Monthly Archives: March 2012

Beware babies!

Babies can sneak up on you in unexpected ways!

My coworker recently announced she was due in 4 weeks. This woman cannot possibly weight any more than I do, so let’s say she’s 140lbs … she certainly didn’t look eight and a half months pregnant. Turns out she and her husband are adopting! They’d only just found out they were getting a baby soon and were in that excited and scared phase.

I was wondering where I’d find time to knit a baby gift as I have a pretty tight design schedule right now. I know it’s not expected, but I like to knit something for new babies when I have the time. And since this little girl’s first 9 months sound kinda rocky I thought a hand knit to say “welcome to vermont!” seemed necessary.

shrug sleeve

So I wandered through ravelry looking at baby hats. This was the week of 70-80 degree temps and a hat just didn’t sit well with me. Eventually I found the Whirlygig shrug!

shrug close up

I knew this would be perfect, and so I borrowed the magazine from a friend. The yarn came out of deep stash. I wanted something washable and this is a 100% merino superwash sock yarn. The patten calls for a DK weight so I held the yarn double throughout. The fabric might be a little bit thicker than the original, but it’s not uncomfortably stiff.

whirligig shrug

I made the newborn size, on the needles called for. I didn’t swatch, or measure my gauge when finished. I didn’t even measure the shrug. Babies start out small and then grow, right? So I figure if it doesn’t fit her right away she’ll grow into it. And a frilly short-sleeved shrug will be perfect for summer.

Welcome to Vermont little baby! I hope things go smoothly for you from here on out.

another kind of sock quilt

When last we saw my old handknit socks I was busy cutting them into little squares. What can one make out of little squares of worn out fabric? Why not a crazy quilt!

I tried my best to salvage any fabric that wasn’t worn through: cuffs, tops of feet, bottoms of feet in the case of the sock with the missing mate.

Then I ironed them all flat:


I don’t block my socks after every washing, so this was the first time in a LONG time these stitch patterns were smoothed out! They seemed to like it. Then I re-clipped the squares so they were nice and even. My goal was for straight edges, in some cases where the fabric has a bias to it this means I’m not cutting between stitches or rows. A professional seamstress might worry about the effect this will have on the fabric. But for a crazy quilt of knitted goodness I don’t think it’ll matter. Then I laid each square onto some scrap jersey fabric* and cut out a backing.


I wanted to back all these squares for two reasons. The most obvious is to keep the edges from unraveling. But I also hope the backing will even out the textures. Some of these socks are heavily felted stranded colorwork, other socks are practically worn through dainty lace: the variations were a bit extreme.

ready to sew

Then I was ready to sew them together


With wrong sides together I seamed along three edges of each square. Next I clipped the corners:

clip corners

And turned the square right sides out. Next I sewed the open edge closed, then stitched all the way around the outside edge again to create a nice flat edge on all 4 sides:


They’re going to need to be ironed again before I sew them all together. I have a plan for that too, but haven’t gotten there yet.

I have an unrelated aside:

hot right now 03292012

Yesterday I told you my Boyden cardi was available for pre-order. I didn’t want to make a big fuss, because it’s not fully finished yet. I posted about it here, but no where else. Not on facebook, not on twitter, not even on any ravelry forums. But you (and the people who stumbled across it on Ravelry anyway) have pushed it into the top 5 patterns on Ravelry. Thanks everyone! I’m glad you all like my new sweater!

*my scrap jersey fabric is from worn out t-shirts. Other than thread, everything here is old and reused!

Coming along

My Boyden cardi is coming right along*. Last weekend Neil and I headed down to Boyden Valley Winery for a photo shoot. Since the cables on this sweater were inspired by twisting, intertwined grape vines it seemed like a winery was the perfect spot for a photo shoot.

boyden windy

And it was! Also, once we finished up with the picture taking we headed inside for a wine tasting and food pairing, which was a nice perk to a well chosen photo shoot location.

I’ve been plugging along on my pattern layout. I do a first draft where I just plug everything I have into my template. If I have notes on the printed pattern they get transferred in (because I print my patterns to knit from and take notes as I go.) Let’s say there’s some wording I need to clarify, or math I need to double check, or a graph to fix, etc… I end up with a lot of little notes to self like this one:

note to self

For the second draft I go back and tackle similar things in groups. If I need to check my math in three different places it makes sense to do those all at once. Then I go through and double check all my cables. I might try to clear up the wording, but I also make notes for when I really just need to get my tech editor’s opinion on something.

