Quick Knit for Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2017

Whew, I made it just under the wire! Ok, ok, there’s no wire. Valentine’s Day is not a big holiday in my family. We’re firm believers in expressing love every day in ways large and small, and yes, with chocolate at any time of the year. But with all the cute heart-shaped knitting projects around, I wanted to make something. I’ve done it before, and I was determined to do it again.

About an hour before I headed off to teach knitting to two zippy fifth-grade girls, I cast on for a soft heart ornament, Amanda Berry’s “Hearts.”  I’ve got a fair bit of pink yarn left over from my Pussy Hat projects, so I gathered two strands of pink fingering and dove in.

This heart is knit in one piece and looked a bit odd once I’d cast it off.

knit-heart-before-seam

I’m a visual learner and pretty good with spatial manipulations, so it took just a couple of moments to realize that the sides folded in on itself — kind of like a hug.

knit-heart-sew

A few stitches here and there, and I was done.

knit-heart-ornament

Maybe next year I’ll prepare sooner and knit a few of these to slip to loved ones. Ah, why wait until next year?! I’ve got plenty of pink yarn….

Any Valentine’s Day knits in your life this year?

 

 


One Down, One to Go

January 30, 2017

Now that I’ve got a sock project on my needles, I realize how much I enjoy knitting them. It took me ages to make my first pair — not to actually make them but to tackle the project. Looking back, I realize that all the features of socks that I loved in that first pair still hold true nearly six years later.

You finish the top ribbing and it’s on to the leg.

felici-sock-yarn-jan-2017

Before you have time to get bored with the rounds of stockinette (or whatever pattern you’ve chosen), it’s on to the heel flap. I’m partial to the Eye of Partridge stitch.

 

striped-sock-knit-heel

Since learning new techniques or patterns is part of what makes knitting so enjoyable, I think I may try a new heel on my next pair. Maybe an After Thought Heel? I like the idea of making a solid colored sock with a contrasting heel and toe. Plus anything created by knitting great Elizabeth Zimmerman must be worth a try.

That’s for another day and another pair. This one — and it is only one at this point — will be my go-to Good, Plain Sock Recipe from the Yarn Harlot.

krd-striped-knit-sock

Kevin, the intended recipient of this pair, has voiced texted his approval: “It looks great!! I like the colors.” It goes without saying that he’d like a pair rather than one, so I’d best cast on the next one lest I be hit with Second Sock Syndrome. Don’t laugh — it’s a thing.


A Brief Break in the Berkshires

January 29, 2017

A change of scene, even for only a day, can work wonders for the body and spirit. Taking a day off work on Friday, Patrick and I hopped into the car shortly after Michael left for school and drove west.

First stop a couple hours later was the Clark Art Institute (better known simply as The Clark) in Williamstown, tucked into the northwest corner of Massachusetts. We spent a couple of hours taking in two special exhibitions and much of the permanent collection, a mix of European and American paintings, sculpture, photography, prints, and decorative arts.

degas-little-dancer-clark

I was drawn to scenes of domestic life, including several featuring the fiberly “women’s work.” The description of Jean-Francois Millet’s “Woman Spinning” noted, “the artist was especially interested in the subtle colors of worn and faded homespun fabric.”

Millet’s “The Knitting Lesson” (c.1860) was an intimate portrayal of the hands-on teaching of the craft. The position and intensity of gaze are likely familiar to anyone who’s helped teach someone to knit or anyone who’s been taught to knit. Can you relate?


We had about an hour before sunset for a walk (some might call it a hike) along the trails surrounding the museum. This site-specific sculpture, “Crystal” by Thomas Schütte, provided a wonderful perspective on the surrounding valley and hills.

The day was chilly and the snow-covered ground slippery in spots, but we enjoyed every step (except one of mind through an icy puddle). The sun was setting as we exited the woods, but we were in the car by the time darkness had fallen.

