November 30, 2013

Slipperish Socks, a new free pattern through January 1, 2014.

Hello, all!

Just a quick note to announce that I have posted a new free pattern, available as a downloadable pdf on Ravelry. It will remain free until January 1, 2014.  That way, everyone who would like a quick, sockish Christmas pattern can take advantage of it at no cost!

The pattern is called "Slipperish Socks" and was created for the workshop I taught a couple of months ago. It is a toe-up sock pattern that works up quickly in worsted weight yarn. For extra usefulness, I have created the pattern to include sizes from older baby/toddler to large man--this naturally includes a wide variety of foot circumferences, from 4" to 11".

You can find the pattern here in my Ravelry "store." (I say that in quotes since all 4 of the existing patterns are free so far!)

Happy Holidays to everyone! I hope to be back writing more soon!!

August 31, 2013

Toe-Up Socks Knitting me.

This is only one of the marvelous photos from the Homesteading
Fair website. Check it out to see a complete slideshow!
Hello, all!

I hope this finds all of you well and healthy, and full of knitterly joy and creativity! It has been a very nice summer here in the Pacific Northwest--excepting the peculiar humid and stormy days as of late, which are very foreign to our region.

Even as the calendar suggests it is time to start winding down into cooler days, it is not. It looks as though we are going to have some continued sunny and warm days around here. This might not be as much fun as some early, crisp fall mornings for those of us who long to wear woolen shawls and sweaters and socks, but it is nice weather for late summer activities like concerts and fairs.

Speaking of fairs, I have been fortunate enough to have been asked by the good people over in Lyle, Washington to teach a sock knitting workshop at their second annual Homesteading Fair this year. My class will be on how to knit socks from the toe, up and will include Judy's Magic Cast-On and a short row heel. It will be my first time teaching others besides my friends to do this, but I am very excited to try and have been working hard to prepare! And I am only one part of a very fun event.

The fair takes place on September 21st and will be from 9a.m. to 6p.m. and will include lots of workshops and events like sausage making, soap making, a pioneer living museum, and goats, chicks and alpacas. There will be a gal there spinning alpaca and selling her own handmade, hand-dyed yarn, too. There is so much fun that I cannot list it all! Please check the fair out on their website/blog or on Facebook! There is even entertainment too!

As one who loves the idea of pioneer-style living, I am very excited and honored to be a part of this. Anyone else out there like me? You read the entire Little House on the Prairie series, were sad that it ended, picked it back up and started all over? After my second or third time through, I sought out some of Rose Wilder's books, just to keep that good feeling going, as if I could somehow find a way to climb into the stories.

My husband thinks I should have been born on a farm, but since I cannot live on a farm right now, I can do my own bread baking (though for me it must be gluten free now), canning and jelly making, sewing, gardening and sock knitting.

If you are going to be in the good ol' Pacific Northwest where we love our pioneer heritage and feel like one those folks yourself, or if you just want to knit your own toe-up socks, plese join me for a fun filled day in Lyle, Washington out the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, one of my personal favorite places on the earth.

Admission is free and so are many of the workshops. My workshop is free, but each participant must bring their own materials, see the Homesteading Fair website for details and R.S.V.P.! There will be about 15 spots in my class.

Hope to see you there!


Janelle, The Knitting Muse

June 22, 2013

Lookie what finally came in the mail!!

Rememeber, all those months ago when I made a big deal about winning a first prize spot in the Martha Stewart knitting contest for Lion Brand? That might seem like ages ago, but the prize just came UPS. That beautiful brown-paper- bag-colored truck showed up yesterday and voila! Here is is!

I received a Martha Stewart Crafts by Lion Brand Knit & Weave Loom Kit, complete with an instructional book on how to use it for some basic knitting and weaving.

I have not been much of a loom user since I was a kid making potholders out of those nylon loops that, if actually used to remove a casserole from a 375 degree oven, would have probably melted onto the casserole dish and into one's fingers.  It was a fun activity (the weaving, not the melting), but I have not thought about it too much since then. (You can still buy those here, but with better materials)

The kit came with a nifty little letter of congratulations.
My 13-year-old daughter uses a 3-piece round loom kit I bought a while back out of curiosity to make hats for herself and others, and I myself have made a single hat on it. It was fun and I will admit that this new addition to my knitting arsenal makes me curious.
The parts inside look a little daunting!

In addition to the basics, the little book that came with the loom provides some basic instructions for a knitted hat and scarf and two other cute patterns: one for "rosettes," and one for a woven squares baby blanket.

