Monthly Archives: November 2013

Mashed Potato Crafting

I heard one of my friends talking the other day, and she used a term I had never heard before, but totally understood the moment she used it.  She was talking about how, when she had a crummy day, she would “watch Monk or Psych or something… you know, one of my mashed potato shows” and immediately feel better.  I thought that was a great way to put it.  Mashed potatoes are tasty, comforting and easy to digest.  They might not be as fancy as a gourmet meal, or as trendy as sushi, or as luxurious as lobster, but they totally will make you feel better after a long day.

mashed-potatoes-su-1673101-l“OK,” you’re thinking, “so the girl has a thing for potatoes.  What does that have to do with knitting?”  After all, you’re here for the crafting, not to hear me natter on about food.  My answer to you is: “It has nothing to do with Knitting!”  Ha! Fooled you, didn’t I?

Actually, I wanted to give a shout out to my favorite mashed potato craft, counted cross stitch.  When I’m stressed, or blue or just feeling lazy, and don’t want to do math, plan a new project, or dig out the right pair of knitting needles, I love to do some counted cross stitch.  There’s something comforting about it.  It serves no purpose, it doesn’t challenge my brain, and it is so totally easy.  It’s like coloring in a coloring book or doing a paint-by-numbers, but with thread.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m especially a fan of those little kits you’ll find in the bargain bin at Jo-Ann’s.  They’re always dumb stuff, like butterflies, or hearts, or little cutesy sayings, but they’re still fun and silly to make.  They give you everything you need (except scissors, because for some reason scissors are never included in kits), so you really and truly don’t have to think.  It’s the perfect mashed potato craft.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat is your mashed potato craft?

Pattern Spotlight: The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters

I don’t know if y’all remember my Persistence Sweater (the green one with cabled sleeves) from this summer, but I made it based on a pattern from Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters.  It’s a super cool book if you’re interested in designing your own sweaters, but still want someone to hold your hand a little bit while you do it.

12KN02The book is based on the idea of constructing a sweater, starting by casting on at the neck and working your way down the body and arms.  This allows you to try on your sweater as you go, to see how it’s fitting, and if you need to change anything while you work.  It’s really great, especially if you are a self-doubting, frogging and reknitting knitter like me.

She includes a few complete patterns for sweaters which are pretty, simple, and classic with interesting little details.  But, the golden part of this book are the tables.  The glorious, glorious tables!  I know I’m a bit of a data geek, but, come on.  They’re amazing.  Pages and pages of really comprehensive, and totally useful tables.

She includes basic outlines on how to do four different shoulder styles, as well as instructions on how to do several different necklines, cardigans and pull-over variations, long sleeves, and short.  And everything is written for 15 sizes and at 5 different gauges (that’s where the tables come in-she’s done all the math for you already!).

So, basically she lets you pick out your design elements from her buffet of knitterly goodness, add in a few decorative touches of your own, and before you know it, you’ll have a one-of a kind, custom-designed, hand-knit sweater.  Amazing!

Of course, if you’re a brand-new knitter, the charts and tables might be a bit intimidating, but this book is seriously worth taking a look at.  (Also, it’s quite a big book, because of all the great tables, so it might be a “knitting at home” project, instead of a traveling one.)  If you have a sweater swimming around in your head that you haven’t found a pattern for, give this book a shot, it might be just what you’re looking for.

Inspiration: The League

I just started watching The League recently.  And it’s kind of hilarious.


It’s not so surprising that it’s taken me so long to start watching the League, since it’s a TV show about a bunch of guys playing fantasy football.  I know nothing about fantasy football.  And almost nothing about football.  (That’s the one with the pointy ball, right? Just kidding.  I totally knew that.)  But you totally don’t have to know anything about football to enjoy this show.

At it’s core, it’s a comedy in the vein of Seinfeld or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  It’s a group of friends that hang out a lot and are generally terrible people and do terrible things to one another.  It’s a little bro-y, with lots of guy jokes, but it’s still entertaining if you don’t mind that sort of thing.

Anyhoo, I finally made it to season 4, where this happened:

The-League-Season-4-Episode-10-11-Our-Dinner-with-Andre-12.12-6-550x366[1]The gag is that one of the characters (in a long-running joke) has the worst taste in clothes of anyone ever in the history of the world.  The rest of the gang is trying to get on his good side, so they let him take them shopping.  And, well, that leads to these fantastic outfits.

