Back to the Shop

September 20, 2014

For the past several months, my participation in the Friday mid-day knitting group at JP Knit and Stitch has been minimal, and I really miss it.

I’d vowed to go yesterday, and even though it meant dropping off Patrick at his train 45 minutes early, I made it for the second hour. And boy, I was glad I did.

Joanne and Barbara showed off their scarves, made in different colorways of Liberty Wool.

scarves

Margaret is working on Maine Morning Mitts in Noro Keureyon. I didn’t get a photo of hers, so here’s one from Knitter’s Review. Having finished my first pair of fingerless mitts a couple of months ago, I definitely want to make more. As those of us in New England know, fall is just around the corner and with it, the need for cozy knits to warm fingers and toes.

MMKnits

I’d missed the shop’s trunk show on Thursday with Diane, a.k.a. Lady Dye. She dyes her own gorgeous yarns and put together some adorable samples. Joanne had a handful and generously shared. Despite her insistence that I take as much as I wanted, I chose one — don’t know the name, but isn’t it lovely?

LadyD

Joanne is making another lovely scarf, and I can’t for the life of me remember its name. Guess I’ll have to go back soon.


Baby Steps Complete

July 23, 2014

There are few life events better than becoming a grandparent. At least, that’s what new grandparents tell me. It’s not a transition I expect to be making anytime soon.

My dear friend Pat is justifiably besotted with her first granddaughter, a lovely, bright-eyed sprite born in mid-May to Pat’s son and his sweet wife. As Pat’s own birthday approached last month, I pondered how to mark that occasion and decided that a baby sweater would be the perfect gift. I know, I know, it’s not an item she can use herself, but what’s a gift anyway but something with personal meaning that’s given with love?

Although the Baby Steps Cardigan is knit entirely in garter stitch, with nary a purl in sight, the construction is clever. I learned how to do a provisional cast-on (used white “waste” yarn), so I could pick up and make the sleeves. I just love the hues of the Mermaid colorway in the Manos Silk Blend.

Baby_steps_cardigan_progress

The back is knit from the center out with regular yarnovers that create a star burst (of sorts).

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Did I mention how much I love the colors?

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Choosing the right button took a while. I was drawn — as I usually am — to the blues and purples, but they didn’t stand out as much as the smooth, lemony one that I finally selected.

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I think the birthday girl will be pleased.

 

 

 


This Little Piggy

July 11, 2014

One of the joyous surprises of the summer has been reconnecting with my friend Vicky, who was two years behind me in college and part of my lifeline when my father died suddenly halfway through my senior year. She lives only a few miles away, but our lives haven’t intersected over the years — until now.

We gathered for lunch in June with two other dear friends, one of whom is nearby sister-friend Kristen, someone whom I can call and share anything at all — venting about children, spouses, parents, whatever — and another, Rachel, who lives hundreds of miles away. Turns out that both of these “distant” friends are knitters. Why am I surprised?!

Not only is Vicky a knitter, but so are her twin daughters, who also have many other creative talents — remarkable young women in their own right.

Vicky’s latest creation is an adorable, whimsical, beautiful pig — named Piggy (OK, not so creative but it’s accurate).

knitted stuffed pig with tutu

The pattern and yarn (I believe) was from Sheila, the owner of Flock, a marvelous yarn store on Nantucket.  The details are fabulous, and Piggy’s personality shines through. The tutu is priceless, and I love the eyes (blanket stitch on edge and French knot pupil), nose, and smirking smile. And the tail…well, how would you describe it?!

knitted stuffed pig backside


Island Knitting

July 9, 2014

Nearly 30 years ago, my in-laws had the imagination, chutzpah, and foresight to buy an abandoned barn on nearly an acre of land on a lovely island off the coast of Massachusetts. Over the years, they added on rooms in a not quite random, but definitely quirky, fashion: bunk beds built into hallway walls, 4 squeaky beds tucked under the attic eaves. No insulation, no TV, and definitely no air conditioning.

