Similar But Not the Same

A skein of purple yarn and a skein of purplish blue yarn next to the start of a mitten

Purple or blue?

Happy Thursday Knitters! Here in Kansas summer and fall are still duking it out in a battle of cool nights, muggy mornings, and afternoon sun, but I’ve begun to wade into my stack of fall magazines and patterns.  It’s a bit overwhelming.  Fall is the season that most designers live for, and there is so much joy in fall designs.  Instagram has become a minefield, each designer I follow happily announcing new patterns AND new yarns AND a KAL to go with everything.

This has been a crazy busy time of year: I signed up for several large projects, will be traveling to a conference, and that pesky little pre-tenure review (2 of 6) falls in October this year.

Add all those things together, and I can barely draft a blog post in a week (seriously, it has taken me a week to write this post!).  I was going to hold strong and finish up my 9 UFOs first….and then the lovely ladies behind Great Northern Knits released the Laura + Maddy mittens.

They are adorable mittens with a gauntlet style wrist and I am in love.  I fell all over myself to grab the Elsebeth Lavold Calm Wool left over in my stash from the Peaks Island Hood and cast on.

If you’re not familiar with Twin Peaks (the show that Great Norther Knits is inspired by), Laura and Maddy are two characters who look almost identical (they’re played by the same actress), and the mittens are almost identical too.  Only the pattern at the tip is reversed.  I unintentionally played up the “same but different” factor on my pair by accidentally grabbing the last smidge of a skein of purple rather than the blue to cast on the first mitten.  In my defense, look at how close they are in the picture above.  And it was early morning when I cast on!  I’m hoping that under a nice gray winter sky, nobody except me will notice.

The weekend nears–may you all be knitting with the color of yarn you thought you’d picked up.

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Revenge of the Summer

In retaliation against my overt enthusiasm for fall, this last week has been summery with a vengeance. Highs in the 90’s, humidity that sneaks up on you and knocks you flat, the threat of massive thunderstorms–only rarely made good.

My act of rebellion is knitting on an alpaca blend tunic. The force is strong, and fall will come. 

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The Last of the Summer Knitting

In a college town, time moves the the coming and going of students and faculty. Everyone is back now. The mornings are cool and the parking is gone. I have had a big stack of unopened fall knitting magazines for weeks, but I hadn’t been able to get my head around this whole fall thing.

Isn’t summer supposed to drag out for two more miserable months?  And also, how can it be fall when my summer knitting isn’t done?

This afternoon I went on a finishing-up kick, and that took care of the last of my summer knitting:

Detail of a Waterlily Tee in turquoise

Wonky sleeve the result of incomplete blocking

The Waterlily Tee.  This was my first project from the Pom Pom Quarterly magazines, and I really enjoyed wrapping my head around a different house style of pattern writing.  A lot of Ravelers complained that the stockinette went on forever, but I really liked that the bulk of the knitting could happen while I was on autopilot.  The lace pattern is basically two offset columns, and by the time you’ve done two repeats, you’re at the shoulders.

I adore this project: the watery green (by Kansas dyer Th’Red Head designs — score one for Knit American!) combined with the unstructured shape looks very Deco to me, the sort of garment that Cassandra Mortmain might have inherited and revived with green dye.

Woman wearing a Waterlily Tee in Turquoise

What is this face about?

I borrowed Querido from his homework for the lace detail, but attempted to do a front shot myself before the light faded.  A dozen blurry and oddly framed images were (until I deleted them) proof that I need to spend some serious time practicing using my camera’s timer.  I also need to lose the Selfie Gothic face.  Truly, having a new top finished is not a grim occasion.

Solemn photos or not, that’s the last of the summer knitting.  I have cotton-blend yarn for three more tops, but now it’s time to turn to wool and worsted weights.

Happy Fall, knitters.

