Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

Magazine exchanges are officially the awesome.

Last month, I wrote a post On Not Hoarding Crafting Magazines. I vowed not to let my home turn into a warren of knitting publications. I committed myself to a regular routine of magazine purging, tossing out or giving away the flotsam.

Then my blog-pal Carina of Hakelmonster blog proposed a  crafting magazine swap.

Ooh, what a good idea!

Now, I know what you’re going to say: this doesn’t really promote the cause of reducing the volume of magazines I have in my home. Hoarding fail. You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right.

But our swap wasn’t really about jettisoning unwanted reading materials. It was about sharing and cultural exchange. I sent Carina a pile of Knitscene, Interweave Knits, and Piecework that are less common where she lives. In exchange, she sent me a stack of German language publications we almost never see on my side of the pond.



In addition, we each sent each other a couple of hanks of local-ish yarn. Bonus!!

I also slipped in a  list of crazy Minnesota laws

I’m excited to start flipping through these magazines. I can already tell that the fashion aesthetic is a little different from what I’m used to, although part of that could be that some of these magazines are a few years old.

Do I read German? No. But I’ll have fun asking my husband to help me puzzle through them with his high school German. And if I get really desperate, I’ll ask my mother-in-law for help (she used to teach German in the public schools).


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There’s a shelter pet out there who wants to meet you

I know because I have two shelter cats at home. They cuddle with me when I have a cold, defend our domain from crows and ladybugs, and in general do everything they can to be members of the pride.

Orion, a shy, cuddle-monkey we adopted from Paws and Claws three years ago.

Orion, a shy cuddle-monkey we adopted from Paws and Claws three years ago.

I love pet adoption and I love animals. But I can’t take them all home, and neither can you. That’s why animal shelters, like my local Paws and Claws animal shelter, are so important. They have the will and the means to do what no individual can accomplish. They make it their mission to:

  • Rescue and care for lost or abandoned animals
  • Seek adoptive homes
  • Promote responsible companion animal care.

They make the world a better place.

Enter to win this hand-knitted shawl by making a donation to your local animal shelter

I decided I wanted to do something to give back to my local animal shelter through my love of knitting. And I wanted to give other people a chance to take part to help make a greater impact.

So I decided to knit a shawl. And I’m offering that shawl in a prize drawing for people who choose to join me in supporting animal shelters.

About the shawl

This colorful, stylish shawl was hand-knitted by me using a combination of local fibers:

Shawl draped

shawl on bushes

The pattern is Color Affection by Veera Välimäki. The shawl took approximately 20-30 hours to knit. It would make a gorgeous accessory for you, or for someone special in your life.

How to enter the shawl drawing

1) Make a donation to your local animal shelter. Here’s a link to my local Paws and Claws animal shelter donation page.

2) Leave a comment. Come back to this blog post and leave a comment telling me:

  • You made a donation to an animal shelter.  You don’t have to tell me how much.
  • Tell me about the intended recipient of the shawl (Will it be for you? You mom? Your dentist?). Alternatively, tell me a cute pet story.

I’m doing this on the honor system, however I reserve the right to disqualify any entry that doesn’t follow the rules or that I deem “fishy.”

Entries will be accepted April 8-May 6, 2014.  There will be one entry per person, no matter how much you choose to donate. The winner will be drawn randomly using a random number generator. I will contact the winner via email and will announce the winner here on this blog the week of May 6, 2014.

This is a prize drawing where everybody wins

Even if you don’t win the shawl, you’ll still win because you donated money that will help companion animals in need. Animals like:

  • Good-Time Charlie, who wants to run, and jump, and play, and lick your face, all at once.
  • Harley, a charming girl who enjoys drinking from the faucet

Your entry and donation will make a difference, no matter what.

Other ways you can help

If you don’t wish to participate in the drawing, you can still contribute to this campaign. Tell your friends. Share a link on Facebook.

Good-time Charlie, a dog who was just adopted at Paws and Claws.

Good-time Charlie, a dog who was just adopted at Paws and Claws.