Despite the thin walls, unending number of Daddy Long Leg spiders, and dampness that comes from part of the house being below grade, it’s one of my favorite places on earth. The sea air is wondrous, and the night sky is bright with starlight, except when the fog rolls in and obscures the view.

Berry Hill fingerless mitt

I’m working on my first pair of fingerless mitts: Berry Hill by Liz Thompson. And last week, during a wonderful stretch of days with my sweet Patrick, I popped into the local hospital thrift store and discovered a bag of yarn that was calling out to me. Four skeins plus a bit more for $8.00 — how could I not?

thrift_store_yarn

 

 

 


Baby Sweater in the Bath

June 26, 2014

I’m a proponent of full immersion blocking. In my mind, steam or a spritz just doesn’t give yarn the chance to “bloom” in the way that a good soak does.

After binding off the Baby Steps Cardigan yesterday, I plopped it into a big mixing bowl that I’d filled with tepid water and a few drops of Eucalan.

baby sweater soaking in soapy water

Why the mixing bowl? Because every sink in our house, except for the big kitchen sink, is missing its stopper, making them all unsuitable for filling. Why we’re a stopper-less household, I don’t know, but there we are. I left the sweater on top of the water and returned a couple of hours later to discover it had sunk nicely and was thoroughly soaked.

baby sweater soaking in bowl of water

After a couple of swishes with new water, I rolled the sweater into a towel. I gave it some good squeezes and shaped it on a dry towel, where it’s now drying and resting. The photo doesn’t do justice to the lovely colors, but I’ll remedy that once it’s  truly finished. Next step: find just the right button.

BabySweater_blocking2

What’s your take on blocking? And what’s on your needles these days?

 


A Very Dapper Monkey

May 8, 2014

One of Rachel’s daughters has a much loved stuffed monkey whose fur (hair? coat?) has been worn away by years of snuggling.

MonkeyBefore

Lest dear Monkey wear through completely, fearless knitter Rachel decided to create a new, soft covering for the beloved primate. She chose a deliciously soft light brown wool (merino, I think) which she made sure passed the snuggle test with her daughter. She’s no fool, especially when it comes to a pre-teen’s preferences.

She selected a pattern for a doll’s vest, measured Monkey carefully, modified the pattern, and she was off! She even learned how to make a  buttonhole — in this case, a tail hole.

Doesn’t Monkey look pleased?!

MonkeySweater


The Mysterious Power of the K-word

May 6, 2014

I had the great pleasure of attending a party Saturday night to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a friend’s “kicking cancer’s ass” as the invitation from her husband and daughters said. I’m a firm believer in taking joy in the moment no matter how fleeting — whether it’s a drowsy morning hug with my sweet husband, a brief happy dance for a successful audition by the child at the end of the phone,  a high-five for a completed homework assignment, or a prayer of thanks for… just about anything.

Something as major as 10 years cancer-free is definitely party-worthy. The house was filled with friends, laughter, stories, hugs, good food, and plentiful beverages. Since the friend is someone I’ve gotten to know through knitting (she’s taken a couple of my classes and is a quick study indeed), it was my first time meeting some of her family and friends. Being introduced as “my knitting teacher” is a somewhat weird experience — not because it’s not an accurate identifier but because of the reaction it prompts.

Putting the adjective “knitting” in front of a noun definitely changes the way people, of the non-knitting type, respond. It induces a bit of nervous laughter  and some apparent discomfort and is apparently a near-conversation killer. If I were introduced as “a teacher,” I’m quite sure the questions would flow — what age or grade or subject? where? how long? You get the picture. But a knitting teacher? The adjective has tongue-typing abilities. The Yarn Harlot was the first person to point this out to me. She’s a New York Times best-selling author (several times over), but when she explains that she writes about knitting, it’s a near conversation killer. Remarkable really.