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That’s Better

Pink knitted potholder with crocheted hook loop

You know that moment, when you have a dozen pressing tasks to attend to, and suddenly the most minute issue, one that has been lingering at the very bottom of your list for months, suddenly becomes The Most Important Issue To Address?

That was me today.  I crocheted a loop onto a potholder I knitted in 2013.  I’ve known since I finished it that it would benefit from a loop, so I can hang it on the fridge with its crocheted potholder friends, but suddenly, this afternoon, crocheting that loop became essential to my continued existence.

I felt a little better once I had added that tidy little loop, but when I was digging around in my scrap bin for some yarn to crochet the loop I had unearthed the 200-odd yards of laceweight merino that has been a tangled mess since I finished my little linen Icarus shawl in 2011.  I don’t have any photographic documentation, but I spent an hour detangling that yarn.  (Yes, I am the sort of person who untangles laceweight merino.  There’s a very good chance I was a terrier in my former life.)  I got about halfway done before I realized I hadn’t seen Eloise in a while, and had a moment of panic wondering how she had entertained herself for so long.

Miraculously, she was taking a nap, not destroying all the yarn I hold dear (her other favorite hobby), but while I was downstairs looking for her, I saw the shawl my grandma had sent back to me for mending a shamefully long time ago.  Incidentally, it is also an Icarus.  The spell of delicious unknotting had been broken, and I have been feeling quite guilty about not mending the the moth hole in this shawl.

Moth hole in a pale blue knitted Icarus shawl

So yes, that became imperative to fix too.

Pale blue knitted Icarus shawl with mended moth hole

See the little blip in the top right corner?  Not my tidiest mending job, but the merino is nice and fuzzy and should stick to itself to keep things in place.  As an aside, I have had the little knob of leftover yarn from this shawl floating in my stash for over seven years, and I am so glad.  Matching this gray-blue color, not to mention the fiber content and single ply, would have been a nightmare.  I basically would have had to buy another skein of Malabrigo Lace for the half-yard I needed to fix the hole.  Crisis averted.

After I folded up my grandma’s Icarus and tucked it in a box for shipping, I was so far into the sea of minutiae that I figured now was as good a time as any to update my Ravelry library and put a few rounds on the Pi Shawl that has become a permanent fixture in the living room.  Perhaps with these little details out of the way, I can get back to the items at the top of my to-do list tomorrow, because there are a few things that I’m going to need a weekend-sized chunk of time to get done.

What about you, readers?  What unexpected items have you crossed off your to-do lists recently?

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I Miss My Photo Stylist

Still not 100% here, but I can’t wait any longer to show you my latest FO: the much-awaited Midtown Cardigan. 


Ok, so maybe none of you were holding your breath for it. But I started this sweater last September, shortly after I received my copy of Midwestern Knits. All the patterns in that books are great, but the Midtown cardigan looked like the sort of sweater I would wear all the time. In a rare alignment of the stars, I even had the right yarn: four years of 100% Romney in DK weight from Vermont Grandview Farm, purchased as CSA shares. 

I flew through the back, with only minor mishaps with the intarsia pattern on the center back (sadly not shown) because the two years of gray are almost indistinguishable in low light. Then I hit the zig-zag texture pattern on the front, and suddenly I had to pay attention to my work. The agony, right?  Most of my knits are plain stockinette, so working the fronts was a definite workout for the brain. Another knitter on Ravelry made the fronts identical to the back, with texture on the border and stockinette for the main section, but I was using my special yarn, so I wanted to go all out. 


The promise of showing this sweater off at the county fair lit a fire under me this summer, and I buckled down to crank out the sleeves in a couple of weeks.  I was super proud of it, and proud of the character of the yarn: each year, the yarn came from different sheep in the flock and was spun in small batches at a nearby mill. One year the cream was slightly creamier, with a slipperier, denser yarn, and the next year it was paler and sproingier.  The slipped stitch pattern blended them together really beautifully, I thought.

