Tag Archives: knitting


This is one of those stories where you can hopefully learn from my mistakes. I was in the craft room a couple of weeks ago – looking for a spinning project to take on a little retreat weekend I have coming up. My craft room was the messy sort of organized. And honestly it’s seen a bit of neglect over the last year. But I always had a basket or two out in the open, displaying the pretty fiber. I picked up one long neglected project and unthinking, turned it over.

moths 1

Hint: cocoons in your fiber are never a good sign. (I mean, unless it’s a collection of silk worm cocoons. I guess there’s an exception to every rule.)

Lesson #1: never EVER leave your fiber untossed and unsealed for a long time. This project had been hibernating for year. I go through and toss the stash (checking it for bugs) at least once per year. But I hadn’t flipped this little pile of wool over in much longer than that. Turns out that spraying cedar oil only goes so far…

Unfortunately a lot of my craft room had this problem. Because I’d “never had moths before” so I wasn’t worried.

moths 2

And of course it’s the pretty, pretty handspun that was all the most exposed. That basket also held a couple of cocoons at the bottom. Luckily not all my stash was in trouble. I keep my sock yarn in this pretty hat box, with cedar balls at the bottom. And this yarn all checked out ok:

moths 5

And none of my design yarn was hit. Which is a bit of a shock, since I kept my “inspiration” skeins, um, like this:

moths 4

Lesson 2: laundry baskets just give the moths plenty of access on all sides. I think this basket was only saved from damage because I have a regular habit of flipping it over and sorting through it.
Lesson 3: Moths hate turnover.

Any designs I’m not wearing regularly are stored away carefully. I have a large collection of rubbermaid bins, and I’ve been adding to my freezer bag collection recently. Because these open topped bags?

moths 3

They’re all gone. I think it was just luck that none of their contents were damaged.

Most of my personal stash lives in this lovely old chest.

moths 6

I wish the chest were cedar, but it’s not. Instead I have a variety of cedar satchets, boards, and balls scattered throughout. I went through the whole chest. It looked fine, I was congratulating myself on no damage. When I found this:

moths 7

No cocoons, no moths, no eggs that I could see. Just one, ONE skein with a little nibble taken out of it. Seems unlikely that it could be the sum total of the damage. So I bagged up ALL that yarn as well.

Lesson 4: when you have moth damage. Nip it in the bud.
All yarn with obvious damage, and any yarn with exposure (such as Every. Single. Skein. in the chest with that one nibbled skein) ALL that yarn went into plastic bags. I bagged stuff that was stored together in giant freezer bags and grocery bags. But I didn’t cross between storage areas (no point in creating more exposure – even briefly)

Um. I have 4 kitchen trashbags of exposed yarn.

Luckily none of my finished garments showed damage. No yarn stored in other rooms of the house was harmed. My kilt, Neil’s pea coat, the wool couch blanket in the living room: all ok. So it could have been worse.

Also, since I’m counting my blessings, it’s COLD outside.

Lesson 5: Freeze the little buggers to death.
Moths and larvae die below freezing, but you have to freeze for 2 weeks. Then you let everything thaw for a couple of days – so any potential eggs can hatch (eggs are hardy.) Then you freeze again! It hasn’t been above freezing on my porch yet this month – so I’m almost done with this freeze thaw cycle and I haven’t had to plug in an extra chest freezer yet!

Luckily the majority of my spinning stash is perfectly safe. Why is that?

moths 8

Because apparently I’m much better about storing it… When the yarn all comes back inside I’m going to have a zipper-baggy party. Then my yarn stash will look like this too!

Head to Toe

As much as I talk about knitting for myself as we all know I’m drawn to the adorable things I can knit for Adorable Windsor. And that’s exactly what drew me to Head to Toe: Kids’ knit accessories

(also on Ravelry and from Cooperative Press)

This book has so many great kids knits that I didn’t even know what to start with. My colorwork bug (it’s some version of startitis, that disease sure can mutate) wanted to do either cannonfire

or Northumberland:

I love that color pattern in both colorways. And I love how Katya shows the mirror colorways because they look so different!

