Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Celebrating New

Knitting is an old craft made up of two basic stitches.  It's hard to believe that with something so straightforward there is still innovation, but there is.  

New ways to cast on and bind off.  How about Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off?  New techniques.  What's your favorite method for short rows?  New patterns and designs.  How long is your Ravelry queue?  Do I need to remind you what the knitting world was like before Ravelry?  New fiber blends.  Dare I say camel and yak?  And new tools to play with.  How many different types of knitting needles do you own?  

It's refreshing to see so many new things spring from something so simple and old.  It reminds me of technology.  Just when you thought you had seen it all and it couldn't get any better, it does. 

As we get ready to celebrate a new year, it's exciting to have a fresh, clean slate.  It's even more exciting to contemplate the new things that will inspire us. 

Here's to another year of knitting adventures.  Cheers!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Week Between

It's the week between two holidays, and it seems that everyone is on vacation.  This is the time of year when voice messages pile up, and emails languish waiting for replies.  

Last week I took a good look at the 2014 calendar and realized I'm on the road in mid-January - not late January like I had mistakenly convinced myself.   I'm glad I sorted that out.  

I've had to make a few adjustments.  While the focus of most of my knitting has shifted to samples, over the weekend I did allow myself to start one little project that isn't destined for the booth.

Bristol Hat.  There's nothing like a quick hat to entertain me, and I can pretend l'm still on holiday.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Swatching for Answers

We're on the other side of the holiday, and I have mixed feelings.  On one hand, it's liberating.  I don't have to focus any more attention on holiday preparations.

On the other hand, I have to face all the work I let slide while I was getting ready for the holiday.  I see a mountain of paperwork and plenty of dyeing in my weekend forecast.

Before I get back to work, I've cut myself some slack for a couple days.  Like little kids who have been forced to sit still for too long, I have a long list of new knitting projects waiting to be set free.

I'm anticipating a rapid succession of new projects on the needles.  

First up is a sweater.  I've been considering two or three patterns but can't seem to pick one.  Since I can't make up my mind, I've switched my attention to the yarn.

Maybe if I do a little swatching first, all will be revealed.

This week's color inspiration mirrors my swatch and the season.

Brilliant red.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Today the flurry of holiday activity continues with more baking and cooking.

And wrapping.  I haven't made the slightest dent in the wrapping. Maybe I can commission an elf to help with paper and tape.  But first, there are more ends to weave in.  Last night I wove in miles of frayed yarn bits, but there are still more.  I don't have a qualified elf to help with that job, so I'd better get busy.

To those who observe this holiday, enjoy your festivities.  May your celebration be merry and bright!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Endless Ends

I knew this day was coming . . . the day for weaving in ends. 

The Pop Up Paws are finished except for the mitten flaps.  Before the flaps can be worked, all these ends have to be cleaned up.  There isn't any magic to help tidy up this mess.  I just need to pick up the darning needle and have at it.  

In all fairness the pattern suggests weaving in the ends as each finger is finished.  I made a conscious decision to ignore that suggestion, and now I'm paying the price.  We won't mention that I have 2 more pairs of fingerless mitts waiting in the wings.  If you're keeping score, that's 20 more fingers and a whole jumble of ends.

On the bright side there is a bit of magic happening in the kitchen.  I don't dare go in there for fear of breaking the spell.

Elves have taken over.  The baking kind.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Letting Go

Yesterday my knitting goal was to block the Dipped Infinity I've been working on.  Never mind that when the day started, it was still on the needles.  I was convinced I had enough time in between everything else to finish knitting the cowl and then block it.

By "everything else" I mean a little birthday celebration.  December is a busy birthday month in my household.  I try to make the celebrations special, so they don't get lost in the holiday shuffle.  That means extra cooking and baking.

We're not limited to traditional birthday cakes in this family, and yesterday's celebration included apple strudel.  

When all the eating and singing and celebrating had subsided, I sat down with my knitting.  It was getting late, but the burning candles created an air of magic.  I still thought I could meet my knitting goal for the day.

By the time the witching hour rolled around, I knew I had to make an adjustment.  The sugar buzz had worn off, and I was on the verge of making mistakes.  Instead of pressing forward, I called it quits for the day.  Sometimes the best strategy is letting go.

I made it to the final color and a handful of rounds.  So close. Yesterday's goal will be today's reality.

This season can be full of surprises . . . unexpected gifts and good deeds.

Like homemade candy from a friend.

My color inspiration for the week.

Cheery and bright.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mittens on My Mind

This time of year can be challenging.  I'm busy knitting away on holiday gifts, and all I can think of is things I want to knit for myself. And I will knit for myself once the holidays are over.

