Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I gave my first official walks at Año Nuevo today. Everyone said that they'd had a good time, and we even saw a minutes-old pup. We were on our way to the last overlook when there was an explosion of gulls around the seals, which is the infallible marker of a birth. So the group before us saw the actual emergence of the pup, and it evidently made its appearance at exactly midnight, Spanish time, according to the Spanish guests on the tour.

I even got to do some knitting in between walks, the project I started to take to my knitting retreat this weekend. It's a raglan pullover in Artfibers Alfabeto, which is a silk-mohair blend, knit at a loose gauge. It's supposed to rain on Friday, but nothing like last year, I hope.

I wish you all peace and joy in the New Year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

From the archives

As you might expect, this is a house of handknit Christmas stockings. In fact, one of the very first things I ever knit was a stocking for my husband. It was back in the day when I didn't take into account things like different weights of yarn, and didn't know that there were two kinds of decreases that slant in different directions.

The heel and toe are twisted, because they're shaped with only k2togs. I think that all the stitches are twisted, too; I used to knit into the back loops. I was so proud of myself for figuring out a way to work intarsia in the round. I cut lengths of yarn, and I'd start using each in the middle, then use the second half on the following round.

And, of course, I charted the moose and the tree myself.

My mom had friend knit a stocking for my son, but, sadly, the friend died before my daughter was born. So I knit her a stocking myself.

Somewhere, I have a photo of two-month old Naomi in the stocking.

And then I had to make a stocking for my own self. I have one from my childhood, made just for me by my aunt. It's sewn felt, with a great dimensional Santa on it, and my name in glitter. But my mom won't give it up, and she's stopped bringing it up for me to use. So I used the lengthwise technique and made some colorful stripes.

I've just put a bunch of old winter knits in my Ravelry projects, too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We'll pretend that he is Parson Brown

As I was driving home from San Mateo yesterday afternoon, along 280, I was struck again by how inappropriate the usual white Christmas iconography is for California. Once the winter rains start (which, admittedly, was very late this year) the brown hills turn green. Winter is a season of birth and renewal here. By Valentine's Day, the plum trees are already in bloom.

However, today I've decided that we can celebrate a white Christmas after all.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Product vs. Process

I've got the bulk of my handknitted gifts done; it's so satisfying to see them all lined up.

First off is the sweater for my son.

It's very blue outside today; the colors are actually much brighter. I'm pleased with how this came out, having made my peace with the impossibility of preventing Lorna's Laces yarns from pooling. It has a tie-dyed effect, ¿verdad? I used one of the cool Riri zippers with the multicolored teeth

After I cast off the sweater, I grabbed a crochet hook and made a rainbow beanie.

(I'd forgotten about Mr. Glass Head until today's photo shoot.) This is for my best friend's son.

Then I decided that his sister could also use a crocheted hat, so I followed my own pattern for Balai. Fortunately, I didn't need to refer to the tutorial, but I had to refresh my memory of what I did at the color changes.

Since this is a Stash Reduction Christmas (mostly,) the gold yarn is leftover from the afghan our knitting group made for one of the people who makes our yearly retreat possible. The variegated was actually the oldest yarn in my stash. I bought two colorways of it in Siena in 1989, my second year of knitting. It was a Filatura di Crosa yarn, I'm sure, and I knitted an allover cabled sweater with these two colors of already-multicolored yarn. Way too much going on in that sweater. I never did wear it much. (I should point out that I was living in Tucson at the time as well.) But it looks nice in broomstick crochet.

I was going to make my best friend herself a pair of fingerless gloves, but I found a beautiful handmade wire bracelet at a local artisans' sale, so I knitted a little pouch to put it in.

And, finally, I finished my cashmere Fan Neckwarmer last night.

Again, it's not really that blue. This is going to my son's science teacher, who is a knitter herself, and my favorite person at the school. I love the reclaimed cashmere yarn; I'm trying to decide what fabulous thing I can make for myself with the 1 1/2 skeins I have left.

