Monthly Archives: January 2011

Evening snowshoe walk

Reggie is good, Jake is impatient

All sunsets are better with a dog

I don’t consider myself a photographer, but I did line up this shot on purpose

From the top of the hill, you can see down into the valley

and if you look closely, you can see our house

Sleeve shaped swatch

I may have mentioned – my friend Amy and I are doing a Gwendolyn knit along right now. I’m using Beaverslide, a wonderful worsted weight merino yarn which I’m COMPLETELY in love with. I looked over the pattern, I checked the needle size it called for, the gauge, and for any funky construction points. Nope – all very basic. Garment worked flat, set in sleeves, 5 sts/inch, plenty of places to knit to X length (thus making row gauge matter MUCH less)

So (after resisting the urge to roll around in my yarn) I cast on. Nope, no gauge swatch. I get gauge 90% of the time. I know that’s not supposed to be possible, but it’s true.* I’m a gauge-matching miracle. The only swatches I ever knit are for my own patterns, where I have to do the math before I can cast on.

I started with the sleeve. It’s a habit I picked up last year during my sweater-a-month phase. Starting with the sleeves means that when you finish the body you’re DONE! Well, except for the finishing. I love that. I hate getting through the body, feeling all accomplished, and then realizing I’m only 60% of the way there.

So I knit the ribbing, and then I thought “Gee, this looks a little big” but the schematic says the cuff is 10 inches, and my wrist is only 8 – so of course it’s going to be a little loose. No big deal. I kept knitting, the cable chart slowly transitions to cables on a reverse stockinette background. So by the time the sleeve was 10 inches long I could actually CHECK my gauge.

Drumroll please……

I’m getting 4.5 sts per inch, not 5. That doesn’t seem like a big difference, does it? It’s just half a stitch. But let’s do a little math, shall we? 4.5 sts per inch is going to be 18 stitches per 4 inches – as opposed to the called-for 20sts/4in

The sleeve calls for 53 stitches, and we’ll figure 3 of them are used in the seam:
50sts divided by 5sts/in = 10 inches for the cuff
50sts divided by 4.5sts/in = over 11 inches for the cuff.
Not so bad, right?

Now let’s look at the bust. Combining the front and back halves it’s 186 sts total, minus 6 for the two seams.
180 divided by 5 = 36 inches which leaves me just a touch of negative ease = perfect!
180 divided by 4.5 = 40 inches. That’s 3 inches of POSITIVE ease. Some people might like that, but I enjoy a more fitted sweater. Now I know if I keep knitting on the US8’s I’m going to end up with a sweater I’ll never wear.
And that’s today’s lesson folks! A pesky half stitch per inch difference can leave you FOUR inches off in the final sweater. This is why it’s so important to check gauge.**

So I ripped it out and moved down a size to US7’s. I dislike ripping, but I’d rather rip half a sleeve then an ENTIRE SWEATER. Let’s just call it a 12×10 inch, sleeve shaped, gauge swatch… Good news is I’m back up to the elbow, and getting 5sts/in exactly! Yay me!

*I’m not kidding – when I sub yarns of a different weight I think to myself “DK weight yarn on US 5’s? That’s gonna be about 5.5sts/in” and just take that and run with it. Worst case scenario involves ripping and re-knitting so really, what have I got to lose besides time?
**do as I say, not as I do OR be prepared to rip stuff out – which is what I actually do…


My eyes enjoyed their day off yesterday, and so did the rest of me,

Although I have plenty of sore muscles now, at least my eye muscles aren’t on the list.

My heels would like to register a complaint though. All this skiing and snowshoeing is giving me blisters.

Poor me, whine whine whine…
craftsbury scenery

I really have very little clue what I’m doing on cross country skis. But I enjoyed the scenery, and finding old things in the woods.
old farm equipment

And I look good doing it, that’s important, right?

