Monday, December 27, 2010

Gifts from Santa

Some predicted I would receive coal this holiday season...

I like coal.  It's useful (for heating, grilling and artistic endeavors just to list a few).  And when it's not acting utilitarian, it can be quite pretty.

Oh well. Not this year.

I asked for a ukulele.

In addition, I got some comic books


A gift certificate for yarn, and a Namaste circular needle organizer.  Thanks, Santa!

It was Bennan's first Christmas with us.  He got lots of new toys...


Which he promptly mauled and eviscerated.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Palm Beach Gardens Tee

Earlier this year, I made a gift for one lovely little girl named Caden Violet.  I chose a soft lilac colored yarn to highlight her middle name.

Pattern: Spring Garden Tee by Alana Dakos

Yarn: Rowan Calmer (75% cotton; 25% acrylic)
2 skeins (approx 350 yards) for 2 yr old size
colorway: Lucky

Needles: US 7

My only modification was to put a little picot edge around the whole thing.  I was hoping for some modeled pictures but I think she may have already outgrown it.  Kids grow so fast!

For Erin (Caden's mom), I made her a complementary version.  Here are some pictures of me modeling it.

Pattern: Spring Garden Tee for Adults by Alana Dakos

Yarn: Knit Picks Simply Cotton Sport (100% cotton)
4.5 skeins (approx 738 yards)
in colorway Duchess Heather

Needle size: US4

As you may recall, I love this yarn.  It's soft, knits up beautifully and comes in a bunch of beautiful colors. Instead of a picot edge, I did two rows of single crochet on the neckline and bottom hem.  One row for the sleeves.  I liked how it all turned out and hopefully Erin won't grow out of it anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bennan, it's Cold Outside!

Brrr.  So says the dog.

Pattern: Francesca and Sharkey by Lion Brand Yarn

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease (80% acrylic; 20% wool)
Colorway: Forest Green Heather 
1/2 skein or approx 100 yards

Needle Size: US9

Here's what I like about this sweater: 

1. It's really easy to put on.  No having to fuss with forcing his legs into "sleeves". I just slide it on over his head and button up the sides.  

2.  Plenty of clearance for the pee apparatus.   Not a very important consideration for all the lady dogs out there but for boy dogs, you can't have anything hanging down too far on the belly.  Don't want anything interfering with the yellow arc.

Here's what Bennan likes about the sweater:

1. It's stylin'.

2. And the ladies like it.

Actually, he seems to like wearing it and will even stand still when I put it on him.  Last night, he wore it to bed.

I think I'll have to make him another one...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ruffle Tank

I've been knitting furiously.  I blame it on this yarn - an amazingly soft cotton that comes in these rich saturated colors.  And the best thing about it as that it's sport/fingering weight which is great for the stuff I feel like making these days.  Here's an example:

Pattern: Layered Ruffle Sweater by Kristina McGowan
from her book Modern Top-Down Knitting

Yarn: Knit Picks Simply Cotton Sport in Duchess Heather (100% cotton)
6 skeins or approx 950 yards for a size medium

Needle: US 4

The pattern is originally for a thicker yarn with a gauge of 5.5 stitches per inch.   When I swatched with the Simply Cotton I got a gauge of 6.25 stitches per inch.  Since the garment is knitted top down, I figured I would cast on for the 3XL and keep trying it on to ensure a decent fit. 

Here's my thinking (skip this part if knitting math bores you): The original cast on for a size Medium calls for 94 stitches that results in about 17 inches across the back at the shoulders.  Makes sense: 94 stitches divided by 5.5 stitches/inch gives you 17 inches, right? So if I wanted to get 17 inches with my new gauge, I had to cast on 106 stitches (17 inches x 6.25 stitches/inch gives me 106 stitches).  Looking at the cast on instructions for the different sizes, I saw that the 3XL at 102 stitches came closest to 106 stitches.  So that's how I decided to follow the instructions for the 3XL.  I took a leap of faith and cast on 102 stitches.  And lo and behold, it worked out just right at 16 3/4 inches.  Definitely not an exact science but good enough for me.