Neil’s been studying for mid terms all week, which means I’ve had lots of time in the evenings to work on my pattern. Yesterday I decided it was as good as I could hope and sent it off to my tech editor!

But in the mean time I have photos, I have a schematic, and I decided to try something new**. I’ve setup the pattern page on ravelry, and I’m taking pre-orders (for lack of a better term) for this pattern. You can buy the pattern right now and what you’ll get is a preview PDF. It includes yarn and needle requirements, gauge, and a schematic. The preview PDF is everything you need to go yarn shopping*** (or stash diving) swatch, pick your size, and get ready for the pattern release. I hope to have the pattern finished and ready for you all by the middle of April. Between now and then the pattern is 25% off, when the final PDF is uploaded the price will go up to $7.50

boyden horzontal

*If you want to see past entries on the boyden cardi design process check out everything with the designinprogress tag.
**since this whole “designing in public” thing is pretty new and different anyway.
***I highly recommend the Edna yarn I used for this pattern. The skeins can be ordered right from Dirty Water Dyeworks, and at 380 yards to the skein they’re an amazing deal!

old socks

I have a question: What do you do with old hand knit socks?

old socks

I’m talking about the socks so well loved that you have darned the darned patches:

worn through socks

or socks that maybe got washed one too many times, and now they’re felted so far down you can’t see the patterns anymore.

felted socks

What about that unfortunate single sock, whose mate has been missing for years?

lost socks

What do you do with them? Throw them away? Turn them into rags or hand puppets? Keep darning them until there’s more darn than knit fabric left? What do you do? Inquiring minds want to know!

I have a plan for mine:

sock scraps

Because apparently I LIKE cutting up my knitting…

Sugaring weekend

Neil and I love to tour the sugar houses in our area during vermont’s annual maple sugar open house weekend.

maple sugar weekend

This was a pretty sad year for it though. Due to the crazy warmth we had a LOT of the maple trees are already starting to put out buds. This makes the sap taste funny and forced the season to end early. The sugar makers we talked to in the valley were all finished boiling and already starting to pull the taps out of the trees. One guy told us his harvest was HALF what he got last year.

And a lot of folks said they were only maintaining last year’s syrup prices through the end of this weekend. We picked up a gallon of Grade A dark from my favorite local sugar house for $40, but I’m hearing rumors of prices up towards $60 a gallon depending on how much Quebec’s harvest is affected… It’s a sad story for people like us who like to use 3 or more gallons a year!

The weather didn’t help either, it was cold and drizzly last weekend, which doesn’t really make anyone want to go stand around outside. The folks at one place said they had 5 visitors this year, down quite a bit from the 200 last year! It probably doesn’t help that the road from our place to his looked like this:

muddy road

That trench is deeper than the axle on our subaru…


Neil and I have been taking advantage of the summery weather* with summery dinners! We’ve grilled twice in the last four days. But on monday we discovered we were completely out of BBQ sauce. Rather than run to the store I figured there had to be a way to whip up an acceptable substitute at home.


So I mixed some spicy tomato jam and some chutney. After a dash of spicy sauce from the fridge I had a BBQ sauce which Neil proclaimed better than anything from the store.


So here’s another good way to use things you preserved last summer. If you think about it meat glazes, sauces, marinades often have quite a bit of sweetness to them. Why not make your own with a little jam or jelly? Most BBQ sauces are tomato based, if you’ve never made tomato jam you could always try this with pasta sauce, or home made ketchup.


And note the beer. Neil likes to say it’s not really grilling unless you have a beer, so this BBQ sauce was paired with a tasty nut brown homebrew.

*especially since the weather guys say we’ll be back to the 50’s for tomorrow’s temps.

water without price

Over the weekend Neil and I took a drive out towards Craftsbury, a picturesque little town in The Kingdom. Neil’s taking photography this semester and wanted to take some pictures out there. I tagged along for the company, a ride in the sunshine, and to take some pictures of my own.

We stopped at this spring.


There are many springs in Vermont that are set up more or less in this way. They’re right on the side of the road with a tap or a faucet or a spout. Many people stop to fill up water bottles, jugs to take home, or just if they’re thirsty.

