Category Archives: ABC-Along

Z is for Zebrawood


More fully, Z is for Zebrawood Spindle!


I had Christmas money to spend on myself (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and chose to spend it on expanding my spindle collection from solely the bottom whorl spindles with which I spun at the recent Bethlehem re-enactment, to lighter spindles which were a different variety, top or high whorl.

This heart-stoppingly gorgeous Zebrawood spindle is a Bosworth Midi spindle, carefully and beautifully made by hand and spin-tested before being sent off to me (with a friend or two; there was also a belated birthday present in there).  What a difference well-prepared and easy-to-spin fiber, and a beautifully balanced spindle make!  It’s hard to believe I just started spinning with a spindle a little over a month ago; what I spun last night with my new spindle, looks so much better than my first attempts.


Unfortunately, someone else in my house seems to take a great interest in Zebrawood spindles also!


I think this spinning session is now over….


This concludes 2008’s ABC-Along (during the last hour of the last day, true to form!  Yes, I know it’s 2009, but there was extra time at the beginning for sign-ups, and the periods ended on Saturdays, so the ABC-Along went through today).

It’s been a lot of fun, and I think I should make a retro-collage with all the photos.

But not today.

Y is for Yule


(Last year’s photo, ‘oil painting’ style — but this year’s wreath looks just like this again now.  6 – 10 more inches of the “S” word expected today and tomorrow!)

I use the word “Yule” and not “Christmas” very advisedly.  To me, Christmas is church, the beautiful, serious but hopeful Christmas cantata we’re singing at the Christmas Eve service, and the beginning of the church year with marking this religious event (though truly a hugely less important event, theologically, than Easter in the Christian church).

No, Yule is the whole package.  Did you know Yule was a pagan solstice ceremony that got folded up with Christmas later, just as (almost certainly) the date of Christmas was identified with a previously existing Roman solstice celebration? 

Follow the link above to the Wiki article — it’s interesting.  Yule traditions that have become widespread include evergreens and “Christmas” trees, gift-giving, and celebrating and feasting with family and friends around the winter solstice.  Most of us are no longer sacrificing our own animals, I suppose, but certainly many turkeys, pigs and beef cattle are finding their way to our holiday tables.  (Which always reminds me of the Lou & Peter Berryman existential angst Christmas song, “Big Dead Bird”:  first two verses:

The liquor stores are empty, the car won’t start
The Christmas decorations are falling apart
The temperature is dropping, the sky is grey
Gonna have a big dead bird for dinner
On Christmas Day

Papa’s nerves get frazzled, & wearing thin
Mama in her wisdom gets drunk on gin
The kids go build a roadblock for Santa’s sleigh
Gonna have a big dead bird for dinner
On Christmas Day

I love the Berrymans.)

So:  I am using Yule as a metaphor for the entire holiday season, regardless of any religious affiliation (and justifying this by the solstice origin of Yule and the fact that when you Google Yule currently, many of the results that come up are neo-pagan!).  The short days and long nights, the snow on the ground (up here, anyway) covering up the brown and gray, the feeling of anticipation, the baking and cooking, high-calorie but delicious treats everywhere, the plans to be with friends and families, the parties and concerts and events and open houses, winter plays, naturally the Nutcracker Ballet around here, and also naturally (around here) holiday gift knitting.

I get stressed at times, because it all seems to fall on me at my house, between two children who developmentally don’t seem to be able to think beyond the next twelve hours, and a husband who is not much into holidays or ‘traditions’.  Add to that a job that’s really more than full time right now, and the Nutcracker which always consumes a huge amount of energy this week in particular. But over years, I have realized that it will be what it will be, and the most important thing about Yule is celebrating it with the people who are important to you.  The traditions are fun, but family — whether genetic or ‘found’ family — is what makes this Yule season truly a celebration.

So, this winter solstice and Yule, stay warm with your family and friends.  Celebrate the return of the light and longer days.  Don’t stress (any more than absolutely necessary).  And if you’re in the area: feel free to stop by my house.  I’m not guaranteeing when the tree will be up, or that the floor will be clear . . . but hey, the evergreen wreaths are on the front stairposts, a symbol of the ‘wheel of the sun’, apparently!


I’d like to leave you with a wonderful quotation I happened upon while Googling Yule, serendipitously enough.  This is taken from a salutation to a friend by Fra Giovanni, written on Christmas Eve 1513, and found here.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty – beneath its covering – that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.

And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

X is for Xavier

This is the last day of X-posting (no, not cross-posting): we are to the challenging letter X in the ABC-Along.

Who is Xavier?

Well, other than being the surname of a Jesuit priest and Catholic saint (if you ever meet anyone with the initials F.X., it’s a pretty good bet the initials stand for Francis Xavier and he was baptized a good Catholic boy):

THIS is Xavier.