Then there are the cables. Cheviot Hills are gorgeous, but I don’t know that Windsor would understand fingerless mitts yet

And Back Hand Hitch has the same problem:

So what did I cast on? Breamish:

Windsor really needs some thicker socks for this cold cold winter. Unfortunately, I had grand plans of having at least one done by this blog post. But it turns out knitting goes a lot faster when you actually knit things. Instead of just dreaming about knitting them…


I’ll get there. Eventually.


Here’s what I wish I were knitting: almost anything than what I’ve got on the go right now.

I finished the blue and gray mittens, and they’re blocking by the wood stove. The fresh coat of snow we’re getting today should make a pretty backdrop for later this week when I’m hoping to have an early morning photo shoot (just me, myself, the tripod, and some tourists if I’m unlucky)

After weaving in the ends I looked at my pile of WIPs and realized I have a children’s design that I’m knitting in about an 18 month size – and I need to finish it before my model out-grows all that clothing… It’s an adorable design, and it’s 80% done. But what it still needs is a lot of i-cord and a hood. And you know how it goes. I just want to cast on for something new.

So what would I rather be knitting? Something for myself, I think. Something warm and cozy for winter, but could still transition to spring (it’ll be here someday)

I’d rather be knitting almost anything from Cascadia.

(again, available through Ravelry and Cooperative Press too)

I don’t know how I have the self control to NOT simply cast on for Courtenay

The bell sleeves, the touch of lace, the promise of a quick worsted weight pullover. I want it now.

Weirdly Redcedar is also calling to me. And I never knit scarves. But that cover is just so cozy, it’s definitely the finished product calling me, not the process of knitting it.

And I sort of adore the mother daughter set that they’ve modeled for the Sea Glass pullover It’s too bad that boxy shape never looks good on me. But it doesn’t stop me from wanting to knit it. Actually I should knit it in Windsor’s size anyway. She would be so thrilled by a sweater with beads. I can see the grin on her face already.

Yup, I think that might be my weak spot, right there. Remember how, at the start of this, I said I wanted to knit something for myself? Turns out I was wrong. I’m a bit of a fickle knitter these days.

The awesomeness of books

So, as I mentioned my book is a combination of knitting patterns, and cooking recipes. That, combined with our photography, really make it a book worth having. Sure you can buy PDFs online and you can find lots of recipes too. But the book combines them both with tips and resources and puts it all in one convenient place.

Cooperative Press is really good about providing this sort of content: the patterns and MORE sort of knitting book. And that’s why today I want to remind you all about What (else) Would Madame DeFarge Knit?

(Also on Ravelry, and Cooperative Press)

This book combines knitting patterns, essays, and more. It’s a great book to sit down and read, not just to knit something from. As a designer in the book I felt like writing an essay really let me stretch my wings a little. Along with an awesome sweater dress:

iseult wafting

I got to write an awesome little story about how Iseult is not just your average princess, but really an empowered woman reaching through history to show that princesses weren’t always just waiting for their prince to come.

Intriuged? Please check out the whole book! And while you’re at it check out a few of my other favorite designs from WeWMDFK:

Ahab’s Gansey features some really amazing cables. It’s a mens sweater, but I’m not sure if Neil or I would wear it more…

Check out the birds on the thumbs of the Counting Crow mittens!

And finally the cables plus lace of Fosco’s Pret Pret Pretties make for a pair of VERY pretty little socks.

What’s your favorite pattern from What (else) Would Madame DeFarge Knit? Leave a note in the comments! Better yet, talk about it on your favorite form of social media (twitter? facebook? Even Raverly counts!) let Shannon know that you’re sharing the CP love here: http://bit.ly/lovetowin200 and you could win books, or even cash. Who doesn’t love winning?

She makes hats look good

Have you seen Theressa Silver’s book Hat Couture? I love it:

(Also available from Ravelry! and directly from Cooperative Press!)

