Monthly Archives: December 2011

thank goodness for knitters

It’s that time of year, lots of people are reflecting on 2011. I don’t really want to reflect. 2011 hasn’t been a particularly good year and plenty of things from the past twelve months have become a permanent part of who I am and where I live (and not in a good way).

A year containing any one of these things could be considered bad, and 2011 has seen MULTIPLE community and personal tragedies. Floods in my and nearby communities, deaths in my family and Neil’s, cars that have broken down again and again. And that’s just off the top of my head. Like I said, I don’t want to spend a lot of time reflecting. Mostly I want to say “goodbye 2011, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

But through it all there has been knitting. And while that covers finding solace in my craft when times are tough I mean so much more than that. In a year where remembering the bad things is so much easier than finding the good so many of the good things are knitting related. There was the success and warm reception of the Time on my Hand ebook and the other patterns I’ve had published. The are the wonderful people I’ve met; both those I have found on Ravelry and Twitter, and those I met for the first time this year at festivals and knitting camp. The willingness of friends (in real life and online) to step up and help out with knitting when I’m on a deadline. And mostly there are all you wonderful people who read what I blog, comment on it, and make me feel welcome.

So that is my take-away from 2011: thank goodness for Knitters.

hurty brain

I’m mere hours (I hope) from finishing my current WIP. This is one of my favorite parts of knitting* because I get to decide what I’m going to work on NEXT. In this case the answer is my Boyden cardigan**. Does that sound vaguely familiar? It’s the one I was going to design, and blog about as I go. Who knew (back in October) that it was going to take such a long vacation…

Anyway, it’s at exactly the same point as when we last saw it – awaiting some math. So last night I sat down to do some math.

boyden grading

Believe it or not, I enjoy this process. It’s the designy part of designing. Even when I have an overall idea for the garment there are lots of questions to answer:
What sizes do I want to offer?
How many total sizes?
What’s the increment between sizes?
Is there going to be a button band?
How wide a band?
Does the width vary for each size?***
Where does the cable go?
Will it fit in that panel for the smallest size?
How about the largest?
Will the armscye decreases eat into the panel?
How to I prevent that?

This process makes my brain feel itchy, in that I-can-practically-feel-the-synapses-growing kind of way. And this sweater was especially challenging. Because of the asymmetric cable placement I need different numbers of stitches on the left and right sides. This means taking into account how much the cables will pull in the fabric, and placing the shaping, side seams, etc… all slightly akilter. But just akilter enough that the garment will look and feel symmetrical. Asymmetrically symmetrical? Something like that.

And all along there are the regular checks as well. If I want a 36″ bust with a 1″ button band I need to subtract that inch before calculating the stitches. Then I need to check and make sure the stitches will divide evenly for the 2×2 ribbing at the hips. And where do I start the hip shaping? How high up should the waist be knit even? But I must make sure the row gauge lands that hip shaping somewhere below the waist length****. And where does the neck bind off go? And make sure THAT’s placed asymmetrically. Then realize the cable panel won’t fit across the shoulder as written. So I’ll use the narrower sleeve cable on the upper shoulder. Perfect! Except. Wait, the front and back cables need to be at the same row for the grafting, so let’s make sure I have that written into the directions…

And I’m doing these checks for all 9 sizes from the outset. Nothing is worse than getting one size all written out, only to find you need to change TWELVE things to make it work for some other size. Better to tackle all the sizes at once and make all the changes as I go.

No one ever said designing was easy. Well, no one who ever tried it anyway…

*ok, they’re all my favorite parts. Well, almost all…
**check out the designinprogress tag to see all the old entries that reference this project.
***I believe it should. A 1″ button band is 1/30th of a cardigan on a 30″ bust but it’s only 1/60th of the cardigan on a 60″ bust. That’s half as much. To maintain the overall visual look of a design the widths of the various elements need to change as the garment sizes grow.
****Nothing sucks more than being directed to knit the waist to 6.25″ only to find yourself at 7.5″ by the time the hip shaping is done…

Christmas knitting wrap up

Did I mention that I knit a lot for Christmas this year? It’s been a rough year and that made me want to wrap the people I love in wool. I’m sure you understand.

