Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

I’ve been knitting baby stuff lately, and here’s today’s important knitting PSA: Knitting Baby Stuff is Seriously Addictive.

  • There’s a tremendous satisfaction in casting on a sweater and finishing it in just a couple of days.
  • Suddenly there’s a proper use for all those single skeins in your stash. You don’t have to make endless hats and mitts with them. Just one robust skein can make a whole munchkin-sized garment.
  • Related to my last point, baby stuff is an excellent way to use up small amounts of handspun yarn. You just have to make sure it’s washable.  I can’t tell you how many 200-400 yard hanks of handspun I have in my stash. Mostly the result of spinning up a 4-oz bump of fiber and then chain-plying it.
  • The knit-worthiness of a child depends primarily on the primary laundry doers in their household. If the parents are knit-worthy, it’s probably safe to give stuff to their kids.
  • If the parents are knit-worthy, then they’re usually really appreciative of knitted gifts. This makes you feel all fuzzy inside and creates a beneficial knitwear feedback loop, which the family will continue to benefit from in the future.
  • The garments are so cute. They’re like big eyes on kittens. They stimulate all your cuddly, protective instincts.

Here are two of the baby things I’ve knitted in the last few weeks. I want to knit more. The solution is to either knit more things for the babies I know, or to acquire more babies somehow.

Here it is blocking. Still really liking how this turned out with the Madelintosh

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My latest FO. A baby sweater with rainbow stripes. Colorful yarn is some of my ITW handspun. Still have some left. Maybe a matching hat?

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I decided recently that I wanted to set myself a goal to learn more about wine. I like drinking wine. I enjoy the picturesque quality of hilly wine country. But I really don’t know much about tasting wine. I can tell you “I like this” or “I don’t like this” or occasionally “yuck.” But not a lot more.

I picked up a book called Great Wine Made Simple from my local library as a place to start. Lots of really useful information in this book for the wine nube. A helpful discussion about common wine body styles and what is meant by terms like “dry”, “oaky,” “crisp” or “tannic. I used to mix up “crisp” and “tannic” so its very useful to have some solid definitions. Following this, the book launches into a survey of common grapes and wine making regions.

Since this subject is so new to me, I made lots of notes and then studied my notes to try to keep it all straight. My brain demands that I write things down if I want to learn them properly.

Not satisfied with this, I converted my handwritten notes into reference charts. Something I can tuck into my purse before my next visit to a winery.

Do you find this helpful? What information do you wish you had had available to you when you first started learning about wine?

Wine Tasting Cheat Sheet



other flavors


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Caught the spindle bug

My KCL spindle and I have almost made it through an entire bag of Hobbledehoy Battlings this week. 

Don’t those little cones of singles look just like Christmas trees? 

Spindle Review: This is my first time spinning with this spindle; even though I’ve had it for a while. It spins well and smoothly and the little notches on the whorl are well placed. It only starts to have trouble when the spindle gets loaded down. It’s hard to keep the single firmly lodged in the little notch. Maybe a taller hook would help?

Battlings Review: The colors are very pretty and the fiber prep is mostly very good. I’m not a fan of the random bits of yarn carded in. At least not for the spindling I’m doing. Maybe for a chunky art yarn. I’ve been pulling them out as I go to offer to the birds for nest making material. Nothing is wasted. 

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My husband and I spent the last two weeks in France. I brought a knitting project and a spinning project along to keep me entertained, but it was the spinning that got the most attention. I brought a sturdy little Akerworks spindle in the smallest size they offer. It was easy to tuck into my purse or backpack for a day of sight seeing. Easy to take apart and put together again.


Spinning in the Minneapolis airport.


Spinning in the gardens at Petit Trianon


Spinning leaning against a megalith near Carnac


Stopping to admire a splendid cop, while at dinner in Tours.


Spinning in the gorgeous backyard of our B&B in Tours.


Taking a break from the crowds near Montmartre in Paris.


