Tuesday, December 24, 2013


In the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to share a little story of generosity with you.

I have been very excited over the last 5 days to see people buying the pattern for Whirlwind Socks.  At last check, around 26 people have helped me accumulate a donation to send to the City of Washington Tornado Recovery Fund.  I've been very happy to see people from all over the place purchasing it - not just midwesterners who are familiar with tornadoes, but East Coast residents who might have experience with hurricanes and Europeans who have probably only see that sort of devastation on tv.

I've also seen familiar names of local knitters come through my paypal account.  But this morning I woke up to the name of a Washington acquaintance in my inbox.  She is someone I knew from the days when I taught music at a local grade school.  I remembered being at her house for some reason or another (I think she hosted some sort of baby or wedding shower that the teachers all attended) and I had a moment of relief thinking, "She must have been really lucky because most of the section of the neighborhood she lives in was heavily damaged."  (The photos I posted in my last blog post were taken very close to where I remember her living.)

Then I noticed the address paypal sent along with her payment.  "Oh, she has moved to a different town," I thought.  Still lucky - I bet her old house didn't make it.

Next I clicked from my e-mail inbox over to Ravelry where I had a message in my inbox….it was from this same acquaintance.  She just wanted to say some very kind things about the fact that I was donating pattern sales to this cause.  But here's the kicker.  She said she was living in the town I saw in her paypal address "while we rebuild".  So yeah, she obviously lost her house, and here she was sending in her $5 donation like so many others have already done.  And while I'm touched and have to hold back tears as I type this, I'm not at all surprised.  Because that's the kind of people we live with in this town - they may have problems of their own, but they're never in such bad shape that they can't help out a friend or a neighbor.

I was talking to a close friend not too long ago about what a crap year 2013 has been for so many people we know.  She was saying it's hard to understand why some people seem to have everything go wrong all at once.  She referenced a mutual friend who lost her dad very suddenly just a couple months ago, then had her house heavily damaged in the tornado.  I told her that the friend probably has her bad days, but she's also probably looking at the people around her thinking, "I feel so bad for my neighbors because, while my house was very damaged, their houses are completely gone."  If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's that we are able to handle whatever life brings our way.  And part of handling it is realizing that someone always has it worse than you.  Sure, I was basically sick from April through December of this year, but there are other chronically ill people out there who don't have a husband who takes care of them when they can't do it themselves, a mother who will drop everything and drive for 2 hours to give that husband a hand when he needs it, or fantastic health insurance so they can get the care they need without worrying about going bankrupt.

When the tornado hit,  I was ticked that I was too weak to go outside to help with sorting through the debris and cleaning up (I learned my lesson with the chin stitches, universe!  I'll be good until I get my strength back!)  But I did find a donation center where the kids and I could help by organizing clothing donations, and a school kitchen where we could help prepare food that was taken out to volunteers.  It's the same philosophy that I saw in the Ravelry message this morning: no matter what each of us is facing, we get through it by looking outside ourselves and trying to find something that we can do for other people.

So I thank you, Washington acquaintance (you know who you are!), and the 25 other knitters who have helped support tornado recovery.  You all make me proud to be counted as a member of "Team Knitter".

If anyone else wants their donation sent in at the end of the month with my first check, you can find the sock pattern here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Whirlwind Release

For the past two years, I've made it a point to thank my pattern customers each year by releasing a pattern around Christmas and offering a coupon code so people can download it for free.  This year, I hope my pattern customers will understand why I decided to change things up a little and instead of releasing a pattern for free, I'm asking if you would join me in benefitting a cause that is near to my heart.

A month ago you may have seen coverage of a bad day of tornados in the midwest.  The hardest hit community that day was Washington, IL.  I've lived in Washington since I graduated from college.  I taught music at one of the local grade schools for a few years before we had kids, so I've had an opportunity to become acquainted with a large number of the families in this community.  Washington may not be my "hometown", but it is the town we've lived in ever since we were married 15 years ago, and it's the only home my kids have ever known.

We were very fortunate that day that our house was not in the path of the tornado.  In fact, driving through our neighborhood right after the storm, you never would have known what sort of destruction you'd see less than a mile away.

In the days after the tornado, all sorts of organizations descended upon our town.  The Red Cross and FEMA were there.  Team Rubicon and other volunteer disaster clean-up teams have worked tirelessly alongside local volunteers to sort through and clean up the debris.   Churches organized teams of volunteers and sent them to where they were needed.  Church and school groups were busy cooking meals that they served in their facilities as well as took out to people who were working outside.  It was really amazing to see the outpouring of support from people who came from all over the place to help out.

The tornado went through town on a Sunday.  Power was knocked out to most of the town and because of the location of our house, we're always last on the power restoration list.  So the next day, the kids and I drove up to my parents' house where I sat around stewing about not being able to help out.

To pass the time, I decided to knit some socks.  These socks started out as my "I'm away from home with nothing to do with myself" project, but as I worked, I realized that maybe I could use these socks to help out.  I'd write up the pattern and release it as a tornado benefit.

You wouldn't believe the costs that go into dealing with a disaster like this.  Yes, hopefully the homeowners will have insurance and each individual's out-of-pocket cost should be somewhat limited, but the city will have huge costs to take care of.  Right after the tornado, police, fire & paramedics from all the surrounding towns came to help, and they will all be paid.  For at least a week after the disaster, extra police were manning check-points at the roads that led into the affected areas to keep the damaged homes somewhat secure, and those workers need to be paid.

Bringing in heavy machinery and manpower to help with clean up doesn't come cheap, and in fact the city announced it had run out of money to help homeowners clean up just a couple days after the city started sending out trucks to pick up the debris.  But the biggest long-term problem for our city is that because the tornado destroyed so many homes (leveled + damaged houses = almost 1100 total) and tore right through the section of town that has the newest real estate, we lost 47% of our residential real estate value.  So right when the city will need funds the most, it will take a huge hit to its income from property taxes.

The recovery from this tornado will be long-term.  Because we've already had snow here, even the clean-up is going to take a while.  I am thankful that everyone I know who is currently unable to live in their homes has found rental housing.  I was happy to see how local realtors and insurance companies worked very quickly to get people out of hotels and into rental homes.  There are many organizations that are set up to take donations, but I will be donating proceeds from this pattern directly to the City of Washington Fund that has been set up at a local bank.

Enough disaster talk, now let's talk about the socks!

One 100g skein of pretty much any fingering-weight yarn is going to be plenty for a pair made in either size (the pair in the photo was made from Malabrigo Sock yarn).  They're knit toe-up, so if you are cutting it close on yarn, you can just split it into 2 equal balls before you begin and just knit until you run out.

My two favorite features of this sock are the texturing and the heel.  The twisted stitches that run across the instep pull the socks in at the arch, so you end up with a nice, snug fit.  And now that I've discovered the Fleege Heel (thanks, Margi!) I don't know why I'd ever go back to one of the other heel-making methods.  It's VERY easy to do, uses no wraps, and you end up with NO holes.  I just can't say enough good things about Fleegle!

The twisted stitches are not complicated, and a link to a video demonstration for these stitches is included in the pattern.  Other pattern supplements are a link to a video for Judy's Magic Cast-on and and article that illustrates how to work right and left leg increases.  The pattern is written for two sizes: US Women's Shoe Size 6/7 and Women's 8/9, and is written for magic loop, although knitting on double-pointed needles or with two circulars instead is a simple switch.