Woopi, a cat currently available for adoption at Paws and Claws (as of 4/3/14)

Woopi, a cat currently available for adoption at Paws and Claws (as of 4/3/14)

And if you have animal companions at home, give them a scritch for me.

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For the most part, I consider myself a process knitter. I revel in the feel of the yarn between my fingers. I enjoy the mini-puzzles that patterns present to me. I lose myself in the rhythm of stitch upon stitch. I even draw the process out by making my own yarn.

Occasionally, though, the urge to knit a specific object takes hold and spreads, like a rash. I am consumed with desire for a particular knitted object and I will endure almost any amount of annoyance, boredom, or psychological discomfort to obtain it. The most recent example is this lovely little top:

PatternFolded by Veera Välimäki

Mods: I added three extra decrease rows to the neckline. I have narrow-ish shoulders and wide necklines tend to slip off. Very annoying.

It’s a light-weight sweater in a very flattering shape. But apart from the hem and cuffs, and those little pleats at the bust, it’s all stockinette. And it’s in fingering weight yarn.

So much stockinette. Oh lord, so much stockinette.

I knitted this top with determination until I made it to the sleeves (it’s knit from the bottom up). Then I couldn’t take it anymore. I put Folded away for a couple of months and proceed to treat my stockinette stupor with more stimulating projects:  two lace shawls, a sweater and a Color Affection.  Eventually, my desire for the knitted object resurfaced. I picked up and knitted the interminable sleeves, then powered through the yoke.

The only thing that saved my sanity was the yarn. I chose Rowan Fine Art 314, a lively purple sock yarn with built in striping. The resulting zigzags in my sweater turned out very nicely: they make it lively and add a lot of visual interest to an otherwise plain garment. Heaven knows what would have happened to me, or to the sweater, if I had chosen a solid colorway.


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Probing is such a drag. I’m sure you all agree.

One minute you’re sitting on the couch, your favorite Jane Austen movie playing in the back ground, your knitting needles clicking away… and then you feel a slight twinge. It’s a strange sensation, like a disembodied finger poking you in the temporal cortex.

“Hey you,” A voice says in your mind. “Yeah, you. Remember me? I’m that sweater you started four months ago. You dropped me to work on that stupid Color Affection shawl then never picked me up again. You were too sissy to cast on my sleeves cause they were too much work. Oh poor baby. So much stockinette.”

Yep, that’s a UFO (unfinished object). And it’s probing you.

It is unknown if there are any adverse effects of UFO probing over time.

Some subjects report that it is possible to become inured to the sensation. With practice, these subjects report that they can tolerate probing  from multiple UFO sources with no discernible mental or emotional disturbance. 

Other subjects report feelings of anxiety and guilt that build over time. Some subjects adopt coping mechanisms to decrease exposure to probing. These may include:

  • Isolating UFOs outside of normal sensory range (e.g., hiding them in a closet)
  • Establishment of false priority hierarchies (e.g., Christmas is only 9 months away, I had better get started on my gift knitting now)
  • Adoption of superstitious beliefs justifying avoidance (e.g., this sweater is cursed)

 When these coping mechanisms fail, subjects frequently adopt a fight or flight response.

In recent months, my UFO probing experiences have become increasingly uncomfortable. At one time or another I have adopted all of the coping strategies above, and more besides. 

But not this time. I’m proud to report that I have begun a successful campaign to search out and destroy…errr…complete my UFOs. Once  I complete them, they can’t probe me any more.

So far I’ve completed one fingering weight sweater (it needed a yoke) and have picked up a lace weight cardigan that still needs sleeves and some trim. Next comes a stuffed toy languishing for want of a  head. Little Noodle, your head is mine!


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My sheep to sweater project is complete.


And there’s still snow on the ground.

Double Woot!

Here are some photos of Drusilla, my trusty knit-wear assistant, modeling my new sweater.

Pattern: Greenwood Pullover by Ann-Marie Jackson

Fiber: Texel wool, undyed.

Fiber prep: Hand-washed, flicked (some of it), and hand-carded.

