“Bermudiana” Preview

July 28, 2015

Sara Wolf, teacher on the marvelous Sheep Ahoy Knitter’s Cruise, designed a shawl especially for the cruise. Drawing on the sand, shells, and hibiscus flowers of Bermuda, the shawl features a scalloped lace edge (sand) and lightly beaded lace “flowers.”

Since I misunderstood the pre-cruise instructions for what yarn to bring for the edge (oops!), I had to borrow (permanently) yarn from a generous knitter — that would be Shelley, the brain behind Sheep Ahoy. I did have the Boboli Lace (#4352) for the main body, a blend of many of my favorite colors.

Boboli lace yarn, color 4352

I was not the only knitter who went off-pattern in my yarn selection. Thanks to the shopping prowess of #FlatBarb, Cathie was working with Sunseeker by Cascade, which has a lovely sparkle (zoom in to see the sparkles; they’re worth the effort). The colorway was Sand, not Oatmeal as several misguided folks thought it should be. Really, when have you seen oatmeal as dark as this?!

Lace edge and body of Bermudiana shawl in progress

On the last day of class, several of us displayed our shawls-in-progress. I love the variety of yarn and color combinations (but could do without the garish backdrop of the conference room carpet!).

Bermudiana_shawl_varieties


Knitters Not Knitting (At Least, Not All the Time)

July 24, 2015

The Sheep Ahoy Knitter’s Cruise (and all the non-knitting Muggles) docked at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda for 2 1/2 days, giving us plenty of time to explore and work on our shawls.

Mom, Cathie, and I walked around the dockyard, a former military installation that’s been converted to highlight historic, artistic, and tourist offerings. We poked around a couple of galleries, including one that had some whimsical found-art creations.

found art sculptures in gallery Cruise_Glass_Gallery

We rediscovered the yarn-bombed shrub that we’d seen two years ago. A bit faded and tattered but still there!

faded yarn bombed branches

Around the corner, we found a newly “bombed” light post.

yarn bomb light pole

One of the former military buildings houses a glass blowing studio and shop, where we paused to watch an artist creating dozens of little bee sculptures, which would soon be sold in the shop. Those aren’t pencils or paintbrushes in the box in front of him; they’re rods (sticks?) of colored glass.

glass artist at work

Another building houses a pottery studio and shop. That’s Mom, in her beautiful pink hat, browsing on the other side of the work space.

pottery studio and shop

The next day, we took a three-hour tour in a glass-bottomed boat, passing over coral reefs and an old shipwreck. The tour guides explained the types of coral, varieties of fish, and just how long it took for this particular ship, HMS Vixen, to be wrecked – deliberately so it would block a channel – in this particular location. Apparently there were several attempts. The bow juts above the surface.

bow of shipwreck Vixen

Looking through the glass bottom was awesome. That’s Mom’s head. Since she sometimes refers to herself as “your white-headed mother,” this seems like a good shot.

looking through glass-bottom boat

The boat anchored in a cove, so that passengers could go overboard and snorkel. Since I don’t have a waterproof camera, an above-water photo will have to suffice.

snorkelers return to the boat

Back on the ship, after showers and dry clothes, we knit before dinner. Afterall, it is a knitting cruise.

knitters in cruise ship stateroom

 


Knitting at Sea

July 20, 2015

Long-time readers of the blog know that this is not my first knitting cruise; in fact, it’s my third — last fall, we went to Canada and Maine and two years ago to Bermuda. Of course, even regular readers (some of whom are family) are a bit bemused by the notion of a knitter’s cruise. No, not everyone here is a knitter. It’s a huge ship, and there are 2,000+ people, which just about anyone would consider an over abundance of knitterly folk!

workers washing hull of cruise ship in port

Our 25 knitters had three class sessions between Boston and Bermuda. Teacher Sara Wolf has designed a shawl, the Bermudiana, especially for this cruise. It’ll be available on Ravelry this fall, so check back. She’s drawn on the sand, shells, and flowers of the island and has created shawl and scarf versions.

border variations in Bermudiana shawl

I prefer the top version in the photo because it shows off the lace and beading above the scallop edge, which I think gets lost in the lower (red) version. I volunteered to be a model for Sara, who was taking photos for Ravelry.

modeling the Bermudiana scarf

With a 463-stitch cast on and 12 rows of lace, it’s kind of slow going. So some of us gather in an upper deck bar for a pre-dinner drink, knitting, and conversation. Our fellow bar patrons are bemused.