Our dinner location, Cafe Adam, has been added to our list of all-time favorite restaurants. I’m not a food photographer so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Beautiful, warm, relaxed space, knowledgeable and attentive staff, and imaginative, delicious food. A+

The sock made an appearance at breakfast…

knit-sock-at-breakfast

…and again at lunch.

knit-sock-toe

But I had to wait until I got home to finish since I still have to mutter chant the Kitchener Stitch instructions as I graft the toe, and what kind of person would do that to her Sweet Husband on a lovely get-away?!

krd-striped-knit-sock


A Plethora of Pink Pussy Hats

January 27, 2017

Perhaps it was the waves of roaring cheers rolling over the crowds for hours. Perhaps it was the thousands of clever, direct, snarky, beautiful signs denouncing bigotry, racism, bullying, and misogyny and declaring support for justice, equality, human rights, respect, and dignity.

Haudenosaunee women hold signs "Original First Ladies" at Women's March

womens-march-signs

“Tell me what democracy looks like.
THIS is what democracy looks like.”

signs-womens-march

friends-women-march

womens-march

Perhaps it was the hundreds of thousands* of people all around us — most of whom were remarkably good natured, even when they were unable to move forward or backward for 20, 30, or even 40 minutes at a time. Perhaps it was the feeling of solidarity that this massive worldwide collective action engendered, a spark of hope.

Or maybe it was the sea of pink knit hats, crafted with determination and sisterhood in each and every stitch — shouting, “We are here. We are strong. We will not be bullied or silenced or ignored.”

womens-march-washington-pussy-hats

*Estimates vary.


Wrapped Up in Knitted Love

January 19, 2017

Since she joined my knitting class in the fall, Tracy has proved herself an intrepid and very generous knitter. Her very first project was a lovely GAPtastic shawl for her teen daughter.

Tracy wearing gaptastic seed stitch cowl

Her most recent finished project is a super cozy, very soft garter stitch baby blanket. It’s made with a super bulky acrylic yarn, something that can stand up to months (even years) of spits, spills, and washings.

garter-stitch-baby-blanket

I always love to get photos of finished projects from students, friends, and family. There’s nothing quite like seeing a new item, something that has love knit into every stitch, in action. Like this lucky baby boy, wrapped in love.

baby wrapped in knit garter stitch blanket

#BabyBurrito


Feminism + hockey + knitting

January 14, 2017

As I sat down at last night’s college hockey game, my phone pinged with a text from Karen, Sister-in-Law Extraordinaire. She and daughter C were sporting their Pussy Hats, ready for next week’s Women’s March in Washington, DC.

kc-pink-pussy-hat

Isn’t that the BEST?! As the organized and thoughtful woman she is, Karen generously had secured two additional hats for me and Hannah. She, Chris, and family are hosting us, too. As luck would have it, I’d just cast on my second Pussy Hat.

pussyhat-cast-on-hockey

I’m making this one with two strands of Cascade Heritage in Cotton Candy. This one will be knit in the round so no seaming will be required. Earlier in the day, I’d bound off the first hat, but I’d left that one at home. What kind of a knitter seams a hat at a hockey game?!

As I pulled the yarn and needle out my bag, the woman next to me said, “You’re knitting a hat for the March, right? Where did you get the yarn? I haven’t been able to find any.” Apparently there’s been a bit of a run on pink yarn recently with many LYS and craft stores reporting shortages of the color. Knitting activists are a powerful, collective force, indeed!

Judging by the progress so far, I’m pretty confident I’ll be finished with both hats by January 21. Hannah hasn’t let me know which one is her preference. Stay tuned.

pussy-hats


Knitting Class in Newton, MA

January 12, 2017

The start of the New Year means the start of a new knitting class. Actually, my classes run on a rolling basis, so students start whenever it fits their schedules. The new year is a time for new adventures, isn’t it?

Fearless_knitting

Regular readers will know how much I love to teach knitting since I’ve mentioned it now and again (and again…).

Interested in learning to knit or enhancing your skills and confidence? Read on….

Would you like to learn to knit? Do you know the basics but are ready to move beyond a scarf?

Or have you finished a couple of projects and are ready to learn some new techniques and become more confident — what I call a Fearless Knitter!