In other news, Rachel turned this lovely work-in-progress of a few weeks ago

infinity

into a luscious infinity scarf fit for a stylish and discerning pre-teen.

RosieInfinity


The Thrill of a First Sock

April 30, 2014

There’s something very special about knitting a sock. It’s a simple piece of clothing that’s not particularly visible and endures a lot of wear and (eventually) tear. But the structural components of a sock make it a wonderful challenge even for a beginning knitter. The different parts to a sock provide learning opportunities, a multitude of options for customization, and enough variety that a knitter can’t really get bored.

- circular knitting on double-pointed needles (DPNs), two circulars, or one very long circular (magic loop method)
– ribbing
– construction of a heel flap and gusset
– toe shaping
– grafting the toe using the Kitchener stitch

And that’s just in top-down socks! For a first-time sock knitter, each section and technique can also provide the opportunity for much muttering and lots of occasional cursing.

In yesterday’s knitting class, Bonnie finished her first sock. How great is this?

BonnieSock

first knit sock

Lucky daughter Liza will be the recipient once its pair has been knit. Keeping fingers crossed that Bonnie doesn’t develop a case of Second Sock Syndrome.


A Knitter’s Christmas…Every Month

April 27, 2014

Like every knitter I know, buying yarn is one of my favorite activities. Actually shopping for yarn — looking, fondling, planning, dreaming of wondrous projects — is enjoyable in and of itself. With a new skein of beautiful merino or handpainted sock yarn, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Imagine my delight when my sweet husband gave me the gift of new yarn every month for a year. OK, OK, I hinted told him that was tops on my Christmas wish list.

On a cold, rainy April day, this little cardboard box of yummy (Vivacious DK in Deep Aqua by Fyberspates) sure warms the heart.

Fyberspace

Thanks, Patrick. xo


A Different Kind of Lifeline

April 25, 2014

When we last were together, I was nearing the finish of Claire’s first sock. Although I love this anonymous yarn, I wasn’t thrilled with how it looked with the mini-cables of the gentle waves. But I was determined to finish.

And I did, but the result was a sock that looked nice but didn’t fit, at least not without a lot of pulling and tugging. The foot was fine, but the leg was too small. Who wants that when you’re getting dressed in the morning?

Rather than tear out the entire sock, I embraced the opportunity to show my class how to use a lifeline to tear out a large amount of knitting. I stitched a contrasting strand of yarn around the row where the leg met the heel flap, picking up the first side of each stitch.

Sock_Lifeline

I planned to pull out the sock from the top ribbing down to the lifeline. I knew the ribbing would involve a fair bit of picking rather than easy pulling out of the stitches. But I quickly figured out that unraveling the back-and-forth of K2 P2 would be nothing compared to the ins and outs of the “gentle waves” cable pattern. After about 5 rounds of picking out stitch by stitch, I reached for a different kind of lifeline.

Sock Cutting

Scissors work wonders. And I knew just where to stop, thanks to the lifeline.

 


Sock Season

March 23, 2014

Michael played his last basketball game of the season today, so my days of knitting from the bleachers in a warm gym are over for now.

allstarsock

Given the elusiveness of springtime warmth, I think it’ll be a while before I’m knitting from the sidelines of a lacrosse field.

Special thanks to Kevin who held up the sock so I could get a shot of Michael (#3 in blue) in the background.

 


Class time

March 22, 2014

I’ve said before how much I enjoy teaching knitting, and my current class is no exception. Once a week, these six intrepid women gather around the table, needles in hand, patterns laid out and personally annotated, and they dive into their projects. Chatting, whispered counting (34, 35 — damn, I’m supposed to have 36!), an occasional curse, and laughter abound.

Everyone gives a little update and has a question or two about how to proceed (dropped or added stitches are common). We break after about a half hour for a brief lesson — how to join yarn, how to bind off, different ways to cast on, common pattern abbreviations — and then it’s back to the individual projects.