gift mosaic

1. Neil’s slipper, 2. Aaron’s hat, 3. Isaac’s hat, 4. gift pile, 5. Steve’s hat, 6. Papa’s neck gaiter, 7. Rachel’s mitts, 8. Mom’s socks

First up is Neil. He got the IOU for the year, and a present containing just a single slipper. Which he wore last night in front of the fire and proclaimed very toasty. Now I just need to finish the second liner…

Second is my brother Aaron (his is still in the mail, I’m pretty sure he’s not reading this) He’s getting a Quest hat. It’s a Knitty pattern, I worked the large size, and skipped the short row shaping for the brim. He’s a basic guy, he needs a basic hat. The yarn is Harrisville Designs Flax & Wool blend which they’re discontinuing. It’s a lovely woolen spun yarn with a unique fiber blend (20% flax and 80% wool, if it wasn’t obvious from the name)

Third is Isaac*. His hat is the uniquely shaped Maltese Fisherman’s Hat by Elizabeth Zimmermann. That lady could design marvelous things in garter stitch. Here the ear band is worked flat first, with short rows so it’s longest over the ears and hugs the back of the neck. Then the crown is worked in the round. Brilliant, and will fit under a helmet if needed (my brother is a reservist in the marines) The yarn is White Buffalo Elena: a discontinued wool from canada.

The next hat is for my brother in law Steve. It’s Xylem knit out of a single skein of Shelter. This is actually the yarn called for in the pattern! It was an accident, I swear. I never use the called for yarn. But it’s ok, I used different needles because I wanted a squishier fabric and then I had to change the number of repeats. Don’t worry, it’s not like I followed the pattern to the letter or anything.

The neck gaiter** (being modeled here by Jake) is for my dad. The pattern is Stonehenge. I did NOT get gauge (6sts/in on US8’s in worsted weight yarn? I cannot knit that tightly) Rather than futzing around trying to get something even resembling gauge I just cast on fewer stitches to get the size I needed. It worked perfectly. The yarn is more Mountain Viewe Coopworth I picked up at the VT sheep and wool festival this fall FOR EXACTLY THIS PURPOSE. I love it when a plan comes together.

At the bottom we have Rachel’s fingerless mitts. The pattern is Sun Dial. If it looks familiar: congratulations, you’ve been paying attention! But I can’t even follow my own directions – this time I used Knitpicks City Tweed in the heavy version. I used larger needles and cast on fewer stitches. Then I had to leave some of the increases out of the thumb. Since they’re all charted into the cable pattern that was a pain! And I have no one but myself to blame for that…

Last up are my mom’s socks. The pattern is Parade from Twist Collective. I wanted something that would be fun to knit and provide a nice background to the crazy yarn (Adorn sock yarn in the Acadia colorway) Mom gets hand knit socks every year, she doesn’t seem to mind! Rather, I think she’d be really sad if they stopped appearing under the tree.

*not in the photo – the photo is Reggie, helping to model Isaac’s hat.
**knitters call them cowls, hikers call them neck gaiters. I’m not sure my dad would wear anything called a cowl…

St Stephen’s day

Neil and I went down to visit my family for Sunday and Monday. We had a quiet* Christmas morning at my brother-in-law and sister’s new house followed by lunch at my grandparent’s. It was a combination of new activities and old traditions. There was lots of delicious food, the fruit cake was a complete success, the knitted gifts were all very well received**. We played games, drank eggnog that my mom made herself, enjoyed each others company, and missed those who weren’t with us (one of my brothers wasn’t able to travel so we missed him as well as my sister Kathy. But at least we could talk to Aaron on the phone)

On Boxing day my sister Rachel, my mom, and myself sat down and went through all the family christmas ornaments: my mom’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s. We gave mom permission to throw away decorations made from construction paper and glitter, juice lids and ribbon, bits of pipe-cleaner and candy canes*** – all the sorts of ornaments that kids make and parents hold on to, but really probably shouldn’t keep forever. We sorted out the ornaments that have special meaning, are attached to memories, or that we just plain like best. Everything else was boxed up and prepared for Freecycle – which is probably a good, modern version of Boxing day!

I’ll do a round up of knitting, and introduce you to my new spinning wheel (here’s a hint, it’s still in pieces in a box) another time.