Many thanks to Margi and Kim who test-knit the pattern and whose input made it infinitely better!

Thanks in advance to everyone who is contributing to our town's recovery either by buying the Whirlwind Socks pattern, making a donation on your own, or giving your time and energy to one of the organizations that has helped out in the area.  Everyone here is determined to start fresh and make our community even better than it was before, and it means a lot to all of us that we have gotten so much support from people outside our little town!

Monday, November 25, 2013

In the Mood for a Test?

It seems like it's been a long time since I've put up a new pattern for testing.  In reality, it's only been 3 months, but a lot has happened in that time!

If you're a sock knitter, like working new patterns, and are willing to keep a careful eye out for problems or errors, please join this test!  You can find the details here.

These might be the best socks I've ever knitted, thanks to the "fleegle heel".  A tester that worked on the Unisox pattern pointed me toward it, and I'm so glad she did!  No little holes to fix up after you're done with the heel.  It works beautifully!

I hope everyone is doing well and you're well into enjoying your holiday knitting by now.  I've been procrastinating with next project is making a boat load of headbands and hats.  But by the first week of December, I hope to move on to a holiday project!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Recovery Socks

This past summer, my grandma was diagnosed with a pretty serious heart situation, and in September, she underwent open heart surgery to take care of the problem.  Her doctors say she's recovering well, and I can see a huge improvement in her coloring, but she's still having trouble getting out of the post-surgery funk.  I'm no stranger to medical funk, so I decided to make an attempt to boost her spirits by sending her some notes and little gifts in the mail.  I wish I could do more, but since I live 2 hours away, this is the best I can do for now.  Luckily, the holidays are coming up, so I'll get to see her in person at the end of this month and next.  She's been telling us since her surgery that her goal was to be well enough to help wash dishes after Thanksgiving dinner.  My aunt flew in from Florida last week to take her turn at nagging Grandma into we're all pulling for her!  If you're reading this blog Grandma, I'm happy to wash your dish for you, but I hope you're feeling well enough to sit at the table to visit and eat dessert with the women for an hour after dinner, while the men are in the family room watching sports and dozing!  I don't want you to have to go home for a nap at 4pm!

Anyway, keeping in mind that I wanted these sock to be easy-care and warm (but not too warm because my grandparents keep their house pretty warm in the winter), I went to my LYS looking for some mid-thickness yarn in a washable fiber.  I was thinking maybe superwash merino, but I also had a very specific color scheme in mind, and I didn't find any superwash that matched the colors in my head.  So I settled on this acrylic / nylon yarn from Cascade - Cherub DK.  My swatch looked great after being machine washed & dried, but this is my first experience with the yarn, so I can't vouch for how well it will wear.  It has 4 out of 5 stars on Ravelry though, so it can't be too bad.  And the price was certainly right - at $3 a skein, you could easily make a pair of socks for $6 (or $9 if you want to do stripes.)  

I am super-excited about this pair of socks, because it is my first experience with using the Fleegle Heel.  During the Unisox test-knit, one of my testers told me about this heel, but at the time I didn't have another pair of socks to knit and I was busy working on other things, so I bookmarked it to use next time I wanted to make socks.  Well, I'm so glad she shared this heel technique with me!  I've done a number of heel techniques - doing a heel flap & picking up stitches, short-row heel (and a couple modifications of this technique trying to eliminate tiny holes), and the after-thought heel, but I have to say, this heel is by far the easiest to work and it HAS NO LITTLE HOLES TO CLOSE UP.  None.  You get beautiful, tight gusset stitches and no holes at all.  Seriously, you have got to try this heel technique.  

I did a basic toe-up sock, simple pattern to follow if you're interested:                                                                            

Women's size M (L).                                                          
The size M would fit a size 8-9 shoe like a regular sock.    
The size L would fit a size 8-9 shoe like a slipper sock, meant to be worn over another pair of socks.

I used the magic loop method, so that is what this pattern is written for, but it could just as easily be done with two circular needles or a set of double-pointed needles if you prefer one of those methods.                                                             

2 balls of Cherub DK (3 balls if working stripes)              
(Skeins are 180 yds each)                                                   
US Size 4 Circ Needle                                                     
Gauge: 24 sts x 34 rows = 4" x 4" in stockinette st              

My stripe pattern alternated 10 rounds of the dark purple with 5 rows of the light purple, but this is easy to modify depending on your taste.                              
CO 12 sts divided bet 2 needles using Judy's Magic Cast-On.  
R1: (needle 1): K1, M1, K to last st, M1, K1.                            
       (needle 2): rep needle 1.                                                         
R2: Knit all sts.                                                                            
Rep rounds 1 & 2 until there are (20) 24 sts total on each needle.

K in stockinette until sock is long enough to fit the entire foot to the point where the leg meets the top of the foot.

Begin Fleegle Heel:
Make sure stitches are still evenly divided between the two needles.  Needle #1 will be your gusset needle (bottom and sides of the foot) and Needle #2 will be your instep needle (top of the foot).
R1 (needle 1): K2, M1, K to last 2 sts, M1, K2.
      (needle 2): K all sts.
R2: Knit all sts.
Rep rounds 1 & 2 until needle #1 contains 36 (40) sts.

(You'll notice that my math here is slightly different than the blog post I linked to suggests - my first attempt was made by repeating these two rounds until I had 46 sts on needle #1, but my heel was way too large and the back of the sock was baggy.  So I frogged it, reduced my stitch count to 40 on the gusset needle and the heel came out great.)

Turn Heel:

Place a marker in the middle of the stitches on needle #1 (There will be 18 (20) sts on each side of the marker.)

R1 (worked on needle 1 ONLY): K to 3 (3) sts past marker, K2tog, K1, turn.  Pull the yarn tight.
R2: Sl1 Pwise, P to 3 (3)  sts past marker, P2togtbl, P1, turn.  Pull the yarn tight.

R3: Sl1 Pwise, K to the gap, K the st before the gap tog with the st after the gap, K1, Turn.
R4: Sl1 Pwise, P to the gap, P the st before the gap tog with the st after the gap tbl, P1, Turn.

Rep Rows 3 & 4 until 20 (24) sts rem on gusset needle.

Work Cuff:

Resume working in the round.  For my first round, I did a plain Knit row, then I established 2X2 ribbing.  Since I was doing a stripe pattern, I made sure to Knit one round plain each time I switched colors, so the lines between the stripes aren't distorted.  The remaining rounds were all done in 2x2 ribbing.

The cuffs on my socks extended 3" past the heel, but you can work them as long as you like (just make sure you have extra yarn).

Switch to a US size 8 needle to work the bind-off so the cuff is stretchy enough to fit over the foot and ankle.

I hope these socks keep Grandma's feet cozy while she recuperates this fall, and I hope this simple sock pattern comes in handy for you sometime!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Trip to Madison

My kids had a 3 1/2 day weekend this past week due to parent / teacher conferences.  Since both kids are in junior high and teachers don't request conferences at their school unless they have concerns about a student, we were completely off the hook.  My health has been relatively stable for the past month or so, so we decided to make the 4-hour drive to the Wisconsin Dells for the weekend.  

It was not terribly busy there, so our accommodations were nice and relatively inexpensive, and the water parks and other attractions were not overly-crowded.  We all had fun and it was nice to get a little break for a few days.