Theressa has done the amazing work of turning classic, fashionable hat styles into knitting patterns. With no felting (although the fabric is knit at a dense gauge) you too can have a collection of styling hats.

frilly hat
This is Jackie, inspired by Jackie Kennedy, of course.

But where would you go in such a hat? Anywhere that requires a little dressing up, of course! I wore this one to a wedding. I fit right into the crowd, and got so many, many complements. Some of them were on my hat, but most people complemented my outfit. A hat simply pulls your whole outfit together.

frilly hat direct

Theressa does a really wonderful job explaining how to pull together the little bouquets of notions that adorn these hats as well. So between the excellent pattern that lets you shape a fully form top hat, to the decorations that make this a true act of millinery, she has it all covered.

marlene top hat
Marlene as knit by Faithellen on Ravelry.

Honestly though? I wish our culture wore more hats. They’re such a great accessory. People are all about scarves, bags, and jewelry. Why do hats get left out of the picture? I could pull together a great outfit for meeting friends at the little indie coffee shop down in the village:

Bette at the coffee shop

(This hat is Bette, and I love it extra for the crazy Robin Hood style feather!)

Or what about Sunday brunch? Why shouldn’t you wear a hat then?

sunday brunch with Carmen

(this is Carmen, it’s a little out there, but I know you can pull it off!)

Remember women, historically, wore their hats inside (as opposed to men who take their hats off when entering a building) so once you’ve done all that work you don’t have to feel like your outfit is incomplete the moment you step through the door.

If you want to know more about Hat Couture I highly recommend this behind the scenes post from Theressa herself.

Dominant and resessive

We’ve been having a bit of a conversation in the naknimitmo group regarding color work and yarn dominance. If you’ve never heard of yarn dominance the basic idea is that the stitches made with one yarn stand out more than the other based on how you’re holding them. Yarn dominance only comes into play when you’re knitting with two strands and it only matters at the edges between the two colors. But when it matters it can matter a lot.

The dominant yarn is always the one you hold closer to the fabric or under the other strand or strands. In this case I’m holding the white yarn dominant:


When working with two colors I normally hold both yarns in my right hand like this:


You can also hold one in each hand. Since I don’t knit continental I find this slows me down although it’s a pretty good trick when I want to knit with three colors in a single row.


I’m only brushing the surface here on “ways to hold your yarn.” I’m not even trying to cover things like yarn guides, or where to put third or fourth strands if you’re doing more than two colors in a row. Every knitter has their own preferences, techniques, and tricks for maintaining tension. I think the goal for stranded colorwork is to find something you’re comfortable with that doesn’t involve dropping and picking up each yarn as you go. (and hey, if you don’t think that slows you waaaay down, go for it)

But no matter where you hold the yarns or how you knit the dominant yarn is the one closest to the fabric and this makes the stitches just slightly bigger. If you’re looking at your hands and you still can’t figure out which is dominant my suggestion is to knit TWO gauge swatches. I know many knitters dislike them. But there’s really no better way to see how much yarn dominance is going to affect your knitting than to try it out. Any time one stitch is surrounded by a sea of the other color, or you have a diagonal line of single stitches, or little curlicues, or anything like that and you usually want the motif yarn to be dominant. That’d be whichever color your using for the flecks, lines, curlicues, flowers, and snowflakes.

I discovered something else about yarn dominance recently. It really matters when knitting corrugated ribbing. The dominant yarn should be the knit stitches, purls need to be the recessive yarn. If you get it backwards:

purls dominant

Then it just looks wrong. The purls are trying to come forward which just doesn’t work. Even the stitches themselves know that purls are supposed to recede. Poor things look so awkward. If you reverse things (ie frog it all and try again) and put the knit color yarn in the dominant spot:

knits dominant

See how much happier everything looks? The knits are coming forward just as they should. The purls are happily receding. So even though I’m using the white yarn as the dominant color in the hand of this mitten it needs to be recessive in the cuff. Sometimes I learn these things the hard way. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself!