Cruise_BarKnitting


Sheep Ahoy & We’re Off!

July 17, 2015

The fourth annual Sheep Ahoy Knitter’s Cruise has just set sail for Bermuda! Mom (Nancy) and I are on board for our second trip together. She’s a veteran of all four!

Dear friend Cathie has come from Vancouver for the adventure. We are very sad that fellow Canadian and dear friend Barb had to cancel because of a medical emergency. Perhaps you’ve heard of the children’s book and project, Flat Stanley? We’ve got a digital Flat Barb. She joined us for lunch today.

photo of Barb on iPad, sitting on lunch table

First knitting class is tomorrow morning. I hope to update regularly.


Throw Me a Lifeline (or Two)

June 17, 2015

Knitters won’t be surprised to learn that the definition of “lifeline” in most dictionaries, paper and digital, does not include this handy technique that has saved the life of many a knitter. FIguratively, not literally, of course.

But learning how to use a lifeline can enable you to finish a project, thereby “saving the life” of the project, and that should count for something! Last year, when the cuff of a sock was too tight for the intended wearer, a lifeline allowed me to cut off the offending section, pick up stitches, and make a new cuff.

In the past week, I’ve used lifelines to rescue two projects, Michael’s finished-but-not-done sweater and the recently started Old Shale Wimple.

Michael’s sweater is about two inches too short. It’s also too tight across the chest, but that’s a more complicated issue to be dealt with at another time. Rather than tear out the ribbing around the bottom of the sweater bit by bit — too slow and painstaking a task for me — I wove a strand of white yarn into a row above the ribbing, catching each stitch.

Creating a knitting lifeline by  inserting yarn into each stitch of row

With that row firmly held by the lifeline, I cut the ribbing off the sweater.

yarn lifeline holds row of stitches

And then picked up each of the stitches held by the lifeline. I picked off the extra bits of yarn from the ribbing side, so the stitches on the needle were ready to be worked. I’ll need to add two inches to the body of the sweater and then add the ribbing.

pick up each stitch from the knitting lifeline

The wimple’s rescue was similar but was necessitated by my carelessness in following (i.e., not following) the pattern. I’ll save the specifics of that adventure for another post, but here are the steps of the wimple lifeline.

lifeline inserted in knitting

picking up stitches with knitting lifeline

Learning how to fix mistakes is the key to finishing projects. And I’m getting lots of practice these days!


Curlers in Her Hair

June 8, 2015

For the past few months, I’ve been monogamous in my knitting, working on Michael’s sweater with the hope of finishing it by Memorial Day, when it’s still cool here in Massachusetts. The sweater is finished, but it’s not done. But that’s a story for another day….

In the aftermath of finishing/not-finishing, I’ve cast on two smaller projects, neither of which will have size issues.

Last fall, I bought a skein of Kidding Ewe by Done Roving Yarns at Bee’s in Bar Harbor, Maine. “Cherries Jubilee” is a yummy mix of reds, purples, and greens that will make a lovely cowl or, in this case, a wimple.

First 2 inches of Old Shale Wimple

Yes, “Maria” has been running through my brain.

Second project: “A Good, Plain Sock” in Berroco Sox. This pair for Patrick, who casually commented that I’d knit socks for everyone in the family except him.

Good plain sock recipe

What’s on your needles these days?

 

 

 


Sleeve Setting

May 6, 2015

I must confess that sweater sleeves make me nervous — specifically, the sewing of sleeves to the body and shoulder of a sweater. The seams along the length of the sleeve are easy enough since the stitches line up one-to-one. But as you approach the shoulder, the geometry gets a bit more complicated, with decreases that create shapely curves but can create challenges when it comes to lining up the sleeve to the sweater body.

