmer: Gratitude

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

featurecowl2I have an advertisement on Ravelry right now for my One-Day Neckwarmer knitting pattern. (Rita, one of my test knitters, says I should call it the Half-Day Neckwarmer, bless her heart!)

I’m pleased with the look of the ad. Apparently Ravelry knitters like it as well.

I’m getting great responses on this ad (the percentage of people who click to learn more, out of those who view the ad, is higher than I usually see). I am very happy with this rendition of my always-favored zigzags. I’ll never be tired of Zigs!!!

If you are a member of Ravelry (it is free), you can see my pattern information page here. Ravelry is an amazing resource for fiberartists, where one can look up patterns, yarns, and designers to get information before purchasing or starting a project. Highly recommended.

Below is a photo I took of six of these neckwarmers. They do look better being worn, with that lovely flower-petal top. However, this was how I could get a bunch of them all at one time.

The secret, if you ask me, to getting these to have just the right drape, is to make sure your yarn is not 100% sweater wool. All but 1 of these yarns have something in them to soften the feel a bit. They have silk, angora, bamboo, cotton… something in there besides wool. The one all-wool yarn is superwash, which has a bit more drape than a typical feltable/shrinkable yarn.


The green/turquoise version is “vegan” which means it has no animal products at all. It has the green 100% suede-soft pima cotton T’ika by Mirasol, plus a textured bamboo/cotton/linen/nylon called Bamboucle by Elsabeth Lavold. The others have at least a little wool in every yarn, but also some other softening/draping veganneckwarmeranna300fiber as well.

The photo in the ad above (and top right below) used Malabrigo Silky Wool (a one-ply semi-solid) in teal, paired with a Noro Silk Garden (also silk and wool) in mostly pinks and purples. The top row of 3 warmers all used some Silk Garden for their contrast colors.

The top left also used Cascade Cloud 9 (angora/wool blend) in teal. The top middle lavender is Debbie Bliss Prima, a wool/bamboo blend. Bottom left used Cascade Venezia wool/silk in aqua with a Manos wool/silk single in teal. The red one bottom right used red Lavold Baby Llama with JoJoLand Rhythm Superwash for the contrast.

neckwarmeremilysmYou surely can imagine my delight that others like these as much as I do. I knit all but one of the warmers shown above, and have one more on my needles. The red version was test-knit by Emily, and Rita’s test version in blues is not pictured.

(Oh… added later. If you want to buy a PDF download of this pattern, you can click here to purchase the PDF. The price is $6. I use Ravelry and Paypal as services to help me provide this opportunity to you. However, you need not have an account with either company in order to purchase. You can also buy a printed copy in page protector from my online shop. The cost is $6 plus $1 shipping in US and Canada. )

Thanks to everyone who has supported this project. It’s heartening to see that occasionally my vision and your delight, meet in the middle!

Happy knitting!

Glue Advice Page

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Friend Ben Hassenger found a web page with advice for glues. It’s called “This to That,” as in gluing this to that, needs this glue. Very cool.

In my life, polymer clay is a challenge. It does not do well with many adhesives. Polymer Clay is a flexible PVC plastic which resists a lot of solvent-based finishes and adhesives.

I looked up “Plastic to Glass” and one of the options was the one I prefer for such things, Household Goop (which is related to E6000, the label I use most often).

Test it for yourself and see if you like the results. I think it’s cool!

Color, Texture… In My Spare Time?

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Big Plans, Big Color

I have long been in love with Kristin Nicholascolorbykristinbookcover knitting designs. She uses more colors than I do (I tend to max out at 4 colors, more often 3, in my patterns). She is more fearless than I am, I think. She certainly has done this longer than I have, never mind her natural refreshing approach.

Kristin has a palette of yarns manufactured for her designs, which are in colors that all work well together. The yarn is called Julia and is labeled under the Nashua brand. It’s a wonderful blend of wool, alpaca and mohair. I have three skeins of it (we don’t have any shops which carry it in Mid-Michigan) and it’s lovely, drapey, shiny stuff.

