Funfetti Yarn

From time-to-time I like to stretch my fiber-arts legs and try out something other than knitting (heresy, I know!).  Sometimes, I roll out the ol’ spinning wheel and, well, take it for a spin.

This time, I impulse-purchased a big bag of bright white roving, and little tufts in a dozen bright rainbow colors.  I couldn’t tell you what kind of fiber I bought, because, well, it’s taken me more than four months to finish this skein, and any notes or labels I might have had when I purchased the wool are long gone.

I spun the roving into singles with alternating long white stripes and short-ish (about 3 feet long) sections of random color.   Then, last week, I finally plied the yarn into more than 250 yards of squishy 2-ply loveliness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK, it’s not perfect…  I did my best to keep the yarn an even aran-ish weight, but with the weeks-long breaks between bouts of spinning, and my less-than-stellar spinning skills, the yarn ended up with a bit of a thick-and-thin consistency.  And my first attempt at 2-ply yarn left it with less-than-perfect evenness.  Oh well!  It gives the yarn character, right? Right?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite it’s quirks, I’m happy with this yarn… now I just have to figure out what to make with it.  (Or maybe I should just keep it to look at.)

Have you ever tried spinning?  How did it turn out?

What’s On Your Needles?

It’s been a blue moon since I’ve checked in with you on what you guys are making, and I think it’s time for me to change that!

My friend Jenny just finished this darling little baby sweater!  (We picked out the buttons together when we visited Bainbridge Island last month.)  It’s a fantastic Halloween-y mix of purple green and black, with tiny silvery-gray mother-of-pearl buttons.image_medium2[1]Adorable, right?  I’m so glad Jenny sent me a picture of the finished project, because her visit to Seattle ended before she got to finish the sweater.

She used the Sunnyside pattern by Tanis Lavallee, which comes in two adorable versions-featuring cables and garter stitch or zig-zag lace and darling picot edging.

5617340260_185f264cd1_z[1]Too cute!

So, what are you working on?  I’d love to see!  And, if you want to send along photos, they might end up on the blog (with your permission, of course!)


Project Bags!

My folks came out to visit me last weekend (Hi Mom! Hi Dad!) and we spent three days exploring the Puget Sound, riding the ferry, and eating too much good food.  It was great to get to spend time with them without having to worry about doing all the holiday stuff that comes with visiting at Christmas or Thanksgiving (not that I mind making Christmas cookies and eating green bean casserole).

And not to sound too materialistic, but Mom brought me a present!  An adorable little project bag, perfect for a pair of socks-in-progress.

And, do you know the best part about the project bag?  She designed and made it herself- from sewing the bag all the way down to creating the fabric designs!il_570xN.835404308_255k[1]I know, right!  Look at those goats!  Adorable!

I will own that I’m pretty good with needles and yarn, but while I like doodling from time to time, I’m not half the graphic artist my mom is.  (She’s actually going to school for illustration and has a pretty cool little business designing fabric and paper goods)

il_570xN.835407966_lncv[1]She actually has on a whole line of knitting- and crochet-inspired patterns, and then is using them to make bags, pouches, chidren’s clothes, and all manner of useful things.  Look at this sheep/stockinette project bag.  Could you get any cuter?

il_570xN.780881295_lwek[1]And, she’s even making little hand-bound notebooks, perfect for throwing into your matching knitting bag!

il_570xN.825976551_3v45[1]I know I’m a little biased, but I think that any of these would make a great gift for a favorite knitter in your life (or me!).    If you want to take a look at all the adorable things Mom makes, you can visit her Etsy store here:

Paper or Threads

Or, if you want to make your own projects from the fabric she designed, click here:


An Open Letter

To the Creators of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries:

Greetings from a huge fan! I love your show. I love the characters. I love that Season 3 is now available through Netflix. The strong female characters, the fashion, and the delightful storytelling. There’s not much I enjoy more after a long day than snuggling up on the couch with a cup of tea (or a stiff Tom Collins), a sock-in-progress, and a new episode of Miss Fisher.

Imagine how excited I was when, in Episode 4, Season 3 there was a knitting story-line! A young street kid has a sweater that had once belonged to his father. When he comes to live with Miss Fisher and Co for a few days (because of reasons), Dot discovers the sweater and offers to re-knit it in his size.DotWhat a fantastic gesture! And totally something that a knitter would do (we are a sentimental lot). Dot rips out the sweater, winds it up and casts on, all in (I think) an evening.

Then- and here is the first problem with this episode- the boy demands (demands!) that Dot finishes the sweater by the next day!Dot3Oh my god! I can’t even.

The gall of someone to demand knitting! Nothing makes me less inclined to keep knitting more than someone demanding knitting, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. If someone comes up to me and says “Make me a hat,” you can bet your best pair of Addi Turbos that I will not be making that person a hat.