Rachel announced that her tween daughter turned up her nose at the North Face knock-off hat — with cables! — that her mother had created. We admired the hat and commiserated over the fickle fashion tastes of children.

RachelHat

She’s also working on a luscious infinity scarf for the same daughter. If she doesn’t like this one, I’d invoke the “two strikes and you’re out” rule. Although, given my soft heart and love of knitting, I probably wouldn’t implement said “rule.” I don’t know what yarn she’s using. I’ll check and let you know.

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The highlight of the past week, at least for me, was Erin’s first finished project — a small cotton washcloth (or dishcloth) in a variety of stitches: garter, stockinette, seed. She cast on, tinked back to correct errors, switched stitches every once in a while, learned that starting or ending with garter stitch will keep the edge from rolling, and bound off.

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She’s justifiably proud, don’t you agree?

ErinWashcloth

 


Something new-ish

March 5, 2014

Since I like knitting socks so much, I’ve vowed to always have one in progress. They’re portable, enjoyable, and provide ample opportunity for variety.

When I finished Michael’s pair, I decided to try the Magic Loop method of knitting — instead of three DPNs (my preferred tools), one long circular needle is used. Having heard the dreaded “ping” of a DPN falling on the floor or gym bleacher, the idea of using a needle that I couldn’t drop was appealing. Plus, I like learning new things.

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The process looks very fiddly and, like many things, looks really complicated until you figure it out. It took me a few severn or eight rounds to get the hang of the sliding stitches, pulling cords, and flipping needles, but I’ve done it.

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Now that the cuff is done, I need to figure out what the leg will be. Plain stockinette stitch or something new?

 


Happy Feet

February 28, 2014

One of the reasons it took me so long to try knitting socks was that I thought that no one would want to wear them. And by no one, I mean no one except me. And even I wasn’t so sure that I’d find them comfortable.

One of the biggest and best surprises was how very wrong I was. All three of my children love handknit socks. And now Michael finally has his own pair.

MichaelSocks

It’s the Yarn Harlot’s basic sock recipe (on Ravelry and in Knitting Rules – love that book) for a size 11.5 men’s, below calf, in red multi Berroco Sox.

 

IMG_3177

I made no effort to match the stripes. I like a bit of randomness every now and then, especially in something as safe as socks. Kevin, whose feet are about the same size, has requested that I make his next pair smaller than the last pair. Those are comfy, he assures me. Just a bit too floppy. I’ll drop down a needle size so they’re more snug.

I think I’ll try a toe-up pattern for something new. Any suggestions?


Oh The Places You’ll Knit

February 21, 2014

One of the aspects of knitting that I love is its portability. Most projects can be stuffed into a bag, ready to be pulled out whenever you have a bit of time and, for me at least, when your body will be stationary. Movement and knitting don’t work so well for me!

Think you don’t have much time? That’s another magical aspect of knitting; it can transform time. Waiting for the novacaine to kick in at the dentist’s office? That’s time enough to work a few sock rounds.

SockAtDentist

Keeping a teenager company as he finishes a paper for school in the wee hours of the morning?

HomeworkSock

How about waiting for x-rays to be developed and a cast put onto same teenager’s wrist? Trust me, I was knitting for a while but couldn’t resist a photo of cast-in-progress.

KRDcast

Or “watching” a blow-out Superbowl game with two nieces, both of whom are new knitters? Nothing finer!

NieceKnits

Add non-driving/non-bike travel (bus, subway, passenger seat, airplane, boat…) and TV or movie watching, and the opportunities are enormous!


Late Winter Knitting Classes

February 12, 2014

After the success and enthusiasm of last fall’s class — from Seema, our intrepid novice, to Judy’s first sock — I’m happy to offer two new classes: one for beginner’s and one for intermediate knitters.

I sent the following email to about 25 local friends this morning and looking forward to the responses.