On our third day in Wisconsin, we met my sister and her family in Madison.  We live a little over 3 hours away from my sister's family, so since we were only an hour from her house, we had to make a point to meet up!  We spent the day at the Farmer's Market, visited a little geology museum on the university campus, looked around the capitol building, and went out for lunch together (Porta Bella - good food, terrible service, and we were one of two tables of customers at noon on a Saturday...that should have been our first clue!)  
  After we parted ways, I used my "Yarn Finder" iPhone app to see if there were any shops I needed to investigate.  I was very excited to read the description of "Off The Beaten Path Yarn Shop", because it said they specialized in local yarns, hand-painted yarns, and eco-friendly yarns.  After driving about 10 minutes down the road, we we realized the shop no longer existed.

I called the phone number listed for the second shop on my list.  That number was no longer in service, either. 

So we forged on!  Knitting Tree seemed like they might carry some yarn lines that I wasn't familiar with, so we headed over to that shop.  I wasn't disappointed!  Plenty to choose from, and lots that I liked.  It was a little pricier than many of the other LYS I've visited, but they definitely had plenty to tempt me!

I came away with 3 skeins of Prism Yarns Merino Mia in the "Dune" color way.  I thought they might make a lovely winter scarf or cowl.

These two black & white skeins from Rhichard Devrieze 100% merino in the "Peppino" color way looked like men's socks to me.

This skein of Malabrigo sock yarn in the "African Violet" color way is my "regret yarn".  I love this color purple, and I saw this exact yarn at a shop about a year ago.  I wanted to buy it, but my local yarn shop had just started carrying Malabrigo sock yarn at the time, so I thought, "Eventually they'll order this color and I'll buy it from them."  Well, it's a year later and I haven't seen it, so I jumped at the chance to buy it when I saw it this time.  I think this skein is definitely going to be a fun pair of socks for me.  Purple.  Love it!

I was out of energy before I was out of yarn shops, so next time I'm in Madison I'll have to finish the yarn tour!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Coat for Baby

 The year my husband and I started dating, his roommate was a guy named "Slobe".  That was not his first name, but it was what everyone called him (and we still do, 20 years later.)  He put up with us always being in the dorm room making kissy faces at each other.  He never complained when the three of us would have slumber parties together.  My favorite memory of him at college was the day I was complaining about an ugly, octagonal, circa 1970's-style, marble-topped end table that the two of them had rescued from the trash someone had set out at their curb.  I was joking that we could never move in together if that awful table was part of the package he came with.  Slobe, freshly entering the room from the shower with just a towel around his waist, leapt on top of the table with the intent of doing a silly dance, but instead of that happening, the top of the table cracked and he came crashing down.  Luckily, it appeared that he had planned ahead, and he was wearing shorts under the towel.  That's our Slobe, always cracking jokes, but in the most practical way possible.

Anyway, for quite a while after college, Slobe didn't find the right Mrs. Slobe.  Then, during one of his yearly visits at our house, he mentioned a woman from his church who had told him that the two of them should get together to plan things for their "young singles" group.

My husband and I are a couple of busy-bodies, so of course we immediately shook him down to get every detail we could about this woman.  He answered our questions, but insisted that this woman was not interested in him.  "Slobe," I remember one of us saying to him. "If a woman is suggesting that the two of you meet BY YOURSELVES to 'make plans' for your group, it means she wants to be alone with you and get to know you better.  Ask this woman out!"

And by golly, he did.  And they hit it off so well that the next year when he visited us, he brought her along.  And she's the kind of person who just jumps right in with people she doesn't know and within 30 minutes you're discussing birth control and telling her every funny story you can think of that involves the man she's dating.

So of course we were thrilled when they got married, and we were happy that they included my husband to be a groomsman, asked me to play piano, and let our 6-year-old daughter be their flower girl.  We were happier yet a couple years ago when they had a little girl.  I knitted her a little cardigan sweater and hat set that you can see here.

Mrs. Slobe proved herself to be quite knit-worthy, taking good care of the hand knits I made for their daughter and giving me far more compliments than she needed to.  So I wanted to top myself when I made a gift for baby number 2.

They didn't find out the sex before the birth, but I was about 75% sure that it was a girl.  I'm glad I didn't follow my instincts and make something pink or frilly, because, as it turns out, baby was a boy!

I finished up the Latte Baby Coat in less than a week, although it took me twice as long to get my butt to JoAnns and pick out buttons.

All in all, a very quick, fun project and a very cute result.

Details are here on my Ravelry project page

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ended Up Making Wrong Kind of Stitches Last Night

So...remember how I said I'd have more to post when I managed to get better and start getting a life?  Well, last night was supposed to be the start of that.  Every year, my husband and I participate in our town's "Amazing Race" that is put on by the park district.  It's a lot of fun.  We team up with friends and spend a couple hours driving to different locations in town where challenges have been set up for us to do.  Some are physical, some are mental, most are a combination of both.  It might be shoving our arms up to the elbows in bucket of baked beans to pull out colored beads, milking a wooden cow, changing a bicycle tire, or finding random items on a shopping list at the independent grocery store.  This is the 6th year the park district has organized the race, and we've participated every year.  It really is one of the highlights of fall for my husband and I.

So when I was sick this summer, I wasn't feeling too sorry for myself for missing out on current fun.  I kept telling myself, "This is a bummer now, but I'm going to be better in time for the Amazing Race.  And that is always the MOST fun."

I had warned my husband that we weren't in it to win this year.  I knew I had to take it easy since I'm still not in my usual physical shape.  But once we got that first clue and he took off running for the car, the adrenaline and my competitive spirit got the best of me.  I ran after him as fast as I could.  And after about 20 seconds, my body said, "Ok, you're done running now."  I was just out of energy to the point where I couldn't even stop myself from running.  And my reflexes were so slow that I couldn't get my hands out to catch myself.  So one second I was sprinting, and the next second I was slamming into the sidewalk with my neck extended so the brunt of the force was taken by my knees, pubic bone and chin.

I bounced back up pretty quickly thinking, "Ok, that hurt, but I can probably shake this off."  I knew I was bleeding, but I figured it we could just keep going, they probably have first aid kits at some of the stops.  After my teammates saw my chin, there was a unanimous decision that I needed stitches.

So we spent the rest of the evening in the ER.  Even when it's not busy, it takes 3 hours to get stitches.  We did make it back to the final meeting place for the race before the organizers and the last couple teams had left.  So we did get to see all the clues and hear about all the challenges we missed.  Oh well, there's always next year.

So the bright side here is that my slow reflexes mean that my hands are fine.  I barely scraped the palms of my hands and this morning they look perfectly normal.  So I'll still be able to knit while I heal from this accident.  I've been working on a lace sweater.  I'm not 100% sure how I want the sleeves to look, so right now I'm working on side as if it has a set-in sleeve, and the other side has a drop-shoulder sleeve.  Once I see which one I like better, I'll re-knit the top of the sweater and both sleeves and finish it off.

Besides that, not much is going on in my knitting world....Christmas knitting is going to start happening  soon, but everyone that I love enough to knit for also reads the blog, so it might be a while before I can really talk about that stuff.  I do have a baby gift that I'll be mailing soon, so you'll get to hear about that before too long!