Mittens.  I'm plotting and planning, dreaming of all the mittens.

Back to the matter at hand.  (After typing that I caught the pun.  I'm going to let it stand.)

Pop Up Paws.  One mitt is complete except for the finger cap.  The second mitt is well on its way.  This mitten is a standard in my household . . . tried-and-true.  I know it won't disappoint.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Still Simmering

All the holiday preparations can be distracting, but I do have new projects brewing in the background.  The dye pots are still simmering, and I have a long list of potential ideas that I'm exploring.

One project requires a color progression.  This possibility had been on my list for a while, so the other day I finally dyed the samples.  I'm sure I'll do some tweaking, but it's a good start.  One thing is for sure, I'm getting my fill of the blues.  See previous blog post. 

Over the weekend I managed to squeeze in a little time for the website.  Bertha, Lillian and Lucia have all been updated with a few fresh colorways.  

And now it's time to get to work.  The countdown is on, and today is all about knitting.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bouncing Back

The head cold that had been flirting with me made a move the other day.  It didn't let me go about my business and muddle through the day.  No, instead I had to take two long, extended naps.  I'm not big on napping because it's precious time that could be spent on something more tangible.  If I do go down for a nap, it's the equivalent of calling a truce and waving a white flag.

After I surrendered, I came out of my cold-induced naps feeling foggy but on the road to recovery.  As is my nature, I felt compelled to make up for lost knitting time.  After all the holiday season is upon us.

I knew I didn't want to pick up anything that was too taxing or required too much thought.  All I could handle was a mindless movie and effortless knitting.  

I grabbed the project bag with these little goodies and got to work.

The most challenging part was counting and re-counting the cast on. With a little effort I got all 252 stitches on the needles.  After that it was full steam ahead.

Dipped Infinity Scarf.  I just added the third color in the progression, and I'm hooked.  I can't seem to put this down for one of my other projects.  Maybe after one more color . . . 

This week's color inspiration is all about contrast.

Vivid outside, mellow inside.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It's a Conspiracy

Earlier this fall I polled family members to find out what everyone wanted in the way of holiday handknits.   While I enjoy knitting for everyone, I only want to make things that will actually be put to good use.  It was also my feeble attempt to avoid a last minute knitting crunch.  I received a couple requests.  I had hoped more would opt for made-with-love handknits, but a light workload in the holiday knitting department has some advantages.
Yesterday a cold winter wind was blowing, and my knitting situation changed.  One son, who earlier said he didn't need anything, admitted the weeks and months ahead would be more comfortable with warm wool.  He asked for a pair of fingerless mitts.  "Are you sure you don't want full mittens?" I asked.  No, fingerless would be enough.  The other part of the request?  The mitts have to have individual fingers, and they have to be made with sock weight yarn. 

We looked at patterns, talked about colors, hatched a plan.  I didn't delay and got right to work.  Since it's already the second week of December, it's reassuring if the project is at least on the needles.  

It's a good thing I started because later in the day another son made the same request.  Hmmmm . . . two sons who want identical mitts.  I smell a conspiracy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Shhhh . . .

Don't tell.  My daughter's birthday cowl is finished.

She requested it but didn't actually see me working on it, so I hope there's at least an element of delight when she gets it.  For some reason my kids don't realize they can track my movements via the blog.

The pattern is Dovetail Cowl

The knitting goddess must have been watching over me, because I didn't slosh one sip of coffee on this almost-white yarn.

You might remember that I made this pattern once before.  This time around I had to make the pattern fit the skein of yarn my daughter selected.  I fiddled with the numbers to make it all work.

In the end it was close but not I'm-going-to-run-out-of-yarn close.  I had 11 grams left - a comfortable cushion.  The yarn tag has vanished, and I can't remember the name.  That will teach me to tidy my desk.

Now I'm off to the kitchen.  The birthday girl has requested chocolate cheesecake for her celebration.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Weight Change

Knitting is one situation where it can be beneficial to add weight.  Most of my recent projects have been with fingering weight yarn.  While I love working with this weight, every once in a while I crave something that knits up quickly.  I don't need bulky weight where I can crank out a hat in no time, but something that takes shape without investing hours and hours would be nice.

To satisfy my craving and my desire to make a dent in my holiday knitting, I started a new project.

All it took was worsted weight.  Compared to what I've been working on, this mitt is moving at breakneck speed.  It's giving me both instant gratification and hope.

The website has a couple updates.  The Ravi Junior Kit is now available online.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page.  If you're a spinner, I also posted some fiber.

It's been a gray week here, so I was looking for a splash of bright for this week's color inspiration.  I found it.