Join one of two knitting classes and attend whichever fits your schedule.

Tuesday evenings, 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Wednesday mornings, 10:00am – 12:00pm

Beginners will develop a strong foundation of skills so that they can continue knitting many different types of projects. You’ll learn how to: cast on, knit, purl, create a border, read a pattern, identify and fix common mistakes, and bind off. When you’re done your “starter project,” you’ll select one of your choice — a chunky, soft circular scarf, a colorful hat, whatever!

If you know how to knit and 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.

Cost is $75 for a five-class pass. Class size limited to 8.

Interested? Leave a comment or Email me for details. 


Going Pink for #PussyHatProject

January 9, 2017

It’s decided. I’m heading south in a couple of weeks for the Women’s March on Washington. On their first full day in office, I want our new president and vice president to have a powerful reminder that they work for all the people of the United States and that we are paying attention to their every action.

pussyhatprojectcover

I’m joining with thousands — maybe tens of thousands — of knitters to make a visual statement at the March by knitting pink hats, one for me and one for Hannah. It gave me a good excuse to visit a new LYS, Uncommon Yarn, to see what they had in pink.

The Pussy Hat Project was launched after the election as a way for the fiber community to make a powerful collective statement and as a way for people to participate in the March remotely by making hats and sending them to DC for distribution to March participants.

You can read about the project — and get a free pattern (also on Ravelry) —  on its website. Go ahead now…

“wearing pink together is a powerful statement that we are unapologetically feminine and we unapologetically stand for women’s rights”

As event organizers have built a coalition of supporters, this woman-centric statement has been broadened to explicitly encompass a much wider range of humanity, including the LGBTQ community, women of color, people with disabilities, and more. Pretty much everyone since, well, we’re all in this world together.

I’ve started the first hat using The Yankee Dyer‘s Yankee Dreams in “I Love Ewe,” a delightful blend of red, pink, and white.

pussyhat-cast-on-knit

There’s still time to knit a hat and send it to the March. Read how here. Or make one for yourself and wear it at one of the dozens of Sister Marches scheduled in cities around the country and across the globe. Just imagine all those handknit pink hats…. Almost makes a knitter giddy.


Ciao bella, Arabella!

January 5, 2017

It’s always a treat to see the beautiful creations of fellow knitters. At a recent dinner party, dear friend Alison arrived with a gorgeous shawl draped around her shoulders.

arabella-shawl-3

She obliged my desire for a few photos and explained that she’d won the yarn (Full Moon Farm Silk and Merino Corriedale Cross) at a knitting retreat last winter. I love the three pink-plum colors and the contrasting gold.

arabella-shawl-1

I’ve only glanced at the pattern (available for free here) and am intrigued by the open work between the color “wedges” and the multi-colored connections along the edge. I may add it to my Ravelry favorites. What’s on your needles these days?

arabella-shawl-2


New Socks for the New Year

January 4, 2017

I’ve cast on my first project of 2017 — good old reliable socks. These are in a blue and silver gray colorway, Beyond the Wall, of Felici Sock Yarn.

To be completely candid (and why not be completely candid?), I cast on the first sock in late December but discovered after a few inches that I’d selected a too-large needle. So I ripped it all out, switched to size 1 (2.25mm), and began again. This time I’m using double-pointed needles, which I’ve learned that I prefer to the Magic Loop method. I find the DPNs faster to work with — no fiddly shifting of stitches and moving of the cable.

Do you have a preference for circular knitting? DPNs? two circulars? Magic Loop?


Bon voyage, GAPtastic!

January 3, 2017

The greatest Christmas gift this year was the surprise return of my nephew and godson, Benjamin, who returned from a two-year stint in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in the mountains of Peru.

ben-teaching-jvc-peru

He’d led us all to believe that he wouldn’t be home until mid-January, thereby missing his sister, who is heading off to France for a college semester abroad. But there he was on the porch on Christmas morning. Suffice to say there were plenty of dropped jaws, oh-my-Gods, bear hugs, and tears of joy among the whole family.