So it’s no accident that the sweater pattern than I selected as the basis for Michael’s sweater has “flat top” sleeves, no taper, no sleeve cap. If I’d watched this terrific, clear, and helpful video from Knit Picks on how to set in sleeves before selecting the pattern, I may have chosen something different. Next time perhaps….

First step (after blocking all pieces, so really it’s the second step) is to line up the sleeve with the body and secure it. Some knitters use safety pins, clip-on stitch markers, or even paper clips. I prefer to tack — or tie — the sleeve to the body, taking care to line up the center of the top sleeve edge with the shoulder seam.

tacking sleeve edge to shoulder of knit sweater

It’s also important to be sure that the side edges of the sleeve extend equally down the front and back of the sweater. That makes an even armhole, but even more importantly, ensures that the sides of the sweater line up evenly when the time comes to sew those together.

close up knit sweater sleeve tacked before sewing

When I’d secured the sleeve to the shoulder, I asked Michael to try it on to see if the armhole was big enough. He carefully put his head through the neck, draped the cape-like garment over his shoulders — and the sleeve dropped right off!

Pro tip: be sure to actually tie the yarn that holds the sleeve to the shoulder. Gravity is everywhere and will pull off just looped yarn “tacks.”


Attention to Details

May 5, 2015

As I near the finish of Michael’s sweater, I try to balance the desire to hurry up and be done with it already with the desire to ensure that it’ll fit properly and look nice enough that he’ll want to wear it. Most knitters can recount clothing they’ve made for family or friends that never sees the light of day, remaining in drawers or closets somewhere.

Blocking before sewing is one of those important details. Plus, it’s fun to see the pieces laid out and lovely.

front of nordic sweater blocking on bed

Last night, when the 1.5″ neckband that the pattern called for was too high and turtleneck-ish for Michael’s taste, I calmly patiently carefully tinked* back several rows and binded off a 1/2″ neckband (K2 P2 ribbing). Much better, Michael declared.

close-up of knit ribbed neckband on sweater

Tomorrow, the sleeves.

* Tink = knit spelled backwards; the process of un-doing knitting stitch by stitch, rather than ripping out row by row.


Wash and dry knits

April 19, 2015

Via my wonderful friend Cathie, a lesson in the resourcefulness of knitters and the durability of knitting. Picture this:

Skilled attorney, frequent flyer, intrepid knitter Cathie in the airport lounge where she’s passing the time during yet another Air Canada flight delay. Cup of coffee and suitcase by her side. In a perfect example of the domino effect, suitcase tips, knocks over coffee, which spills into open knitting bag at her feet, soaking her knitted baby blanket.

knit baby blanket variegated yarn

After some choice words (I wasn’t there but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t silent during said event), Cathie calmly takes blanket to wash room, rinses in sink (cool water, of course), squeezes excess water, and returns to lounge,

where the beautiful blanket is draped over the offending suitcase to dry.

knit baby blanket drying at airport


Throw Down & Done!

April 8, 2015

There’s such a thrill to finishing a knitting project. What a wonder to see hundreds (usually thousands) of stitches, formed one by one, that become a one-of-a-kind creation. That’s part of the delight for me, something I try to convey to my knitting students — you’ve created something beautiful with sticks needles, string yarn, and your own skill, patience, and perseverance.

Regardless of the item created — a cotton washcloth, a pair of socks, a lace shawl, a scarf or cowl — and regardless of the various mistakes that occurred along the way (most of which were corrected but some may remain in the finished piece as “design elements”),  each is unique, beautiful, and made by YOU!

Which brings us to Kathy and her Crate & Barrel Throw, completed in yesterday’s class — all bound (binded?) off and ends woven in. The photo doesn’t do the throw justice — it’s soft (knit with 2 strands of lovely heathered gray wool) and has just the right amount of heft for cuddling under on the couch (while curling up with knitting, of course!).

Kathy Shows Off Finished Knit Crate & Barrel Throw

One of the other things that makes finishing a knitting project so enjoyable? Thinking about your next project!


