Monthly Archives: April 2014

Know Your Neck Warmers

It may seem odd, but did you know that spring is the perfect time of year for scarves, shawls and neck-warming devices of all kinds?  They add just enough warmth to a light spring jacket that you can stand to wait at the chilly bus stop in the morning.  And, when it warms up in the afternoon, you can just shove your scarf into your bag for the commute home.

But the question remains, what kind of neck-warming device is right for you?

Perhaps a scarf is best for you?  Scarves are… scarves.  I don’t think I really have to define them.  Long, skinny, warm.  They are usually worked in thicker yarn and a denser stitch pattern than stoles or shawls

Noro Striped Scarf by Jared Flood

475926102_16053747ec_z[1]Of course, scarves are traditionally rectangular, but sometimes scarves can get a little crazy, like this one:

Wingspan by maylin Tri’Coterie Designs

2012-03-03_01_Wingspan_medium2[1]Shawls, on the other hand, tend to be lacy or light in some way.  They are knit into interesting shapes, most traditional shawls are triangles or half-circles (although you can find shawls in almost any shape).

Haruni by Emily Ross

Haruni-0001-ps_medium[1]Citron by Hilary Smith Callis

4185481652_ce7acd1bc1_z[1]Hitchhiker by Martina Behm

CIMG7960When a shawl and a scarf get mixed together, you can end up with a stole.  Stoles aren’t as common as the other two, but they are still totally gorgeous and practical.  They are essentially just a super-wide scarf (upwards of 12 inches across), but they’re usually very delicate and fancy, often knit with lace and beads.  A stole is the perfect choice to be worn with a fancy ball gown or to a wedding.

Seascape Stole by Kieran Foley

2518633229_a7e2951036_z[1]As fancy as a stole is, a cowl is completely functional.  It’s a tube of fabric that you slip over your head.  Imagine it as a scarf without ends to tuck into your collar, or a turtleneck without the sweater.  Super comfy cozy, and perfect for those times you don’t want to mess with getting the ends of your scarf tangled.

Bandana Cowl by Purl Soho

6235518543_46ba4d5d58_z[1]What kind of neck warmer is your favorite?

Inspiration: Stardust Shawl

I was poking around, looking for a movie to watch this weekend, and I stumbled upon Stardust (free on Amazon Prime).  It was one of my favorite movies for a while, but I hadn’t seen it in a few years. I watched it again, and was happy to find out that it’s still amazing. it’s got everything:  true love, not-so-true love, a cross-dressing pirate, image-obsessed witches, a unicorn, and a guy who gets turned into a goat.  It’s pretty perfect.

A few minutes in, I noticed something else it had.  One of the background characters in an early scene was wearing this shawl:

stardust1Totally gorgeous, right?  I love the gradient stripes made with the natural wool colors and the delicate lace pattern.

Want to make something similar?

Encyclopaedie by Maria Steiner

encyklopaedie__11__medium2[1]panta rhei by Maria Steiner

hm2_medium2[1]Svínavatnshyrna by Sigridur Halldorsdottir


Stellar’s Jay Sweater: Planning

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I am essentially an 80 year old woman in a 28-year-old’s body.  I love drinking tea, watching procedural cop dramas, puttering around in my garden, and obviously, knitting.  When I was in college, I tried to deny it, but I have given up.  I’m an old lady, and I’m A-OK with it.

As an old lady, I spend an inordinate amount of time watching the birds that are hang around my bird feeders on the back porch.  We get house finches, juncos, chickadees, and squirrels (who have already destroyed two bird feeders).  But my favorite birds by far are the Stellar’s Jays that live in the great big cedar tree in the corner of our garden.stellers_jay[1]I’d never seen these birds until we moved to the PNW.  They are incredibly striking, slightly bigger than a Blue Jay, and their colors are spectacular.   They’re a super dark, rich, black on their top half, and a bright cerulean blue on their bottom half.  They have a great big crest of feathers on the top of their head, which looks like a particularly sassy mohawk.  I love watching them hang out on our porch.

In honor of my favorite bird-feeder visitor, I thought I would make a sweater inspired by their gorgeous plumage.  And, I am going to bring you along on the design and knitting process.

My plan is for a pullover worked with a bold blue-to-black gradient inspired by the Stellar’s Jay plumage.  The design is still a little hazy in my brain right now, but I know it will solidify once I start playing with the yarn.