Nora left yesterday for her nearly six month adventure in France. I was more than a bit delighted to see that she was taking wearing her GAPtastic cowl for the journey. I’d like to think that she’ll get some compliments on it while exploring the streets, cafes, gardens, and museums of Paris.

She’ll be blogging during her adventures. I’m following her and recommend that you do, too — that is, if you’re a fan of pithy writing, eye-catching photographs, and insights into new worlds by an adventuresome, inquisitive, kick-ass young woman.


Circular Needle Wrangling (take 2)

December 27, 2016

I’m committed to circular needles, using them for nearly every knitting project — flat or circular. The exception is socks, for which I use DPNs because it’s easier for me to keep track of the heel and gusset shaping with three needles. But more explanation of that quirk can wait until a future post.

I’m still loving my new circular needle organizer, but I realized recently that many circulars need to “relax” a bit before they can be used — or organized — easily.

circular-knitting-needles

My tip for straightening the curly cable of circular needles is to immerse it into hot water —  not boiling, just barely simmered. Hold the needles and immerse the cable into the water for 30 seconds or so. Be sure the burner is off; you don’t want to melt the plastic cable.

circular-needles-soften-hot-water

Lift one needle and allow gravity to pull the cable straight. You can hold a dishcloth and pull it along the length of the cable. The plastic cable will cool pretty rapidly, and you’ll be left with a much straighter and much more manageable circular needle.

circular-needles-straighten


Christmas Presence Redux

December 23, 2016

Can it really be six years since I wrote my Christmas Presence post?! So much has changed since then, but the essence remains.

Michael, now 18, commented last week that he hasn’t really felt in the Christmas spirit this year. Perhaps it’s because he’s been focusing on college applications, senior year schoolwork, getting to know his “Little Brother” in his new role as Big Brother. Perhaps it’s the lingering anxiety over the election results and near daily nominations of fervently anti-government people to lead major parts of our government. I feel it, too.

But I’ve been carving out moments to observe Advent, lighting the purple and pink candles and singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” before dinner, lighting the window candles each evening afternoon (let’s be honest, sunset is at 4:15), baking St. Nicholas cookies and Hungarian Christmas bread with its nutty, sweet, spicy filling.

Kevin, Michael, and I partially decorated the tree on Tuesday. Hannah arrives home this afternoon for nearly a week. The next days will be filled with cooking, music, wrapping, the inevitable last-minute shopping, and a fair bit of laughter, story-telling, and sharing. I expect there may be time for some knitting, too.

Rereading that post from 2010, I realize that my current creative juices can’t compete. So here it is again. Thank you for reading and for joining me on this journey. Sending wishes of light and hope to you and yours.

Christmas Presence

When Michael recently told me his favorite part of Christmas, I thought he said “presents,” but he continued, explaining that he really likes the “presence” — the smell, sounds, sights, anticipation, tastes, and as he put it, “the feeling you get from all of that and all the love.” Out of the mouths of babes (OK, he’s 12 but you know what I mean!).

Preparing mantel for Christmas nativity sceneSometimes traditions can feel stifling, but most of the time, I find them comforting and reassuring.  They’re like blazes on a trail, marking the way, letting you know where you are.  Even if you’re not sure where “here” is, even if you’re tired or grumpy, you pause and say “here I am. This is the place. Take note.”

Lights in the windows on the first Sunday of Advent, shining in the afternoon darkness. The next weekend, the “building” of the creche on the mantel.  It’s become a bit of a hodge-podge with figures added over the years — a toy giraffe, a cartwheeling angel, a Caribbean drummer. Note the knitted stocking, made by my mom nearly 50 years ago — with my name knit into the edge even.  She’s good!