I once checked out a book from the library with instructions for this type of knitting and weaving. My understanding is that socks also might be made from a loom. Anyone tried that? How did it work? Any other cool things to be made on a knitting loom?

I know there is more to this than potholders!

June 19, 2013

Crochet: A New Love? (Subtitle: J'ai Deux Amours, c'est d'accord?)

 I got a free sample of a newish magazine called Love of Crochet. I had a little coupon/post card for it, and I thought, what the heck? I'll try this! I sent away for it.

(They also soon have a magazine coming out called Love of Knitting. Guess I need that one, too.)

It turns out the magazine is super cute with some tantalizing pattern recipes, especailly for a pattern recipe junkie (like myself). They also provide a little section in the back of the magazine called "Learn to Crochet." I was, uh...hooked. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun)

If the patterns cracked a mental door for me, then the learning section flung it wide open. My resistance was futile.

Here, in this blog post, is my attempt at a dishcloth. I worked out the stitches pretty well (emphasis on the "pretty") and, with the help of "Basic Crochet Stitches" by Interweave Press, have now got a partially finished, misshapen dishcloth. It was really fun to do and I plan on finishing it soon.

It's also good to try a new skill and be reminded of how much we should revere those are really good at it. People who can crochet super fast with precision and an incredible finished product are not to be underestimated! It is not easy
and I am reminded of this every time I split the cotton yarn with my hook, or can't find the two stitches I am supposed to be inserting the hook into.

Learning to "see" your work, especially "new work" is pretty hard, but it is fun and I think I just might want to do more.

Let me at those charts! Even if they all look like Greek to me!

Vive la de beaux-arts de l'aiguille!

 (I made that up...hope it translates...long live needle arts!)


June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

My dad, Grandpa Clyde, with his buddy
Amy Rose. 
A fun time was had by all today.

There was a great picnic in my parents' back yard with good weather and good food (provided by me, so "good," if I say so myself...), good conversation and, oh, yeah, my dad's socks fit perfectly.

He put them on. Outside. At the dinner table on a 75 degree day. And all was right with the world.

Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband, my own dad (the original Clyde the Glide--we called him that before ol' Clyde Drexler even came along) and to all the important men out there who shaped the lives of others.  You are appreciated.

June 14, 2013

A "mommy moment"

Every Thursday, I pick up Amy Rose from preschool at a nearby church.

The school has a great indoor play area, a library and a fenced outdoor play yard, complete with all sorts of jungley-gym type structures to keep even the most active youngster busy. (And in the case of mine, hopefully tired by the time it's time to come home.)

Last Thursday, I pulled up to the school and noticed that the kids were all outside. I parked my truck and walked across the asphalt parking lot to the low, faded gray picket fence that calls beachwood to mind. I could see little heads lined up in a neat, but squirrely row against it. Some tiny fingers were poking out between the rough wood slats of the fence as if to feel for freedom.

At the corner of the fence, little heads to my left, I unlatched the little gate, wobbly from years of unlatching and latching. I heard the teacher as she finished counting the little ones, "...10, 11, 12! Okay, kids! Go ahead and go back to playing!" They broke from their line on the fence like runners off Olympic blocks.

I saw my Amy Rose heading down the length of the fence, away from me.

Very low, I said, "Amy Rose...." in a sing songy, playful way.
She turned.
She saw me, "MOMMY!" cried her little voice of 4 years.

She sprinted toward me, and I noticed she was screwing up her face as if holding back tears. As she dove into my arms like she had not seen me for days, I said, "Amy, honey, did something happen? Are you okay?"

"No. I am okay." She pulled it together.
"Why were you crying?"
"Oh," she chortled a funny laugh as if to brush it all off, "Those were just tears of joy."

June 12, 2013

Sock Madness Forever!

I tried it, the Madness. And I failed. And that's okay! I might even do it again next time.

Sock Madness Forever is a group on the knitting site Ravelry (we all know and love!) for those who want to try "competitive knitting."

Sock Madness is the knitter's answer to March Madness, the infamous college basketball (did I get that right?) competition, which steals husbands, fathers and sons alike from their female counterparts every year. For the ladies--and some guys--who do not participate in M.M. and also happen to be knitters, Sock Madness is a great alternative for some fun and games, not to mention some new friends and an incredible learning opportunity.

While the group says that part of their purpose is competitive knitting--and it is, which we will get to in a minute--they are also providing a fast-paced, fun learning experience for anyone who wants to try it.  They provide challenging--and some very challenging--sock knitting projects which include unusual heels, toes, other constructions and embellishments like buttons and even, this year, zippers! For those who wants to learn, you should know that the group is full of nothing but supportive people who will embrace you--they also happen to be sharp, quick, sometimes wickedly hilarious folks with whom it would be great to just hang out with.