I’ll start by ordering some of my favorite sweater yarn: Knit Pick’s Swish Worsted.   It’s a super-wash merino wool, so it’s both durable and super cuddly soft.  It comes in about 40 colors and is pretty reasonably priced.

I picked out two skeins of each color:

Black (duh)

23876Delft Heather


Marine Heather24094Gulfstream25137Very Stellar, no?

When my order gets here, I’ll work up some swatches and start playing with math.  But for now, I think I need to go refill my bird feeder.  Stupid squirrels.


I’m Still a Baller: Winding Yarn Part 3

I want to show you one more way to wind a ball of yarn.  This one’s easier, but it takes a bit of hardware, so it may or may not be right for you.

This is a ball winder.  They cost about 45-50 bucks, depending on the brand, which is a little pricey.  If you wind a lot of yarn, it might be a worthwhile investment.  If you only go through a couple skeins of yarn a year, maybe not.  If you don’t want to invest in one for yourself, see if your local yarn store has one available for customers, sometimes they do.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMine screws to the edge of a bookshelf or table.  I’ve seen ones with handles that you can hold, but that seems like it would be awkward to use, since I don’t have three hands.

When you have your ball winder situated, thread your yarn through the little metal eyelet, and attach the end to the slots at the top of the winder.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen start twirling the handle and watch the yarn start to wind itself into a ball.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATurning the handle spins the  top part of the winder, which, in turn, winds the yarn into a perfect cake.  Keep going, and watch the yarn build up.  Ooh! Aah!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce you have wound all the yarn, wrap the end around the outside of the cake a couple times and tie off the end.  Pull the cake from the winder, and you’ve got yourself a perfect center-pull ball of yarn.


Inspiration: Cheap Candy Day

It’s the day after Easter, and that can only mean one thing:

Cheap. Easter. Candy.

But, since I don’t have the metabolism of a sixteen-year-old anymore (alas), let’s celebrate Cheap Candy Day with some candy-inspired knitwear.

Munch on some (imaginary) jellybeans with these colorful beaded socks:

Mixed Jelly Beans Socks by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer

2266121239_c1a9dbc8b1_z[1]Instead of the sticky yellow bird-shaped variety of marshmallows, try these super-cozy-looking mitts:

Marshmallow by tincanknits

GWN-marshmallow-01_medium2[1]And, if you really want to indulge, wrap yourself up in chocolate with this stole:

Chocolate Mousse Stole by Dagmara

il_fullxfull.171146902_medium2[1]OK, all this talk of candy has made me hungry.  I might just have to stop by the grocery store sale bin anyway.  So much for self-control.

Pattern: Seedling Mitts

I’m legit!  I’m a real live pattern designer now!  Of course, I’ve been writing patterns for quite a while now, but so far, they’ve all been self-published.  Yesterday my first pattern published with a legit publisher went live!  It’s very exciting.  I feel all grown up!

The pattern is for my new Seedling Mitts, and is available on Knit Picks through their Independent Designer Program.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey’re little fingerless gloves that would be perfect for puttering around the garden on a cool spring day (like today).  They are knit up in Knit Picks Palette, which is a really nice hard-wearing wool that comes in a million colors, but if you don’t want to buy the yarn online, you could use any fingering-weight yarn.

My favorite part of the pattern is the little slip-stitch patter around the edges of the mitts.  It’s surprisingly easy to do, but it looks super complicated and cool when it’s done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, drop by Knit Picks and pick up a copy of my Seedling Mitts pattern!

I’m a Baller: Part 2

Two weeks ago, I talked about how to roll a ball of yarn the traditional way.  A regular old ball of yarn is plenty useful, but sometimes they can be a pain.  You could be working somewhere with a less-than-sanitary floor (at a bus stop), or somewhere where going after a runaway ball of yarn would be difficult (on an airplane), or perhaps an ill fate would befall your yarn if it left your vicinity (maybe you have a vicious house cat or sticky toddler?)

A traditionally wound ball of yarn can get itself rolling (and unraveling).  But, a center-pull ball doesn’t have that problem, and it’s almost as easy to wind as a regular ball of yarn.

It starts exactly the same way.  Wind a good amount of yarn into a figure-8 around your thumb and forefinger.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARemove the figure-8 from your fingers and wind your yarn around one end of the figure-8 until it gets nice and puffy. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKeep winding and turning around that initial puff of yarn, just like you did the regular ball of yarn.  Change directions every so often, and keep a finger or two caught in the loops to keep the yarn from getting too tight.   Just remember that the end of the figure-8 is poking out the top of the ball, like a strange little tuft of hair.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, when you’ve finished winding all the yarn, tuck in the end  so that it won’t unravel itself when you throw your ball in your knitting bag.  When you’re ready to start knitting, pull out the whole tuft from the top of the ball, and get to work!