Knitting Wirelessly

March 26, 2015

At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur (and no, I don’t know what a dinosaur sounds like), I’d just like to say how awesome it is to have the Internet as a tool in my knitting teaching and learning tool kit.

In a recent knitting class, Rachel was learning how to make a provisional cast-on for Knit Picks’ Chromatic Circle Cowl, a luscious piece that’s knit “lengthwise.” After I explained the point of a provisional cast-on — to be able to create a seamless circle so that the subtle color changes would “flow” — we found an online video tutorial. Rachel watched, followed along (with the occasional curses and snide comments) and paused, as long as needed to complete the cast-on.

Watching_video

The next week, Kathy decided her next project would be a Pineapple Tea Cozy (not a typo). Before she bought the yarn, I recommended she try the pattern by knitting a swatch with some spare yarn. The pattern looked simple enough, but as my mother says, “anything’s easy if you know how.” And we didn’t know how to decipher the instructions in this pattern.

Using Kathy’s phone and my laptop, we looked through Ravelry projects, searching for notes and tips. Then we searched for videos — “how to knit pineapple stitch” and the like — all to no avail. Then Kathy typed the instructions, “k4tog, p4tog,” into her search engine and discovered that the stitch is also called the “anemone stitch.” That was the breakthrough we needed. One click on a video, and she was on her way.

Anemone_Stitch


Eclectic Cowl

March 24, 2015

Until I made an Eclectic Cowl for my old long-standing friend Beth, I’ve never known the artist who created the yarn for my project.

Diane, aka Lady Dye, is a talented local fiber artist here in Boston. Her “urban-inspired yarns” are inspired, in large part, by street art. Her hand-dyed, multicolored yarns are simply exquisite and the colorways are delightful. My skein was from JP Knit and Stitch in Jamaica Plain.

Eclectic_Cowl_Lady_Dye_Yarns

The pattern is simple and shows off the color changes beautifully. It reminded me, in many ways, of the Yarn Harlot’s Encompass Scarf (one of my favorites).

Dear friend Beth, whom I’ve known and loved since we were in grade school in central Maine, says she just loves her birthday gift. Doesn’t it look great on her?!

Eclectic_Cowl_Lady_Dye_Yarns


Striped Socks…Belatedly

March 22, 2015

I gave more knitted gifts for Christmas last year than I had before. Usually I start around Thanksgiving, and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that that’s not enough time to make more than a couple of items. I’m not a chunky knit, make-it-in-a-day knitter although I definitely understand the appeal.

Knitting whenever and wherever possible was my goal. Socks are great anytime projects because they’re small enough to stick in a bag or pocket and pull out anytime you have more than a minute to wait — just about anywhere. Like at the pediatrician’s office.

knit_striped_sock

In a waiting room while Patrick had surgery… (He’s all healed, thanks for asking)

striped_sock_2

I just love this self-striping yarn, Opal Hundertwasser, which knits up beautifully — almost like magic.

Striped_knit_sock_at_hockey_game

OK, I got a few odd looks while knitting at a college hockey game, but I did my best to be a Fearless Knitter (as I tell my knitting students). A Fearless Knitter on a mission.

Finished_striped_sock

Handknit socks aren’t everyone’s first choice, but I’m doing my best to convert those folks one pair at a time.


Topping Off a Baby Hat with a Tassel

March 2, 2015

Gillan, a fiber artist who’s one of the Fearless Knitters in my weekly knitting class, made an adorable baby hat. Don’t you agree?

Simple Colorful Knit Baby Hat

Since it seemed a little bare on top, she asked for advice for some kind of finishing detail. She had crocheted a flat flower, complete with multi-colored petals, but that didn’t seem right. Neither did a pom-pom. Either one would have hidden, or at least obscured, the beautiful detail of the decreases on the hat’s crown.

My recommendation was a two-color tassel, which would provide a nice finishing touch while allowing the crown stitching to shine through. Knitting designer and teacher Lisa McFetridge has a helpful video tutorial on how to make a tassel. Lisa was the instructor on last fall’s Sheep Ahoy Knitter’s Cruise. (Doesn’t a Boston – Bermuda cruise in July sound pretty tempting right about now?! Check it out. I believe space is still available.)