Buy this Book!

Kristin’s new book, Color by Kristin, is WONDERFUL. Not only does it have a full spectrum of wonderful knitting projects (not just sweaters, which I rarely knit)… but it shows how you can actually create your own project yourself. It is clear and encouraging, for those who wish to make something colorful but a little different than Kristin’s offerings.

fromcolorfulkristinIf you can get this book at your local yarn shop, by all means support them. If you can not get it locally, do Kristin the favor of buying from her directly. You can buy at this book page on Kristin’s site. She will sign it for you and mail it herself.

I pre-ordered the book months ahead of time, in anticipation! Now you can get it at Rae’s shop and other wonderful Local Yarn Shops across the globe.

Too Many Choices, a High-Class Problem

In my case, I am thrilled by many of the projects. I love the Mother/Daughter mittens (they look like they have a Turkish-inspired tulip design on them). I like the coatlike ruana-with-sleeves. But I’m crazy, fanatical about the Over-The-Top Wrap.

overthetopbookThis item has 7 different colors specified. The yarn slowed me down initially. For one, my color palette is not your average American Adult Female color palette. I like hot, bright, intense and pure colors that have a blue tone to them. It’s my style, nobody else’s.

Very few yarn companies carry 7 colors of the same yarn in my favored color spectrum. Kristin’s wonderful yarn is every bit as colorful as, but not as electric as, my general style.

Mixing it Up

I actually love mixing textures as well as fibers/brands. It’s impossible to write a pattern that way, as customers won’t always be able to get the same 7 different yarns in one shop unless they shop where I did. (Assuming, that is, that they buy all the yarn at one time and use no stash yarn.)

My other high-class problem is that I make a living in great part, thanks to the Local Yarn Shops in my corner of the world (Greater Lansing, Michigan, USA). If it were not for Rae’s Yarn Boutique in particular, plus Threadbear Fiberarts and Yarn Garden in Charlotte, MI… well, I wouldn’t be paying the bills.

I think it’s important for me to buy my yarn as much as possible from these three loyal shops, who are willing to share my skills and talents between them. I owe them gratitude and loyalty whenever possible.

overthetopyarnpickingSO. I had a $25 certificate at Rae’s and an evening that was quiet enough to get Rae working with me. We sat down with Kristin’s book and combed the shelves for yarns in the light worsted-DK range, which had good drape (this shawl will need drape, not spring). In my colors. (Photo above was in the middle of the process. You can see how many yarns got tossed out in the process of choosing.)

Seven Incredible Yarns

We had to find seven yarns that would play nice with each other. I had a goal of texture contrast as well as color contrast. We figured it out. I’m thrilled. (Photo below was the result of our evening. That was fun!)


I’ve got wool, silk, alpaca, angora, nylon, pima cotton. I’ve got three in the turquoise range (bluish-green to greenish-blue). I have one purple, one magenta/raspberry, one green and one yellow. I’ve got textures from shiny to fuzzy to suede-soft cotton. This is going to be fun.

Yarns above in order are: Malabrigo Silky Wool/Teal Heather 412; Debbie Bliss Alpaca-Silk DK/26007 (raspberry); Mirasol T’ika Pima Cotton/508 (green); Shibui Baby Alpaca DK/Midnight 2955; Elsabeth Lavold Baby Llama/Purple 014; Louisa Harding Kimono Angora (bright blue-turquoise, no label); Mirasol T’ika Pima Cotton/504 (warm yellow). Talk about texture and drape? Mmmmmm…..

The main two yarns are the first two on the left in my photo. (Teal replaces the blue in the book, raspberry replaces the neutral.) They definitely have a lot of cool/warm contrast and some texture contrast. I sort of wish they had a little more dark/light contrast but we’ll see how it goes when I start knitting. We think it will work, there is no real way to know without knitting.