And that, I think, is the beauty of top-down garments.  You can try it on and modify as you go depending on the fit.  Too loose?  Rip back and decrease some more. You can't do that with garments knit flat and then seamed together.  By the time you've discovered that the neck is too tight, it's too late to add stitches without picking apart the seam and reknitting the whole darn thing.

Anyway, back to this particular garment.  I didn't really have to modify the pattern except to leave out 8 stitches across the front neck as I am modestly endowed in that area.  Which brings me to the ruffles - strategically placed to give the illusion of volume.  Very flattering to someone like me - probably wouldn't work out so well for the bustier ladies out there.

I liked knitting it but I like wearing it even more.  It fits me just fine and I love the color.  More important, I love the feel of the resulting fabric.  It's not too thin, not too thick.  It's not at all scratchy and because it's cotton, it's breathable and not too warm.  Perfect for what passes as Autumn here in South Florida.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Subtropical Eastlake

Pattern: Eastlake by Norah Gaughan

Yarn: Prima Pima Cotton by Robin Turner Gourmet Fibers
100% cotton/ DK (11 wpi)
5 skeins (1100 yards) in Green

Needle size: US5

My fascination with and adoration of one Ms. Norah Gaughan continues.  I love her visual aesthetic and design.  She totally rocks.  OK, enough with the gushing...

Living in a subtropical climate, I'm always on the lookout for cotton yarns.  When I saw this deep emerald green in 100% cotton, I knew I'd found the perfect warm weather match for this sweater (originally designed for a merino/silk blend).

Before starting on the actual garment, I knit a couple rows of the leaf pattern.  I usually like to do this because it helps me learn/understand the pattern and in this case chart it for myself.  It also helps me make any modifications without the heartbreak of ripping out entire rows of knitting.

Leaf panel mods:
  • substituted M1p for yo (less holey)
  • substituted k3tog for dec 2 (just liked the way this looks better)
  • did not continue with the k1tbl for the leaf tips (after the k3tog)

Since I wanted to be able to wear the sweater commando if I so chose, I left out the eyelets across the chest and back.  And just to be consistent, I left them off the sleeves as well.

Rear view

The concern with substituting denser cotton for lofty wool is that the finished garments tend to be heavy and thus grow with wear.  Cotton sweaters can get downright droopy.  But the design elements in this sweater are such that they don't contribute to the weight of the sweater (unlike cables for instance) and even after a full day's wear, I'm happy to say that it did not grow in length.  In fact, these pictures were taken after wearing the garment for a full day.

As an added note, I think it helps that this is a seamed sweater as opposed to being knit in the round top down.  With cottons, I find that seams are ideal places to hide ends since cotton can't be spliced as invisibly as wool.  Plus shoulder seams contribute to a garments' strength in this gravity-susceptible area.  I know many out there hate seaming but it definitely has its place in knitted garments depending on what you're after.

Personally, I just wish there was a magical way to weave in ends.  I don't know anyone who likes doing that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Linen Skirt

Pattern: Ingrid by Trudy Van Stralen
size medium

Yarn: Louet Euroflax Sport (100% wet-spun linen)
Black - approx 4.5 skeins

Needle: US 2 for lace
US 4 for body

Knitting with linen is all about delayed gratification.  The texture can be quite rough on the fingers and there is absolutely no give.  It helps to knit at a tight gauge and have other projects to serve as breaks - maybe a nice squishy merino scarf.  But for skirts, linen provides such a beautiful drape that in the end, it's well worth it.

I made plenty of modifications.  My practice swatch of the lace ruffle was way too loose at the suggested gauge.  So I went down a few needle sizes until I was happy with how it looked.  Since I was knitting a size medium for the body, I cast on for a size large in the hem. 