Mantel with nativity crecheMy family has what my late cousin Sarah called “the food gene.” We like to cook, eat, think about cooking, gather for meals, read recipes, cookbooks, and cooking magazines. The Advent and Christmas seasons have lots of food traditions, of course.

spices for St. Nicholas cookies: clove, cinnamon, cardamon, cinnamon, aniseEvery December 6, the feast of St. Nicholas, my mom (also a wonderful baker and cook) would make St. Nicholas cookies.  Delightfully spicy and cut into little “bookmarks,” they are perfect for dunking — or just munching. We’re not Dutch and don’t celebrate St. Nicholas Day in any other way (no candy & toys in boots at the foot of the bed).

StNickCookiesRolledI’m sure my mom found the recipe in a cookbook or magazine sometime in the 1950s or 60s and, knowing a good recipe when she sees one, she made a batch…every year!  This year when I emailed my youngest brother to say that I’d made these yummy treats, he replied that his first batch wasn’t so great and that he planned to make a second batch that evening.  It’s not just me.  Try them yourself.

recipe for St. Nicholas cookiesWith my high schoolers having mid-term exams this week, I’m staying up late, being present, and knitting.  The wrap is off the needles, blocked, and awaiting buttons.  More on that later. I leave you with Hannah and her sister-friend Charlotte preparing the tree, another tradition.

H&CTreePeace.


Score 1 for the Cozy Knit Cowl

December 12, 2016

I’m happy to report that my dear niece seems to like her GAPtastic cowl. Given that she’s heading into finals week (read: late nights, walking across a wintery campus, lots of coffee, and too-little sleep), staying warm and cozy is a priority.

nora-gaptastic-cowl

In other news, I’ve made a side trip to Northampton for a consulting project on Monday. I left home early on Sunday afternoon so I could spend a few hours some time at the fiber wonder that is Webs.

Do I need more yarn? or needles? or clever tools and accessories? Of course not! What kind of question is that?! Updates on what I found later this week.

 


Cozy Knits for a Birthday Girl

December 9, 2016

My Twitter feed is full of ideas for gift knitting. As we get closer to Christmas, there are more “quick knits” made with chunky, bulky, and super bulky yarn. Someone could probably track how the changes in yarn weights correspond with amount of time until Christmas. But that someone isn’t me because I’ve got gifts to knit.

First, a birthday gift for a beloved niece, a truly amazing young woman attending college in my hometown. She’s generous, curious, super smart, talented in so many ways — baking, theatre sound engineering, photography, poetry that touches hearts (this one’s been shared more than 70,000 times).

My heart warms whenever I think of her, which I’ve been doing a lot lately because I’ve been knitting love into every stitch of her gift.

gaptastic-cowl-fingerless-mitts

A GAPtastic cowl, which regular readers will know is a popular project for me and my knitting students, and a pair of fingerless mitts in matching seed stitch.

It arrived just a day after her birthday earlier this week (but was technically on time because it was mailed before her birthday — that’s my story and I’m sticking with it). Since the temperatures are below freezing during the day and well below at night, I’d say it arrived just in time.


Girls Who Knit

December 9, 2016

For the past few weeks, I’ve been spending Monday afternoons teaching knitting to eight girls at a local after-school program. It’s the most high-energy 90 minutes of my week!

As always when I teach new knitters, a first lesson is to spot and then fix mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, and if you can’t fix them, you’re more likely to give up. Although only a couple of the girls have tried knitting before, each of the 7 fourth graders and one fifth grader is on her way to becoming a Fearless Knitter.

They’ve started with a cotton dishcloth, casting on (knitted cast-on) about 33 stitches, and working a few inches in garter stitch.

I like seeing how each of them holds the needles and yarn, developing her own technique and muscle memory for the craft.

With each stitch, they’re becoming more competent and more confident.

“When I woke up this morning, I dreaded going to school, but then I remembered that we’d be knitting this afternoon. That gave me energy to make it through the whole school day!” A bit dramatic perhaps, but a sentiment that many knitters — including me — share.

 


Knitting Class: Small but Fierce

December 5, 2016

After several years of having 6 to 8 knitters around the table at each knitting class, I find myself with two very small sessions this fall. I don’t know what accounts for the change, and I’m not taking the lack of enrollment personally (at least most of the time!).