But, does Dot respond like a normal knitter- nay, a normal person? No! She just smiles and gives the kid a look that says, “Oh, you scamp.” I know that Dot is an obliging and sweet young lady, but honestly, show a little backbone!Dot4And here’s most ridiculous part:

She actually finishes the sweater the next day!Dot5What?!

Dot’s sweetness and helpfulness aside, that’s just physically impossible. To knit an entire sweater for a 13-year-old boy, seamed, finished and blocked in what is clearly aran weight yarn (a thin worsted, at most) in 24 hours, even without breaks for sleeping, eating, or catching murderers is physically impossible. Seriously? Who fact-checks your knitting?

So, here’s my advice: next time you have a knitting-related storyline, please fact check it with an actual knitter.


An Avid Fan

PS.  What’s up with Hugh this season? He’s being a butt. Make him stop.

PPS. Where does Phryne get her earrings? I need them.

PPPS. I still love your show.


Sorry, Folks! I totally promised you that I’d tell you about adding the zippers to my husband’s sweater… and then I didn’t. My husband has been wearing his sweater almost every day for the past month or so, so it’s starting to look a little lived-in, but it’s still holding up pretty well.

Anyway, here’s the zipper. (I think it turned out pretty well.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I don’t really have a secret to zipper installation, or any magic techniques. I just pin them very carefully and make sure that both sides match up well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then, I use a needle and thread to carefully sew the zipper to the knitting, trying my best to make the stitches on the outside of the sweater hidden. That means the inside stitches end up being a little messy, but the inside isn’t the important part.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Easy, right? Sort of, anyway.

Have you ever used a zipper for your sweater?

Speedy Sweater

Whee! That went way faster than I thought it would! I guess when you make a cropped, short-sleeved sweater in bulky yarn, it goes really fast! Who would have thought?

This sweater, from casting on to binding off, probably took about a week! I should make all my sweaters like that–size 10s forever!

Like I said before, I worked this sweater as a top-down raglan with a V-neck, based on Ann Budd’s book, so I didn’t have to do any math. (Even math nerds like me enjoy a break from time to time.) And, as I went, I added cables and lace from my Japanese pattern book.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Meanwhile, I added a little k2p2 ribbing to make the sweater a little more fitted without having to worry about doing actual shaping. It’s a trick I picked up years ago. K2p2 ribbing is the stretchiest/most elastic stitch pattern, so it can act as elastic, pulling the sweater tight, when you work it in panels on the sides of your sweater. I also added a nice wide ribbed waistband and cuffs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m so happy with how it turned out! I have a bunch of high-waisted, summery dresses, and now I can wear them with this sweater and a pair of tights all the way through winter!

Ollie likes it, too!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you ever made a project in less time than you expected?

Back to School

It’s September, and that means one thing (in the US, anyway). It’s back to school time!

I don’t have kids, and I’m not a schoolteacher, but I am excited to get back to my after school teaching job!

I think I’ve mentioned before, but my “day job” involves bringing sewing machines to local elementary schools, teaching kids how to use them, and working with them to make awesome (and adorable) projects. You don’t know what pride is until you see a first grader finally finish the teddy bear he spent the last three weeks on, or the third grader doing a happy dance while wearing the PJ pants she just finished hemming. My job is kind of the best (apart from schlepping those sewing machines), and even on days when the kids are being pains in my butt, I still love it.

Now, I don’t teach the kids to knit, but here are knit versions of some of the kids’ favorite sewing projects:

Headbands are always popular (I’ve had kids make dozens of headbands, for themselves and as gifts for their entire families.)

wishbraid by Erika Neitzke

IMG_3444rav_medium2[1]Hackey-sacks and beanbags are fun, too. The only problem is keeping the kids from throwing them around the class and exploding popcorn everywhere.

The All Good Hacky Sack by Gillian Kratzer

100_3889_medium2_medium[1]And, of course stuffed animals of every kind are always crazy popular. (Do you know that kids (in Seattle, at least) call stuffed animals “stuffies”? I’m not sure why, but I find that term vaguely off-putting.)

Pookies by Barbara Prime

pookies_medium2[1]Have you ever done arts and crafts with kids? What do your kids like to make?

Button Trouble

It has been well-documented that I have a problem with buttons.  The same way someone with a caffeine addiction has a problem with coffee, or a shopaholic has a problem with shoes.  It won’t kill me or anything (and thank god they’re not too expensive), but, well, I can’t stop myself.

And so, despite the fact that I have an entire jar of vintage buttons, a Zip-loc bag full of sets of buttons I just “couldn’t pass up,” and I find cards of buttons sprinkled here and there around my studio, I “had to” get a new set of perfect buttons for my cardigan.

We had friends in town, and they wanted to ride the ferry and visit one of the islands (they’re from Texas and riding a ferry is a fun, new experience for them.  I’m from the Midwest, and even though I’ve lived here for almost 5 years, I still love it, so I’m not going to argue.)  We went over to Bainbridge Island and spent a day beach combing, shopping and eating.