Weathered red.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Of Knitting and Language

Storytime.  Yesterday I was waiting at the skating rink.  I look forward to the kids' ice time because it means knitting time for me.  I was knitting away, lost in thought, oblivious to people coming and going around me.  An elderly man startled me and brought me back to the skating rink.  "India, India," he said to me and made a knitting motion with his hands.

I started to say something only to be cut off with the phrase, "No English."  For a brief moment I was transported back to the days when I worked for a deaf human services organization where the primary form of communication was American Sign Language.  

The man and I proceeded to communicate back and forth with hand gestures.  He had a broad smile and his eyes twinkled as he made the knitting motion again.  He indicated long sleeves and a full body covering.  A sweater.  Ah, knitters in India must make sweaters.  I showed him what I was working on, and he gave me the thumbs up. He wrapped up our exchange with another round of "India, India" and a final knitting motion.  With that, he walked off.  Knitting can bridge even a language barrier.

As an aside, this interaction made me very curious about knitting in India, so I started to poke around.  If you're interested in more information, I came across this article about a vibrant knitting community in the Himalayas.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Time to Focus

As to be expected, the weekend whizzed right by.  I had high hopes of accomplishing a week's worth of work in a couple days, but Monday morning dawned right on schedule.  My desk is still cluttered, and my workroom is a jumble.  I helped a friend move over the weekend - time that could have been spent on tidying up.  When you own a truck, you're always first to get the call.  It was time well spent.

Knitting was at the top of my weekend list, and I did manage to carve out time for that.  My plans for holiday knitting are a little fuzzy right now.  Since we turned the calendar page to December, I should probably pull those plans into focus.

I do have a couple projects that are definite, so I took a break from knitting and did a bit of winding.  While I was at it, I may have wound a ball earmarked for myself.  I'm really tempted by a sweater right now, so indulging in only one ball of sock yarn felt very virtuous.

Back to work.  It's Monday, and the workroom is waiting for me.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Holiday Success

After a successful holiday yesterday, I'm ready to take the weekend off.  Or, at the very least, not do any cooking.  We had an enjoyable, relaxing day with all the kids and a couple friends thrown in for good measure.  

Our gathering included a mix of teens and young adults, and at one point I sat back and listened to their conversations.  They discussed everything from video games to movies to books to the correct use of who and whom.  I admit I was lost during the gaming discussion, but my ears perked up when the conversation shifted to grammar.  

This was a discussion that English majors relish, and I was not about to miss an opportunity to stress the important distinction between these two misunderstood words.  It was a hard sell to a generation that substitutes the letter z for s with reckless abandon.  My argument was lost on most of them, but I was encouraged by one young adult who sided with me.  There is hope for the English language.

We had plenty of food, and then there was pie.  I always bake a crazy number of pies, but this year I added one more to the mix.

Rustic Caramel Apple Tart.  While my pie wasn't nearly as pretty as the recipe pictures, I'd venture a guess that it tasted just as good. This pie was a hit, and gave the blueberry cream stiff competition for Most Favorite Pie status.  This apple, caramel, cream cheese concoction has definitely earned a permanent spot in the holiday pie lineup.

This morning I lingered over coffee.

After a couple false starts, the birthday cowl is up and running.  I played with the numbers and made adjustments several times, so the rest should be easy . . . until I get to the end, realize my math was off and run out of yarn.  Until that happens, I'm going to bask in success, even if it is only temporary.

I'm off to settle in with more coffee and my knitting but leave you with my color inspiration for the week.

Simple shades.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Zephyr Cove

Last week I finished my Zephyr Cove.  After a quick bath and blocking, it was ready for the weekend trip to Vermont.

This design has three sections and is finished with a lace border.  

Zephyr Cove moved right along.  As soon as I tired of one section, it was time to shift gears and move on to the next one - from solid garter to stripes to short rows.

Throw in a picot edge and you have an entertaining project.

This asymmetrical shawl has an overall crescent shape, so it stays in place without a lot of fuss.  

The yarn is Dirty Water DyeWorks Bertha, colorways Bee Hive and Slate.  Both of these have been available only at shows but will be posted to the website soon.

This shawl is substantially long from tip to tip.  Bertha is a soft yarn with plenty of drape, so it doesn't feel heavy or cumbersome.

I made one slight modification.

I added the whimsical owl bead to the tip of the Bee Hive section.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's a Wrap

I spent the weekend at Green Mountain Fiber Festival, and for me, the fall fiber festival season is now officially over.  Not only did I completely empty my suitcase, I packed it away.  It needs a rest.