Marcie’s knitting

Marcie was my coworker. She was also my friend and a really good knitter. She wouldn’t have said as much but I’ve seen the proof. She would tackle any pattern regardless of the skill level and would just learn what she needed on the fly. Cables, sock heels, short rows, entrelac… She even taught herself to knit right to left for entrelac because she’d read it would go faster that way. She wasn’t afraid of crochet trim or of frogging. She was willing to pull the needles out of her work any time it was necessary to fix a mistake.

She and I would sit together in meetings with our knitting. It was great to have the company.

Almost two years ago she died suddenly and unexpectedly. She didn’t have any valuables at work and her family didn’t want anything from her office. No one had gone thorough and cleaned up until this month. Afterwards my boss gave me these wrist warmers. Nothing too fancy, although the beads on the green are pretty. They’re a combination frilly and functional.

wrist warmers

Which is one of the things I love about knitting. Someone at work suggested I could “pull the yarn out” if I wanted to reuse it. I know Marcie wouldn’t be offended by that idea. But there’s no way I could do that. Instead I will wear them, use them, keep them as a physical memory of her until they’re worn out. Because that’s what knitting is meant for.

pink wrist warmers

Do you have any knitting with special memories worked into the stitches?


January is the dark gray heart of winter. If nothing else it’s a great time for knitting, so here’s what is on my needles. Actually, these are just the active projects that live downstairs, next to the couch. And/or that travel with me to work. There are a couple of things hibernating in the craft room which aren’t too far gone. Hopefully we’ll visit some of them soon!

Ok, sorry for the sidetrack. First off, we have my naknimitmo mittens:


Two color cuffs and hands with a lined cuff. These are in the ridiculously soft Yellowstone yarn from my distributor, Stitch Sprouts. The first mitten is done now, and I’ve just cast on for the second.

Three color socks. You may remember these are mom’s Christmas gift. Possibly they’ll be a mother’s day gift… We’ll see how they progress!


I swear gussets take FOREVER. I think it’s a mental block. I want them to go quickly, like the other parts of the heel. But the gusset is actually all those extra heel stitches PLUS all those foot stitches. By the time you’re finished with the gusset you’re half way done with the foot. I know this conceptually, but they still feel like they’re taking FOREVER.

And I’m balancing all that stranded color work with some stripes and cables in this Camden sweater. It just needs a second sleeve, and a hood!


New year, new goals

Starting a new calender triggers something in us humans. I haven’t done official resolutions for years now, but I do like to set goals. One of my big goals for 2015 is to reconnect. During Windsor’s first year it is understandable that we as a family drew in, kept things close to home, and spent the extra time learning about each other and our new roles in our little family.

But now I need to reach out, reconnect with friends in real life – and here online. I hope to visit your blogs and comment more often. I hope to share more here, and I hope to hear from you too! As a designer I’m hoping to get to TNNA again this year (The national convention for needle arts, which includes us knitwear designers) and as a knitter I’m hoping to get to Rhinebeck in the fall!

I’m also hoping to knit more. Since Windsor has recently accepted Daddy’s help at bedtime I have a real reason to hope that these things will work out!

What about you? Do you have goals, resolutions, and/or hopes for the new year? Let me know!

hat view

Neil’s new hat is Polonaise. I had it finished just before the new year, but then we needed to find a time for pictures when it wasn’t dark out…

odds and ends

I haven’t shown you this cute pair of mittens yet:

who needs thumbs 2

They’re for Windsor, so they’re thumbless. And I knit them up in a single weekend even though I knit 3.85 mittens total. I had almost finished the pair before I realized they were just the right size, which is bad for babies – they need room to grow.

I finished one more gift just in time for Christmas day:


This is the Eden Fells hat. It was still on the needles while people were opening gifts, but it was given on the 25th. I cast on for this hat at the end of last week, so I’m pretty proud that I had it finished on time – it’s 27 inches around (and just barely fits)

There is one more gift that was done on the 26th. More pictures soon, we just need to catch some daylight…

Finally, my gift along interview is up! I’m happy to be featured over at Tricot Treat (Maylin is the mastermind behind Wingspan, among other lovelies)