*well quiet except for their crazy dogs. But I’m used to crazy dogs, so that’s ok.
**Even by Neil, who go one and a half slippers…
***especially these, since the mice have eaten some of them!


come on home

How many nights must I wait for the sound
of your footsteps falling on familiar ground?
And how many stars must I count
’till another sun comes up and brings the hope that you’ve been found?
‘Cause it’s been one whole year since duty called your name
and you kissed your newborn daughter and your only son.
You said time would go by fast
by October you’d be home with us at last
’cause the war would soon be won.

Come on home, I feel winter coming on
and I need you here to help us see it through.
Come on home, supper’s cooking on the stove.
Did you know we always set a place for you?
Every night we always set a place for you…

Come on Home, by Susannah Clifford Blachly.
You can listen to this song right on her website.

I hope everyone is with the ones they love this holiday season.

Scrappy Scarf

My scrappy scarf is done and OMG YOU GUYS I LOVE IT SO MUCH*!


Ahem, sorry about that. I got a bit carried away. This scarf is miracle! I usually dislike knitting scarves, I get bored by their repetitiveness and by how LONG they are. But not this one, I finished it in four days flat!

scarf curled

It’s not some little thing of a scarf either. This sucker must be 8 FEET long** (not counting 5 inches of fringe on either end) and it’s a solid 7 inches wide. This is a scarf you can wrap two ore three times around your neck, or go for the half-hitch look. Or if you forgot your hat wrap it around your head to keep your ears warm too. There’s plenty of this scarf to go around.


Seriously though, when I cast on ~200 stitches I did NOT expect an 8 foot scarf. I was thinking it’d be 5 feet long, give or take. Something in the combination of the garter stitch, the large needles, and the fact that I hadn’t swatched meant I had no idea how long this would be.

scarf fringe

The knitting was easy: Join yarn leaving a tail, knit across, break yarn leaving a tail. Repeat with the same color, or a different color, whatever. Bind off, tie knots, enjoy! I think about 75% of the time I worked just one row per color. There’s the occasional 2 row color breaking that up. Three rows in a row were reserved for self striping yarns as well as the first three and last three rows of the whole scarf.

scarf stripes

I loved knitting this so much I had to restrain myself from casting on another as soon as the first was done (I have a ridiculously short deadline project right now) But Neil’s threatened to steal my (purple based) scarf three times. And he’s also played the dreaded “I don’t have nearly enough hand knits given that I’m married to a knitter” card***. So I think I’ll be knitting another scrappy scarf in the near future. Maybe using gray as the base color… I have certainly have enough scrap yarn still around.


That’s another great thing about these scarves. They’re using up all those scraps. The ones that are just 5-10 yards. The ones that are too long to throw away, but too short to use, even just as a swatch. Seriously, 6 yards is barely enough to knit a little afghan block. But this scarf is like a memory quilt in scarf shape. Every time I look at it I can pick out the individual projects:

scraps detailed

And with that many colors, it really goes with everything!

*I love it so much I broke out my oft-neglected light box to get color-accurate photos on the second longest night of the year. What’s that? You didn’t know I had a light box? Well now you see how often I neglect it…
**I haven’t measured it, but I’m 5’7″ and if I hold one end way above my head the other end is still bunched up on the ground.
***The poor guy is right. But he asks for so little, and so much of my knitting is design work these days.


I didn’t announce the winner of Incarnate yesterday. Let’s pretend it’s because I didn’t want to break up the poem and photo yesterday.

The winner is post #6: dothutchison. She picked Team Sylph which was a clear underdog with just 3 of 10 votes.

Which team you voted for doesn’t actually affect the random number generator.

I finished my stripy scarf. I love it.

Neil has threatened to steal it twice, even though it’s mostly purple.

I found a chicken under the coop this morning. This is a normal spot for them to hide.

The weather has been so gross we haven’t let the chickens outside in 2 days. I wonder what she’s been eating.

WordPress informs me that this is the fourth post I’ve titled “Randomly.” I’m ok with that.

I’m not going to the post office between now and Christmas. I’ve got 3 or 4 packages ready to go, but they’re all gonna have to wait.

I should point out I don’t wonder what the escaped hen has been drinking. It’s been rainy enough to solve that problem.

