Posts Tagged ‘Knitting and Crochet’

Peter Pan busting out a joyous crow. He must have just finished knitting that tunic.

It’s time to crow.

I’ve made astounding progress this summer on my self-assigned warm weather tops knitting project . At the beginning of June, I posted about the first two completed tops:

#1 Austin Tee by Jean Chung

#2 Bonny by tincanknits

Since then I’ve powered my way through two more:

#3 Still Waters by Julie Tujorman

Knitted in Louet Euroflax sport. This tunic is light to wear and the lace panels on the sides and sleeves provide lots of, um, airflow. I usually pair this top with a cotton tank underneath. My husband likes it paired with a sports bra. That last has only happened once, on a very warm and rainy day. I’m pleased to report that this linen dried out very quickly after getting soaked in a mad dash across the Sherwin Williams parking lot.

#4 Sterling Peplum by Klever Knits 

Knitted using Hempathy, a yarn I’ve heard nothing but good things about. The day I finished this tank I put it on and wore it out to dinner with my husband. It’s a bit prickly next to skin right now, but will probably soften up a lot with repeated washing.


Fun to wear but sooo much stockinette

After all that stockinette I needed to take a break and knit some lace. So I threw myself upon Red Rock Canyon by Romi Hill with slavering glee.  I inhaled that lace.

Knitted using two hanks of Fish Belly Fiber Works yarn I won at Zombie Knitpocalypse

It wasn’t enough lace. I needed more lace. So much more lace.

So I cast on Evenstar Shawl by Susan Pandorf.

10% down. Lots and lots of fine lace to go.

This one should last me for a while.

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My Saturday at the Shepherd’s Harvest Wool Festival in Lake Elmo, MN.

Rabbit Agility, it’s a thing.  4-H shows off the skills of their highly-trained rabbit athletes. They all seem to like to hide in the tunnel at the end of the course. 20140522-092403-33843080.jpg

Spinning wheels galore.  I had plans to try out that great wheel, but never got around to it. Next time… 20140522-092431-33871222.jpg

Luscious yarns and kits. I managed to be really good this time and didn’t buy much yarn. Just a couple of hanks from a favorite vendor, Winterwind Farm, who sells CVM blends. 20140522-092500-33900394.jpg   20140522-092457-33897497.jpg   20140522-092502-33902176.jpg

The grand prize for rebranding . Because anything that says “Cashmere” has to be a luxury good. 20140522-092503-33903042.jpg

Where I went a little crazy, was in buying fleeces. Pretty, pretty fleeces. Nice presentation too. It looks like they climbed a tall ladder and snipped a bit of cloud out of the sky, then wound it up and plopped it into a basket. I started with just one, but then ended up winning a couple more in the silent auction. I honestly didn’t expect to win either of them.




I wonder what breed of sheep this is?



This male llama had to be kept penned separately from the herd. He was also the only one who hadn’t been sheared. A bit aggressive perhaps?



Mama goat and her two kids, I assume?



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Welcome to day six of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week.

For today’s topic, I am writing about a knitter I admire: Alice Starmore.

Alice Starmore’s work is true art. Her patterns are not only lovely, they also seem to express ideas. They have a voice and story inside them.

*     *     *     *     *

A Brief History of Alice

Alice Starmore was born in Scotland on the Hebridean island of Lewis. Her family worked as fishermen and spoke Gaelic at home.

Garenin Black House Village, Isle Of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland Image from http://wallpaperweb.org

In 1975, she became a professional textile designer, her work heavily influenced by the fiber crafting traditions of her home. She immersed herself in the textile traditions of Scandinavia and began to write books of knitwear patterns. Her first book, Scandinavian Knitwear, was published in 1981. This book was followed by 17 others, as well as variety of other publications.

Today, Alice Starmore is world-renown as a knitting expert. Her books on Fair Isle and Aran knitting are regarded as standards in the literature.

In particular, this book.

*    *     *     *     *

How I Came to Love Alice’s Work e subjects, and she has taught and lectured extensively throughout Britain, Europe and the USA.