Monday, October 14, 2013


So this weekend, I started my twisted pink sweater not one or two, but THREE more times (that's four times total for those of you who are keeping track.)  Each time, I cast on an obscene amount of stitches, knit between 8 and 18 rows and only THEN did I see the truth: that my knitting was twisted.  BOTH times, I looked at those stitches, manipulated them, checked them, and convinced myself that "No, these stitches are not twisted," before i joined them.  After one row I'd check again, then after a few more rows...each time deciding that THIS time I had done it right!  Then once I was an inch or two into it, I'd realize that my stitches had LIED to me again.

So remember that "knit it flat, join it later" thing that I said I didn't want to do?  Well, I'm doing it.  I'll re-start a project four times, but I am not going to restart it a fifth time!  I got through the ribbing this weekend and am looking forward to getting into the honeycomb stitch pattern today.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Pro Tip:

After you cast 300+ stitches onto your circular needle to begin your bottom-up sweater, really check to make sure that your stitches aren't twisted before you join your work in the round.

I mean, really make sure they're all facing the same way.  Fiddle with them and fiddle with them some more, really checking that nothing is twisted.

Spend a good 10 minutes on it, because you know how deceiving that cast-on row can be (and yes, I know the trick about working a few rows flat before you join just to make it easier to see, but I am lazy and seaming up that little spot just seems like way more work than it's worth!)

Once you've checked and re-checked, muttered a mild threat along the lines of "You'd better not be twisted", and are completely convinced that the knitting is being joined straight, go ahead and join.

On those first few rows, keep re-checking yourself to make sure that you really don't have a twist, because, as you know, sometimes you can be completely convinced that you joined your knitting without any twists, only to find out 4 rows later that there was indeed an evil little twist hiding in there somewhere.

It happens to the best of us.  It took me a good 10 rows to realize I had twisted this little so-and-so, but I was already kind of experimenting, so I continued my experiment a little longer since I knew there was a good chance I'd want to pull it out and start over anyway.  So all in all, not a huge deal, but I had REALLY checked and rechecked this thing before I joined it!  What gives??

Friday, October 4, 2013


I was looking over my Ravelry designer's page the other day and I realized that out of the last 10 patterns I've released, the sample project has been knitted in green, blue or a combination of the two colors for 7 of those patterns!  Last year, I leaned very heavily toward using pink and purple yarns for my samples. I didn't plan this either time, it just happened that way.  But now that I realize I've been knitting very heavily in the blue/green family, I'm ready for a little change of pace!  Enter: PINK

This yarn was a purchase I made when I was in the middle of my worst days back in August.  I had completely lost the desire to knit (or do anything other than lay around watching tv, really), and I thought maybe yarn for a  new project would be just what the doctor ordered.

Turns out, choosing stitch patterns, swatching, measuring gauge, thinking about construction, and writing out a rough draft of a pattern while you are really ill is overwhelming.  No matter how much you want to knit or how much you like the yarn.  So even though the Loopy Ewe has the yarn here in just a few days, it sat, untouched, for a few weeks before I could muster up the energy to pick up my stitch dictionaries and take a look through to see if I could find some stitch patterns that would work for the idea I had.

The good news was that I did, indeed, find a number of stitch pattern possibilities that I liked.  I apologize for the terrible-ness of this swatch photo...I know you can barely make out some of those patterns.  And a sidenote: I washed this swatch with another project that had dye that bled.  Does anyone have a suggestion for removing dye from the swatch yarn?  I'm going to either have to reuse this yarn (that swatch is an entire skein!) or I'll have to order an extra skein because I won't have enough to complete the project without it.

Anyway, I swatched 9 different patterns and decided what I wanted to use.  Now it's just a matter of figuring out exactly how this project is going to go and writing out the rough draft.  It gets a little easier every time I do it, but everything work-related is still a little bit overwhelming.  Last week I returned to getting up with my kids in the morning and driving them to school, and being able to help out a little around the house.  This week I've been able to do a few errands away from the house, take a couple 45-minute walks, and cook dinner a couple times.  So I'm heading in the right direction, but really, just trying to do the "regular stuff" seems like a lot right now.  And it's driving me kind of crazy because with all the couch time I am still having, I would LOVE to be knitting a great knitting project right now.  I guess I just need it to be one that I don't have to write myself.  But I just did two patterns by other writers in August, so it's really time for me to get back to "work" knitting!

What's on your needles these days?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Orchard Release!

And the Big Day is finally here!  The Orchard Sweater, conceived very early this year, has patiently waited its turn for release.  (Certainly, it has waited more patiently than I have!)  I have many test knitters to thank for working up this pattern.  As always, the final version of this pattern is far better than it was when you received it, and that is completely due to your willingness to question things that seemed odd or unclear.  I couldn't do this without you!  So thank you: peal, cornflowerknits, JudyeNaz, crystalvisions, REJ, ShelbyWoo, and Yarn-Dar.  You ladies are the best!

Speaking of the fabulous testers, I wanted to share some of their project pictures on this release post.  Because let's face it, it's relatively easy for a designer to knit their own design and make it look good in pictures.  The real test it whether other knitters can do the same!

JudyeNaz is the poster child for "if she can do this, so can you!"  I believe she said this was only her third adult sweater, and I think it was the first project she's taken on that required much in the way of cabling.  She told me it stretched her skills in a few different ways and she couldn't wait to make it again.  And can you believe how cute she looks in it?  She chose to make her pullover in the recommended yarn, Knit Picks City Tweed HW, and I think the color she chose is a great neutral.

Cornflowerknits was another tester who chose a great neutral, but on her project page, she mentioned not loving the yarn she used.  Apparently the Tahki Yarns Tara Tweed is a pretty rustic yarn and contains a lot of veg matter.  She ended up picking a lot of stuff out of the yarn as she knit,  so if that sort of thing bothers you, you might want to cross this yarn off your list.

Still, I think her finished sweater turned out great, and the cables "pop" nicely in this yarn.  So all that picking might have been worth it!

One of my favorite features of this sweater is the large collar.  It can be worn flat or it can be buttoned up and worn folded over as a cowl-y turtleneck.  Button holes are cleverly hidden in the cabled edging.

This close-up collar photo from crystalvisions was taken before the buttons were sewn on, so it gives you a clear view of what the cabled edging looks like before the buttons are added.

And finally, here's a photo from Yarn-Dar, who made this pretty heathered periwinkle pullover out of Ella Rae Classic worsted-weight wool.  I was a little nervous about her choice, wondering if she'd have to go with a too-loose fabric to get gauge, which might make the cables sag rather than stand out, but I think she ended up with a lovely result.  And the heathered effect was a fun variation from the other projects that were all done in either solid or tweedy yarns.

Ready to make your own?  Head on over to the Ravelry pattern page and download a copy of this new pattern.  Before you know it, the weather will be just right for wearing cozy pullovers again!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Orchard Winners!

Thanks to all who entered!  Check out the video below to see if there is a free knitting pattern in your future....

Congratulations to all the winners!  Make sure to send me your e-mail address (or your Ravelry member name if you want to wait until next Tuesday for me to send the file to your Ravelry library) and I'll get the pattern files out to you asap!

To everyone who didn't win this time....the Orchard Pullover pattern is now available in my Etsy shop. And if you purchase it this week before it's available on Ravelry, I will be happy to send the pattern file to your Ravelry library on October 1 if you include your Ravelry member name in the "message to seller" field when you go through the Etsy check-out.