Spinning during a classical concert at Sainte Chapelle


Spinning on the train on the way to Versailles.


Spinning next to a fountain (and watching the ducks) at the Jardins des Tuileries in Paris


Spinning from the second floor of the Eiffel tower.


Spinning at Mont St. Michel

We took a moment on one of our days in Paris to get together with Cathy, a new friend and fellow knitting blogger from Paris. She guided us to a local yarn store, where I spent a happy few minutes browsing. They display their yarn very differently than I am used to. All of the yarn is displayed as samples hanging from the walls. Once you have identified what you want, the shop assistant will wind off the amount you want (by weight) from large cones kept in the back of the shop.

thumb_IMG_3495_1024While touring chateaux and palaces I took time to appreciate the tapestries and other fibery wonders on display.

Tapestries and needlework at Versailles:

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Musee D’Orsay – paintings of women spinning or doing needlework, as well as a work of art in fiber.

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A very, very old spindle and whorls at the Musee de Prehistoire in Carnac.


Astounding samples of tapestry from various chateaux in the Loire Valley.

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An amazing, fiberrific trip.

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Packing lighter than usual

Lately, I’ve been blogging a lot about travel knitting and travel spinning for our upcoming trip to France. After viewing a long string of such posts on Instagram, my sister commented:

I would like to see a picture of everything you’re bringing in your suitcase. I have a feeling it’s very different than what I bring when traveling.

Too true. Too true. Although I want to assure you, my suitcase is not half full of fiber and yarn. Really, it’s not. I dream of such things, but I know it would be a pretty silly thing to do.

On our trip, my husband and I are each taking one bag that looks something like this. It’s a backpack with a zip-off day pack. It has some pretty serious capacity, but it’s nowhere near the size of some of my roller suitcases.

full packThe day pack is where my knitting and spinning projects live. See that cute little monster bag. That’s it. Well, almost.

I’m taking two projects. One pair of colorwork mittens. And one travel drop spindle with fiber. The bag contains:

  • Approximately 150 yds of two different sock weight yarns, wound into center-pull balls.
  • My new Akerworks drop spindle, plus about 1oz of fiber.
  • Some assorted notions/tools

day packThe remaining yarn and fiber resides in a compression sack in the main compartment of my bag. It’s scary-amazing how much fiber squishes in a compression sack.


Fiber and yarn are in the little compression sack at bottom left.

As for the rest of my packing, for those who are curious:

small front pocket

Pen and pencil. My treasured yurbud headphones, which let me hear what’s going on around me while listening. Good for urban settings. Other earbuds for the plane that block noise a little better, because it’s super annoying when you can’t hear your audiobook, even with the sound turned all the way up. And earplugs to combat pressure changes.


Three pars of light shoes or sandals. One may still be jettisoned before we leave. I can’t quite decide which.

day pack

Besides the knitting/spinning I’m bringing: Kindle, folding fan, wallet (duh), journal, neck pouch style money belt, compact, lip balm, sun glasses. This all goes in the day pack to keep me entertained on the plane.


The top layer of stuff in the main compartment of my bag. A compression bag full of wicking undershirts, undies, bras, pajamas, etc… The aforementioned extra yarn and fiber. A toiletries bag with all the usual. A purse, because I don’t want to always have to carry backpack. Two packable shopping bags. Another waist moneybelt option, because I can’t decide which one to use. I hate them both in different ways.

clothes folder

A packing folder containing the bulk of my clothing: 3 tops, 1 cardigan, 1 sundress, 2 pair capris, 1 skirt, 1 pair dressier black jeans

plane clothes

And a plane outfit. Light weight long-sleeved buttondown, undershirt, scarf, light weight long pants. And a squishable but still stylish sun hat, which I may just stuff into my bag.

how it all fits

All of it fits, with room to spare. Not a lot, but some. Husband is packing a couple of extra compression sacks just in case we need them later.

I still have a day or two to narrow things down and weed. I may yet nix an item or two of clothing. But this is basically it. Can’t wait to hit the road/skies.