I'm not done with presents. I have a flannel shirt cut out for my dad, a pair of flannel pants to make for my son (a loud plaid to go with the loud sweater) a couple more cloth grocery bags for my mom, and then two more things to knit. A pair of fingerless gloves for another friend and something for my daughter's teacher. She wears handknit sweaters from her own mom, so she appreciates handknits, too. Luckily, only the teacher gift is that time-sensitive. People are coming here for Christmas, so I can be working feverishly until midnight on Christmas Eve if necessary. I'll let you know.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Unlike gloomy today, yesterday was beautiful. We all went to Año Nuevo.

My kids probably won't stand for going on a real guided walk, once the breeding season starts, so we went at our own pace. I gave a bit of my spiel, but I certainly need to work on it more before I give my own mock walk at graduation on Saturday.

We did see an alpha bull.

He was breathing through his nose and making it shake like jelly. He also scratched his flippers together, looking like a 5,000 lb Mr. Burns. The seaweed he's lying on was the stankiest thing I've smelled at Año Nuevo, and that's saying something.

I've put an elephant seal widget under all the patterns in the sidebar; we'll see whether it gets updated as the season progresses.

One of my fellow docents in training is also a very near neighbor, and, while it is technically correct to say that we've been carpooling, it is more accurate to say that she's been driving me back and forth these past three months. As a thank you, I'm knitting her an elephant seal scarf.

I must have spent at least six fruitless hours trying to construct a chart for this first attempt at shadow knitting. And yet, once I took up needles and yarn, I realized that I could just follow a regular two-color chart, that the complexity was misleading. He's a little elongated, my alpha bull, but I think he's pretty cool. My kids were gobsmacked by the appearance of a seal from the unassuming stripes.

And, since it's now officially the festive season, I've got another project on the needles, too. This is the Fan Neckwarmer, using Ellie's Reclaimed Cashmere, as advertised.

And I won't haul it out right now and take another photo on my messy desk, but the slip stitch sweater for my son is almost done.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I finished my Moons and Star cardigan last weekend. By and large, I'm happy with it, although there are always things that I wish I could change. I love very much the wool-silk yarn I used.

I have also been sewing, and positively slaved over this silk blouse.

Again, I won't bore you with the details of what I regret.

So I've officially started my Christmas knitting, a top-down raglan for my son in possibly the loudest yarn I've ever had the pleasure to work with, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted Superwash in Rainbow.


The yarn is beautifully soft. I'm working it in Heel Stitch (k1,sl 1) on a size 11 needle, and the fabric is coming out very squishy and cozy. The slip stitches mix up the colors; I find that all of Lorna's Laces yarns pool something awful when knit in plain stockinette. Jed wants a half zip with a kangaroo pocket, and claims to be happy to wait until Christmas to receive his present.

Friday, October 24, 2008


As you can see by my newly-expanded sidebar, my pattern Balai is done. For such a small object, it took a lot of work to get it right. But I'm very happy with how it came out.

I'm slogging away on my Moons and Star. I'm working a band of moons at the back waist shaping, then I'll increase outward for a peplum. So I have a good 10 inches of knitting left to go. My mind is starting to turn to holiday knitting, so I'd like to get it done.

That can be the only excuse for why I bought more yarn last night, at Green Planet. Beth has really sought out some wonderful eco-friendly yarns, and I was really struck by Ellie's Reclaimed Cashmere, which just what it says, cashmere yarn reclaimed from thrifted sweaters. She re-plies it into beautiful, tweedy colorways. I've been thinking of how many people on my gift list I could make the Fan Neckwarmer for, and the yarn assured me that it would be happy to be knit up in that pattern.

In other news, I've been sick as a dog for the past week. I'm very tired of it, and I'm ready not to be sick anymore.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ooh la la!

I got quite the bee in my bonnet with this broomstick crochet in the round, and worked and worked to get a beret that I was happy with. I have, indeed, decided to call it Balai, and, since it was quite a bit more involved than Besom, I'd like to charge cash money for it.