If you'd like to see additional photos of the pullover, I have 9 of them uploaded to my Ravelry project page here.  

And just a reminder - the Knit Picks sale ends tomorrow, so if you are interested in working this pullover up in Knit Picks City Tweed HW, make sure to get your order in soon!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Orchard Pullover Pattern Giveaway!

So....I hate being all excuse-y, excuse-y, but as you may have noticed, I've failed miserably at getting my latest pattern out by my anticipated deadline.  The good news is, my health situation is moving in the right direction (even though it's moving at a glacial pace!)  But I am off the medications that were making my mind hazy and putting me to sleep, which means my brain works again, and I'm working on doing the final edits on the pattern in the next few days.

As a thank-you to everyone who has hung in there with me while I've been missing in action, I wanted to do a little pattern giveaway.  All you have to do is comment on this post, and you're entered.  Next week, on the day I release the pattern (probably Tuesday, Sept 24), I'll do a random number generator to give away 3 copies of the Orchard Pullover pattern.  Next week, the pattern will only be released in my Etsy Shop, so I'll need the winners to contact me with their e-mail addresses so I can send them the pdf file via e-mail.  (I can later send it to their Ravelry libraries if they want to give me their Rav member names).  It will be released the following week on Ravelry and through the Knit Picks IDP program (not sure what that date will be.)

Speaking on Knit Picks, I noticed an e-mail from them yesterday that announced a week-long sale on the yarn I used for the sample of this sweater, Knit Picks City Tweed HW.  164-yd balls are marked down from $10 to $8.  So if you wear a 31" (34", 37", 40", 43", 46", 49", 52", 55") chest, and you like to plan ahead and get a good deal, you'll need to order 5 (6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9) skeins.  (Note: the 40" size only needs to use about 10 yards from the 7th skein, the the 46" size only uses about 20 yards of the 7th skein, and the 55" size only uses about 13 yards of the 9th skein.  So if you tend to modify patterns so they use a little less yarn, or if you don't mind unraveling and reusing swatched yarn, you can probably get away with ordering one less skein for these sizes.)  I loved working with this yarn.  You can really feel the alpaca fiber in it, even though it's only 25% alpaca, and it definitely has the warmth of alpaca.  I have ultra-sensitive skin right now, and I would not be able to wear this yarn next to my skin, but I have no trouble at all with it worn over a t-shirt.  I highly recommend this yarn, and from the yarn's Ravelry page, I see that plenty of other people do, too.

So comment away!  I'll do my best to get the final edits done and look forward to releasing this pattern into the wild next week.  And I look forward to giving away 3 copies of this pattern next week!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Race to the Post Office!

I designed a pattern last spring that I thought would be perfect for my first submission to a print magazine.  I think the pattern was finished in June, and I ran a test for it in July & August.  Things went quite well and I'm very happy with the way it all came out.

Being new to magazine publication, I did a little research.  How detailed were the patterns in the different magazines?  What sort of audience did each publication seem to try to be reaching?  How do they pay their designers as far as an up-front payment or payments based upon a percentage of the sale of your specific pattern?  How long did the publication expect to keep exclusive rights to the pattern before I was allowed to sell it through my own sources again?

Let me tell you, these are not easy questions to answer before you are actually negotiating with a specific publication.  I did stumble upon a couple very helpful webpages, including a blog from a well-known designer who stuck her neck out to talk about designer compensation practices among different magazines.  Because of her, and because I had already kind of zeroed in on a specific magazine as having the "right" audience for the pattern I had written, I knew who I wanted to publish with.

So all summer it was just a waiting game.  Publications often request submissions 9 -12 months in advance.  I couldn't find any old information on the web about when the summer 2013 submission deadline for this publication was, so I just kept taking a look at their website every week or two to see if the call for submissions was up yet.  All summer, their website still said, "Looking for submissions for Spring 2014", and so I waited.  I'd check again the next week, still see the same call, and wait some more.

Meanwhile, I was seeing calls for submission for dozens of other publications' Summer 2014 issues.  But the website for my publication just kept the Spring 2014 call up, so I kept waiting.

Well, obviously, I haven't been on my game over the last 3 weeks, and my frequent checking of the submission website dropped off.  Today, I opened a blanket out on the front lawn, ready to enjoy my lunch, a little fresh air, and answer some messages on my laptop.  When I was done with my messages, I thought, "I should check to see if the call for Summer 2014 is up yet."

Imagine the look on my face when I saw it was not only up, but the deadline was TODAY.

Thank goodness I made the swatch 6 weeks ago and had already blocked it.  But I hadn't filled out their requisite form, and I hadn't made any sort of submission sheet of my own.

It was about 3:00 in the afternoon when I discovered I had to have my submission postmarked by today.  And I was pretty sure our post office lobby closed at 4:30.  (As it turns out, it closes at I could have sweat it just a tiny bit less.)  But still - 2 hours to pull something together and get it in the mail!

I already had a couple very good photos of the finished garment, so I didn't need to do any sketches.  I made a one-page document using those photos, then I added the schematic and measurements at the bottom of the page and wrote a description of the garment and how it is constructed.  Finally, I added my contact information and changed the name of the piece....the initial pattern and test both used a "working title" that I never loved, and although I'm not sure I am totally in love with the new name, it's more descriptive and a better fit than the working title.  Maybe I'll ask to change it again before publication if I can think of something I like even better.

 I printed out the first copy of my submission page at 4:15pm, only to find a giant yellow stripe across the middle of the page because the printer cartridge was running out of colored ink.  Miracle of miracles (seriously, this NEVER happens at our house), I opened up the door to the computer cabinet and found an extra color ink cartridge!  I installed it, managed to skip the "alignment step"  (Why is it that normally I can never get it to bypass the alignment thing?), and printed out another copy.  By now it was about 4:20 and I realize that the schematic at the bottom of the page still has the "working title" on it.  I quickly change it to the new title, print it out a third time, and I'm off to the post office before I even put the stuff in the envelope.

Once I get to the post office, I realize I still had a half hour before they closed, but I was glad to have made it there under the wire.  I must have had someone looking out for me today...after waiting and watching that submission page for so long, I would have been so disappointed if I completely missed the call for submissions!  On top of that, I've been having a good day, so I haven't had to take much in the way of pain medication, which means I had my full mental faculties available when I needed them.  (Also, can I get an "Amen!" for adrenaline?)  Now the ball is in their court....either this will be my first magazine publication, or it'll be a new self-published pattern.  Either way, you'll get to see it Summer of 2014!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I Haven't Closed Up Shop....

I've been a little MIA on the blog and in real life lately.  I normally don't talk about this on my knitting blog, but I feel like if you are a person who takes the time to check this blog with any regularity, then you deserve an explanation (and a reassurance that I haven't abandoned you completely!)

I have a chronic health condition called Ulcerative Colitis.  It's amazing how common it is...once I was diagnosed, people came out of the woodwork telling me that they have it, or have a close friend/family member who has it, too.  It's an autoimmune condition where your body attacks healthy tissue (in this case, the large intestine), and unfortunately doctors still don't really understand why it happens, and in some cases it's tough to keep a person in remission.