I’m having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. It’s at least 1 part weather. Also 2 parts missing my sister.

We don’t even have a tree setup, although I did put some festively colored yarn on display:
christmas yarn

I feel a sewing project coming on. Maybe next weekend, if I get my deadline knitting finished. I want a hip length pea coat.

Current frontrunner is this one. But I’m open to suggestions.

Longest Night

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.

The Shortest Day – by Susan Cooper

longest night


Ennea Collective has just release their winter issue, and guess who’s on the front cover!


That’s my Icicles Cardigan – a simple, fitted sweater designed to feature handspun yarn in a full sized garment. Icicles was my knitting retreat during the flooding and aftermath from tropical storm Irene last September. I’m really excited that it’s finally live for everyone to see! (and to favorite/queue on Ravelry)


I spun this yarn without knowing what it would become. When I finished the yarn and discovered I had over 350 yards I knew I wanted to work it into a garment. I really love sweaters which allow a spinner to wear their handspun without having to spin 1000-1400 yards. Spinning that much is a major time investment. But I made this skein of yarn with two different 4oz hunks of fiber*. They were both Ashland merino silk: one in dark blue, one in light blue. I spun each separately and plied them together into a subtly marled skein.


The fiber and the buttons were both purchased at Rhinebeck 2010 – oddly I didn’t know they were destined to be together until after I decided the main yarn for this sweater would be white. Actually I knew I wanted a blueish white, and I knew Quince & Co had the perfect shade in their Frost colorway. Then I started to think about buttons and realized that these would be just perfect.


The dark blue in the yoke and the white of the body are balanced and trimmed by more of the handspun in the icord edging. I know some people dislike icord trim, but I really enjoyed the process. It makes such a neat and stable bound off edge, and it’s not that much more work than any of your other standard bind offs. The buttonholes are worked very simply by NOT applying the applied icord edge up the front This creates little loops of icord through which you button the buttons. So if you wanted more buttons, smaller buttons, etc… That would be a really easy change.

If you aren’t a spinner I could see using the pattern to show off a special commercial yarn. Any standard worsted weight yarn will fit the pattern. You could feature something more expensive, or a bright color that you love but don’t want to use for a whole garment.

The trickiest bit of the whole pattern is the stranding in the yoke. I didn’t want to use a steek because A) I wouldn’t be able to hide the loose edges in the button band I wanted to use and B) lots of knitters don’t like cutting their knitting. So instead you have to purl back with 2 colors. But it’s only for a few rows and it really wasn’t that tricky after all.


As you can also see in that photo I’ve reinforced the neckline with a single crochet chain. This sweater is worked seamlessly from the top down; which is great for quick, satisfying knitting. However I find the yoke holds it’s shape much more nicely with that neckline reinforced.


The photo shoot was held at the Northern VT Llama Co – a great farm that’s just up the road from where I live. I love going there to get my Christmas tree. Wandering around the farm in the snow with carols playing, people choosing trees, drinking hot cider, watching the yearlings frolic in their first snow… It’s a great way to set the mood for the Christmas season.

*and just about every spinner has 2 different 4oz hunks of fiber in their stash!


Thursday afternoon I could feel a cold coming on – and it was feeling like a bad one too. But on Friday I tried something different: rather than soldiering on I took a day off.

I sat on the couch. Drank lots of tea. Had soup for both lunch and dinner. I read a little and I knit some really mindless garter stitch. I didn’t do any work and let Neil worry about the animals. I got up once to put up my blog post*

And you know what? It worked! By saturday instead of being in the depths of a cold I was feeling a bit better. By sunday I was perky enough to go to the Christmas Revels performance with my mom and friends.

Who knew this resting up thing worked so well?

The mindless garter stitch is going to be one of those long stripes garter stitch scarves. I pulled the scraps** from my swatching bin and organized by color. I cast on about 200 stitches (backward loop method, and I didn’t even recount to make sure I had the right number) and I’m breaking the yarn after every row so there’s a tail ~6 inches on each edge of every row.

scrappy scarf

The scraps range all the way from fingering to bulky weight and I’m using US 10 needles because that’s the ONLY size I own a long (47 inches) circular needle for…

*because that’s how much I love you all!
**scraps too small to become a full sized swatch, and too long to be thrown away.