Another thing I love about the Craftsbury Outdoor Center
solar panels
Solar panels

on doing too much

I had big plans for this past weekend. Sketching, swatching, knitting an entire vest, writing up a pattern or two, driving to a family gathering, TWO photo shoots…

I always have big plans, and I always know in advance I’m not going to get to it all. But do you see what I’ve done up there? Everything (well, maybe excluding the family gathering) is eye intensive. And my poor eye muscles were already over worked by Friday afternoon. I was supposed to be taking the weekend off. But I didn’t, I powered through as much as I could, giving myself another set of headaches, and only just stopping before the migraines kicked in (because I’m stubborn, not stupid – migraines HURT)

So I woke up this morning and already had an eye strain headache. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn I’d been staring at things in my dreams… But what to do when my day job (science) and my hobby/job (designing) both use my eyes? Well, I’m taking the day off. Today I’ll get away from anything that might over work my eyes. I’m typing this in my snow pants. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cross country skiing to take care of!


On tuesday I got my eyes examined and the dr exclaimed “no wonder you’re getting headaches!” Apparently it’s time for new glasses… I’m really excited about my new, red, frames. But I wish they’d hurry up and arrive.

I’m just about finished with a design for Ennea Collective. I hope you’ll like it as much as I do!

Yesterday on twitter I saw these yarn covered earbuds. I loved the idea so much I started covering mine last night. I only got about 12 inches in before bedtime though. I’m hoping it’ll protect the cords from cracking which is always how my ear buds die.

There’s a bunch of south american exchange students who ride the bus in the morning. It makes me feel almost like I’m back in Boston.

I’m really glad I don’t have to be the one standing as the bus drives over the bumpy VT roads.

I’m getting tired of having constant headaches.

I have TWO! photo shoots to do this weekend. I don’t know how I’ve managed to have so many designs in progress.

I’ve spent the last 2 months feeling like I had NO designs on the needles. Apparently I was wrong?

Neil started listening to Radiolab podcasts. I don’t think he knows how much I’m enjoying them too.

Almost as much as I’m enjoying the Susannah Clifford Blachly CD which I got him for Christmas…

Scrubby Soap

This stuff is really easy, and really great.

scrubby soap

1/2C baking soda
1T dish soap*
1T water
Combine these three ingredients in a wide mouthed container. Mix gently to combine without causing the dish soap to foam up. It should have about the same consistency as toothpaste. In fact you could probably use it for tooth paste but it’d taste horrible. Instead use anywhere you need scrubbing soapy goodness!

I made up this soap recipe years ago when I needed to clean the sink and didn’t want to go to the store for more sink cleaning stuff. I’ve been using it ever since; it’s wonderful. This scrubby soap, plus a little bit of elbow grease, has cleaned surfaces I didn’t imagine clean-able. Beet juice stains on white counter top. Stains in the bottoms of enamel or porcelain sinks that came with the rental unit. Rust stains on just about anything.** Recently a cookie sheet left in a pool of water on our white counter top left a rust stain that 2 store bought cleaning agents couldn’t touch, which is actually why I was mixing up more scrubby soap recently. It cleaned the stain in 3 minutes flat.

I use it on counter tops, stainless steel sinks, bathroom sinks, toilets, and the stove top – one place I don’t know how else I’d clean it sometimes. There are other (better) blogs if you’re interested in other home made cleaning, home, and body products. I enjoy Angry Chicken. I especially love her home made deodorant – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. But she has lots of other good ideas too.

*I’ve always loved 7th Generation dish soap, but have also successfully used Planet dish soap, and most recently Mrs. Meyers Dish soap. Their Geranium soap is like summer in a bottle, a strong scent, but not in a normal floral-soap kind of way.

**at our previous house we had water so high in iron it stained new appliances within days – so I didn’t clean those much, but it was nice to discover I could remove them if I wanted to.


I’d like to introduce Gnarled! A little heavy weight lace to ward off any winter chill.

Gnarled - leaningfull

Gnarled is a matching set of collar and cuffs designed in a super-bulky yarn to keep out the chill. Wear them to warm up a dressy outfit or dress up a warm outfit- either way they add a touch of Victorian style to your day. The slightly felted yarn keeps warm air trapped next to your skin where it belongs in cold weather, while the merino is soft enough to nestle next to your skin.

Back in August I won a skein of Malabrigo Rasta yarn from the Yarn on the House blog. You should really check it out, what’s not to love about free yarn? Rasta is a super bulky yarn, or possibly it should be in the category above super bulky. In spinning terms I think this yarn is about 3wpi. In other words, you could measure the width of this yarn with a ruler, and if you did it’d be about a third of an inch wide. I challenged myself to design a little something warm out of the single skein.