See, here’s his nametag, below.


Xavier is representing a certain portion of my yarn stash, and an addiction of mine.  To Twisted Fiber Art, being the creation of Meg, a dyer with mad math and dyeing skills as well as an eye for color, which allow her to hand-craft some of the most gorgeous self-striping yarn anywhere.

Although you can see the beautiful saturated colors above and below, and how they pick up the blues of the sky (and the house across the street) and the golden browns of the fall vegetation (right before the snow started the next day):

you have to see it knit up to really appreciate it.  I have not used my Xavier yet, but you can see a preview on the store site here.


Why do I love Twisted yarn so much?  The wonderful yarn bases are important, in fact, essential; but it’s the amazing gradations and blends and combinations of colors that have me hooked.

Here’s a mini-gallery of Twisted projects I’ve put on the blog in the past:

moebius-warms-my-ears sweet-baby-cap-head-on pioneer-braid-scarf-cropped braider-baby-hat flower-in-the-floozy-hat hat-on-a-railing tonks-posing meeting-sock-natural-light beaded-necklace-2 saartjes-booties-with-scorched-kabam1 walking-socks bacterium-on-the-front-steps orbit-scarf

(Click on any you’d like to see bigger.)

And that’s just since May!

The amazing color changes are simultaneously limiting and inspiring in designing, or in incorporating the self-striping yarn into existing patterns.  Any significant lacework or pattern stitches will tend to be lost in the colors.  (Which is a lot of wasted effort and shows off neither the pattern nor the yarn to best advantage.)  The color-change yarn absolutely sings in stockinette, just a little less so in garter stitch, and can be shown to advantage with simple or slip stitch patterns.  Also, the number of stitches it’s made on makes a huge difference to the final look of the stripes.  (See the difference between the Scorched booties above, and the baby hat in exactly the same yarn, the orange/brown/green/yellow colorway.)  So, it’s rather like writing a poem in a very constricted style.  (Think haiku; or a long poem with multiple verses in the haiku form.)  The constriction of technique can be very inspiring.

Plus, it’s always nice to have a simple stockinette sock (for example) on the needles, for travel, walking, meetings, etc.; the color changes make it more interesting.  (I seem to have trouble keeping it simple stockinette, see the last two socks above, but that’s another issue.)

Fortunately, however, I’m delighted to report that for those times when one wants to do more complicated patterns (much of the time, apparently, for me, despite my Twisted addiction),  Meg has (by popular request) started dyeing semi-solids.  They started out as coordinating heel and toe skeins (see the earth-tone sock above, which is knit in Netherfield Kabam; the cuff is in a coordinating yarn).  Now they’re available as whole skeins.  (I used this on my Minstrel Moebius I-cord bind-off.)  And in the most recent update, Meg dyed “Subtles” that were ‘stand-alones’ — not necessarily coordinating with another of her yarns.  Wow!  See this page for a sample (scroll down to the bottom); I just received my order, and among the loveliness was two skeins of Inevitable in Arial, a fine merino light fingering weight yarn which I am going to use, in this case, essentially as a heavy laceweight.

So many ideas!  So much beautiful yarn!  So little time!

No wonder I haven’t knit my Xavier yet!

W is for Waiting


This small scrap of black fluff is Waiting.

Waiting for tests, to make sure she’s healthy enough to come home to be with our other cat.  (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia Virus are serious infections, passed from cat to cat and potentially acquired at or before birth.)

Waiting to get big enough to be tested.  She was not even big enough to draw blood on yet when she first saw the vet, and some of the tests aren’t accurate before 8 weeks of age, due to antibodies that can be acquired from the mother.


She was found alone in a field, covered in mud and less appealing, more smelly stuff, with cuts of her back legs.  She weighed less than a pound.  Acquaintances of my husband’s found her and brought her into their house.  My husband had just been making noises about getting a second cat (surprisingly, because for many years, he’s been Mr. “We-Don’t-Need-No-Steenkin’-Pets”.  Not that we haven’t had/don’t have pets! However, the only one of them that actually came into our household totally-on-purpose was my old cat Thisby, whom I brought home from the Humane Society when I was in training, before we were married).

The initial plan was to wait a little, have her checked out as above, have everybody meet her, then decide if we could adopt her; but we realized we needed to relocate her from the acquaintances’ house when it was apparent that they were feeding her baby rice cereal mixed with Pedialyte….and Kitten Chow which she had trouble getting down (when we took her to the vet, she said she was only 5 weeks old).

So at the moment, this kitten-in-Waiting is staying at my husband’s recording studio: charming musicians, perching on shoulders, snarfing down soft food and crushed dry food, and growing like a weed.