What these regular Fearless Knitters lack in number, they more than make up in their creativity, persistence, good humor, and ferocity. Discover a mistake (or many) a few inches into your circular scarf? Realize that the pattern on your stranded sweater is off by a few stitches? Learn the painful lesson that knitting while drinking red wine is not for the faint of heart? (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about!) These knitting students tackled each project and challenge with vigor and commitment.

Christy, she of the Fox Cowl Hood, recently finished a luscious braided cable cowl. The yarn and pattern are from Purl Soho. With the temperatures dipping below freezing here in Greater Boston, you can bet this cowl will get a lot of wear.

file-dec-04-2-29-52-pm

Gillan’s half-way through a pair of chunky fingerless mitts. The pattern had both of us flummoxed for a while. (And by a while, I mean we each knitted and ripped it back two or three times!) Following it carefully resulted in two rounds of ribbing around the thumb gusset, messing up the rhythm of the seed stitch. Finally, I adjusted the pattern, substituting some PFB for KFB and some (P,K) for (K,P) repeats. Seems to have worked.

file-dec-04-2-29-14-pm

Marcia’s latest creation is a striped cardigan for a lucky baby-to-be. After finishing the neck at our last class, the only thing she’s got left to do is graft the sleeves to the body (underarm grafting, what a concept!) and add some buttons.

file-dec-04-2-30-21-pm

See the yarn near the neck? That’s all she had left — yet again, playing a high stakes game of Knitting Bind-Off Chicken.  Who says knitters aren’t risk takers?!

 


Knitting in Turbulent Times

November 16, 2016

Was Election Day really only a week ago?! Like many people in the US and beyond who supported Hillary Clinton, I’ve experienced shock, anger, dismay, disappointment, and a flurry of other emotions. For most of last week, I tuned out nearly all media. I just needed to retreat temporarily, focus on my work (which does include a lot of social media) and on the people around me.

Knitting helped a lot, starting with last Wednesday morning’s class. I told my students we’d have only two minutes of election conversation before diving into projects. Deciphering a pattern. Figuring out how to fix a mistake. Relaxing into the rhythm of stitch after stitch, row after row.

As usual, Gillan is working on several projects at a time. Here’s her chevron scarf and fingerless mitts. I know there are some knitters who work on only one project at a time and don’t start another until the first is finished. It takes all kinds….

gillan-knitting-projects

When Christy (maker of the adorable fox cowl) arrived at this morning’s class, she reported that she couldn’t bring herself to come last week. Like many, she felt the need to hunker down for a bit, eliminating the complexities of life for a little while. That included her knitting. She put aside her cabled cowl (more on that gorgeous item in a future post), took up her circulars, and stitched together a bright ribbed cowl for Darwin — her beautiful dog, who looks quite regal, don’t you think?!

dog-ribbed-cowl-christy

 


Isn’t That Cozy?!

November 13, 2016

Fearless Knitter Rachel, she of the lovely chromatic cowl among other projects, emailed recently to show off her knitted tea cozy. 


Knit in the round in garter stitch (I think), it’s bright, snug, and sure to keep your teapot warm. 

Rachel’s from England so she knows tea. Looking for a gift to knit for a friend or relative? 

Do you have a Christmas gift knitting list? What’s on it? Mine’s not very extensive and is a secret for now. 


Foxy Knits: Update from Class

November 8, 2016

Christy joined my knitting class this fall and is making an adorable hood for one of her daughters. The Failyn Fox Cowl is knit with two strands of bulky yarn and has provided Christy with several opportunities to learn new techniques. For example, knitting in the round and, as you can see, seaming.

fox-hood-cowl-seaming

The ears are knit separately and include a crochet edging that nicely masks any uneven or not-quite-lined-up stitches. Since I’ve not yet fulfilled my goal of learning to crochet (it was on my summer wish list), we looked up “single crochet edge” in one of my many knitting books and she was on her way.

ears knit separately fox hood cowl

Since she has two daughters, Christy is planning to make a similar cowl for daughter #2. I’ll be sure to update you when she’s finished.

 


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