Then, in one of my favorite lines in the show, one of the characters asks Kevin (in the blue shirt) “Where’s the rest of your turtleneck?” when he sees his new scarf.  Which I think is hilarious.

Now, I don’t recommend wearing a cowl scarf like Kevin’s with that outfit.  But I kind of want to make one for myself.  If you want to make a sweater-less turtleneck of your own, try one of these cozy patterns.

GAP-Tastic Cowl by Jen Geigley

IMG_6696_medium2[1]My Kind of Town Cowl by Trish Woodson

IMG_2070_medium2[1]Climb and Swirl Cowl by Craig Rosenfeld


An Amazing Surprise

A friend of mine, Heather, has been threatening to give me “a bag of knitting junk” for a really long time.  Apparently a friend of her mother’s had been about to donate all her knitting things to Goodwill, when my Heather’s mom took the bag to give to her daughter, who is an occasional knitter.  Unfortunately, Heather lives in a tiny apartment with a dog and two cats, and thus, did not really want the big bag of “knitting junk.”  So, she decided to give it to me.  (Woo.)

I tried not to take it, since these sorts of situations usually result in me having to pretend to ooh and aah over a half-dozen skeins of fun fur and three mismatched knitting needles.  But, Heather was persistent and last Thursday she brought along the big trash bag  full of craft supplies to our evening practice.  I tried to appear appreciative as I opened up the bag. 

When I actually looked inside, I was totally floored.  More than a dozen almost-full balls of crochet cotton, about 20 pairs of antique knitting needles, and the best gift I have received in a really long time:  The Bantam Step-by-Step book of Needlecraft by Julie Brittain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s an amazing all-encompassing needlecraft book with pictures that are awesomely eighties, but instructions that are totally timeless.  It’s got knitting, crochet, embroidery, tatting… everything.  It covers the history of needlework, as well as including patterns and techniques.

And best of all (this is actually  making me tear up a little), it’s the same book that my mom had when I was a kid.  I spent hours and hours (probably days… maybe even weeks) pouring over this book.  I taught myself so much from its pages.  It’s the reason that I know what Turkish Crochet is, how to do the Bobble stitch, and the recipe for my favorite mittens.  It was simply amazing to receive something so dear to my heart, and that I had totally forgotten about for years.  I’m pretty sure the rest of my team thought that I was a little crazy, the way I was carrying on.

But, you knitters understand!  Here are some of the fantastic knitting contents of this book:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAwesome eighties sweaters!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADelightful lace patterns!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClassic mitten and glove recipes!

Do you have a pattern or book that is particularly close to your heart?

Inspiration: Pumpkin Patch

I spent a wonderful afternoon last Saturday at the local pumpkin patch with my husband and a few of our friends.  We ran through a corn maze, picked out pumpkins and gourds to decorate the house, drank apple cider and ate too many apple doughnuts.  It was absolutely delightful (even if it was a little damp, being the Pacific Northwest and all).  I haven’t gone to a pumpkin patch like that since college, and it was just so fun to do again.

Now that fall is truly in full swing, I’m inspired to break out the autumnal knits:

Pumpkin Patch Socks by Maggie van der Stok

DSC00480_medium2[1]Pumpkin Patch by Anna Richardson

PP_wrapped_full_medium2[1]Autumn Nuts and Berries Hot Water Bottle Cosy by Leila Caroline Design

3602423447_968dc85a79_z[1]Autumnal Mitts by Jo Bangles


Pattern: The Sculptor’s Scarf


I designed this scarf as a Christmas gift for my boss, who is a ceramics artist.  It’s inspired by some of his most recent works which are big chunky sculptures inspired by themes of of antiquity and archeology.  He creates great big thick slabs of clay, textured to look like weathered stone, and stands them up with brightly-colored legs.  (I’m describing it poorly, they’re actually really cool.)

This scarf is my interpretation of his sculptures, but in wool.  It’s a big, chunky scarf that’s manly enough for guys to actually wear, but is technically challenging enough to keep a knitter’s attention.  The scarf is knit shortways, on great big needles with bulky yarn, so you only have 16 stitches per row, which will get you screaming along in no time!  The background is textured in seed stitch, which will keep the scarf lying flat.  Intarsia is used to work the bright red 2×2 cable running up the middle of the scarf.   Finishing is minimal, and the final project is sure to please.