The judge was only whelmed, however, and gave the sweater a blue ribbon for uneven tension. In fair code, that is acceptable, not excellent, work.  I have convinced myself that they misread of the interaction of the two cream yarns.  Next year I will submit lace, and you can bet your britches it will have been blocked within an inch of its life. 


Back to the sweater!  It was so special it needed properly styled FO photos, something I have been feeling the lack of since I moved away from las hermanas, my photo stylists.  So along the sweater came to San Francisco. Hermana took us to Temescal Alley in Oakland, and after epic shopping and donut-eating, we did a FO photo shoot. 


No matter what the judges say, I love this sweater. The story of the yarn, the fit of the pattern. I am so happy that I could get Hermana to style me in it (including telling me to stand up straight) to commemorate its completion. 

(For project details, check out my Ravelry project page)

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Home, Sick

Hello Dear Readers!  After a long weekend spent traveling halfway across the country, my world has shrunk to here:

I picked up a cold somewhere in San Francisco, and thinking back to all the surfaces I came into contact, I’m really glad that this is all I picked up.  It is a dirty, dirty, dirty city.

My week of frogging was topped off by the discovery that my Katherine Hepburn Fancy Trouser Socks were too small.  I say “discovery” like it came to me like a bolt from the blue.  It didn’t.  One of the knit night ladies, a sock knitting machine, took one look at it, said “That sock looks awfully small,” and fished out one of her own for comparison.  She was right: it was not even a smidge too small, it was at least two inches too small.  My desperation was such that I even blocked it, but it didn’t grow at all and I had to admit to myself that denial ain’t a river in Egypt.

I immediately cast on again, using the same sock size (medium) but larger (size 2) needles.  Now the socks are actually human sized but still slightly smaller than my first pair.  I had to look twice to verify this: the first pair of socks are a size small, but they are definitely larger than this pair.  My best guess at an explanation is that I am picking rather than throwing.  Knitting this way has become much more natural than when I started in April, but my gauge is consistently snug.  Or shall I say more snug: I have always been a tight knitter.

The socks traveled with me to SF and back.  I had forgotten how awesome it is to travel with socks.  If you’ve never done so, you must.  They’re amazing: light, easy to take out and put away, and better still, all the little moments of knitting time add up quickly.  As you can see in the picture with Eloise, I am past the heel (now past the gusset), so the size these socks are is the size they will remain.  Worst case scenario, one of las hermanas will get a new pair of handknit socks.  I am still a fan of both the German Herringbone stitch pattern and the sock pattern itself, so knitting a third pair would not be a problem.

And now, dear readers, I am afraid my ability to focus has dwindled away to nothing (one of the worst parts of having a cold: you’re stuck sitting around and can’t concentrate enough to fill the sniffly hours).  Happy knitting, and don’t forget to wash your hands.

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An Essential Quality in a Knitter

Thank you readers for sharing your suggestions for positive alternatives to all the political nastiness going on out there!  Hearing about all your constructive activities was very encouraging.

Knitting (and buying yarn) has remained my primary response to stress lately, which was all well and good until I realized I had four projects that had been trotting along, somewhat irregularly, without me checking in and taking a good hard look at what I was making.  I favor swatching by starting to knit the actual garment, then pausing to check on gauge and all that good stuff when a bit of the piece has been worked.  Most of the time, I know how my knitting habits will interact with the yarn and pattern and can make a solid guess about which needle size to use to get gauge.  In rare lucky instances, I know how the designer writes and can make yarn and needle choices accordingly.  In other cases, I do my best and either I don’t know the yarn or I don’t know the fiber or the design implements techniques I don’t often use and for any of those reasons and more it just doesn’t work out.

Determination is a good quality for a knitter to have, and patience, but what I realized as I took a good hard look at (um) five of my UFOs is that honesty is equally important.

Knitted Waterlily Tee in progress

Waterlily Tee, shaping up (for now)

Thankfully, the Waterlily Top is proceeding without incident for now.  Fingers crossed it stays that way!