The bright green/darker blue will be contrasted in a small edge pattern, as will the dark purple/yellow. The fuzzy angora will be used in reverse-stockinette ridges only, and I think it should be a wonderful texture contrast near the edges. If it is too limp for a reverse-stockinette ridge, I have an alpaca in the wings waiting to rescue/replace it.

That Spare-Time Dilemma

When will I knit this? In very small chunks of time. Friend Cynthia also is in love with this book. We have committed to getting together and doing a knit-together on projects out of this book.

The intent is to not feel a need to knit this project except when we are together. We both have over-busy lives with other knitting projects. However, we meet for lunch once a week and may add another meeting or two here and there, to have tea, chat, and knit from Color by Kristin.

I’m fully prepared for this project to take a full year. This is just fine with me. Next cold season, I figure I’ll have a spectacular shawl. The team of Kristin, Rae, Cynthia and LynnH will make it work, I’m pretty sure!

Never Seen Before (Never again?)

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

I’m pretty public here about a lot of my life. You see all my creative exploits on this blog, and hear about those I love. You learn about my city and things that catch my eye and ear.

However, I don’t share everything here, there are parts of me that are private for whatever reason. This is appropriate, it’s called “boundaries” and the world would do much better if there were more of them in proper places… but I digress.

One thing I’m not proud of is how messy my physical stuff can get. I can typically find anything on my computer, even if I wrote it on the computer I had back in 1994 which had Windows 3.1 on it. All that stuff is now on this machine, having gone through many hard drives. It’s also backed up in several places, including one offsite, to avoid data loss. Electronic information is easy for me to organize, find, put away and get back. Tidy, almost.

My house, my artful stuff, my office? Not so. First, our home is relatively small for Lansing, Michigan. However, we have much more room than a person from NYC or DC would have. What is really true is that I can fill up any space you give me, and in far too little time.


When I worked with polymer clay, the media itself did not take much space. When I started doing soft-block printmaking, it did not take much more. But wool? Oh, wow. Wool is fluffy and big. Not heavy, not breakable, but big. (I’m glad the pottery bug did not bite me.)

My living room was the only real storage area available when it was time to organize and store the new obsession/profession. A painter needs many colors of paint so that the right resources are available when ready to paint a certain thing. A knitter, especially one who has created items with nearly 20 colors of yarn in one piece, needs a similar assortment of possible yarns when it’s time to create. I believe this is not an extreme amount of yarn for what I do.

I have two cubbyholes for yarns larger than worsted-weight, two for worsted, two for DK weight, two for fingering, one for specialty yarns, one for novelties, one cubby is shared by beads and cottons. I have one for brushed mohairs, one for projects planned but not started, two for yarns I spun myself on my spinning wheel, and a few for storing samples and books and the like.

(For the record, these boxes are stuffed so full that when I pull them out they overflow and must be tamed again to get them back in the cubby where they belong. The boxes at right are stacked so that I have to take one down to get into another. This area will not stay tidy for long, but I do know where balls of yarn should be found. Partly-knitted items are not quite as organized, and neither my finished samples nor yarns for my dyeing business are in this room.)

You can also see boxes full of patterns and magazines. Under the boxes at right, you can see a shiny thing. It’s a storage box, chrome and shiny, designed for storing tools in your pickup truck. There is another one behind the couch. Those hold spinning supplies and projects in progress.

For the record, I do love the way this part of our house was built. It’s something like 1904, with solid oak trim around the windows, solid wood floors, nice details though not too fancy. This house originally had a cistern for collecting rain water (for cleaning), an outhouse, and wood stove for heat/cooking.

At some point they got a coal bin (it’s still down there but no coal in it), and when they added on in the 1920’s a few bedrooms. At one point the 2nd bedroom became a bathroom with claw-footed tub. Nice details for an otherwise-simple home with a small lot, I think.

I realize this is not tidy enough for most folks’ living rooms. However, this is as tidy as it ever gets around here, so I took the opportunity to snap a photo.

I present to you the Casa de ColorJoy Yarn Stash! For what it’s worth, anyway.