Another Kind of Needle

I play roller derby.  I’m one of maybe 5 people on the whole league that doesn’t have any tattoos.  Because of this, my friends are always telling me that I need to get a tattoo (or six).  They’ve even drawn out tattoos for me.  I like their ideas, but frankly, I’m pretty sure if I got one of their tattoos I’d regret it five years down the line. I’m indecisive like that.

But this one… I like this tattoo. I might be convinced to get this tattoo

tumblr_ltej2eb1eE1qzabkfo1_400It’s a ruler along her index finger and a notepad on her wrist.  How clever is that?  I can never find a ruler when I need one.  I have used the dimensions of my phone (5″x2.75″) to eyeball a piece of knitting more times than I can count.  I might have to go make a tattoo appointment.*


*Don’t worry, Mom.  I’m not actually getting a tattoo.  I just think that a ruler tattoo is a pretty clever idea.


Inspiration: In the Puget Sound

The weather says it’s going to be gorgeous this weekend-60s and sunny. I think it’s time to break out the wellies and head down to the Sound for some tide pooling. It’s been too cold and wet to do much of that lately, which is a shame.

They’re will probably be lots of kelp. Which, if you can find a piece that’s clean enough, you can eat. It’s slightly crunchy. Not bad. (Not good either.)

kelp-forest[1]Dan’s ‘Kelp’ Scarf by Elizabeth Jarvis

Ochre sea stars hang out on the beach, too. Look at those pretty colors. Isn’t it weird how one species can come in orange, maroon and purple?

a4fdabc65445e5084fb4f466e973185c[1]Starfish Pillow by Sarah Sacco

imagejpeg_2_medium2[1]Seagulls are as common here as pigeons, but they are a pretty kind of pest. I was hanging out in one of the city parks the other day and I watched one eat a small starfish. It took the poor bird about 5 minutes to get it down, and when he finally managed to swallow, you could see the lump go all the way down his throat. It looked super uncomfortable.  Makes me glad that I have teeth that let me chew my food before swallowing it.

seattle_seagulls[1]Seagull by Ruth Sorensen

DSCN0721_medium2[1]And, even though I probably won’t be able to see one, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a Giant Pacific Octopus. They live all over up here, but they hang out pretty deep down in the water. I suppose I could go scuba diving if I wanted to see one, but that water is dang cold.

giant-pacific-octopus-big-red[1]Octopus Mittens by Emily Peters

OctoMitts_medium2[1]Speaking of cold water, splashing around in the sound, even with wellies on, gets mighty chilly mighty quick. Do you think I have time to make these boot liners before low tide?

Warm Wellies Boot Liner by Jeanne Stevenson


Pattern Spotlight: Baby Sophisticate

A few years ago, it seemed like everyone I knew was getting married (including me, so I don’t really have any room to complain).  For some reason I decided that the perfect wedding gift was a hand knit or crocheted blanket.  I soon began to hate that decision.  When you have one wedding a year, it’s fine.  However, when you start having three weddings every month, that’s a lot of late nights.

Now, as the song goes, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…  a whole passel of babies (what’s a group of babies called?  A herd? A pod?  A holler?).

But this time, I am being smart about what hand knits I give out.  Babies get sweaters. Not great big blankets.  Maybe a little stuffed animal or a matching pair of bootees, if I’m feeling generous.  I’m a big fan of EZ’s Baby Surprise Jacket, but sometimes knitting even a tiny sweater in sock yarn is more than I’m up for.  When I learned that a friend was expecting twins, and invited me to a baby shower in a week, I knew that even I couldn’t bang out two BSJ’s in time.

I went to Ravelry and started poking around for an alternative, and I found the perfect baby sweater.  It’s the Baby Sophisticate by Linden Down.  It’s a free download and comes in two sizes, 0-3 months and 6-12 months.  It’s knit up on size 8 needles and Aran yarn (although I used worsted, which worked fine). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s an absolutely adorable pattern.  It’s well-written and easy to follow.  The garter-stitch shawl collar makes the sweater look fancy, but it’s completely easy to do.  And, since it’s knit at a larger gauge, I managed to knit up two sweaters in about a week.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, if you have a skein or two of something superwash, and you know of someone (or six people) in the family way, keep the Baby Sophisticate in mind.