Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Book Magic

Oh look!  A dog house!

And a couple of really cute dogs who are sort-of friends.

The dog on the left lives in the little house, which, like a snail, he carries with him always.

This lovely book by Susan B. Anderson features the dog in the doghouse design on pages 95-103.  Another nice quality--it's spiral bound.

And while I'm on the subject of lovely books, a review copy of 60 Quick Knit Baby Essentials came my way recently.  

While the book's patterns showcase a newish acrylic-nylon yarn from Cascade called Cherub, I think you could substitute another Cascade or comparable of the same weight, approximately DK or light worsted. Like many of the Cascade-related books published by Sixth & Spring, there's a lot of bang for the buck, plus the designs are a good mix of practical and super-cute. What I particularly like about them is the practice they offer for color-work, cables, lace trim, and intarsia. 

If you're interested in learning a new technique or refining one you've already tried, think of these designs, whether for clothing, toys, blankets, or pillows, as miniature study opportunities. Knitting a classic aran sweater or onesie for a baby enriches your cable and bobble skills but doesn't commit you to the heavy challenge of an adult-sized fisherman sweater. (Yet it might inspire you to make something for yourself that uses the same stitch repertoire.) And if you know a special baby who deserves something hand-knitted and adorable--the designs are sized from about six months through eighteen months--you'll find many enticing projects.

The publisher has offered a copy as a giveaway to my readers, so post a comment before midnight on June 7th, and I'll select a winner (with a US mailing address). 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

My mother made these mittens for me in 1984.

The seam on the right suggests that they were done on two rather than four needles.

Here we are in 1973 (my sister on the right).

Requiescat in pacem, Muriel Moss, 1929-2006.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Exit Eneri Knits

How sad to report that Eneri Knits in Exeter, Rhode Island, will close this month. Irene Garza DeVerna, the shop's founder, did an impressive job of creating a welcoming venue for knitters and crocheters, supplying excellent yarns and notions, sponsoring enjoyable classes, and fostering a community of people interested in needlework and camaraderie. Although she's not participating in the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl, which happens on the weekend of April 17-19, Irene asked me to mention that Eneri Knits will be open then, and the shop's remaining merchandise and fittings on sale.

Thanks, Irene, for everything.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Seasonal knitting

Time to expand our notions of what seasonal knitting implies! Passover provided the opportunity to knit yarmulkes for two of my guys.  Here they are, facing the promised land.

T, left, models yarmulke made from self-patterning Fair Isle sock yarn; H, right, models yarmulke of  silk/cotton blend DK yarn.

I discovered this lovely and quick pattern on Ravelry. It's free, of course. Designed by Jennifer Tocker, the yarmulke is intended to be in reverse stockinette, but I found that it's completely reversible. (Model on left is in reverse stockinette, model on right is stockinette.) Pattern instructions are meticulous and detailed. Thanks, Jennifer!

And then I learned that April is National Stress Awareness Month, and that the Craft Yarn Council is running a campaign to "Stitch Away Stress." To that end, it's providing a free pattern for a knitted or crocheted stress ball shaped like a lemon.

Possibly you're thinking, "I need this like a hole in the head"?

Look--if it reduces stress, why not? And you might have some yellow yarn in your stash that's just yearning to be liberated. And you have loads of free time to sit around knitting lemons, right?

I checked out the Craft Yarn Council website, which I've in the past consulted for design issues, like sizing measurements, and this time, under their Health heading, I was favorably impressed by a video in which folks discuss how knitting reduces anxiety, and so forth. There are also compelling anecdotes in the readers' comments section. You can see them all by clicking here. You can add your own two cents, if you feel so moved. On this website you can also find ways to connect with other squeezable lemon-knitters/crocheters by posting on FB, Instagram, etc. (I don't travel to those places, so I leave it you-all to figure out the nuances.)