What’s on your needles these days?

Beginner Knitting

Would you like to learn to knit?
Do you know the basics but are ready to move beyond a scarf?
You’ve got knit & purl stitches but don’t know how to bind off or fix your mistakes?

In this class, you’ll make a lovely hat and develop a strong foundation of skills so you can continue knitting different types of projects with confidence. You will learn how to: cast on, knit, purl, decrease, increase, knit back and forth, knit in the round, knit on double-pointed needles, bind off, and read a basic pattern.

6 Tuesday mornings: Feb. 25, March 4, 11, 18, 25, April 1
9:30am – 11:30am
Cost: $90
Location: Newton Centre

Materials needed: Approximately 175 yds heavy worsted wool (approx 4-5 stitches per inch on size 8-10 needles), size 9 16″ circular needles, size 9 double-pointed needles, stitch markers, darning needle.

**Class size limited to 8 **

Becoming a Fearless Knitter: Intermediate Knitting

This class is for knitters with some experience who are ready to learn something new and become more confident. If you are working on a project of your own and/or are ready to challenge yourself with cables, lace knitting, chart reading, socks, or other knitting skills, this is the class for you. We’ll work in an open workshop setting where instructor and fellow knitters support each other to create and finish knitting projects.

6 Thursday mornings: Feb. 27, March 6, 13, 20, 27, April 3
10:am – noon
Cost: $90
Location: Newton Centre

** Class size limited to 8 **

To Register:

 Leave a comment with your contact information, knitting experience (if any), and — for the intermediate class — what you’d like to learn. Payment information, address, and a list of materials needed for the first class will be sent promptly.

About Me

I’ve been knitting off and on for several decades and absolutely love it — the portability, the creative outlet, the solitary and social aspects of knitting, the pleasure of finishing something, and the joy of giving or wearing. I’ve taught knitting off and on for the past 8 years in a variety of settings.

My first post — back in May 2010 (!) — highlights some of the reasons why I love this craft.

 


Cool Sock, Mom

January 25, 2014

Aaaaand the bathroom pipes have frozen again despite my precautionary tactics of leaving the shower dripping and the faucets drizzling (that’s a steady stream of drips, a technical plumbing term I’m pretty sure). Apparently even these steps weren’t enough to keep the water flowing in single digit temperatures. Until I see water flowing down the walls, I’m operating under the assumption that they’ll thaw when the temperature gets close to or above freezing. Humming “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” helps.

In knitting news, I finished Michael’s first sock while waiting with Kevin at the sports medicine clinic. A wrist injury from football season is still painful at times, so the mid-point of the hockey season seemed like a good time to seek medical help!

Sock1

It looks way too small for a size 11 foot in this photo. This shot is better.

SockMichael

He’s so delighted with the finished product that he’s asked if I can finish its pair pretty soon. I’ll get right on that…assuming the pipes thaw without bursting.


Sock Travels

January 21, 2014

While you could hardly say that I lead a jet set life, I’ve had my share of short, turn-around flights over the past few years. Most were work-related as I traveled between Boston and Philadelphia to a client, generally flying down and back in the same day although sometimes with an overnight. Since I finished that piece of work, I’ve not had the occasion to travel much.

Hannah’s role in a musical at a community theatre in North Carolina this month provided me and my Mom the chance to take a brief trip for Friday’s opening night performance. My latest sock (Berroco Sox in Red Multi) joined us. On the flight to Raleigh-Durham, I knit a few inches plus the heel flap.

TravelingSock

The show, 9 to 5: The Musical, was very well done. You’ll have to take my word for it, especially since photos were prohibited and no reviews are out. And, of course, Hannah was terrific. Yes, I’m biased but I know talent when I see it!

When we arrived at the airport Saturday morning, we discovered our flight was delayed two hours because of snow in Boston. One of the great things about knitting is the way it transforms waiting into something enjoyable — or at least distracts the knitter from some of the frustration of waiting. The heel was turned and gusset begun.