Beginning of a new vest

Trying again.

The O w l s sweater not so much.  I had both sleeves knitted and the waist shaping halfway done.  The knitting started as a comfort during the loss of our cat Cassie, then just continued.  I convinced myself that it was ok that my gauge was larger, not smaller, than stated on the pattern and that the stiff, potentially bulletproof, fabric I was producing would soften up with wear.  Both those were utter lies and a spin through a yarn store that carried the full complement of Brown Sheep yarns, supported by a conversation with the proprietor, brought me to my senses.  I went home, pulled up Ravelry, and there it was.  Brown Sheep Burly Spun is a super bulky yarn, not the bulky O w l s calls for.  I frogged the whole thing and found a pattern in my library that called for the gauge I was getting.  Maybe the third time will be the charm with O w l s.


Remember this yarn?

Project the third: a Spring Garden Tee to use up the remains of my yarn from the Francis top.  Should be simple, but I was in complete denial about how much this bamboo yarn stretches.  I have been wearing and washing Francis frequently this summer, and there are no two ways about it: Bamboo Pop stretches.  A little voice wondered about that when I blithely cast on this tee with size 6 needles, but I quelled it for weeks, wrestling with the yarn to get as tight a gauge as I could and pretending I didn’t notice how much the fabric expanded when I gave it a little tug.  Today, emboldened by how the world didn’t end when I frogged my O w l s, I took a good hard look at the tee and admitted what I’d known all along: the fabric was going to stretch and get sloppy.  Now it’s tidily frogged and waiting in its project bag with a size 5 needle.


The Twenty Ten Cardigan.  It should have worked.  The pattern calls for a size 8 needle, and my gauge was far too tight on a size 10.  I set it aside, I blocked it.  It was no use: I needed to go up another needle size.  Out it came.  The slightly rumpled ball is now packaged up tidily with its new friends, the size 11 straights.

After the initial shock of frogging not one but three projects, I’m quite glad I stepped back and took a good hard look at my WIPs.  If I’d been honest with myself a lot sooner, I would have lost less knitting time, but as far along as all these projects were, it had become impossible to argue that they were going to turn themselves around.  Silver lining, right?

What about you, readers?  When is the last time you had to be brutally honest with yourself about a project that wasn’t working?

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Instead of Cursing the Darkness

This has been a craptastic year for world events, hasn’t it?  Stateside we have this election year that has been doing a great job of bringing out the worst in people. Not as bad as other things that could be happening, but still, a bunch of politicians sniping relentlessly at one another is not making me feel particularly happy with the government. 

Rather than add to the nastiness that passes for political discussion stateside, I present to you a random assortment of things I like to do or have done (and that you can do too, if you’re so inclined) to put some good in the world.

  1. Celebrate a birthday.  Just because it’s a national holiday doesn’t mean the fourth of July can’t be someone’s birthday, so ask around.  Leave the red, white, and blue at home and show them this is their day, too.  (As a bonus, they might have birthday cake.)
  2. Adopt a pet.  I’m a month late in posting, but Eloise and Malthus are now three. I was not in the market for a pet when they were found in a box outside a friend of a friend’s house, but they were only three weeks old, and I knew I couldn’t let them go to the county pound.  Three years later, they still indulge in the occasional kitten stampede or game of Whack your Sister on the Head, but mostly they are Very Helpful Wittens.  If you need your own Helpful Wittens, do a web search for cat rescue and the name of your city and county.  There are many, many cats in need of loving homes (pro tip: if you adopt an adult cat, they will sleep between playtimes).
    Tabby cat sitting in a bathtub with a blocking sweater