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There’s something I just love about small, local fiber festivals. Many somethings.

It’s easy to get close to the action.

We watched two or three sheep shearings over the course of the afternoon, marveling at the shearer’s facility with each animal. He must have thighs of steel! We had a front row seat each and every time, because there were no other rows.

At the outdoor pavilion watching a master at work.

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The vendors feel comfortable enough with their audience to sell joke items as well as the serious stuff.

We’re all neighbors here (roughly speaking). A vendor can put something like this out and feel pretty certain that everyone will get the joke. And some folks may even be tickled enough to fork over a few dollars for a “fancy” stick.

Now that's luxury.

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The animals seem relaxed 

The human visitors come to visit the animals in calm trickles, not floods. Probably a more relaxing experience for everybody.

Sleepy lambies.

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Jacob charmers in the barn at Shepherds Harvest.

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At the craft demos, you can hear what’s going on.

No need to strain to hear the instructors. And it’s easy to ask questions too.

Here we were watching a team processing flax from start to finish.

Whacking flax to remove the woody outer bits and expose the linen fibers within.

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Hard at work spinning flax into gold…err…linen yarn.

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You might be standing right there when they break the world record for distance in long-draw spinning

Like, right next to them.  Well, ok, they didn’t break a record on this day; not even their own personal best. But it was fun to watch them try.

Spinning really, really, really long draw on a great wheel. Requires a partner to keep the wheel going.

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And best of all, all of this entertainment was mine for free (after paying $5 for parking).

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A Trip to Yarnover

Yesterday I traveled up to Yarnover in the Twin Cities with a few of my knitting pals.

Three cheers for carpooling: Let me start off by saying how wonderful it is to have people with whom I can carpool to such events. We had lovely company to chat with, there and back again (although we were considerably more awake on the way home). So much better than dragging myself out of bed for a 2-hour coffee-fueled trek up the Twin Cities by myself.

Providing entertainment for the locals: I can see why Yarnover keeps returning to Hopkins High School for this event year after year. It’s a modern high school with lots of conveniences, including plentiful bathrooms, large classrooms, and even a snack counter. I was very glad of that snack counter, where I bought breakfast as soon as we arrived. Due to the time of year, we share the high school with hordes of students who are there for weekend basketball practice. It’s no problem, though. The students, when they pass by, gawp at the unaccustomed crowds of middle-aged women populating the halls of their school and show tolerant interest in the rainbow of sheepy goods for sale at the vendor stalls. They know we’re only a temporary infestation and are content to be amused by us.

Fiber acquisition accomplished: My shopping mission for Yarnover this year was to build up my stash of hand-dyed fiber for spinning. I read an inspiring article in a recent issue of Spin Off magazine that talked about combining complementary braids of fiber in all sorts of different ways to produce gorgeous color effects. I want to do some experimenting, but need to make sure I have options in my stash first. Last time I looked I realized that I’d spun through most of my colorful braids and now had mostly neutrals and natural colors. I more than remedied that problem at the Yarnover marketplace.

Keys to the kingdom: I took two half-day classes from Amy Herzog: Knit to Flatter and Mindful Mods. We talked in detail about body types and the kinds of details in a knitted garment that can help to make a body look more proportional. I tend to be a bit bottom heavy and learned more about the types of necklines and design features that can emphasize my shoulders  to create more balance. Broader necklines and more detailing around the neckline (such as colorwork yokes) would work very well for me. We also learned a great deal about how to take a commercial pattern and alter it to fit your own body’s measurements. How to pick the right base size and how to make simple adjustments. I, for example, often need to a slightly shorter underarm-to-waist section than most patterns use. My arms tend to be a little shorter too. I now know how to add bust darts to a garment (although I’ll probably never need them for myself. Both classes were extremely useful and I highly recommend them if you’re interested in taking your sweater knitting to the next level. A fellow classmate said she felt as if Amy had given her “the keys to the kingdom.” I quite agree.

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