She has a name:  Beya.  She seems to be very happy Waiting.

Because, after all, while you’re Waiting, you can always play!


Please send good thoughts this way for Beya’s good health.  We’re all Waiting and hoping.

W is for Waiting.

V is for Variegated

Variegated yarns.

So much fun and so easy to dye.

So pretty to look at in the skein.

Such a challenge to knit effectively….


One of the projects I am currently working on, which I have not shown you yet, uses a gently Variegated hand-dyed yarn from the amazing Briar Rose Fibers.  And I think this project and the stitch it uses is one that shows off Variegated yarns to good advantage.

The project is a reknitting of my Coulee Shawl, which I mentioned some time ago: a design I created for elann‘s first design contest; the first shawl I ever knit and the first design I ever created from scratch.  It was a runner-up, one of 10.  But not one of the top three (all those picked were more in the vein of pictorial lace, as I remember).

I’ve been asked for the pattern several times since putting it up on Ravelry.  But I wanted to rewrite the pattern, rework the beginning of the shawl, and try the modification of the Seafoam stitch that I did in my Country Manor scarf.  (The modification uses less yarn and, I think, may look a bit better if you’re not going to block the project severely.)  The Seafoam stitch and its mod do nice things for Variegated yarn; breaking up pooling and striping, and allowing the yarn to be shown off.  Here’s the current version of the Coulee Shawl in progress, unblocked, but a little stretched to show the pattern.


This truly glorious yarn is Glory Days:  a Blue-Faced Leicester DK-weight yarn from Briar Rose Fibers that I bought at Chris’ booth at Wisconsin Sheep & Wool.  (About the only non-blue-greenish purchase I made there…..)  I love the autumnal colors.  (Very November-y, may I add, in a good way.) And the BFL is amazing to knit with.  Of course, this Variegation is somewhat subtler, but still, you can see how nicely the different colors are displayed in the drop-stitch areas.

(Here’s what it looks like not stretched out.  A few days ago, it made a nice pumpkin cozy.  Just in case you need one.)


Once I finish this, I’m curious to try the same stitch pattern with some DK-weight alpaca I bought from eBay some time ago;  it’s beautifully hand-dyed in a colorway called ‘Coral Reef’, the colors being what you might imagine, though not my usual choices: mid-intensity yellows, oranges, pinks, mid-blues and greens, lavenders.  What I couldn’t tell from the eBay picture is that the color repeats are very short, probably a stitch or two long knitted up.  I have been pretty sure I wouldn’t like how it will knit up in stockinette.  (Could be wrong.)  But I think I might like it in the modified Seafoam stitch.  (Swatching is foreseen in my future, when I get around to it.  And don’t be fooled by my saying “Once I finish this”:  I don’t mean “As soon as I finish this.”  I have a few other things on my plate before that!)


As I was musing about the challenges that Variegated yarns pose, I reflected that this was yet another way that knitting was like life.  Especially as I was wandering the blogosphere in the aftermath of the recent presidential and congressional elections.  And being a little discouraged by the remarks (particularly their tone) of a few indignant commenters on certain knit blogs I read.

You know, it’s easier to knit with yarn that’s all exactly the same color.  No pooling or flashing or unwanted striping.  If you’re not using different colors of yarns, no weaving in a gazillion yarn ends; no jogs at joins. No dye lots!

Wouldn’t it be just wonderfully easy if all yarn were exactly the same color?

Wouldn’t it be — incredibly boring?  And stifle creativity?

(Anybody read “The Lathe of Heaven”?  In which at one point, in a misfired attempt to prevent race-based problems, everyone became grey?)

We are Variegated too.  Not just skin and hair and eye color, height and weight and the obvious outside stuff, but we have each our own hopes and fears and values and dreams.  It’s easier to knit us all together if we’re all exactly the same — but that isn’t and never will be the case.  And that’s good.  More than good, that’s great.

It may be harder to knit, to braid us all together given our Variegation, but we are each hand-dyed works of art, and we are and will be a beautiful, complex, powerful whole; so much richer for the Variegation.

V is for Variegated.

U is for Un-imaginary Friends

The kind who came out of my computer to play at Rhinebeck!  Naturally, said friends and acquaintances were never all in one place at one time, so I get to cheat again with a montage:

Definitely click to embiggen!  (May take a while to load, though….)