I was first introduced to Alice Starmore’s work while searching for boyfriend sweater patterns. I drooled over several gorgeous cabled sweaters, but wisely decided to tackle a simpler project. I was ambitious as heck, when it came to my knitting, but not deluded. I still have a few of those patterns in my “some day” pile.  I’ll know when I’m ready.

The patterns I’m really enchanted by, though, even more than the cables, are the colorwork. I’m just blown away.

Lindisfarne Sweater by Alice Starmore, as seen on Ravelry and in The Celtic Collection.

Oregon Vest by Alice Starmore as seen on https://www.virtualyarns.com


This last December I happened up on a copy of The Celtic Collection in a Friends of the Library shop. I snapped it up. I had no immediate intention to knit anything from it, it was just something I had to have. A piece of raw inspiration to feed my creativity. Like a book of Da Vinci sketches or a print of Monet’s water lilies. I read the book in bed, some nights, lost in the world trapped between the pages.

A Tribute to Alice Starmore’s Work…in Lego

It may seem a bit odd to pay tribute to this artist’s work in a non-fiber medium. But I was fascinated to see how well the intricate Fair Isle patterns could be translated into rows of colored PVC bricks.

I started with one of the simplest patterns in The Celtic Collection, a child’s sweater called Ardagh. 

Ardagh Child's Sweater in Celtic Fretwork. Photo of page 47 of The Celtic Colelction.

Ardagh Child’s Sweater in Celtic Fretwork. Photo of page 47 of The Celtic Colelction.

I chose a small section of Chart A for my experiment.

Child's sweater

I used a combination of different types of tiles and plates. I tried to choose colors close to the yarn colors used in the sweater. Some color matches were better than others due to the colors available in our home Lego supply.

Next, I tackled a slightly more complex pattern, the Kells sweater.

Kells sweater by Alice Starmore, as seen on page 50 of The Celtic Collection.

Kells sweater by Alice Starmore, as seen on page 50 of The Celtic Collection.

I chose a small section of the Chart that showed the intersection of four multicolored diamonds. I ran into difficulties with my color selection, but eventually produced this:

Adult sweater

Early on, I attempted to render one of the more complex Fair Isle sweaters in Lego, but had to quit due to a shortage of pink and purple plates.

So What Was the Point of This?

I won’t deny it, I spent an entire Saturday afternoon playing with Legos. Playing with legos and not knitting.

What I learned is that Legos can provide a very useful medium for trying out new patterns and color combinations. It doesn’t necessarily take less time than swatching. In fact, it probably takes a lot more time. But the advantage is that you can reuse Legos over and over in infinite combinations. And you’re not limited by the colors of yarn you happen to have on hand, only the colors of your Legos.

It’s true that, in this experiment, I ran into some issues with the colors in my Lego supply. But that was because I had not planned to use Legos in this way. The Lego collection belongs to my husband. He buys his bricks with shape in mind more than color. Were I to invest a little money, I could amass a collection of colored plates and bricks exclusively for color work experimentation. And baby, you’d better believe me when I say, there are lots of options out there. Take a web-walk over to Bricklink sometime.

Not Done Playing Yet

I recently took a class in Norwegian stranded color work and am absolutely obsessed with Selbuvotter mittens. This is, perhaps, a better application of Lego experimentation than the Alice Starmore sweaters. One could actually construct a complete mock-up of a mitten (minus thumb) in Lego before knitting it.

Also, perhaps more helpfully, one can play around with various different motifs in a very modular way, swapping things around until you get a sequence that pleases you.

Here's a current experiment in progress.

Here’s a current experiment in progress.

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Last weekend, Mom and I made the joyful trek up to Yarnover.

We shopped.

Adorable felted ride-em horsies

Adorable felted ride-em horsies

We took a Fearless Two Color Mittens Class from Mary Scott Huff. Mary started out the class with a simple exercise in stranded color work for those who needed a review  or for those (like me) who had never tried it at all. The “fearless” aspect of this class was definitely for me. I took this class so I could conquer my personal “Dr. Strangelove” in knitting (i.e., “How I learned to stop worrying love the [fill in knitting-related fear]“).

