Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cookies were indeed swapped...

Oh and the cookies!  Check out the haul!

We each brought 3 dozen cookies and took home about the same.  Some highlights:
  • Orange nut lace cookies dipped in chocolate
  • Cranberry cookies with lemon zest icing
  • 2 different kinds of gingerbread
  • Praline Cookies
  • Shortbread
  • Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  • Potato Chip Cookies
  • Cocoa Meringue Cookies
  • Eggnog Cookies

And then there came the party favors (my favorite part):

Carolyn is quite the quilter so she made us each a Mug Rug - a coaster big enough for your mug of hot chocolate and a little snack to accompany it.

And Charity, being Charity, raided her extensive shawl closet and brought us each one to take home.  This is an incredibly generous gift.  Charity has a great eye for color and design.  Each shawl is a one-of-a-kind work of art requiring hundreds of hours.

Jamie displays her chosen shawl

We each selected one and we all agreed that each shawl matched the recipient quite beautifully.  Except Jamie somehow ended up with my shawl...  Funny, that.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cookie Swap 2011

This year, the annual Cookie Swap was hosted by Melissa.  She very graciously opened up her home to us for some nibbling and knitting.

Cookies to share
 That's Jamie in the corner.  Yes, sometimes we do put Baby in the corner.  Speaking of babies, Caryn is currently incubating one.  Atta girl, Caryn!

Some of us are shy

But not these two

That's Auntie Carolyn checking on the incubation progress.  So far, so good.

The usual suspects: Rebecca,Charity and Faith

Yes, it's true.  We have two of the virtues (Faith and Charity) in our little knitting group.  We are currently looking for Hope,. Patience, Prudence and Temperance.  If you know of their whereabouts, please send them our way.

The elusive and mysterious Kerrilyn, our resident Sock Guru

Faith and Helen discussing serious knitting matters
Shhhhhh.  They're doing math.

Resident Yarn Taster
This is Nabokov.  He likes to chew on yarn.

Hostess in a rare moment of relaxation
This is Melissa.  She's cool but she's very particular about where she sits in knitting group.  Middle seat facing the baristas; that's just how it is and it's not up for discussion.  Of course, in her home she is no different.  This is "her" seat.  Only she (and the Grinch) are allowed to sit in the Seat.  No one else.

Oh no she didn't...

Melissa trying to act nonchalant and failing utterly.

Nabakov says he can sit wherever he wants

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Cheer

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, not really - it's 70-80 degrees out and not to make you Northerners too envious but I sleep at night with the windows open.  Such a nice reprieve from the brutal heat and humidity of summer.

Anyway, what's a holiday season without cookies.  Every year, my knitting group holds a cookie swap.  This year, I made Yarn Widower's favorite: Gourmet Magazine's Basic Butter Cookies decorated with rainbow non-pareils.  Recipe can be found  here.

I make them with Plugra butter (higher fat content than regular butter; Whole Foods usually stocks it) and I have to admit, they are some mighty fine cookies.  I would make them more often but I always make a mess of it.  Flour everywhere. 

Where is that dang sous chef when I need him?

 On my second batch, I had a eureka moment.  I loosened the beater from the mixer and manually stirred in the flour to combine it just enough before reattaching the beater to do its job.  And voila, no mess this time.  I don't know why that has never occurred to me before.  Maybe it's because I don't bake very often - too fussy, too messy, too highly caloric.

Messy crumbly deliciousness

Highly caloric cookie log



More to come...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

La Domestique

Some people decided that sock knitting would be a great competitive sport:  Tour de Sock to benefit Doctors Without Borders.  I'm a little fuzzy on all the details - maybe one of you competitive sock knitters can fill us in.  My home team decided to call themselves Team Toe-tally Socksome.  (And yes, there are teams apparently all with equally punny names.)