First, my roommate extraordinaire and chauffeuse, Lisa.  She happened to mention on Ravelry that she was going to Rhinebeck and was just in the process of getting a room, just as I had decided to go.  (I co-moderate her group on Rav, so we knew each other a bit and knew we had some things in common.)  I put shyness aside and boldly asked if she would mind a roommate.  I’m so glad I did!  After a missed connection involving a dead cell phone and a wandering Starbucks (did you know there are ten Starbucks within three blocks of Grand Central Terminal?) we finally rendezvous’d in Hyde Park where our room was.  In the picture, she’s holding my and her Socks that Rock acquisitions as we’re in The Fold‘s line waiting to pay (mostly mine, truth to tell, though I think making a sweater from the heavyweight STR was her suggestion, really!)  A cozy armful of STR!  She looks happy to hold it!  And longer arms help to hold more, we decided.

Next across, CeCe found me in that line, and how she knew I’d be there when I didn’t know myself, is a mystery!  The woman just KNOWS.  That beautiful baby bump was too little to see, pretty much just numbers on a piece of paper, back when I met CeCe in April at BMFA Sock Camp.  I love seeing her so happy in this pregnancy and getting closer to a December delivery, even though she was taking a break from a very difficult situation and even though, of course, she’s in the part of pregnancy where nothing is comfortable any more.  We had our first Rhinebeck Artichokes together and decided that the line was totally worth it.  Even though CeCe could only be there Saturday, and not all of that, we kept running into each other all over Rhinebeck that day.  This was one of the nicest hugs I had all weekend.

Third on the top row, me and Allison (kaydgirl on Ravelry) and Lisa, Knitting Physicians at the Ravelry meet-up Saturday.  I needed a hat like hers for warmth as well as identification factor.

Fourth, Heather (zuzusunshine on Ravelry, sorry, I know lots of these Ravelry folks by their Ravnames!) with cupcakes!  Hooray!

Last on the top row,the Very Longest Thread from Ravelry is made corporeal and visits Holiday Yarns’ booth, with the Tsock Tsarina and Pixisis from Ravelry.

Second row!  Two awesome Twisted scarves meet in one place! I was waiting in line for Franklin’s book signing (more on that in a moment), and I saw this gorgeous and very familiar scarf go by, which I had seen on line.  I really AM usually rather quiet and reserved — but I reached out and detained the scarfwearer as she passed by!  Turns out Mel had posted on the Twisted discussion board on Ravelry (yes, there’s a Ravelry theme here, got a problem with that?) that she was coming and she’d wear her scarf, after I’d mentioned mine, but since I left at the ungodly hour of 4 am on Friday (and had no internet access thereafter), I didn’t see her post.  But I sure saw her scarf!  It was fun to have a brief mutual Meg admiration society, there in barn 31, and her Fortune Flame scarf is AMAZING in person.  Believe me, the warmth of merino/silk was very welcome on this most chilly weekend, too!

Second, back at the Holiday Yarns booth (the former VanCalCar Acres: home of Flock Sock yarn and Tsock Tsarina kits and TsockFlock Sock Club), Stephanie Pearl-McPhee pays a call when I was there, here conversing with Lisa the Tsock Tsarina on the left, and Jennifer/Gwynivar, yarn maven, who is on extremely good terms with the FIber Fairy, not to mention being the mother of a talented young dyer as well.  The Yarn Harlot is also seen in the fourth photo, considering yarn and kit choices carefully, while in the center on the previous day (but in the same place) TheGeorg, who is The Tserf and also a peer (how’s that for a dichotomy?).  I’ll just leave it at that.  Last on the second row is me, Lisa the Tsock Tsarina and Jennifer/Gwynivar at the end of a long but productive (for them) and happy (for all) weekend.

Third row!  Still with me? First is a snapshot of Julia, one of the wonderful people behind the Twist Collective, an idea whose time has definitely come and which I am so glad to see.  (Direct from the designer for-purchase patterns, in a nutshell, along with pattern previews and a magazine.) I got a Twist button.  If you had a Twist project on or a pattern, you could get a measuring tape! : )  We were in the aforementioned artichoke line…. Second, back at Holiday Yarns (my hang-out place for much of the weekend), Lisa is demonstrating that there is INDEED something up her sleeve, though you can’t see it yet (I missed taking the picture of her investigating the inside of her shirt looking for it) — namely, a fluff of the lovely fiber she is drop-spinning, which she had stashed about her person.  Notice the lovely York and Lancaster fingerless mitts.  In the direct center, a party in the corridor outside Holiday Yarns, no doubt blocking traffic: starting at 9:00 and going clockwise, first Jesh who had the most gorgeous spindles for sale in the booth; Glenna who has a secret identity as the Yarn Pixie; um, someone I can totally not see; Pixisis again (different day, different outfit); Cyd, who took the train from Canada, and who has a Ravatar she drew herself, which looks more like her than most photographic or all other cartoon Ravatars I’ve ever seen (I recognized her instantly); and, back to the camera, Dan Brewergnome, who learned to spin with a spindle practically before my very eyes (already accomplished with a wheel, he was selling his Gnomespun from the Holiday booth also).  (Two skeins whispered my name….)  Lisa and Dan are spindling in harmony in the last pic on that row.  Too bad it’s cropped and you can’t see his kilt…  Finally, in the fourth spot is me and Franklin!  Franklin Habit‘s first (but not last!) book, “It Itches”, debuted at Rhinebeck.  I happily stood in line a bit, in most congenial company, to have my copy signed and say ‘hello’ to a fellow Midwesterner.  The book is hilarious.  Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore and get a copy if you haven’t yet.