This event was held at the Wilder Center, an old church that's been restored and converted into a multi-purpose facility.

The main auditorium space used to be the sanctuary and still has a beautiful pipe organ.  I would have been delighted to listen to organ music, but I don't think we had an organist among us.

The weekend market included an eclectic mix of fiber artists.

There were beautiful buttons made with embroidery cotton and yarn.

Handsome baskets.

Colorful hooked rugs.

Mix in a healthy dose of yarn and fiber, and you have a well-rounded fiber festival.

To top it off, I stayed at the Hotel Coolidge.

This historic hotel dates back to the booming railroad days.

The hallways are wide, the railings are substantial, and there's a real fireplace in the lobby.  

Even the creaky floors are charming.  

After staying in numerous cookie-cutter hotels, this was a real treat.  If you ever need a place to stay in White River Junction, be sure to check out the Hotel Coolidge.

And now it's time to shift gears.  To help with the transition, I think I'll do a little dyeing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

In Between

I'm lingering over my morning coffee before I hit the road a little later. I've been contemplating my weekend knitting.  I still haven't sorted out my daughter's cowl - see previous blog post.  I'm taking it with me, but it needs more tweaking before it's up and running.  The reality is I may not have much tweaking time this weekend.  

Zephyr Cove is finished and blocking as I write this, and I don't have many other projects already in progress.  I've been longing to start a sweater, but yesterday I came to my senses.  Since I hadn't settled on a pattern, it wasn't feasible to get that project going before I travel. Anyway, I probably should focus on other things before I tackle a sweater for myself.

So to keep me busy this weekend, I started a new sock.

Just a plain sock.  Around and around without much thought.  Enough to keep me entertained between bigger projects.

My color inspiration this week goes hand in hand with the new sock.

Mustard yellow.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Task at Hand

My teenagers have no sense of time.  They are ready to leave for an event 10 minutes before it starts even though I've told them we need to allow at least 30 minutes for traffic and parking.  For some reason, they think I can miraculously whisk them away and get them to their destination on time.  It never happens.  By the end of the drive, I've turned into a crabby cab driver.

Last weekend my daughter handed me this skein with instructions that she wanted me to make her a cowl.  She was even kind enough to point me in the direction of the pattern.

I explained that she chose lovely yarn, but the pattern calls for a different weight.  She gave me her vote of confidence with, "I'm sure you can figure it out."

So that's what I'm doing today . . . calculating and recalculating the gauge and stitch count to make it all work.  The time frame for this little project?  Just over two weeks because, of course, my daughter wants this cowl for her birthday.  I definitely need more coffee.

Monday, November 18, 2013

From Trash to Treasures

I've been catching up on domestic duties.  It seems that I let a few things slide this fall.  The fact that I'm cooking Thanksgiving dinner next week is a strong motivator to get my house in order.  

This past weekend I found myself sifting and sorting through a bin of miscellaneous items that had accumulated over time . . . a random collection of this and that.  Each and every item had to either find a new home or end up in the trash.  I was determined to empty the bin.

I threw away a fair amount, rescued a couple useful items and gathered clothes to give away.  Tossing unwanted things always feels so liberating.  I should probably do it more often.  In the process I discovered a couple treasures.  

I salvaged these adorable little buttons from a sweater that couldn't be saved.  I don't have anything in mind for them right now, so they'll go into my button box.  Some day these will come in handy.

At the very bottom of the bin I found this little bead.

My daughter says I bought the owl at a fiber festival, but I don't know how he landed in the bin.  He seems quite content on my Zephyr Cove.  I might have to find a way to make him a permanent fixture on the shawl.

If you're in the Boston area, on Wednesday night I'll be at Bead + Fiber in the South End for a yarn tasting.  It promises to be a fun evening.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Break in the Action

I've been enjoying a little break in my travel schedule.  It's given me time to catch up on a few things . . . not everything, but I'll take what I can get.  And it's given me a terrible case of startitis.  This little lull has tricked me into thinking I have endless hours to fill and that I should occupy them with at least five new projects.

So far I've resisted the urge to actually cast on, but that doesn't mean I haven't entertained some project possibilities.  A couple of them require color combinations.

I've allowed myself just enough time to consider several options.

I'm sure there will be more color play before I settle on anything. Maybe by then I'll have some time to go with these ideas.  In the meantime, I have plenty of work to focus on.

Last weekend I was at a craft fair and found several fun, interesting things.  I even put a dent in my holiday gift list.  Don't panic.  There's still plenty of time.  I also managed to find a little something for myself.  Candles are part of my daily ritual this time of year, so I was delighted when I found these beeswax tea lights.  My color inspiration for the week.

Warm light.