Unfortunately, Team Toe-tally Socksome quickly became Team Toe-tally Sucksome as knitter after knitter dropped out.  Speed knitting is grueling work.  Which is why I much prefer to watch on the sidelines.  I'm lazy that way.

In the end, Kerrilyn stood alone atop the leaderboard but even she couldn't knit quite fast enough and without her team to back her up, her light slowly faded as other knitters overtook her lead.  OK. I'm being a bit dramatic for the sake of the story but Kerrilyn did prove herself to be one of the top 10 fastest sock knitters in the world.  Sock Domination on a global scale is no small feat.  Kudos to K-Ro!

But enough about Kerrilyn (she's got her own blog - I don't need to go on and on about her like I am wont to do).  Enter Melissa of Boynton Beach who decided to start knitting socks just for this competition.  She even trained beforehand - that's how dedicated she was.  But alas, she succumbed to the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome. When she told me about this, I offered to step in.  I would be her domestique.

In cycling, a domestique is a team player.  This is someone who is willing to pull for the leader; i.e., give the leader a break by letting her draft behind for a bit, someone who will fend off attacks from other riders, dole out water bottles and power bars as needed.   I am that person.  La Domestique.  Actually, come to think of it, I'm more like a pinch hitter but let's stick to one sport metaphor per post. 

So I knit some socks:

Pattern: Calable by Regina Satta available via Ravelry or here if you are fluent in German.

Yarn: Araucania Ranco Solid (Fingering / 4 ply - 75% Wool, 25% Nylon. 376 yards / 100 grams)
colorway unknown - I don't have the label
0.75 skein used or approximately 282 yards for size 8

Needles: US 2

I ended up frogging Melissa's first sock because it was hard for me to match her tension.  Also, for the sake of simplicity, she had used one cable pattern for both the front and back of the sock.  I like the cable on the back of the sock.

I always worry that cables make socks too bulky but this wasn't the case here.  The cables are smooth and lie relatively flat while still providing some visual interest and texture.  I like cables - they're fun to knit especially if you knit without a cable needle.

However, I would not recommend this pattern for someone who hasn't knit a bunch of socks before.  Melissa is a fine knitter (she's knitting a Alice Starmore bohemoth; ergo, she is a total rock star) but this is not a good pattern for Sock No. 3 (Sock No. 1 being her practice sock).  The pattern is charted but it's unnecessarily complex and lacks the conventional charting symbols thus rather defeating the whole purpose of visualizing the end product.  And what little text there is, is poorly translated from the author's native German.  Having turned a good number of heels, I muddled through okay and am reasonably happy with the results:

I hope Melissa is too!

Monday, November 21, 2011


I feel compelled to explain my long absence.  I'm back in Florida now - have been for almost two months.  And for a variety of reasons, I've been taking my sweet time getting back into my daily routine: reading, writing, knitting, cooking.  Some things come back faster than others.

For instance, I've been reading some great stuff: Ann Patchett's State of Wonder was the highlight of my summer, and recently I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - a Young Adult novel for those of us who are definitely beyond the Young Adulthood phase of our lives.  I've been slowly getting back into the knitting (more on that later).  And the cooking - well, I do have to eat.

But the writing has been slow to return.  Sure, I scribble stuff down in my journal but that's not really fit for human consumption.  I blame the weather for my relative reticence.  This time of year when the days are noticeably shorter, I slow down.  I hibernate, cocoon, whatever you want to call it.  To be more precise and clinical, I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. For me, April is not the cruelest month; November is. 

When I lived in New England, it was very pronounced.  But being young and melancholy at the time, I just thought I was depressed and if I waited long enough, it would pass.  It wasn't until I moved to Philadelphia that it occurred to me that I might have SAD.  Now that I live in Florida, Autumn is much, much better.  Moving to the Sunshine State - instant cure for SAD!

Except, it's been a particularly rainy Fall this year.  Did you know that West Palm Beach is the fourth rainiest city in the country?  It's true and after these past few months, I believe it.  There's been a lot of cloudy days.  A lot of rain.