Fourth row — over half done! Lisa (LadyLungDoc), my roommate Lisa, that is, displaying the gift of knitted lungs presented to her at the Ravelry party Saturday night.  (She’s a pulmonologist/respirologist.)  Such a deal!  And her birthday was Sunday!  In token of which, when prizes were given out later at the Rav party, and no one had a birthday actually that day who was there, she was awarded an early birthday present of a sweater’s worth of yarn, courtesy of WEBS and Ravelry!  Next door to that is me and the third Significant Lisa I hung out with this weekend:  Lisa Knitnzu, who thinks I’m short.  (I pointed out that I am the height of the average American woman.  Just because I was hanging out with tall knitters all weekend!  Made them easy to find, I must admit…) As with CeCe, Lisa and I never said good-bye, because (after meeting early on, then hanging out in Franklin’s book-signing line, chatting) we saw each other about eleven times without trying, so there didn’t seem a point to it.  But suddenly, it was closing time…. Next to Lisa, you may recognize Ann and Kay from Mason-Dixon Knitting, who gave a casual and enjoyable talk about how their blog and their books came to be, whilst wearing their handknits from the new book (and grateful for it too, in the chilly temps!) then signed their second book afterwards (yep!  I’m all autographed & stamped with that one too!).   Then, the series of five portraits following are from a chili party Saturday night — no standing in line in the cold waiting for the start of the Ravelry party for us! First, Carole (Carole NJ on Ravelry) invited Lisa (roommate) and I to what was a reunion of some of the BMFA Sock-Camp-Bus Sock Stars and whipped up a wonderful batch of ‘real’ and toned-down chili to warm everyone up.  (The alcohol didn’t hurt either. ) Carole made an awesome Twisted Ravelry scarf that she finished in time to wear Sunday.  And she gave me Sock Star m & m’s!  Thanks, Carole!  Continuing on with the portraits, Susan (misknits) (when I was linking Susan’s blog, I found to my surprise a picture including me from Sock Camp!  See the October 12 entry for the happy ice cream savorers), Joan (jmcmjoan) (blogless but by no means yarnless!), Alice (MissMalice aka socktopus of! from whence she brought me some Malabrigo sock yarn in my favorite jewel tones without even knowing, wow!) and last but not least, organizer extraordinaire, Sam (samro) of KnitQuest and also frequent contributor to Lime & Violet’s Daily Chum.  She’s also someone who was nice enough to award me a second “I Love Your Blog” award recently.  (Since I already passed on the happiness once, I won’t do so again, but I feel loved!)  So, after warming up inside and out and putting on our long underwear (at least, I put on my fine merino footless tights that I wear at ballet, under my pants!), we all went to the Ravelry party, too late for goodie bags, but not too late for fun!  or Free Drinks!  Or the Raffle Prizes!  The last pictures is, of course, for those familiar with Ravelry, Mary-Heather, Jess, and Casey at the mic: awarding prizes.  I won a big bottle of Soak wool wash plus a bunch of little sample size Soaks in a variety of scents.  Awesome!

Some people I met are not photo-documented, either because I forgot, or the time didn’t seem right.  At Briar Rose, I saw and talked briefly to Anne Hanson, she of the amazing and lovely Knitspot designs (she told me to say hello if I saw her!), together with Kim and David.  I showed both Anne and Chris of Briar Rose my nascent reknitting of the Coulee Shawl (Ravelry link), being knit of addictive Briar Rose Glory Days Blue-Faced Leicester DK-weight yarn.  This yarn practically knits itself.  (I, however, have frogged the start I made, as I decided to start the shawl a different way.)   I also saw and said hello to Cara and Meli, who is if possible more beautiful in person than in photos.  Despite seeing Lucia every time & more that I saw Lisa (Knitnzu), I don’t have a picture of her, nor her charming and sage daughter who correctly suggested that I might find my missing Vintage leaf earring in my bag!  (if you biggify the mosaic, note that one earring is missing in the picture with CeCe, but I don’t know it yet…but there they both are in the Twisted scarf picture with Mel in the next row.  Whew!  That was after I scoured the floor of the first vendors’ area I was in….then turned my knitting bag inside out.) And not documented in the Holiday Party above are Mardi Nufflebutt and Kathe Knittingfiddler, as well as Marcy Habetrot, and I *know* I’m missing some other Ravelers who were visiting and whom I met.