Sculptors Scarf

This is Where the Magic Happens

We (my husband and I) just moved to a new house!  It’s very exciting.  And, while the process was crazy stressful and we still have several (maybe more than several) boxes to unpack, I’m so happy with our new place.

One of my favorite things about the new house is that I get to use the spare bedroom as a craft room (if this knitting thing ever turns into a real job, I’ll get to call it a studio, but for now, it’s a craft room).

In the old house, I kept all my craft things up in the finished attic, which was also nice. The only problem with the attic was that I am 5’10”, and the attic was only about 6 feet tall at the highest point (I don’t know what the word is for that kind of roof, but it was all slanty, and constantly threatened me with concussions).  Needless to say, I didn’t use the attic craft room as much as I should have.

But, here, in all its new crafty glory, is my new craft room.  The nerve center of all things On the Needles.  This is where the sausage gets made (or rather, will get made, once I finish unpacking the rest of the house). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Behold: old issues of knitting magazines, a pile of finished (and unfinished) knitting projects that need to get photos for the blog, bins of random craft supplies that I can’t bear to throw away because “I might need them some day.”  A bookshelf complete with not one, but two copies of Stitch-n-Bitch (that I received as Christmas gifts from two different friends the same year, but I still haven’t given away for some reason).  A comfy old hand-me-down chair from my folks, and a desk that we salvaged from a dumpster more than 15 years ago (and is still perfectly good).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOh yes, I will spend many happy, productive hours here, with my needles (and my keyboard) clicking away to bring you lots of knitterly goodness.

Where do you do your crafting?

DIY DPN Holder

Here’s a neat idea from blogger the Good Weekly.  DIY felt DPN (double-pointed needle) cases.  How cute are they?  If I had a million hours to do all the cute stuff I found online, I would be a happy camper.  But this project… I might just do, even though I don’t have a million hours.

holder_group-810x537[1]Go visit the Good Weekly to see their super simple tutorial.


Because I Haven’t Got Enough on My Plate

nanowrimoHave you guys heard about this cool group of online nerds called NaNoWriMo?  It’s short for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s an organization of folks that get together (in real life and online) during the month of November and they write first drafts of their novels.  It’s 50,000 words in 30 days and it’s kind of insane.  But also, amazingly popular.  This year there are almost 300,000 participants (of course, not everyone finishes, but still).

I heard about it years ago, back in high school (which is now more than 10 years ago…eep!), when a friend of mine attempted it.  I thought it was sort of crazy, sort of cool, and promptly forgot about it.  But, this year, I thought hey, why not?  I’m only working part time, after all, and I do like to write.  And, I thought, it might be a good way to exercise some creative parts of my brain that I don’t use too often.

Anyway, if you notice the blog being a little neglected this month, comments going unanswered, a few less patterns going up, that’s what’s happening.  I’ve only just started, and I don’t know if I’ll reach my 50,000 words by November 30.  And even if I do, I have no doubts that story will be way to terrible to let other people see it.  But, I thought it was a cool concept, and a great way to get my creative juices flowing in a totally non-crafty way.

What do you do to stretch your creativity?

Inspiration: In the Fog

Usually fall in Seattle entails rain.  And drizzle. And more rain.  And overcast skies.  And more rain.  Delightful, no?

But, for some reason, this year, Seattle looks like this:

grey_square[1]It’s been crazy foggy for approximately two weeks, and I’m about ready to go crazy up in here.  It’s pretty much the worst.  It’s gray and never really gets any brighter than sort of a wan pre-dawn kind of light.  And, driving is terrifying!  You can’t see more than a block or two ahead of you with any sort of clarity.

But, I suppose, when life gives you lemons (or fog), you make lemonade (or fog-inspired sweaters).

So, here’s what I would like to knit to hold the fog at bay:

Fog Sweater by Tiennie

2183219713_e49a79cf80_z[1]Seattle Fog Beanie by Julie Grantz LeFrancois

6668403171_02b1682249_z[1]Patchwork in Fog, by Mimi FautleyKSH_Stripe_for_pattern_medium2[1]