Look what a difference this topper makes!

Easy Tassel on Knit Baby Hat


A Knitting Palette Cleanser

January 23, 2015

Just as when enjoying a big, complex meal, sometimes a knitter needs to cleanse her palette with something refreshing. I’m working on a sweater for Michael and am nearly done the second sleeve. But a couple of nights ago, I had the urge to finish something  — anything.

An early Valentine decoration fit the bill. Using DPNs and some of the red yarn for the sweater, I finished the first side in about 15 minutes. After soaking and blocking (I know, not totally necessary but I’m a creature of habit), I had this lovely wee thing.

small red knit heart

The next day, I knit its pair and, after a refresher on the blanket stitch, finished.

Finished small knit red heart

Aaaah, that felt good.


Update from the Knitting Classroom

January 15, 2015

After being on hiatus for about a month, my weekly knitting class has started up again, and the New Year seems to have infused everyone with energy.

Pam, a novice but nonetheless fearless knitter, finished her first project: a cotton dishcloth (or face cloth) with a “butterfly” pattern. I love this free pattern, especially for a first project. The new knitter learns how to:

  • detail of knitted butterfly dishclothcast on
  • knit, purl
  • follow a pattern
  • make seed stitch border
  • create these nifty “butterflies”
  • bind off

All in a 8″ x8″ square (larger or smaller to suit one’s taste).

The finished product, ready to wash dishes or bodies, wipe up spills, and repeat as needed.

knit cotton butterfly dishcloth

After finishing a pair of socks for her brother and three chunky GAP-tastic Cowls for her daughters, Judy couldn’t stop herself — and created her first design in the process (although she doesn’t think she did). A friend of her youngest (16) requested a red cowl, but Judy doubted that the teen would wear an all-red cowl and, truth be told, didn’t want to buy yarn to make it. Instead, she decided to use the cream bulky wool that she had and added a strand of red sport weight from her stash. I think the result is fabulous and am quite sure the selfie-snapping recipient agrees.

chunky Gaptastic cowl


Understanding My Mother’s Prayer

October 4, 2014

Like many women of a certain age, I find myself repeating my mother’s wisdom and sayings on a regular basis. A wise, strong, generous woman of deep faith, she often says that her prayer for me and my three brothers was not for our happiness or accomplishment. Rather she prayed, “May they have help when they need it.”

As the mother of three teenagers, I’ve prayed this many times over the years and been so grateful that help has been present even in frightening and unlikely circumstances. Like the man who witnessed Michael getting hit by a car just happened to have my phone number and called me after calling 911. Or the known and unknown (to me at least) times that a friend stepped in to say, “I think it’s time we leave this party” or “That doesn’t sound like a great idea.”

Help may indeed be all around us, but often we have to take the first step, especially when there’s no one else (like a parent) to give a nudge. “Don’t worry, Mom, I’m washing it every day and using triple antibiotic ointment,” Kevin said last month in describing an elbow scrape from the rugby pitch.

The surface wound healed beautifully, but 12 days later the elbow was suddenly swollen, red, and painful. After class, he went to the university health center and was promptly sent to the local hospital emergency room where he was admitted and hooked up to IV antibiotics. .

IMG_4061

By the time I arrived the next morning, the meds were working their magic. His fever had dropped, and the swelling had decreased and stopped spreading, but it still looked pretty nasty.

With a cell phone charger borrowed from a nurse, Kevin was able to email professors, friends, and teammates to let them know that he wouldn’t be able to meet various commitments as planned. With a TV all to himself, we hunkered down for a couple of days of college and pro football games.

IMG_4063

After 48 hours of antibiotics, he was discharged — looking forward to a shower and grateful for his student health insurance, good medical care, and a pizza lunch courtesy of Momma.

IMG_4064

Anne Lamott says that all prayers can be simplified to three basic prayers: Please, Help, and Thank You. Sounds right to me.


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).

IMG_3778

Did I mention how much I love the colors?

IMG_3776

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.

IMG_3777

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


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