And some people I really wanted to meet, I didn’t!  Wah!  Like Norma, Margene, and Sandy!

Well — I guess the prospect of meeting more Unimaginary friends is what will bring me back to Rhinebeck another time, eh?

T is for Technique

Not a very glamorous Topic, True.  But Terribly important to any knitter, new or experienced.

When I learned to knit, I learned ‘English’ style, the way the majority of American knitters do.   But my mother and Elizabeth Zimmermann convinced me to Try Continental, and I wanted to feel comfortable with this Technique before I started my first colorwork project.  (That was also the project I learned the Technique of grafting, or the Kitchener stitch, incidentally; I learned both from “Knitting Without Tears”.)

I still love to use both Techniques Together for colorwork.  I just started a new winter hat for the Gothlet, one I had mentioned earlier, the Bathat (Ravelry link). (BTW, thanks to Lisa [Knitnzu] for turning me on to the Bathat.  She thought, correctly, that the Gothlet would like it, as I recall.) The Gothlet picked these colors out.  The chartreuse gives a new meaning to the word ‘fluorescent‘.  Here I am carrying the Dale Falk Neon in my left hand to knit those stitches Continental, and I am just wrapping the black yarn English style to make a black stitch.  It’s like painting — painting by number, I suppose, but it’s very fast and easy to switch from hand to hand; I don’t have to think about it, just look and see neon, neon, neon, black, neon….and my fingers take care of it.

Well, once I got my feet wet, or my finger wrapped, rather, I never looked back from Continental knitting.  I can Teach people either style, but I go faster doin’ the Continental, especially with my preferred knitting in the round.  I have Taught my daughters to knit (more than once, actually); The RockStar knits English, but the Gothlet, who also crochets (Thanks, Grandma, for Teaching her!) prefers Continental too, since she carries her yarn the same way as with crochet.

Thinking about Techniques Turned me philosophical.  Why do English and Continental knitters sometimes argue about which is better?  Passionately! Fiercely! With unsupported allegations and inflammatory rhetoric!   Granted, Elizabeth Zimmermann was pretty vocal in her advocacy of Continental knitting, though of course at the time she was a lone voice crying in the wilderness (semi-literally, being in rural Wisconsin) and also took a certain amount of satisfaction, I think, in calling herself “The Opinionated Knitter”.  I do have a contemporaneous book to EZ’s, Barbara Abbey’s “Knitting Lace”, and the author (a friend of EZ’s) earnestly states essentially that Continental knitting is not well suited to lace knitting.  Fascinating!

Once again, I realize that I am a lumper, not a splitter; a peacemaker, a “Can’t We All Just Be Friends?” Pollyanna kind of person.  English and Continental both have their strong points.  For example, until Two days ago, I was wearing this mini-Iron Maiden 24/7 for my left Thumb issue

(and will probably need to continue to wear it on and off).  With no ability to move my left Thumb base in the brace (that’s the whole point), it’s very difficult to purl Continental, but it’s do-able (slowly) English-style.  (Purling is generally recognized to be a little easier English-style than conventional Continental style, in any case.)  And then, if we’re talking Techniques, there’s ‘combination’ (also called Eastern Uncrossed, which name appeals to me somehow) knitting, which Technique I have Tried, knit a couple projects using, and learned something from (though I usually choose Continental as I mentioned, as I wasn’t significantly faster with combination.)

When I was at Ewetopia Fiber Shop earlier today, though, I picked up This:

A yarn guide for carrying both yarns over the left finger (see the little diagram).  Elizabeth Zimmermann’s daughter Meg Swansen, a self-confessed “Time and motion freak”, prefers this method of knitting colorwork.  So when I saw this gadget, given that I had just started a colorwork project, I thought I’d Try a new Technique. And next on my list of Techniques to Try is Steeking!  (Finally.)

Because (even if you’re a project knitter) knitting as a whole is a journey, not a goal that one achieves.  I am an experienced knitter, True.  Almost 25 years of semi-obsession, curbed primarily by lack of Time.  Have I done every Technique there is?  Not on your Tunisian crochet hook, I haven’t!  And I’m excited that there are more Techniques to Try! It’s not about what’s intrinsically ‘better’ — usually.  It’s about what works for you, or for me, or for this particular project/yarn/what have you.

And it’s about being a lifelong learner.  Because if you stop learning, you stagnate.  And stagnation in nature equals decay and death.  (For us, we actually lose brain function if we stop using our brain to learn new things.  Use it or lose it.)