Right now, I'm one of those cases.  After my diagnosis 3 years ago, it seemed like this wasn't going to be that big of a deal.  I had to go on steroids and a UC maintenance drug to get the initial flare under control,  but they worked pretty well.  Within a month, I was back to my old self.  I stayed on the maintenance medication for about a year before I realized I was allergic to it.  For months, I had progressively been feeling more and more itchy, but I was blaming the cats (did they have fleas?), then I was blaming the fibers I was knitting with (but, of course, unwilling to give any of them up!)  The allergist wasn't much help, basically telling me that the trigger could be anything or nothing at all.  Apparently the majority of people who get hives never figure out what is causing it.  But mine were getting progressively worse.  At the beginning, I could control them by taking an anti-histimine pill each day.  A couple months later, I had to take one pill in the morning and one at night to get the same result  Then as time went on, we were combining two different types of anti-histimines and I still wasn't able to keep the hives away, and would randomly wake up with my eyes swollen, or a lip, or a giant spot on one of my arms.  It wasn't until I had to be picked up in an ambulance outside my son's school at morning drop-off because my lips were swelling up and I felt like I might pass out, that I decided to go off the UC medicine to see if that helped the situation.  Within a week, the hives on my skin were completely under control using only one anti-histimine a day, and the random swelling stopped completely.  I no longer sleep with a bottle of Benadryl on my nightstand, and I don't worry if I leave home without my epi pen.

Of course, being allergic to the UC medication is not ideal.  There's one class of drugs for UC that are considered "pretty safe" and that's the one I can't take.  The next step up is immunosuppressant drugs.  And they don't work for everyone, and they often have diminishing returns as time goes on.  Plus, I have two kids and I'm around kids all the time, so to keep myself in a state of having a constantly suppressed immune system is not the most attractive offer the medical community can give me.  I knew I probably wouldn't get away with not taking maintenance medications and avoiding a flare for long, but I didn't have any other good options on the table.  I think I made it about 3 months.

So since April, I've been sick.  My flares usually begin with crushing exhaustion, a sore throat, and some GI symptoms.  This time it took 2 months for me to get to the point where I was willing to go back on the steroid medicine to get it under control.  (Always the optimist, I think, "Maybe if I give it some time, my body can kick this one on it's own!"  But...not so much.)  Because of a series of screw-ups and bad communication, I didn't get on that steroid for another full month, and by then, I was in a bad spot.  I was in Canada, so we had to cross back into New York just to get to a US pharmacy that my doctor could prescribe from.  But I was glad to finally be getting treatment and thought things would start looking up.

Unfortunately I was too far gone.  Once home, it didn't take me long to realize that something was going on in addition to the colitis flare.  I ended up in the hospital and found out I was experiencing a complication.  The tissue was too weak, the flare had gone on for too long, and I had a lot of healing to do.

There was a lot of pain associated with this complication for about 2 weeks, then I had a couple days where it seemed to be getting better.  Then on Monday the pain was back, but in a different spot.  I saw my doctor and he sent me back to the surgeon who had diagnosed the first complication.  He said that this time, he thought I had an abscess that would need surgical care.

Back to the hospital, back under anesthesia, the surgeon decided that nothing needed to be done after all.  She said the pain was still coming from the first complication.  I'm not sure I agree, but it's good to know that nothing is infected.

So, in all, I've been in the hospital 3 times in the past 3 weeks.  The remainder of the time, I am hanging out, mostly in bed.  I can't really sit, and it's difficult to stand or walk.  Because I have to mostly lay on my side or stomach, I can't really even knit.  At first I thought, "Maybe this is my big chance to do all those pattern layout updates I've been wanting to do on my older patterns!"  Then I realized that between the pain medication and the muscle relaxers I'm supposed to take, I'm not mentally able to do things like, "read words" and "write coherently" most of the time, much less edit a pattern!  Right now, I'm at the tail end of a pill cycle, so I'm pretty alert, but I won't be surprised to read over this post and find it riddled with mistakes.

So right now, life is kind of on hold.  I'm so, SO excited to send a new sweater pattern out into the world, but I've purposely waited until now to take the pattern photos because I wanted to use a location that wouldn't be just right until the end of the summer, and, obviously, not being able to walk or drive is kind of getting in the way of that.  So I hate having to delay that release.  I would love to at least be writing a blog post every few days just to keep myself busy, but, well, no life means I really have nothing to write about right now.

So if you're a healthy person, send a little gratitude into the universe for that tonight.  If you deal with a chronic illness, know that you're not alone and that you and I will both get through it.  In some ways, I'm thankful for the experiences I have had because of this illness.  It has shown me how strong I am, how willing my husband is to step up when I need him, and it has taught my kids some important lessons in responsibility and empathy that they would have had a hard time learning through other means.   Having a chronic illness makes priorities crystal clear, and really helps you focus your energy on the things that are really important to you.  And I am infinitely grateful that I am the one who has to deal with the illness instead of having to watch someone I love go through it.  I truly think it would be much harder to be the mom of a sick kid or the wife of a sick husband than to be the patient myself.

And I know this won't last forever.  Here toward the end of week 3 with no real "end game" in sight, it kind of seems like it's dragging on far too long, but I know I'll get healthy again.  Prior to the flare that began in April, I had had such a good stretch of healthy months that I was 15 pounds heavier than I had ever been in my adult life.  I had been working out and gaining muscle, plus my body was finally able to absorb my food and nurture my body with it.  Now I understand why my doctor advised me, "If you ever find yourself gaining a few extra pounds, just let that happen."  I think I'm down 12 pounds from the past 3 weeks of not being active (lost muscle), and limiting what I am eating (less in means less out, which means less stress on the area that needs to heal.)

If you're the praying sort, I'm always happy to be included.  If you're the "thinking of you" sort, I appreciate that, too.  I believe in positive thinking and knowing that people are rooting for you is really helpful in a situation like this.

So that's why things have gone dark around here lately.  I promise to be back as soon as I possibly can, and I hope you will stick around.  I promise much more good stuff to come!  If you feel like leaving a comment, I'd love suggestions for two things: 1) easy but fun knitting patterns - something I might be able to do even when I can barely read, 2) book suggestions, especially comedy books.  I've been using books by David Sedaris, Mindy Kaling and Jim Gaffigan to get me through the tough spots and I could use another book in this vein because I just finished Gaffigan's book this morning.  They are very easy reads and the comedy really helps me take my mind off the pain and off of reality when I need to escape.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back to Toronto

My yarn shop time was limited while we were on vacation, but I did manage to squeeze in a quick trip to Romni Wools right in the heart of the city.  I had posted an inquiry about "can't miss" yarn shops in Toronto and mentioned that the only thing I was specifically looking for was a line of fingering-weight non-itchy yarn that came in a wide enough variety of colors that I could pick 3 shades of the same color.  Brilliant Raveler Iammo recommended I visit Romni Wools and said something along the lines of "If it exists, you will find it there."  

She wasn't kidding!  First off, this place is big.  Like as big as as the Big Box craft store in my city big. Plus, once you've gone through the whole shop and you think you're done, you realize that there's a basement that is also stuffed to the gills.  And that brings me to the one drawback of this shop.  It is stuffed to the gills.  I am by no means a neat freak, but I did get have the uncomfortable feeling of having stumbled into a real life episode of Hoarders when I entered this place.  They may very well have an organizational system at this shop - I was just too overwhelmed to figure it out.  And I actually didn't see much of the thing I am most likely to buy - lovely skeins of unique sock yarn.  (I have no doubt that it was in there some where....I just didn't have the fortitude to find it.)  They did have every weight of yarn under the sun, and probably every fiber, and I did find exactly what I was looking for as far as my specific need goes.  But the place is really, really overwhelming.  Even more so when you know your family is waiting patiently for you in a coffee shop down the street and you want to get in and out in well under an hour.  