Spinning: Hand-spun supported long-draw (mostly). Two-ply. No idea about twists per inch, etc… I think there are “enough” and I guess I’ll leave it at that.

I started with 1,480 yards of mostly-worsted weight yarn. I probably used about 1,100 yards for the sweater. The rest is leftovers (which will make a great hat) or was used in swatching.

This sweater is very light-weight and remarkably non-scratchy. I wore it while doing errands this morning. I wanted to show off my sweater to everyone I met: “See this awesome sweater? This used to be  a fleece until two months ago when I spun it, then knitted it. I am a fiber goddess.”

This sheep to sweater process was so rewarding. I’m going to do it again and again.

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I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. It was pointed out to me (sorry Mom) that I teased you all about my choice of what to do with my handspun Texel yarn, even asked you to help me choose a pattern, and then just left it hanging.

Mom is right, it’s very rude to build up suspense like that, and then to spend my next three posts talking about hoarding knitting magazines, knitted toys I may or may not ever actually knit, and a completely unrelated shawl project.

Let me make up for it now. The winner of the sweater contest was: Greenwood by Ann-Marie Jackson.

This sweater is knitted in two halves, sideways. Then you sew the halves together and knit on cuffs, hem and a droopy collar. Right now, I’m blocking the main body of the sweater.

I have really enjoyed this pattern. It’s remarkably easy to  knit. And the little stripes made sewing-up much easier. I had little visual cues to help me along at five-stitch intervals.

My handspun yarn has behaved extremely well throughout. There are only a few tiny areas where the yarn is a bit on the thin side. I’ll never notice those when I wear this. I love the loft and lightness of this sweater in a long-draw, woolen-spun yarn. Hardly any weight at all. Such a difference from the worsted yarns I usually spin.

More on this sweater soon. I have a feeling it will be done in no time–maybe even before all the snow is gone. It’s in the 40′s F outside today and there are puddles everywhere. All morning I have been hearing icicles falling off the roof with loud thuds. I’m knitting against the clock.

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Last night at knit group, my friend K brought in a small stack of crafting magazines to give away. “I’ve read them,” she said, “and I’m done with them now.”

In her stack was the recent “Red” issue of Piecework and the Spring 2014 issue of Interweave Knits. I snapped up Piecework immediately (I love the historical articles) and would have contended for the other…except I already had my own copy at home.

Piecework March/April 2014

Interweave Knits, Spring 2014

It’s very hard to bring myself to give away crafting magazines. Each one is full of project ideas, technique instructions, gorgeous pictures, and interesting stories. In giving one of my precious magazines away, I feel I am giving away the ideas, beauty and learning that are inside them too.

This is how one becomes a hoarder. Simple objects become engorged with meaning and emotion and you lose your ability to treat them like objects any more.

I’ve watched far too many episodes of Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive to ever let this happen to me.

Bettmann / CORBIS An image of one of the rooms in the junk-filled Collyer Mansion in Manhattan, home of Langley Collyer, a compulsive hoarder. Read more: Hoarding: How Collecting Stuff Can Destroy Your Life – TIME

I won’t let this happen to me. However painful it might be, I must follow in K’s footsteps. I must make a habit of purging my magazines on a regular basis. When new magazines come in each quarter (most are quarterly) I shall review my collection and choose which ones must go. I  must let go of my fear that, someday, I will regret the loss of a magazine, that there will be some pattern or some article in it I would have found valuable, if only I hadn’t jettisoned it in a fit of anti-hoarding fever.

No single magazine is worth it.

Besides, if I really need the magazine back again, I can download a copy to my iPad. That doesn’t take any physical space at all…

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Susan B Anderson doesn’t look old enough to have four or five published books and a kid in college. Knitting must be a great preserver, erasing lines of age from the face and lending a youthful lilt to the voice.

I thought all of this as I listened to Susan speak at the annual Minnesota Knitters Guild Tea this afternoon. You listen to someone like her and suddenly the idea of earning a living writing knitting books seems more approachable. She started very simply, with a few original designs and an email to a publisher…a publisher who loved her stuff and seems to have been very nurturing of its budding talent. I don’t know how common that experience is. I’m used to hearing much grimmer stories. It’s heartening.