Et voilà:

Lemon Stress Ball Pattern
Designed by Twinkie Chan
Knit Version:
Approximately 4.5 in. (11.4 cm) long and 2.5 in. (6.4 cm) wide.
  • Red Heart Super Saver by Coats & Clark, 7oz/198g skein, each approximately
    364 yards/333 meters (acrylic)

  • 1 skein in #E300_324 Bright Yellow (MC)
  • 1 skein in #E300_672 Spring Green (CC)
    Note: Approximately 18 yards (16.5 meters) of MC and 1 yard (91.4 cm) of CC used to make 1 lemon
  • One set (4) size 7 (4.5mm) double- pointed needles (dpn) OR SIZE TO OBTAIN GAUGE
LH = left hand
M1 = Insert LH needle from back to front under the strand between last stitch worked and next stitch on LH needle. Knit into the front loop to twist the stitch.
MC = Main color
RH = right hand
rnd(s) = round(s)
st(s) = stitch(es)

  1. Place a slip knot on the RH needle, leaving a short tail. Wrap the yarn from the ball around your left thumb from front to back and secure it in your palm with your other fingers.
  2. Insert the needle upwards through the strand on your thumb.
  3. Slip this loop from your thumb onto the needle, pulling the yarn from the ball to tighten it.
  4. Continue in this way until all the stitches are cast on.

With CC and single cast on method, cast on 5 sts.
I-cord row 1: Slide sts to RH end of dpn, slip the slip knot onto RH needle. Pull the end tightly from the end of the row, k to end. Slide stitches to RH end of dpn.
I-cord row 2: Drop the slip knot, (kfb, k1) twice—6 sts. Pull on tail to
release slip knot and tighten i-cord. Distribute evenly over 3 dpns. Place marker for beginning of rnd and join, taking care not to twist stitches. Next rnd Knit.
Cut CC and attach MC.
Rnd 1: Knit.
Rnd (inc) 2: (K1, M1, k1) 3 times around—9 sts.
Rnd 3: Knit.
Rnd (inc) 4: (K1, M1) 9 times around–18 sts.
Rnds 5–7: Knit.
Rnd (inc) 8: (K2, M1, k1) 6 times around—24 sts.
Rnds 9: Knit.
Rnd (inc) 10: (K5, M1, k7) twice around—26 sts.
Rnd (inc) 11: (K7, M1, k6) twice around—28 sts.
Work even until lemon measures 4 in. (10 cm) from beginning.
Dec rnd 1: (K2tog, k5) 4 times around—24 sts.
Next rnd: Knit.
Stuff lemon firmly. Additional stuffing may be added as necessary while decreasing as follows:
Dec rnd 2: (K2, k2tog) 6 times around—18 sts.
Dec rnd 3: (K2tog) 9 times around—9 sts.
Next 2 rnds: Knit.
Dec rnd 4: (K2tog, k1) around—6 sts. Cut yarn, leaving a long tail. Thread yarn through remaining stitches and pull tight to close. Weave in ends.
• Stitch marker
28 sts = 5 in. (12.7 cm) and 7 rnds = 4 in, (10 cm).
Take the time to check your gauge.
CC = Contrasting color
dec = decrease
dpn = double pointed needles
in(s) = inch(es)
inc = increase
k = knit
k2tog = knit 2 together
kfb = Knit into front and back of stitch
Photos and text are © 2015 Twinkie Chan Inc. All rights reserved. http://www.twinkiechan.com
Well, this lemon is a win-win, because you can stitch away stress while you’re making it and then squeeze away stress as often as you need after it’s done! How great is that?! Oh, and don’t forget to show off your lovely lemon when you’re done! Post a pic of it along with the hashtag #StitchAwayStress and #lemonstressball on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!
**To view a tutorial of this project, visit: www.craftyarncouncil.com/health** The information on this instruction sheet is presented in good faith and without warranty. Results are not guaranteed.
D651_Lemon_Pattern_3 | 04/03/15 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Monkey Socks

I hadn't thought of calling them that when I made them, but a friend saw the resemblance. It's a great pattern for a thick winter sock (uses worsted, #5 dpns), and knits up quickly.

I used Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool in Oak Tweed, and a hand-dyed locally-grown worsted for the red accents. The free pattern, called "Men's Business Casual Socks," is on the Lion Brand website.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Noro v. Winter

Greetings from white-out world, where, yes, it's snowing once again, having started in the wee hours of the morning and predicted to continue till well after dark. We expect between nine inches and a foot. So relentless.  So depressing....

The white expanse between the horizontal lines of trees is the solidly-frozen and snow-covered Wood River. It has recently become a conduit for a small herd of deer. They march around eating shrubbery that ordinarily would be overhanging the water.
Luckily for me, like an infusion of mega-mega vitamins, a review copy of the latest Noro book arrived just the other day. Perfect timing!