 My goal for souvenir yarn shopping was to focus mostly on things that I couldn't get in the United States.  Guess what.  The world is a very small place, especially the world between the US and Canada.  The vast majority of the yarns I saw at Romni were the same things I see in yarn stores across the Midwest.  And that's not a bad thing - they are lovely yarns!  But I was a little surprised that I didn't see more differences in the selection.
 One thing I did notice was that Romni offered a much larger selection of non-wool fibers than I usually see at any yarn shops around here.  Obviously, their shop is so big that they offer a bigger selection of ANY fiber than the smallish shops I'm used to.  But whereas at a local yarn shop I might see 3 or 4 different brands of cotton yarn and 2 of bamboo, and Romni, they might have had 20 - 30 different yarns that were mostly cotton, another 20 that contained a significant amount of bamboo, as well as hemp yarn, milk fiber yarn, and if I had looked hard enough, I expect that I would have found things like mink, quivuit, and yak.  I also appreciated that they offered these different fibers in interesting color ways rather than the typically plain solid colors I see them in around shops in the Midwest.

I didn't spend much time in the basement, though I would have if I had more time to spend there.  It was mostly full of fiber for spinning (which, I currently don't know how to do although one of my LYS owners has made it her mission to get me to learn, so I figure it's only a matter of time), and giant cones of solid-colored yarn as well as crochet thread.

I agree with Iammo - if you find yourself in Toronto, you must go to Romni Wool.  And you seriously must give yourself at least 3 hours if you really want to look around and see all they have to offer.  Also, if you have any trouble being in confined spaces or being around chaos, you might want to take a Xanax before you arrive.

Now for the fun's what actually got to come home with me:

 Yes, I can get madelinetosh sock yarn in my area, and I often order it on the web, but I'm not usually around a display of it that gives me so many color options to choose from in person.  So I picked up the lovely Charcoal and Mourning Dove colorways and think they look great together.  Not sure what they'll be, but I love the way the gray highlights the gray in the blue skein.  I think they were made for each other.

 These two natural tones, Luster and Weathered Frame make a nice combo as well.  I'm envisioning something for winter here - maybe a hat & glove set?  Maybe a big color work-y hood or scarf?  I don't know, but I can already tell it'll be pretty.

And here's my successful specific requisition: three different shades of blue, all in a soft, 100% merino, fingering-weight yarn.  Two of the colors are Sublime (which I can also buy around here), and the third is Filatura di Crosa Zarina, a brand I wasn't familiar with.  Their fiber content is identical and their yardage to weight ratio is practically identical as well, so they'll work great together.  In fact, I just started the project I had in mind for them last week, and am already about 75% finished.  Since it's a transitional-weather piece, I'll be happy to have it done just as the weather here is starting to become a bit more reasonable.  

My only regret with Romni is that I wasn't able to meet up with Iammo, who offered to take me there herself.  I was really looking forward to meeting her, but since my kids each had a day over vacation where they weren't feeling very well, that really threw a wrench into the works as far as us trying to visit some touristy spots while we were there, so suddenly we had to pack as much as possible into 3 days instead of the 5 we had planned for.  I knew I'd get to stop by the shop if we were in the area and I was lucky, but I wasn't sure when (or if) it would happen.  Perhaps I'll be up that way again sometime, Mo, and you'll kindly let me take you up on the offer then.  Or, if you ever happen to be passing through Central Illinois, I'll be happy to show you the yarn shop sights in my area - although I assure you that nothing here can compare to the Romni experience!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New Release: Grazioso Wrap

 Smooth waves of lace undulate gracefully between two scalloped edges in this musical lace chart.  The perfect pattern to pair with those two precious skeins of sock yarn you've been saving in your stash.  I recommend a solid or a tonal color way, rather than yarn with a wide color variation, as the lace will show best with colors that contrast more subtly.

This wrap is finished on all 4 sides - the trim along the length is knit together with the main stitch pattern, then the shorter width edges are finished off with an applied edging.  Instructions are both written and charted, and the applied edging is explained.

This wrap can dress up a casual outfit as well as it can cover a formal dress.  Wrap it around the neck as a scarf or increase the number of repeats of the main stitch pattern to create a larger, keep-warm wrap to use in your chilly office.  This wrap is as flexible as your wardrobe, and quite a lot of fun to make!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Escape to Knitca

I'm not a city person.

I like the idea of cities, I love the culture, entertainment, restaurants, and personalities that they have, but I am just not a big fan of actually being in cities.  Being in crowds, walking down streets with tiny yards (if there is grass at all), houses crowded together, trash cans lining the sidewalk, crazy traffic, breathing in the smell of car exhaust and cigarette smoke from the people who pass me on the street....all that stuff is on my "no thanks" list.  As a person who was born and raised in a smaller town and moved to another small town after college, I guess I come by it honestly.  I just prefer wide-open spaces and breathing clean rural air.  And it appears that I have unintentionally raised two kids that feel the same.

On our fourth day in Toronto, we got up early and headed out, with the intention of going to a museum.  We caught the bus at the corner and rode down to Coxwell subway station.  As soon as we stepped off the bus, our son announced, "I feel kinda nauseous."

He inherited my sensitive stomach, so I asked him what he ate for breakfast.  "Yogurt," he told me.  I gently reminded him that people like us need a little fiber in the morning to start the day off right, and bought him a banana in the subway station to eat before our train came.   I could tell by the way that he choked the banana down that it was pointless to continue our journey into the city.

We went back to the street and caught the next bus back home.  I wondered if his nausea had more to do with not wanting to spend a fourth consecutive day in a city that was louder, more crowded, and smellier than his world usually is.  So I told my husband, "We're taking the kids out to the suburbs today.  They need a break."  Not unexpectedly, our son, who had been sitting quietly in the kids' bedroom reading while we were having this conversation perked up when I said we were going to drive to a trampoline park outside the city and said, "Suddenly my stomach feels a lot better!"

As luck would have it, a nearby suburb, Mississauga, not only had a trampoline park, a Panera where the kids could have a "familiar" meal, and multiple frozen yogurt vendors, but it also had a yarn store where I unexpectedly found $48 worth of buttons that I needed to take home with me.   And the buttons weren't overpriced at all (they were all between .35 and .70 each) fact, I would say that to the contrary, they were less expensive than the buttons I usually buy in chain craft stores.  I easily pay between $2-$5 for a card that has one to four buttons attached, and at Knitca, I bought 14 sets of  unique buttons (most sets containing 6 or 8 buttons) for an average of $3.50 a set.  I found so many I loved that I decided to just stock up so I wouldn't have to buy any more buttons until my social security checks start arriving.

Knitca has a small store in Mississauga, but they are also a mail-order and on-line business.  You can download their latest catalog by clicking on the bottom right corner of their main page.

Much of their button inventory is on-line.  I leaned very heavily toward the painted wooden buttons.  I hope they hold up and don't crack with repeated washings.  I asked the woman working at the shop what the washing instructions were for the wood buttons and she said she thought they would be fine with hand-washing.  I'll keep you posted once I actually use them on a washable project!