Mary's a live wire and very entertaining.

Mary’s a live wire and very entertaining.

Here's my first attempt at Norwegian stranded color work. A few rows later, I learned why it's so important to keep your floats loose. This sucker was puckered.

Here’s my first attempt at Norwegian stranded color work. A few rows later, I learned why it’s so important to keep your floats loose. This sucker was puckered.

Later on, Mary passed out her Nordica pattern for us to try. Here was my first try:

I made it about halfway through the mitten when I finally had to acknowledge that I was knitting WAY too loosely. In my effort to keep my floats loose I was knitting everything like rubber-girl.  So I ripped back.

I made it about halfway through the mitten when I finally had to acknowledge that I was knitting WAY too loosely. In my effort to keep my floats loose I was knitting everything like rubber-girl. So I ripped back.

I tried again with firmer tension and smaller needles and got this:

Mitten #1, minus the thumb. It fits. Huzzah!

Mitten #1, minus the thumb. It fits. Huzzah!


We took a break at lunch to wolf down some food and chat with friends from my local knitting group. Everyone talked about their morning classes and the classes they were planning to take in the afternoon. I found myself wishing I could undergo a few rounds of cellular mitosis right then and there so that I could take everyone else’s classes as well as my own.

In the afternoon, Mom and I also took a Spinning and Plying Cabled Yarns class with Francine Ruiter. My first-time results were semi-successful.

Francine getting things started. We're all itching to spin.

Francine getting things started. We’re all itching to spin.


My cabled yarn on the bobbin.

Mom working on her singles. She's shy, so you only get to see her cute smile.

Mom working on her singles. She’s internet-shy, so you only get to see her cute smile.

My cabled yarn finished. If you look closely, there are certain sections of it that seem to have the visual characteristics of a cabled yarn. But not all. Sigh. Must practice.

My cabled yarn finished. If you look closely, there are certain sections of it that seem to have the visual characteristics of a cabled yarn. But not all. Sigh. Must practice.

I left Yarnover feeling jazzed about the new techniques I’d learned, particularly the Norwegian stranded color work.

I think my Ravelry favorites are about to be flooded with color work projects.

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1. Yarnover is coming up this weekend. I’ll be driving up to attend with my mother, another yarn-junkie. We’re both taking classes (fearless two color mittens and spinning cabled yarns).  I’ll  try to restrain myself while shopping in the market, but I don’t promise anything. When I went to Yarnover two years ago, I had no idea what these colorful hankies were for, or why so many vendors were selling them. They seemed oddly luxurious and yet wasteful as nose-blowing tools.

Fiber is so hawt.

Fiber is so hawt.

That was before I started spinning. Now I know what they’re for and I’m planning to pick up some of my very own to play with.

2. Next weekend, my knitting group is taking a long-anticipated trip to a local winery. (Stupid winter). We’ll sample the wines, eat a nice lunch, knit and gab and have a grand old time.

Four Daughter’s Winery

 3. My animal shelter fundraiser (which ends on May 6) is getting some good participation.

I’m giving away a hand-knitted shawl as a prize. I’ve received so many lovely comments. It warms my heart.

I did it! We have always had rescue animals — eight cats so far and three dogs, every one of them a delight. When our boys were still at home we used to foster litters of kittens every summer. I am also on the board of our local humane society. Clearly, I HAD to donate  :-) Thanks for doing this.

orion window

I just completed my donation payment online! Paws and Claws is a wonderful organization of truly compassionate people! Our family adopted our fuzzbutt, Elsie, last year from a wonderful woman assisting a local shelter as a foster home. Our sweet little Chihuahua was not quite one year old when she came home, and I was concerned for her transition. But due to the amazing care and love she received from the shelter and foster home, she transitions with ease and great health! We have a feisty pup in our home that is always looking for a warm snuggle when she is not cruising her kingdom and playing. Thank you for donating your great time, skills and resources to promote this great cause! 

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.