Full disclosure: I love Noro yarns, as I've said here before. So this review isn't about why Noro yarns are great, because so far as I'm concerned, that's a given. This review is about the power of Noro yarns to dispel gloom, because simply looking at the photos in this book--all of them exquisite--is as mood altering as a sunny day in June. Add to that the beautiful patterns contained within, and I can almost forget that the weather outside is frightful.

Noro yarns possess two outstanding qualities. First, the colorways are always surprising and uniquely beautiful. Second, the fibers, no matter what Noro yarn is used, are strong, warm, and soft. For a knitwear designer, the challenge is to develop a pattern that displays these Noro advantages effectively. I'm happy to report that all the patterns in Noro Lace succeed fabulously in this respect. The book offers the work of top designers--Deborah Newton's instant classic Tabard with Cowl, done in Taiyo, Laura Zukaite's Bobble Band Scarf in subtle Silk Garden Solo, Pat Olski's Elbow Length Gloves in cashmere-blend Shiraito, Patty Lyons's Poplar Leaf Beret in Silk Garden worsted--to mention only some.

As with most collections, the garments are keyed to different levels of knitting expertise, so anyone from advanced beginner to pro will find an appropriate project. There's a lot to like in the thirty featured patterns, but the star of the show here is always the yarn. And on a white-out day like today, it's really a thrill to flip through this book. Whether you read it, or knit from it, it's a perfect antidote to this New England winter that never ends.

Design by Lars Rains

Design by Anna Davis

The publisher, Sixth and Spring, has kindly offered a free copy of the book to one lucky reader. If you'd like to be that person, please post a comment telling me why, by midnight, Saturday March 7. (Restricted to U.S. mailing addresses.)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Newly discovered

Gentle knitters,
I'm one of those people who deliberately limits input of information either because learning curves for new tech programs, tech gizmos, relationships, handicrafts (e.g. crochet, weaving), and pieces of music are so exhaustively extensive, or because I fear the accretion of new knowledge will displace/ permanently remove important stuff already at the edges of my brain bank. For example, I sometimes ponder why I'm unable to teach myself (or be taught) three or four additional useful methods of casting on knitting stitches, or innovative bind-offs, until I remember how my mental space is limited, and that if I foray into the realm of New Knowledge something good and still marginally accessible might permanently disappear.

This could be a false assumption, but it feels true. Plus the nature of technology these days is that if you can breathe, have one working finger to swipe or push a button, and partial vision, you can send messages, talk to people, and take photos in a manner that profoundly conceals your limitations. Just as I believe in the Winnicottian concept of the good enough parent, I also believe in the good enough knitter, computer user, photographer, musician, etc. Perhaps this is no revelation to you, mes amis, but for a recovering Type-A such as I am, it's an essential fact that needs to be placed daily at the fore of consciousness:  Repeat twenty-five times to self:  Good enough is okay.  Good enough is okay.

Recently, in the company of dear buddy Casapinka, I sashayed into the hinterlands of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, and was introduced to a beautiful LYS, Love to Knit (or Love2Knit). There are many things to enjoy about this shop, (which I'd heard of for ages but never had the gumption to visit, as I feared information overload), though its two most outstanding features, at first glance, are the high level of friendliness generated by Ann and Gayle, the super-personable proprietors, and the excellent selection of yarns for sale.

It was Love2Knit that introduced me to a really superb fingering weight yarn, Jaggerspun of Springvale, Maine, that's super squishy, strong, and comes in the most beeyootiful colors. How is it that their products, made in New England, eluded me for this long? This company has been in business since the 1880s! I immediately purchased two skeins of red, as with all the endless snow this winter (as I write this, we are being bombarded by yet another storm), I need need need hot colors. (NB: Besides Jaggerspun, the shop carries really interesting indie-dyed yarns, a good selection of standards and luxuries, and has excellent prices on skeins of Swans Island.)

So...it was a good thing that I was able to reach out beyond my comfort zone and discover Love2Knit. And Jaggerspun. I'm now about to hunker down for a period of heavy knitting while I convalesce from surgery slated for Tuesday. The big question: Will I be able to finish all of the forty projects I've assembled for my recuperative entertainment during my period of confinement?

Here Ann kindly winds the Jaggerspun fingering into two cupcakes for me