I looked through the yarn they had in stock, but it wasn't really my taste.  It was a lot of solid colored yarn.  If I had a specific project that needed solid colors, I might have been interested, but I don't tend to buy that as "inspiration" yarn to have in my stash.  They did have a few unusual fibers like yak and mink, but they were available in very limited colors (like, I think they only had dark brown in stock), and they were too expensive to buy in any usable quantity, especially without a specific project in mind.   But the mink yarn, especially, felt quite lovely, and I'm sure it's very warm!

Stopping by the shop was a lovely end to a much-needed day away from the bustle of the city.  We got up early the next morning, headed over to the Ontario Science Center and had a great day with the kids, even through the place was insanely crowded with large groups of day camp children who didn't have quite enough supervision!

Monday, August 5, 2013

A sneak peak....

I have a women's pullover that I've been keeping under wraps for about 5 months now.  I LOVE this sweater and I can't wait until the weather cools off again so I can wear it!  I also can't believe that, except for people who have seen me wear it in real life and my test knitters for the pattern who saw pictures (and now have their very own pullovers!) I've kept this one a complete surprise.

The test is wrapping up now and I anticipate being able to release this beauty on time, at the beginning of September.  The reason I'm writing about it today is that Knit Picks has the yarn I recommend for it on sale, and apparently today is the last day of their sale.

So I figured I'd let you take an early look and if you like it enough, you may want to order your yarn now.  The Knit Picks City Tweed HW is really a lovely yarn.  It's tweedy but not overpoweringly so.  It has a really nice texture - the 20% alpaca content gives it a really silky drape and it feels lovely to knit.  With my very sensitive skin, I wouldn't be able to wear this yarn right next to my skin, but for a sweater that I know will always have something underneath, it's totally fine.

Without further ado, I give you the Orchard Pullover (anticipated release date: September 4, 2013)!

This was the photo I took for the test knitters - I'm wearing the collar unbuttoned here, but you can also button it up and worn it folded over like a large, loose turtleneck.  When done in a warm heavy worsted yarn like the Knit Picks City Tweed, the short sleeves perfectly balance the extra warmth that the alpaca in the yarn gives you.  I wore this sweater in cold weather at the end of last winter and found it to be very comfortable.

So there you have it - and early reveal so you bargain shoppers have a chance to order while the yarn is still on sale.  I hope you find a color that you love!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lettuce Knit

On our first day in Toronto, we headed straight for Kensington Market.  I was looking forward to a day of exploring unique shops and finding interesting places to eat.  My daughter, on the other hand, didn't last very long.  About two hours into our day, she came down with a stomachache that cut our outing short.

Still, we did manage to walk through part of the neighborhood, and as luck would have it, we passed right by an adorable local yarn shop, Lettuce Knit.

The area in front of their store features a rustic yarn-bombed fence.  Awesome.

Inside, they offer a fantastic selection of yarns from the Canadian Handmaiden and Fleece Artist company, madelinetosh, Socks that Rock, Indigo Moon, as well as many smaller yarn dyers like Rain City Knits and Yummy Yarn Studios.

It was the perfect opportunity for me to snag a few skeins of the Socks that Rock yarn that I've heard so many good things about.  I picked up 3 skeins of their lightweight sock yarn.

I also wanted to take home some yarn that was going to be unique to Canada, so I picked up two bright turquoise, dk-weight skeins (this picture doesn't even almost do this intense color justice) of Rain City Knits Bluefaced Leicester in the Rain Drop Blue color way.

The woman working at the shop was as lovely as the shop itself.  If I ever find myself in Toronto again, I will be heading straight for this place, and I would be likely to crash one of their stitch nights!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Knitter's Vacation

Miraculously, I managed to bring exactly the right amount of knitting on our vacation.  I knew we would have about 14 hours of driving on the way there, 12 on the way home, and around 4 mid-vacation.  I also knew we planned to take advantage of Toronto's excellent public transportation system, so I figured I'd get a little knitting in on those rides, as well as a couple relaxing afternoons on the beach, watching the kids playing in the sand and the shallow water on the shore of the bay.  

The first project I picked was the Indicum Pullover from Hillary Smith Callis.  It's a pretty simply-shaped basic pullover sweater with a circular yoke that uses corrugated ribbing on the neckline, sleeve cuffs and hem.  

When we set out on our vacation, the weather forecast looked like it was going to be cool and rainy for most of our vacation, so I was actually anxious to get this finished so I'd have an extra sweater along on the trip.  As it turned out, we lucked out with clear skies and temps in the mid 70s to low 80s almost all week.  Only our last day in Toronto was a little cool, and by then, this sweater was wearable!

I got lots of work done on it on our 2-day drive to The Blue Mountain, due to my fabulous husband who insisted on doing all the driving.  (I think he had set it up as a manly challenge to himself: Was he man enough to drive all the way to central Ontario without any help from his wife?  The answer is yes.)  Anyhoo, by the time we headed down to Toronto mid-vacation, I was finished with everything but the sleeves!

Later in the week, we went down to The Beaches on the east side of Toronto, and spent a lovely afternoon relaxing there.  I finished up the second sleeve there in anticipation of cooler temperatures on the way.

 On our last day in the city, it rained mid-afternoon, which was fine with us, because we spent the day at the Royal Ontario Museum.  (Totally awesome place, by the way.  You can see everything from Budda sculptures to old Japanese weaponry, an exhibit on intricate textiles, dinosaur skeletons (made complete by using both real excivated bones and cast bones to fill in the gaps), and  the remains of a mummified cat tomb.  Maybe I'll thrill you with some of those pictures later - comment if you're interested!)  Anyway, I digress....

The day after our museum trip, it was time to pack up and head home.  It was still cool outside, and I was low on clean laundry, so I threw my new sweater on for a second day.  It kept me perfectly comfortable on a long car ride with a husband and son who always want the air conditioning on much higher than I do!

Here are a couple finished sweaters my daughter took the morning we departed for home on the porch of the little house we rented from Nick, who was an awesome and super-helpful temporary landlord.

I was really happy with the way the sweater came out, and it was a pretty easy pattern to follow.  I actually haven't blocked it yet, and I suspect that it may grow just a little.  I think the sleeves are just a tad long (they shouldn't bunch up quite that much in the elbow area), so I'll wait until it's blocked and take out the cuffs, subtract a little sleeve length and re-cuff them.  I anticipate this sweater getting a lot of use in transitional weather, so I want to make it the best it can be.

Initially, when I set out using the blue & pink for the corrugated ribbing, I had a nagging "what have I done??" feeling.  I was very apprehensive about my choice of colors and I thought it might end up WAY too high-contrast.  But now that it's finished and the blue very obviously overpowers the pink lines in the ribbing, I'm really happy with it.  So, although I like the more mono-chromatic color choice Hillary used for her sample sweater (she went with a dark purple and a lighter blue/purple), I think it can look good with a higher-contrast color choice, too.

You can see project details on my Ravelry project page.  For my size (36"), I ended up using just over 2 skeins of Madelinetosh Sock yarn (I could have gotten away with just 2 skeins if I hadn't lengthened the body of the sweater and gone to long on the sleeves), and maybe 80 yards of Kollage Sock-o-licious for the contrasting pink.