But before I do that, I'd really like to get it test crocheted, since this technique is pretty different from either regular crochet or regular broomstick lace. So look for the pattern some time in the next few weeks.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Last night at my knitting group meeting, Sylvia asked me whether I still liked old knitting magazines. I replied that I did, and she asked "How old?" "Any age," I said, "Forties, Fifties..." She said "Sixties?" and I said "Sure!"

So she gave me a bag with 17 issues of Vogue Knitting, from 1960 - 1969. Words cannot express how fabulous these magazines are. Even in the moment she gave them to me, I told her "Sylvia, these are worth money." But she said, "Oh, no, you take them." I didn't press her farther.

Each issue has around 50 knitting patterns. There are sweaters, coats, dresses and suits. It's easy to mock the hairstyles and the colors, but only in the latest issue, from 1969, is the flower power style starting to creep in, Even then , the daisy flower loom pants

are more than outweighed by the incredibly stylish suits

Some of the sweaters do look dated.

The combination of cowl neckline, raglan sleeves, mohair and textured stitches really says "Sixties" to me, especially if it were in a pastel color.

But this page could run in the next VK, and who would be the wiser?

(Except for the headline, of course.)

The men's sweaters don't fare as well. The concept of fitted clothes for men has really gone by the wayside, even in high fashion, so these look very dated.

Of course, I don't know anyone who'd wear any man's sweater from Knitter's in the last 10 years, either.

One of my favorite features in VK was "Then and Now," where they took a design from the past and either reworked it or just republished it as is. There are at least 6 designs in my set of magazines that were so treated; it was clearly a fertile era. I miss "Then and Now," but now I have the real thing.

Thank you, Sylvia!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I've written up the pattern for the successful broomstick hat. I gave it to my friend Emily and then coerced her into modeling it.

(She's so cute!)

The pattern is called Besom (which is an old word for a old-fashioned broom) and it's available both as a free Ravelry download, or off to the right. Be sure to look at the tutorial over there, too.

I'm now going to use this technique to make a beret, which I will probably call Balai, because that's how my mind works.

Last night, I think I got down far enough on the first sleeve on my cardigan so that it's time to do the lace detail at the cuff. The elephant seal researchers from UCSC were talking, and, like all research scientists, could not stop talking. Class ended 45 minutes late. But those seals are amazing animals. They spend 90% of their time at sea underwater. Ninety percent!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Well, if you were really trying to learn how to work broomstick crochet in the round from that last post, I'm sorry. I didn't provide nearly enough information. So I created a tutorial for it. This one is for two-color broomstick circles, worked in the round from the center outward. I'll do the one-color version next. The tutorial is a 1.5 MB PDF, available here, and on the right in the new section in the sidebar.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Shiver me timbers

Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day, which I celebrate somewhat sporadically. Ravelry made a big deal about it, putting a little three-master icon next to the site name, and giving people parrots on their shoulders when they uploaded new ravatars with "pirate" in the name.

The elephant seal is in honor of my docent training at Año Nuevo State Reserve. Said classes involve driving over the Santa Cruz Mountains at least once a week through the end of the year, as well as sitting for 2 1/2 hours, listening to fun nature facts. Did you know that female elephant seals transfer 40% of their body mass to their pups in 28 days of nursing?

It's good time for mindless knitting, in other words, and now that I'm on the sleeves of my Moons and Star project, I'm saving it for class time. Or that's my story, anyway.

Which means that I'm doing other things in the meantime, like when I'm taking the train up to San Mateo for lunch. I checked out a book from the library, with the somewhat offputting title of Exciting Crochet

It is, pretty much, exactly what you'd expect from the cover. However, at the end of the book, after all the badly-photographed 80's-style projects, Ms. Kent put forth her method of working broomstick crochet in the round.