On Bainbridge there is a gorgeous knitting shop, Churchmouse Yarns and Teas (they make lots of patterns that you might have seen.  I love their Turkish Bed Socks.)

And they have a gorgeous selection of beautiful (and super-classy) buttons.

I almost got a set of vintage-looking silver buttons, but changed my mind at the last minute because I was afraid they’d be too heavy and weigh down the front of my sweater.  Instead, I picked out four beautiful gray mother-of-pearl buttons.  They are subtle and classy, and pick up on the beautiful variegated blues of the yarn.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course, mother-of-pearl buttons are hard to photograph, so you’ll have to imagine their color being a little less silver, and a little more rainbow-y and beautiful.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat do you keep collecting, even if you don’t need to?

Inspiration: Off to College

My brother-in law is right in the middle of his first month at college, and I’m so excited for him!  He’s going to SIU, Carbondale (in Illinois), and working for a degree in Aviation. How impressive is that!   He already has his private pilot’s liscense, and he’s well on his way to becoming a commercial airplane pilot.  He’s been into planes since I met him when he was little-more than 10 years ago, and now he’s turning his passion into a career.  It’s so impressive!

As you know, when I get excited about something, I think about what I can knit to celebrate it.  And in this case,  here’s what I’m thinking:

My brother-in-law is a guy of simple tastes and if I were to make him a sweater, it would definitely look something like this.  Simple, utilitarian, and nice and warm for those Illinois winters.

# 1212 Zipper Hoodie for Men by Diane Soucylo_res_hoodie_medium2[1]But that would be pretty boring to knit.  So maybe I should making something a little goofier.  Like this airplane-themed hat.

The Airplane Beanie by North Star KnitsPlane_Hat_1_medium2[1]I suppose that hat is a little juvenile for a 18-year-old college student, though.  I guess I should go classic and make my brother-in-law a SIUC scarf and call it a day.  I’d just have to change the colors from blue and orange to burgundy and black, and I’d be good to go.

Clemson College Scarf by Molly Mattersoct8_019_medium2[1]Congrats to my brother-in-law!  I can’t wait to see where you go!

Book Worm

I’ve been thinking and planning and dreaming about the sweater I’m going to make with my big blue skein of yarn from Lopez Island.

I’ve decided I want it to be a cardigan, probably a V-neck, and, I think, a raglan. Like I said the other day, I’m planning on making this into a cropped sweater, but I’m not sure on how long I want my sleeves to be (at least long enough to cover the short sleeves of a couple favorite dresses).  Maybe 3/4 sleeves, or even long sleeves (if I have enough yarn).

All this together (raglan, a short body, and not being sure about the sleeves) screams “top-down sweater.” If I do the sweater top-down, I can try it on as I go, and keep going until I am happy with the length.  And when I make a top-down sweater, there is no other book to look to but Ann Budd’s “The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you’re even a little interested in making your own sweater designs, grab a copy of this book.  In it, Ann Budd has done all the math to make virtually any sweater you want.  (She’s worked out 4 different styles of sweater, both cardigan and pullover, with v-necks and crew-necks in virtually any size and with nearly any yarn.)  Just find your gauge, decide your size and follow along.  You can follow the patterns as written for a super-classic sweater, or add cables, bobbles, lace or whatever else you like to create something really special.

Any time I decide to make myself a sweater and don’t feel like following an honest-to-goodness pattern or doing my own math, I turn to Ann Budd’s book.  (And, since I’m working with limited yarn on this sweater, I can make the body of the sweater, then work the sleeves until I run out of yarn! No waste and no guessing!)

I’ve got my basic sweater plan now it’s time for the fun stuff… the decorations!  The autumn rain is beginning to fall in Seattle, so I think I’m feeling some cables coming on.  But, this yarn is super-chunky, so I don’t want to make the sweater too heavily-cabled, or it will end up making me look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  So, maybe I want to add a little lace, too.

Just like how I have a go-to sweater construction book, I have a go-to stitch pattern book.  But here’s the thing; I don’t even know its name.

It’s a Japanese stitch dictionary that I found at a grocery store in Seattle’s International District.  It’s got hundreds of gorgeous knit stitches in every style- cables, lace, textures.  It’s to die for.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you have a Japanese book store by you, totally see if you can find one of these books (I’m pretty sure it is from a series-I’ve seen other similar books elsewhere).  Or, if you search for Japanese knitting books on Amazon, you’ll find something like it.

Inside, it’s full of page after page of swatches, accompanied by surprisingly understandable charts.  I don’t read a word of Japanese, and I use it all the time!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking through the book, I think I’ve settled on this pattern- how pretty would that lace look down the back of a sweater at an over-sized gauge?

Now I’m itching to start knitting!

What knitting books are your go-to favorites?