    Malthus feeling the need to supervise

    Cream colored cat on an ironing board

    Eloise loves her kitty perch, even though I insist on doing my ironing on it

  3. Buy local food. I can’t tell you how much satisfaction I’ve gotten out of going to the local farmer’s market, getting to chat with the vendors and learning what foods are in season when. Everything at our market comes from nearby farms, and after learning how good vegetables taste when they are fresh picked, it’s hard to go back to grocery store veggies. Right now we’ve got chickens and All the Tomatoes.  Cooking makes for nice together time with friends and family too: although Querido is a reluctant chef, he is very good at preparing (and taste-testing) cuts of meat while I tackle the rest of dinner.
  4. Give to a good cause.  I think everybody here knows that I am an unabashed Stephanie Pearl-McPhee fangirl, so it’s not much of a surprise I’ve donated to her team in the Friends for Life Bike Rally.  But seriously.  She believes in this cause so much she is not just giving her time to serve on the steering committee, she is also riding 600 km, and camping the whole time.  Imagine that.  Do you believe in something enough to bike 372 miles for it without the promise of plumbing at the end of the day?  Exactly.  That’s why I gave money.  If there’s a cause nearer and dearer to you, go give to that.  You’ll feel good.

Ok, everyone, do something nice, then get yourselves a nice cold drink and relax, because you made this Monday better than you found it.

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In the Middle


Here we are, knitters, in the middle of the year.  This holiday weekend is billed as the epitome of vivacity by cooking and lifestyle magazines, but here in Kansas it has been uniformly dour.  Some rain, but mostly just solid, dull clouds and a cool wind.  Malthus and I are on the couch, listening to the intermittent pop of fireworks (do they show up at all against the gray or is this just an outlet for ennui?) and sleeping and updating my Ravelry library, respectively.

This weather has me in an introspective mood, so let’s take stock of the year to date.  I have cast on for 23 projects this year, most of them garments, but only completed 11 projects (two this quarter).  While nearly 8,000 yards of yarn have entered the stash, I’m not doing too badly on output, having knitted up 3,200 yards.  Remember, I don’t count yardage until the project is finished.  That means another thousand yards or so are hanging out in the form of UFOs.

In spite of my distractible nature, I have been consistently knitting off the wishlist: Hitchhiker, Koolhaas, Snug Hood, and Jilted are already FOs, and Waterlily, Twenty Ten, Still Light, Owls, and Bonny are all in progress.  Spring and early summer were a bit heavy on garments.  This was a good opportunity to expand my experience with garment construction techniques, but my eye is starting to wander.  I have been actively coveting socks and shawls (Kate Davies’ Book of Haps did not help with this).  And since we’ve passed summer’s peak, I could also start planning fall sweaters.  Velma, Everett Henley, Fitted Dolman, Verchères pullover, Windswept.  The planning may have already happened.  Speaking of Windswept, I could instead implement my plan to knit one of every design out of Handmade in the UK.

The good news is that although my interest in particular projects waxes and wanes according to how many new patterns I’m drooling over at the time, I am still loving all my yarn.  The infuriating but lovely slipperiness of pure Romney, the chubbiness of Merino sock yarn, the drape of a silk blend.  We still have one more day left in this cloudy  long weekend.  Let’s see how much yarn I can get my hands on.

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Plugging Away

The Twenty Ten cardigan is getting a time out while I decide what to do about the three-stitch disparity between my gauge and the pattern gauge.  In the meantime, I have picked up my Midtown cardigan again.  If I can just get past the fronts, I may actually finish it less than a year after I started. 

(As an aside, I am not a particularly good indie design ambassador with this project. It’s a great pattern, and it’s unfinished because I have the attention span of an Eloise kitten, not because there’s anything wrong with the design. Go knit one of your own, and if you do, please blog about it so I’m inspired to get my rear in gear and finish mine already)

I am excited by the prospect of actually having and wearing it, but I am also a little scared by the length of the side seams. There’s going to be a lot of seaming up to do, and as we all know, I throw up a fuss over seaming.  Fingers crossed the allure of starting a new project will get me through. 

What about you, dear readers? Is a new project or an old project keeping you company this Saturday afternoon?

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