Susan brought dozens of adorable knitted toys to share with us, including a set of ingenious reversible toys. Those “topsy turvy” toys remind me of the Popples I loved in he ’80s. There was a cat that reversed into a mouse and a bunch of others I can’t recall. But I laughed at them all so they must have been good.

Next chance I get, I’m going to check one of her books out at the library. I’m inspired.






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I vowed to knit more from handspun in 2014 and I’m making excellent progress. I just finished my second such project of 2014.

The pattern is Marigold, by Susanna IC.  The original was knitted in a stunning variegated orange sock yarn, by Socktopus, which sadly has been discontinued.

I chose a two-ply yarn I spun from Sweet Georgia BFL+Silk in the Woodland colorway.

I love the greens and golds in this fiber. It’s a very well-named colorway. A friend in my knitting group, admiring the yarn, actually said, “It reminds me of a woodland.” She said this completely unprompted. I hadn’t even had the chance to plant the word in her mind through hours of seemingly-random suggestion. Cool, huh?

My two-ply.


1) I knitted four extra repeats of the center lace pattern in my shawl. Not on purpose. It was one of those things where I decided, after I had already done it, that I might as well go with it. So after I had made the mistake on one half on the shawl, I duplicated it on the other side. It makes the shawl a bit longer. I had to block it in two parts because I ran out of space.

2) The original pattern called for beads. I left those out and I don’t think I miss them. I didn’t have anything in my (very small) bead stash that was right for this shawl anyway.

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been engaged in a sheep to sweater project. I’ve completed spinning and finishing the yarn and have also knitted some test swatches. Now that I know how the yarn behaves as a knitted fabric when knitted at different needle sizes I feel prepared to choose a pattern.

Texel yarn4

Based on the results of swatching in my last blog post, I think I have ruled out using this yarn with size 7 needles: the fabric comes out a bit too stiff for my liking. I have also ruled out using this yarn with size 10 needles: the resulting fabric is too loose and fluid for what I’m looking for in a sweater. Plus, at size 10, the irregularities in my handspun, especially where it gets a little thin, really stand out. I want my sweater to look solid, not have unintentional bits of almost-lace.

Here are my sweater contenders:


I love the simple style of this three-quarter sleeve sweater. I feel that the pattern would also be very forgiving of any rusticity in my handspun. I would get a lot of wear out of this sweater. I’m bound to knit it, whether or not I use this yarn.

Greenwood by Ann-Marie Jackson as seen in Wool People Vol. 6 and on Ravelry.


This pattern offers two options: with or without a hood. I think I prefer it sans-hood. This sweater looks loose and oh-so-comfortable. The original yarns used in the pattern were heavier than my handspun, so I have some concerns that my finished sweater might not drape or hang the way it does in this photo.

Ease by Alicia Plummer as seen on Ravelry.

Such A Winter’s Day

You know how I said that my gauge using size 7 needles was too tight for a sweater? Well, it is. For most sweaters. But this sweater is designed to be structured and a bit stiff. And it’s stunning. If I used my yarn, it might work really well. And the tight gauge would help camouflage some of the inconsistencies of my handspun.

Such a Winter’s Day by Heidi Kirrmaier as seen on Ravelry.


This sweater has a rustic look that I think would work well with my handspun. The only thing I question is the color of my yarn. I am not confident that natural white is the right color to bring out the texture of this pattern. Swatching would help answer that question, but I haven’t done that yet.

Rook by Kyoko Nakayoshi as seen on Ravelry and in Wool People, Vol. 6.


Another Wool People pattern. I know, I know.

This pattern is all simple, elegant lines. I think it would work well with my yarn. And the gauge recommended for this pattern was also the optimal gauge for my handspun.

Asilomar by Amy Herzog as seen in Wool People Vol. 5 and on Ravelry.

So what do you think? What should I choose?

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