Gnarled - sniffingfull

The PDF is available here, and you can find Gnarled on Ravelry as well. Once again, anyone can by the pattern whether or not you’re a Ravelry member – and I want to thank Ravelry for making that possible. I also want to thank Stephannie Tallent (StephCat on Ravelry) for providing the technical editing.

This isn’t really a cowl, I’ve been calling it a collar – a heavy, lacy thing reminiscent of historical costumes. There was plenty of yarn leftover from the collar so I worked up a matching pair of pulse warmers.

Gnarled - closeupcuff

The pattern is written up in just two sizes: collar 16 and 20 inches for the neck circumference and cuffs 6.5 and 8 inches around. But the lace is very stretchy, and could be worn with either positive or negative ease. The collar has a little positive ease on me while the cuffs have negative ease. If you’re substituting yarn you should know that the gauge (10 sts and 16 rows per FOUR inches on US 11 needles) is actually dense for this yarn. The lace can stand up on its own it is so dense. If you substitute with a less-super-bulky yarn your collar will have more drape and less structure (and as always, check your gauge)

Gnarled - winebackview

January lettuce

Anyone remember the small greenhouse (or large cold frame) I built last fall? Well it’s paying off (easy, when the windows were free) already! We had a thaw of sorts over the weekend. The temps got up in to the 40’s and our heavy blanket of snow melted to just a few inches. So I thought I’d check on the greenhouse.


We’d had several cold nights in December where the temps dropped below zero (farenheit) and I wanted to check on my little spinach plants. I figured the lettuce would be little piles of mushy leaves. There’s a reason no one freezes lettuce to save it for later. So I was more then amazed when I removed the front door to find this

happy little plants

Happy little lettuce plants! The ones on the edge are more perky then the ones in the center. And those closest to the south facing door look pretty dead. But still!!! Local lettuce, in VT, in January?! Crazy talk! I think I have an explination. Just before our coldest nights we had a deep snow. With 24-36 inches of snow on the ground my little greenhouse was almost completely buried. Only the south facing door was exposed at all. I have to guess that the snow insulated the greenhouse, and since the earth is warmer then the air (frozen, but still warmer then zero) the little plants survived the cold.

january salad

I picked a big bowl of greens, and we’ve been enjoying our garden produce for several days now. I left the center whorls and baby leaves of the plants. All along my plan for the spinach was to let it over winter so it’ll start growing again in early spring and provide greens before new seeds would even begin to sprout. Now I’m thinking this crazy red lettuce may start growing again in spring too. It would help if we could get another insulating blanket of snow before it gets really cold again. Where do I put in my weather requests?

Happy January 3rd!

I hope you had a wonderful new year’s celebration whether you stayed up until 2am, or went to bed at 10pm. Neil and I chose to have a quiet evening together rather then driving into Burlington for the third time that day only to drive home later when there are drunk people all over the roads…

Burlington for the 3rd time? you may ask. Neil worked that day, so he had driven in earlier. I’d been into the city on my own, on a mission. The deadline for Knitty’s spring/summer issue was yesterday, and I needed some summery feeling photos. One of the trickiest things about designing in Vermont is getting out of season photographs. Everywhere you go there’s SNOW snow snow snow… Great for snowshoeing, lousy for summer photos.

Luckily UVM has a greenhouse. Unluckily, it’s not open to the public during holiday break. Luckily FOR ME there were grad students in the building on New Years Eve day and they were willing to let me in.

photoshoot outtake

Does that look summery to you?

On the way home I stopped at the yarn store. I’ve had this idea for an autumnal color (my favorite colors) vest with squishy garter trim (I may be in a garter trim phase – my designing goes through clear phases) and I wanted to use my gift certificate for new yarn. I love getting yarn support for designs. But sometimes the pressure free ability to design, or not, and knit (or not) whatever I want is worth spending my own money.

autumn vest

In this case it’s extra worth while. The yarn I wanted for the body (Plymouth Mushishi) had several wonderful colors, but nothing that would create the distinct but subtle striping I wanted. I was considering Malabrigo instead, when one of the LYS employees suggested I use TWO brands of yarn. There’s no reason not to, they’re both single plied, both wool, and both worsted weight. But the idea of using two brands just wouldn’t have occurred to me. And she was right:

garter corner

They create exactly the stripes I was looking for.