TravelingSockHeel

The time-transforming power of knitting was tested a bit when the pilot announced, as we were second in line to take off, that the Boston airport had gone into a “ground delay” and that we’d be waiting for another hour before we left the ground. And he kindly thanked us for our patience, to which Mom said, “Do we have a choice?” She didn’t have her knitting — just a book, one apparently without time-transforming powers.

What really matters is we made it home safe and sound, if somewhat later than expected, AND with a close-to-finished sock as a souvenir (of sorts).

IMG_2999

 


Strange, Sacred Time

January 9, 2014

The most recent cold snap has broken and the pipes in the second floor bathroom have thawed — without bursting, again. The contractor from whom we bought our house ran pipes up an uninsulated, exterior wall and didn’t add any heat to the bathroom — duh! We leave the taps and shower dripping and put a space heater in when the wind chill gets below 10F, but that wasn’t quite enough for the recent deep freeze. Suffice to say, the water is again flowing and the pipes have not cracked. (Fingers crossed, salt over shoulder, etc.)

Christmas came and went and was lovely, if a bit strange this year. All agreed that we had an awesome tree. I think every Christmas tree is beautiful just by being, but this balsam was particularly lovely and well-proportioned even before it was decorated with our extensive ornament collection. The decorating festivities included Grandma, lots of laughs, and only two broken ornaments.

XmasTreeGiggles

We’ve entered a new part of our life journey over the past month or so since my father-in-law, who lives nearby and has been in a rehab facility for six weeks, decided after nearly six years of kidney dialysis and a failing body (multiple spinal fractures, constant pain, limited vision) that he doesn’t want to die in an ambulance or in the emergency room. He’ll have his last dialysis treatment in 10 days and will then go home where he can die in peace — without pain, surrounded by the familiar and the loved — including his wife of 52 years and his remarkable daughter and son (my sweet husband).

To be sure, it’s sad, but it’s not tragic, and in some ways, it’s a sacred time. His decision and planning, aided in large part by son Patrick and daughter Claire, have given his family and friends a gift in the opportunity to express their love and appreciation to him. It’s a gift to himself — although it may not feel that way all the time — to be able to hear those expressions, to accept them with a humble and generous spirit.

On the knitting front, Kevin was pleased with his new socks even though one is a bit too big. I took my circular scarf down to the wire — knitting during cocktails on Christmas Eve and weaving in the ends on Christmas Day. Thanks to Claire for capturing me in all my knitterly glory!

XmasEveKnitter


Know What’s Fast? Arm Knitting (seriously)

December 11, 2013

Inspired by Skye, an extraordinary young girl at the Friday knitting group at JP Knit & Stitch, and by a recent Wall Street Journal article and video, I decided to try something new.

As we sat together on the window seat last week, Skye created this loose, chunky, oh-so-soft scarf.

SkyeScarf

Totally intrigued, I bought a skein and the next day made a chunky circular scarf in about 30 minutes using only yarn and my arms. Look Mom, no needles!

ArmKnits

I cast on (using the long-tail method) 6 stitches and used two strands of yarn. I chose Malabrigo Rasta in Soriano, a lovely black-purple-gold combo that I hope will look good on the recipient, who has a new black down coat (to keep out the icy winds of NYC) and who wears a lot of black as she moves from dance class to stage and back again. Taking one strand from inside and one from the outside of the ball ensured that I ended up with the same amount.

ArmCowl

It took me two attempts to get the hang of the “knitting” so the total time was closer to an hour. Looking back, I think that I got the stitches and movements right but it looked so different that I thought I’d made a mistake. Stitching together was pretty straight forward (no needle involved).

I generally don’t care how long a project takes and have been known to rip out projects twice or even three times in order to get the finished product to come out right. But I must admit that a bit of instant gratification now and then can be quite exhilarating!

ArmCowl2


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