I made a donation to Paws and Claws. This is a wonderful contest! I would wear this shawl with pride if I was the lucky one. The animals win either way! Thanks so much for your generosity.

4. The 5th Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Starts May 12

This blog carnival is always so much fun and is such a good opportunity to meet new bloggers and stretch my blogging muscles. I’m already plotting some outrageous ideas for my posts. Maybe something involving duct tape and Legos.

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Usually I have more self control and knit-scipline than this. I can pick one or two projects and work at them diligently. I may have yearnings after other patterns and yarns, but I’m able to stay committed to the  ones I have chosen.

Not this spring. And it’s not my fault. It’s the fault of the designers. If they didn’t create such tempting patterns I wouldn’t have fallen into this sorry, schizo-knittic state.

Culprit #1: Julie Turjoman

Julie Turjoman just came out with a glorious set of summer-friendly patterns: Knits That Breathe: 12 Breezy Projects To Keep You Cool.  I can’t say enough positive things about this collection. I can imagine living in these tanks, tees and tunics all summer long. I can imagine actually being comfortable in my knitwear in August. How often can one really say that? 

The patterns use an outstanding variety of warm-weather fibers: linen, cotton, bamboo and silk, tencel, and even milk whey/soy. My favorite is Still Waters, a breezy tee in sport-weight linen. The original pattern calls for Claudia Handpainted Yarns Linen, but I’m going to try using some Louet Euroflax Sport from my stash.

Still Waters. Photo used with permission. Pattern by Julie Turjoman. Photo by Zoë Lonergan.

Culprit #2: Jean Chung

The designs in Knitscene are sometimes a little too “trendy” for me. I am leery of knitting a top that will be out of fashion by the time I’m done knitting it. But the Summer 2014 issue is different. It’s full of quirky interesting patterns that are just…me. Designer Jean Chung is responsible for one of them: Austin Tee.

Photo used with permission. Pattern by Jean Chung. Photo copyright Knitscene/Harper Point.

I was attracted to this tee because of the lovely lace. So many of the summer tops are dominated by large sections of stockinette. Sometimes I need something a little more stimulating. This tee is just the ticket. I’m knitting this one in Classic Elite Yarns Cerro, a sumptuous pima cotton/alpaca blend. I can’t wait until this tee is done. I wish I were wearing it now.

Culprit #3:  Bristol Ivy

Here’s another pattern from the Summer 2014 issue of Knitscene: Linum Tee, by Bristol Ivy.  I’m totally, irrevocably in love with this pattern, like I’m a teenage girl and this top is a sparkly vampire.

Linum Tee by Bristol Ivy. Copyright Knitscene/Harper Point. Used with permission.

This top just gets me. The asymmetrical lace panel at the top says, “hey, I’m creative and adventurous and I make my own rules.” The solid stockinette body says, “you can wear me to work without violating dress code.” I haven’t cast this one on yet, but I will just as soon as I can get my hands on some fingering weight linen or a suitable substitute.  My LYS doesn’t have anything quite right in stock and I want to use just the right thing. Soon, soon Linum shall be mine.

Culprit #4: Klever Knits

I saw this elegant tank on KleverKnits blog and was instantly enchanted. The original is knitted in DK weight cotton, but I imagined an alternate version knitted in purple Hempathy. I’ve been dying to try Hempathy in a pattern and here’s the perfect opportunity.

Sterling Peplum by Klever Knits Used with permission.

I’ll be casting this one on as soon as my yarn arrives in the mail.

Culprit#5: Rusty Baker

I always look forward to the seasonal knitwear collections from HollaKnits. They’re not afraid to be edgy, not even a little bit. I love the young, hip, urban vibe to their designs. The latest collection features Stonybrook Top, a spunky, funky design I can’t help but love.

Stoney Brook Top by Rusty Baker. Used with permission

I hear mesh is going to be all the rage this season. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ve never been a big fan of mesh. But I could get behind mesh it looks like this. This is definitely a top you need to wear with a tank underneath. The original was knitted in a woolen yarn, but I think I would choose something different to lighten it up. I’ll have to search my stash.

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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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