Some are formalized, like this one and the cold spring in Johnson. Others are barely more than water trickling over a ledge. But they all show some indication that a human has cultivated the spring for easy access, and then left it for others to use. It’s an easy enough gesture to make in a state where water literally bubbles out of the ground, but thought provoking none the less.


This one has a constant trickle, probably so the pipe won’t freeze in winter. So I tried to take some water droplet photos.


Turns out those droplets are quick little buggers…

Nothing knitterly

I have nothing to share in terms of knitting. And knitting really is what I talk about most (not just here on the blog, but in real life too, ask anyone I know)

I’m knitting several things I’m not sharing yet and that’s about it. I’m about halfway through the layout for Boyden, but that’s all dull and computery work. I’m hoping to knit several things for an Almost-Knitty knit along but they’re not started yet. What Almost-Knitty knit along? Well if you’re on Ravelry there’s an Almost Knitty group where we share our patterns that got rejected from knitty. It’s a nice friendly group full of camaraderie and good patterns. We’re having a spring/summer knit along and I’m hoping to knit another HRBP scarf as well as a baby thing for a co-worker who’s adopting.

So anyway, I’m going to cut myself a break and spend the week guiltlessly blogging about other things. The weather is continuing to give us an unseasonably early spring and I’ve decided to just enjoy it. I know this weather is wrong, but I might as well soak it up now, because it might be 105F in July. Or it could be like last summer and just rain all season until we feel like we’re growing moss.

So yay for spring!

more crocuses

Tonight I’m buying peas and lettuce mix on the way home. I’m going to start my garden today.

Spring already?!

I think you’d have to be hiding under a rock* to have missed the news that this winter’s weather has been really weird. Weird weather in VT, weird weather in the UK. Weird weather everywhere! Less than a month ago I was just, finally, celebrating the arrival of winter.


And suddenly, it’s spring. Last year at this time, my chickens were only sort of braving the snow. Then standing around in the muddy driveway looking grumpy. This year, they’ve been going outside almost all winter.

happy hens

Last year at the end of March I made a mental note not to start seeds until April. This weekend it’s supposed to be in the 60’s and 70’s. I’m going to pick spinach, plant broccoli, peas, and lettuce, and maybe go canoeing.

spring spinach

I think we broke the planet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to start my garden early. But when the poison ivy starts taking over the woods (we don’t have much, usually the winters are too cold) we’re all gonna be sad…

*no, wait, then you’d be really aware of the weather. Um, hiding in an underground bunker, how’s that?

The Knitting Textbook

The second edition of Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt is available!* If you’ve never heard of this book here’s the short version of the story. It was published in ’89 and widely regarded as the most knitting knowledge consolidated into one book ever. It has more than 40 different ways to cast on. This book explains not only how but also WHY you might choose one over the other.

Then – according to internet rumors** – the original plates were destroyed in a fire and the book went out of print. And the author has been working on retyping and updating it for a decade.

I got my copy in the mail yesterday and Neil’s first comment was “wow, that’s like a textbook!” And he’s not wrong. Let’s compare:

Principles of Knitting vs. Principles of Conservation Biology***

POK cover

PoK: 736 pages, 4.4lbs
PoCB: 779 pages, 4.2lbs

POK index and biblio

PoK: 39 pages of index, 8 pages of bibliography
PoCB: honestly, I didn’t count them…

POK charts

PoK: Graphs, charts, diagrams, photos! Cleverly outlined and bulletted lists to focus on and compare specific points.
PoCB: Graphs, diagrams, photos! Questions at the end of each chapter so the teacher can make sure you’re reading.

POK the textbook

I think the textbook comparison is apt. This book covers the hows AND the whys of more knitting techniques than I even knew existed. I can continue to learn new stuff about knitting for years with just this book. I will keep it on my shelf as the main reference for trying new things. It’s certainly not the only knitting book you’ll need (it’s not a stitch dictionary, for example) But if you could only get one, I’d suggest starting here.

I feel like there should be an exam at the end of the term. But like my ornithology class, I’m actually looking forward to that test…

*Actually has been for about a month now…
**I’m not kidding, I swear I read this somewhere on the internet, and now I can’t find it. So if I’m horrible wrong, please forgive me for repeating these rumors.
***I chose this textbook because it’s the one that also has “Principles” in the title.