Now, every explanation I've read about broomstick crochet asserts that it can't be worked in the round. I guess if you were really using a broomstick, that would be true. Jennifer Hansen (the Stitch Diva, who is my hero) understands that this is nonsense, and has one of her excellent videos explaining one way to work in the round. Muriel Kent, however, showed a way of starting flat circles with broomstick lace, and I've combined that with the way that I work broomstick in the round with a circular knitting needle.

To recap for those of you not familiar with the technique, broomstick crochet involves drawing up long loops of the working yarn, one per stitch from a row of single crochet, and keeping them on a large knitting needle (or broomstick, if you're old school.) Then you work a return row where you take a group of loops off the needle (3, 4 or 5, most commonly) and work the same number of single crochet as loops in the group. This row becomes the foundation for the next row of loops.

So how do we make a flat circle with this technique? By increasing at the proper rate so that the work curves around to join itself. Muriel Kent says to start by chaining 6, drawing up 3 loops in each chain, and working the loops off in groups of 3 with 6 single crochet in each group.

Well, first note that blithe "draw up 3 loops in each chain." As anyone will realize who has tried to knit twice into the front of the same stitch, poking your hook repeatedly in the same place and drawing up another loop just gives you one really big loop. I did manage to start a circle this way, but it took poking my hook into three different parts of each chain, which I don't recommend.

Be that as it may. By working 6 single crochet in each group of 3 loops, you've set up a foundation row that will double the number of loops on the next round. That's her formula, doubling the number of loops in each round until the piece is the size desired.

I decided to try a broomstick crochet hat, Using worsted weight yarn (CE Lush) a size H crochet hook and a 15mm circular needle, I started my circle and merrily increased every round, ending up with a circle that was as ruffly as a very ruffly thing, indeed.

I had neglected to take into account the size of the knitting needle. My loops were shorter than Muriel's, so my rows were too wide for their height. The circumference of a circle has to increase π times the rate of the diameter. With knitting and regular crochet, the proportions of the stitches stay roughly constant with different thicknesses of yarn (assuming you're not working ultra-tight or way loose) and you can count on making a flat circle by increasing 4 stitches per round in knitting, 6 in single crochet, 16 in double crochet, &c. But broomstick size can vary independent of the size of the stitches, so I need to figure out the proper increase rate for a given combination of yarn, hook and broomstick.

Which I've been trying to do. I managed to make a usable hat

but it's a baby hat.

Increasing one more round at this same rate gave a circle that was too big for my head.

although I could go on and make it a tam. More research is clearly needed.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Feast or Famine

Finally I have photos of my WIPs, so I feel motivated to post.

You may recall that I have expressed the opinion that a black cardigan would fill a hole in my wardrobe. I bought a big cone of wool-silk yarn from Elisabetta back on my yarn crawl, and so I've started a top-down, set-in sleeve cardigan.

This is an awfully glary photo, but I wanted the lace to show up. This was hard for me to get started. Originally, I was going to use the Vine Lace pattern from Barbara Walker's first Treasury, because it's a four row repeat, and the two pattern rows are identical, just offset by one stitch from each other. Even though I was copping out with the shaping and increasing in plain stockinette until I had another nine stitches for a new repeat, I just couldn't get the pattern straight. I got about halfway through the yoke, and then ripped it all out.

Then I decided to keep the lace to vertical panels with plain stockinette in between. I really had my heart set on something vine-y and botanical, but I just didn't like the way any of my botanical swatches looked in the black yarn. So I went with something geometric, the Wheel Web pattern from the third Treasury, and the Star medallion from the second. Instead of Moon and Stars, it's Moons and Star.

Then, while sitting in my craft room with the door open and getting mad about the drone of flies inside, I decided to make a curtain for the door. In Italy, at least 20 years ago, many shops had curtains made of fat, chenille-like ropes to keep the flies out. I dragged out my Bond EmbellishKnit!

and started cranking the i-cord from my stash of leftover sock yarn.