Everytime I look into buying a sun lamp, the real sun comes out for a day or two.  A small reprieve to brighten my mood.  Here's a little sunshine to end a rather somber post - a photograph of my friend Teagan sporting the duck booties I knitted for her way back when.

Teagan's grandfather (the artist Mark Kashino) concocted the duckling in baby booties.  Just what I needed.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Not much knittin' going on

It's true. The hot dry heat of the desert has completely chased away my knitting mojo. I brought two projects out here with me and they both languish in neglect. Poor things.

Of course when I informed my knitting buddy Kerrilyn, the first thing she said was, "This worries me - you better not stop knitting altogether."


"But if you do, can I have dibs on your stash?"

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I know it's been a while.  And I had such plans too.  But life can be unpredictable and this past month has been exactly that.  Suffice it to say that there was a family emergency that launched me and the Yarn Widower into crisis mode and seriously it's taken us this long to recover.  The family member in question is doing very well, thank you for inquiring. 

However, I'm now in California.  How long I'll be here remains to be seen.  It's nice enough out here although I have to admit that I much prefer coastal towns to the more inland desert.  Guess where I'm located right now.  108 degrees in the shade.  And yes, it is a dry heat but there's little difference between baking and braising; the end result is still the same.

More later. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

For the Birds

To tell you the truth, I've never really paid too much attention to the critters.  Living in the urban Northeast, birds were just part of the landscape: pigeons, doves, orioles, bluejays and the occasional cardinal.  But it's different in coastal Florida.  For one thing, birds are everywhere.  And they're big (relatively speaking).

We live on a lake so everyday I see ibis, egrets, ducks, geese and the homely turkey-duck (Yarn Widower calls them "turduckens").  They're noisy but pleasant neighbors.  A few days ago, we had a special visitor: a roseate spoonbill.

I'd never seen a pink bird before and I was enthralled.  In my own backyard no less!  Our showy guest flew away before I could get out the zoom lens for my camera - birds can be notoriously difficult photo models.  Plus given the choice of seeing with one's own eye versus through a camera lens, I'll take the former every time.

But I particularly like the eye of the late graphic artist Charley Harper:

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Rene Jules Lalique was an Art Nouveau jewelry designer and glassmaker. With a name like that, how could he have become anything else?  For some of us, a name is more than simply a moniker; it's destiny.  A rose may smell as sweet by any other name to Juliet but in this I disagree with the Bard.  Chilean Sea Bass is far more appealing than Patagonian Toothfish.  Names are important.  Ask any ad exec or new parent-to-be.

This is Lalique.  I suppose Lalique would be just as pretty if it were named something else, say,  Sarkozy.  On second thought, I don't think so.

In the pictures that come along with the pattern, there is a button fastening at the front of the neck.  But no instructions for a buttonhole.  When I asked the designer about this, she said that the front button/pin had been an afterthought added on by The Sanguine Gryphon, who commissioned the design.  I tried on my finished cardigan and found that I much preferred a fastening of some sort.  The above pin is lovely but too heavy for the delicate cardigan. 

For the modeled pictures, I settled on this little crescent moon pin.  It will suffice until I find an appropriate lightweight button, and then I might add on an i-cord loop in lieu of a buttonhole.

Some things I've learned about lace knitting:

1. I have to knit much looser than usual.  Maybe it's the delicate nature of the yarn.  More likely it's the impossibility of manipulating tiny stitches wound tightly around tiny needles.  Ease up, girl!

2. Blocking is absolutely necessary.  See previous post.

3. Blocking is magical.  See previous post.

4. Lifelines are for sissies.  Just kidding.  Despite the intricacy of the lace, all those feather and fan repeats made the body relatively straight-forward and I found I didn't need one.  A good thing because the Tess' Designer Yarn Superwash Merino Lace felts at the slightest notice.  Ripping out my mistakes was an exercise in patience.