The original pattern calls for an asymmetrical hem which I switched to a mermaid hem (a wee bit longer in the back).  I did this by changing the placement of the short rows but had I thought ahead, I would have changed the repeats of the lace hem so that the front of the hem is perfectly straight.  Instead it dips down a bit in the front where the asymmetry is supposed to be.  Not that noticeable so I didn't fret too much about it.

A little bit longer over my right knee.  Bennan assures me that he didn't notice anything until I pointed it out to him.  Good dog.

The one down side about this skirt is that it does require a slip.  Boo.  For me, linen's main asset is its superior breathability.  Kind of defeats the purpose if I have to wear a nylon slip underneath it.

Maybe you remember there being some drama about the casting on of this skirt.  Can you find the twisted cast on?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Duck Sock Pictures

Maybe you remember these

Since then I've knit a couple more pairs to give away to some lucky babes.  Check out this little guy - Joey!

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking the same thing I'm thinking: squeeee!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


As a knitter, I have acquired a small collection of crochet hooks.  Not that I actually crocheted with them.  But they're indispensable for certain cast-ons and fixing ladders and the like.  I always admired other people's crochet (all that deliriously cute amigurumi!) but felt that I had so much to learn in knitting (this is still true).

One day when I was recovering from the flu, I had little energy for anything too physically taxing.   My body ached but my mind was tired of TV, books and my current knitting projects (rare but has been known to happen) so I finally sat down and attempted to decode the intricacies of the one needle loop-de-loop.

Susan Bates Pamphlet circa 1970 - still relevant today

After a few yarn messes and a couple of choice curse words, I think I got the hang of it.

My practice swatches.

And thus I decided to embark on my first crochet project: a bookmark

Pattern: Fan Bookmark by Crochetroo

Yarn: Royale Classic Crochet Thread

Crochet hook: 2.0 mm

 After I puzzled out the crochet lingo and realized that I was actually supposed to crochet inside the ring and not in a specific loop of the initial chain,  I was amazed to see something take shape.  A little row of delicate Queen Anne's lace blossoms stacked up on one another.

 bonus points if you recognize the text

Was it hard?  Yes, it was hard for this crochet neophyte and by the end of the project, my fingers and wrists ached from the unfamiliar motions.  But it was satisfying to have a finished product and to know that I had learned something new.

This got me thinking: there's always a small part of me that balks at the unknown and unfamiliar, no matter how exciting or potentially rewarding it may seem.  What if I appear foolish, what if I get totally lost, what if I just plain suck.  But when I push those doubts aside and manage to get the hell out of my own way, it's always a valuable experience, no matter the outcome.  I've been thinking a lot about this fear of newness - learning how to crochet is just a small example.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stitch Markers

Recently, my friend Caryn showed me how to make stitch markers.

I got a little obsessed and made a lot.


They're rather addictive.

I even made some as gifts.  These are for my buddy Gwen (bugheart) in honor of her cats Spot and Bear.

Word on the street is that she likes them.  Hopefully Spot and Bear approve too.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


In Nashville, we went to the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium (Opryland was closed for renovations due to flooding).  A few of the acts were worth the price of admission but overall, it was kind of a big yawn.  I guess I was expecting something more from an American institution.

Jamie O'Neal

It was kind of like going to church. Hard wooden pews and all.

But one of the highlights of our trip was the Americana Music Festival.  We were lucky enough to attend the Music City Roots at the Loveless Cafe (really good biscuits too) to see some fine musicians play.

Chuck Mead and friends

Madison Violet - they just about stole the show

Corb Lund - cowboy from Canada

The headliners: The Steeldrivers

Check out the Steeldrivers.  It don't get much better'en some Good Corn Liquor.

Friday, October 8, 2010


The rest of our time in Tennessee was split between Memphis and Nashville where we ate BBQ and listened to music.  In Memphis, we caught some great live acts at the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival.

We visited Beale Street.

and Graceland (of course) to pay homage to the King.