It's miles faster than knitting it by hand, but an almost-full ball of sock yarn still takes about a half hour to turn into i-cord, so I had some time to think. And my next thought was that I'd like to try using the i-cord to make a garment, by coiling it into a spiral and sewing it to itself. I reserved some sock yarn for this purpose; I don't think I have enough for a sweater, but I can probably get a skirt out of it.

I really like the look of this i-cord; it looks like Noro (but so much softer.)

I have several new activities that will involve sitting in classes or meetings. I really need an unobtrusive project to work on. I'm still following the star chart on the cardigan, which doesn't fit the description.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Back at the end of December 2007, the members of the Ravelry group the Ankh-Morpork Knitter's Guild were feeling glum about Terry Pratchett's recent revelation that he had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. Being crafters, we decided to make something for him. Originally, there were going to be 100 six-inch squares, with eight of them spelling out "I ATEN'T DEAD" in the middle. (If you're not a Discworld fan, then just play along.) The squares were going to be done by February, and Shirley, a Raveler who lives in Scotland, volunteered to collect all the squares and assemble the afghan. I was an early volunteer, so I got to make two. A letter square

and a colorful square that didn't really have anything to do with the books, but looked weird and magical.

Well, the project grew, in space and in time, as projects will. And this weekend, Shirley presented the assembled Pratchgan to Mr. Pratchett himself, at the Edinburgh Book Fair.

More can be found here at Shirley's blog.

I'm honored to have been a part of this project!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A warped view

I'm all over the photos from the Craft release party. Here's me and my loom.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Looming Presence

I drove up to San Francisco today to attend the Craft Magazine issue 8 release party at the very curious Curiosity Shoppe in the Mission.

As seen on the cover, Travis Meinolf himself was there

patiently teaching people to cut out their own heddles from index cards

and then weave!

(These iPhone photos really look as though they were taken underwater!) I got a few inches done before relinquishing my cuphook on the wall to another weaver.

The latest issue of Craft has a pre-printed heddle on cardstock, ready to cut out.

I met Natalie and the other Craft folk, and I brought my little tabletop loom along, since it had never been to a party. Travis gave me some tips for warping it, and now I'm all fired up and ready to go. (I bought the loom on ebay several years ago, and it has sat in my craft room, lonely and forlorn, ever since.)

The Curiosity Shoppe is curious because it is so precious that I can't understand how it sells enough to pay the rent. But you can check it out yourself, if you've a mind; the weaving party returns tomorrow (Sunday the 10th.) Then you can go to Mission Pie afterward and bring home a Suncrest peach pie. Mmmm....pie......

Sunday, August 3, 2008

She sells seashells

Well, they're not for sale; it's not even my pattern. But I finished my domino shells project and even blocked it. (This is becoming a habit!) The silk and alpaca yarns responded to the blocking really beautifully.

I'm very pleased with it. I'm sure that you can see that I ran out of yarn up at the top, but I'm happy with how I handled it, although it would have been fun to make the partial shells that the real pattern called for.

Another first for me, is that it makes a twinset with my Chequers cardigan.

Of course, the tank is knit out of yarn leftover from the cardigan; how many other twinsets originate that way?

Three or so years ago, Vera gave me a ball of yarn with very silly pompoms. I puzzled over what to do with it, since the pompoms are so big that they couldn't be drawn through loops in either crochet or knit. It occurred to me recently that I could carry it along within single crochet, just as the unused yarn is hidden in tapestry crochet. So I decided to make a bathmat.

You will be unsurprised, I'm sure, to hear that I bought the white cotton yarn I'm using. But I was surprised to find that, not only does Bernat make an organic cotton yarn, sold at big box stores near you, but also that I could order it through Amazon. I had to do it, just because I could.

I spent a week in Eureka with my best friend and her family, and we went to a really great store in Arcata, called Daisy Drygoods. It had scads of vintage knit and crochet patterns (along with trim, buttons, vintage clothing and fabric) and I scored a beautiful 1947 Fleisher pattern book.

Although they're all knit at 7 or 8 sts/in, I'm sorely tempted.