5. I really like the way the edging at the bottom hem and sleeves is constructed.  It's the first time I've encountered a vertically constructed edging.  For instance most knitting starts at either the top or bottom and grows up or down.  In this edging, one starts from one side picking up a live stitch from the hem on every other row.  I know that probably sounds confusing - I was certainly puzzled but the end result was well worth all the head-scratching.

It's a lovely garment - as lovely as its name.  The lace was just what I needed after my stockinette overdose and happily, it turned out to be one of those projects that I couldn't put down.  I'm very pleased  with it.  I've worn it once so far (aside from modeling the pictures).  It's really hot outside right now and wool lace is surprisingly warm but just the thing for overly air-conditioned coffee shops.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From one extreme to the other

I made a lace cardigan.  First I bought the pattern and thought about it.  Don't bother me, I'm counting thinking about knitting!

Then I joined a KAL (Knit-A-Long) on Ravelry.

And then I swatched.

Pattern: Lalique by Laura Patterson
for The Sanguine Gryphon yarn company

Yarn: Tess' Designer Yarns Superwash Merino Lace (100% merino)
1.25 skeins or approximately 625 yards
colorway not specified but I would describe it as a pale golden brown
 I picked up this yarn a few years ago at Maryland Sheep & Wool. A fine souvenir from a memorable day.

Needle size: US5
Actually, the above swatch is done in US4 and the gauge is just a wee bit too small.  Instead of knitting a new swatch with a larger size needle, I just guessed and dove right in.   I know!  Knitting without getting gauge - gasp! I'm so reckless!

Here's a close-up of what will be the front edge of the cardigan.  The bellflowers totally make the garment for me.  So pretty. Some folks are beading their cardigans.  But after some experimentation, I decided against it.  Delicate lace is already a stretch for post-modernist stockinette-loving me.  I'm not quite ready for beading just yet.

The body is feather-and-fan repeats.

After admiring my swatch for a bit, I cast on and knitted and knitted and knitted.  Then I knitted and knitted and knitted some more (I can be quite obsessive.)

The result: the body of the cardigan in all its knitted glory.  Pre-blocking, it's just a hot mess.  But I had faith in the blocking process.


A few wires and a plethora of pins later!  One great tip that I got from the KAL, block the garment in half so that each side matches.  If you look closely, you can see the wire that bisects the body.  I didn't thread it through the lace - I just simply folded the lace over the wire.  I did thread the front of the cardigan through a wire and used a flexible wire for the armhole.  Everything else was pinned in place (including every single point of the hem which gave it a nice scalloped edge where the feather-and-fan meets the bottom edging.)

Another tip to anyone knitting this pattern: Specifically for the edging, ignore the charts at first and just follow the written directions exactly. In my opinion, the charts for the edging are too confusing since they don’t follow traditional charting conventions (i.e. there is no RS or WS). 

Next up: sleeves and finishing!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Love Letter and a Song of Despair

Dear Stockinette,

You know I love you.  I will always love you.  You are elegant in your simplicity.  You comfort me.  You entrance me.  There is no other stitch pattern quite like you.

You and me - we had a really good thing going.

But we need a break from each other.  And here's the reason why:

Pattern:  Jill's Dress by Kristina McGowan
from Modern Top-Down Knitting

Yarn: Knit Picks Simply Cotton Sport (100% cotton) in colorway Bittersweet Heather
11 skeins or approx 1804 yards

Needle size: US 4

This dress.  It nearly broke me.  Two straight months of stockinette.  Let's just say it was too much of a good thing.

Please don't be upset with me.  You are my first love and I will always come back to you.  I just need some time.

Surely you, too, must feel the effects of all that prolonged time together.  I know I can be difficult and demanding at times.  Forgive me.  Maybe I want too much...

But for now, I need some time to explore and figure things out.  I know I will return to you.  I can't say when and I can't say how.  But believe me when I say I will always come back to you.