Besides which, stagnation smells bad.

SO:  T is for Technique.  Try a new one soon!

S is for Scarf

I was musing the other day about Scarves, as I was knitting a garter Stitch Scarf out of necessity (Sore thumb not allowing purling) as well as desire (gorgeous yarn and a pattern to write up).

I thought about the fact that the first project of so many knitters is a Scarf.  (And it’s wonderful that they finish if so: a Scarf is an exercise in persistence, most definitely.)  The RockStar’s first (and only) finished knit project was a one-skein garter Stitch Scarf in some Noroesque yarn.  (Unless you count one fingerless mitt as an FO.)  Ditto for the Gothlet (I should have put her first, because she actually learned to knit and finished her one Scarf first.  She’s Started a Second one….)

A Scarf was my own first knitting project, although Strictly Speaking, it wasn’t HANDknitting; my first knitting project was loom knitting with a Knitting Jenny (some of you may remember!).  I used leftover acrylic yarn from Stashes from the women who crafted in my family — probably mostly my mother’s, but I seem to remember some grandma yarn in there.

Because I have a Sentimental and proud father, that first Scarf, made at about age 7 or 8 (correct me if I’m wrong, Mom) still exists — believe it or not, it still is worn Sometimes, with pride.

Here it is in my parents’ back yard.  Well-worn; apparently well-loved.  Notice particularly the chunky fluorescent orange yarn widening the middle, giving me my first lesson in how yarn weight affects gauge and drape, and (my personal favorite at the time) the Single row of metallic gold right at the top.  I have to say, considering the array of colors I had to choose from, I think I did OK putting one color next to another.  Nothing clashes with its immediate neighbor too terribly.  The overall effect certainly is eye-catching, however.

One thing about acrylic:  it’s bulletproof.  No worries about the moths getting to this Scarf!

So from that loom-knitting beginning, I don’t actually remember knitting again until college, when I hand-knit an (acrylic) seed stitch vest (ARGH!  Now that really was a miracle that I finished it!).  Then my mother gave me “Knitting Without Tears”, and an obsession was born.

And now, 37 years or so after the Scarf above, after knitting and now designing Sweaters, lace, and more: I have just knit a garter stitch Scarf.

: )

A Scarf is quite a linear object.  But given generations of knitters, and cycles of knitting in our lives, it seems to have a circular quality.  Or perhaps Spiral.

In celebration of Scarves, I’ve written up and shared my pattern for that garter stitch Scarf:  the Pioneer Braid Scarf. (Look for it under Free Knitting Patterns, and Soon to be a free Ravelry download, as well.)  It’s inspired by my favorite modular Scarf, Karen Baumer’s Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf, with a twist.  Or should I say, a braid?!  The name “Pioneer Braid Scarf” came from my internet friend Sarah-Hope of whatifknits, whom the Scarf reminded of a quilting pattern by this name.  Any hand-dyed yarn should show to advantage in this Scarf, as the varying row lengths will minimize pooling; commercially dyed short- or long-repeat yarn will also look great.  Written for worsted weight yarn, I’ve put in guidelines for adapting the pattern to heavier or finer yarns.

Scarves can be tedious to knit; but that Same length makes them ever so Satisfying to wear. They can be as Simple as casting on 16 Stitches and knitting every row until you run out of yarn or patience.  They can be amazingly intricate dances and falls of lace.  Hand-made Scarves are love and caring made manifest:  as when I made my first Scarf above, and as every time my father has worn it.  And as in every Scarf, red and otherwise, shared through the Red Scarf Project.  Here in the Frozen North, they are a necessity from October through March.  All of these, excellent reasons why Scarf is often one of the first words in a knitter’s vocabulary.

S is for Scarf.

R is for Rock Star

Probably the Former Preteen’s new nickname.

(Before anyone asks – NOT a real tattoo!)

She and her band performed 7 (!) songs beautifully last night, at the church block party.  Because of Rain, the performance moved indoors, to the large multipurpose-type room (where the small children’s games had also been moved).  I’m not sure the little people or their parents were quite ready for the hard Rock, though any profanity in the songs was cleaned up before singing.  (Actually, I heard reports of small ones dancing to the music!)

This kid has talked and sung into mics at her father’s studio since she was about three, and it shows.  Plus, she definitely got her father’s performer genes.  She introduced the band and each song, and seemed totally comfortable up there, whether talking or singing her heart out.

I didn’t take any videos last night, though others did.  I’ll let you know if any are put up on YouTube.  The band closed with “Holiday” by Green Day, though, which I did film earlier on my camera, when it was their only ready-for-prime-time song.

These guys have worked hard, all on their own, for a year.  It’ll be a challenge keeping it up, as three of the band members are now in high school and even busier with H.S. activities; the RockStar has three roles in the Nutcracker Ballet, which leads to great busy-ness, in addition to volleyball and Show Choir plus dance class and assorted other things; and it’s going to be harder to communicate, coordinate and practice when band members are split between different schools.  But if they want it to happen, it will.

Edited to add:  The RockStar wanted me to put up the ‘other’ band picture instead, so here it is.

Hmm, the RockStar’s School Colors fingerless mitts are virtually done (should be finished today).  (I’ll show them to you when they are finito.)  If the boys in the band are anything like my musician husband, I bet the band members would like fingerless mitts too (basic black, of course) — sized snugly and made short so that one can wear them while playing.  (In fact, at least one or two of the above boys are in HS marching band; those practices can get chilly as they prepare for the big Oktoberfest parade!)

I wish there was a me that could just knit!  (And blog, and be on Ravelry, and go to fiber festivals….) I have so many things I want and need to do in the knitting realm!  Wendy’s Diamonds and Purls shawl has a bit more tinking then I can get back on track, and will soon be to the edging once I recover from my boo-boo.  I want to finish Swan Lake, as I made so much progress on it during the Ravelympics, and now I’m to the more straightforward part, which is very do-able.  And there are Christmas presents in my head wanting to get out and be knit.  Not to mention finishing writing up the Hat with no Name pattern (with names!) once the test knitting phase is done, and writing up the Coulee Shawl pattern after reknitting it with modifications, and still I’ve promised to write up the Wedding Pi shawl (that will take a chunk of time).  Then there are a couple design projects in my head that need to be swatched and worked out.  And I still have promised to knit “Heere Be Dragone” for the Gothlet, though I already warned her I would probably only be able to start it after Christmas (her birthday’s in February….)

And every skein of yarn I fondle triggers another idea, another project in my head.

I need a knitting clone!  Or a different lifestyle.  Or both….

Well, at least I can knit at the RockStar’s concerts!

Q is for Quiet

One of the treasures of Family Camp vacations for me is the moments of Quiet.  Though much of camp is filled with fun and laughter, games and activities, it is also set in over a thousand acres of Northern Minnesota lake country.  YMCA Camp Olson is on the shore of Little Boy Lake, and has its own small chain of lakes contained within its property, surrounded by private trails and wilderness. 

I and my husband are both creatures who need some solitude every so often.  (His friends couldn’t believe he ever got married, being such a ‘lone wolf’, but that’s a different post!)  Between my occupation which deals with people all the time, and my busy school-age daughters, however, my alone time is usually limited to travelling for meetings (where, truth to tell, I get a bit lonely, since I want to share new sights with my family). 

So the moments I can sneak away in the North Woods replenish my soul.  Can you hear Quiet?  It certainly takes Quiet to hear the wind softly rustling the leaves, the tiny water sounds, the occasional scold of a squirrel or rustle of who-knows-what in the underbrush, even to hear the loon’s wail (at least my daughters kept missing the loons’ call at first, given their chattering!).  

I might be knitting, I might be hiking or canoeing, but the Quiet permeates my whole self until my pulse slows, my breathing deepens, my thoughts become Quieter as well.


This picture is from last year at camp, when every morning, I woke up an hour or more before my family, so would usually take my knitting and sit by the lake various places.  (One morning, however, instead of knitting, I and my father went on a pre-breakfast birding walk with the camp naturalist, as Quietly as possible, and we saw these little guys, baby bluebirds.)

This year, either I was more tired, or camp being a week later in August, and the sun thus coming up not as early, threw me off (or the habit of the girls leaving the curtains closed didn’t cause me to wake up).  Though I still woke up before my family, it was no hour early.  And both girls had friends along, so the cabin was usually full of giggles and shrieks and shenanigans (once they woke up!).  

So I stole my Quiet times in moments here and there, all the more precious.  Starting my Ravelympics projects by the lake before camp officially started, as you saw the other day.  After everyone had left the dining lodge for morning activities.  While waiting for a horseback ride.  Going to see the moon on the lake at night (I really wanted to take a kayak out by moonlight, but it probably would have been frowned upon solo, and I had no volunteers to accompany me). 

The last day, my husband and I took a canoe out on one of the small lakes, which we had all to ourself at the end of the morning; the sound of our paddles was the only thing that broke the Quiet.  (Well, the paddles, and my camera, my husband would tell you!  My camera was in Quiet mode, I’m telling you… and you’ll see those pictures soon.)  But it was really wonderful, being Quiet together, with no particular place to go or thing to do.

We all need Quiet time.

Q is for Quiet.