However, if you also think the competitive knitting part sounds awesome, then here is how it works:

The moderators of the group first provide sign ups in advance during the month of February. They provide a fun warm up pattern and some fabulous dyers even create some yarn just for the competition.
These socks have a very fun
"Fleegle Heel", though they
were designed top-down
and not toe-up, like the original.

Then there are 7 rounds of knitting. The first round is to establish skill levels and to see who belongs in what group. People are placed--and very accurately, I think--into appropriate groups and then it's on!

You never know when the rounds will start, exactly, though you may have an idea. Each round,
people are eliminated until there is one grand prize winner.

It's all very fun and for more information, lookey here.

As for me, I did the warm up round, but ran out of yarn at the end of Round --and also ran out of time! I finished my socks in another color, even though I did not make it onto a team, and now have had fun reading every one's posts and seeing the incredible ninja knitters going on and on.

Who knew a person could knit so fast? I bow the the speedy folks in eternal awe of their talents.

So no matter your preference, friendships, learning, competition, you can find it on Sock Madness.

Maybe I'll see you next year. And happy knitting :)

**Interested in the patterns?  Look here.***

June 9, 2013

Father's Day Socks

Father's Day is next weekend, and so I must make something.

I wish I could make something for every awesome dad in my life, but since there are so many, and time is always so very short, I had to choose only one man. And this time I chose my dad.

My dad has been bugging me for about a year and a half (or more, and thus rightly so with the bugging) to make him a pair of socks. He wants some handmade woolly socks to keep his feet warm at night. He is 82 next month and his toes are not always the warmest. 

One afternoon each week, I arrive at my parents' house to pick up Amy Rose (she gets to spend Mondays with her favorite grandpa/play date buddy). Usually by this time of day, Amy is napping on the couch with dirty knees, wild hair and a dirty face, all signs of the fun she has been having. This often gives my parents and I a fair amount of time to talk and relax together.

While we talk, I knit socks for one thing or another, and my dad always says, "Say, I would like those socks. I like those colors!" or, "Say, I like those socks! I like stripes!" or, "I would wear
The sock has a slipped stitch rib
that looks really nice and is fun to knit
those! I think they would fit me!" He has become so desperate to drive home his message of sock desire, that he makes these exclamations about socks with everything from brown stripes to pink roses and lace trim. 

His time for socks has come. 

This weekend, I pulled out a pattern I have been saving from Lorna's Laces via Jimmy Bean's Wool. Those of you who have followed the blog for a while know that there was a time when Jimmy Bean's Wool was my mainstay and sustenance for all things yarney. (You also know I tended to go a little, uh, overboard in my consumeristic enthusiasm.)

The pattern was on a mailing bag and it is for a pair of socks entitled, "Honey Do." This is ironic since my dad never--ever--has to be told to do a project. He is always working on something--that is, until it is time to relax. 

I used Ellae Rae's worsted weight wool.
I've had it for so long that it is discontinued.
I must have been saving it for this.
I have never seen someone who gets the concept that work should always be followed by relaxation better than my dad. He does it right.

He will work all day in his very large garden, for example, in the heat of the sun, never shirking. But when it is time for lunch, his favorite coffee break at 3pm (yes, a hot one...he claims it cools you off), or dinner time, he knows how to set aside work to recharge his mind and soul.

On each break, he miraculously settles completely down--an idea hardly heard of today--not making plans for the rest of the work, not talking about what has already been done, but just being. I have watched this behavior all of my life and have watched it rejuvinate him time and again without fail. It is a practice I have taken to heart and own for myself.

My dad taught me to work hard, earn my break, then take it with the full satisfaction of a job well done; no guilt allowed. And with that relaxation, my dad taught me to sit in the quiet, listen to the noises around me, no matter where I am, and just be. Be thoughtful, pensive, mindful and grateful. 

Dad, I love you. And you're welcome for the socks, even if you don't need a Honey Do list. I know you won't mind.

Meetin' Socks

At least I like the stitch pattern with the
double matching center rib
I love the t-shirt from Cafe Press that says:

"Knitting in meetings
(because falling asleep) 
is just rude"

I only resist the urge to buy it because for me, knitting in meetings is a regular activity. Why do I do it? See shirt caption above. Knitting also helps me concentrate better. It helps me to focus. It helps me to do more knitting.

I have knitted just about everywhere I can in my short, five-year-old knitterly life. I guess I am still excited about it, since I am still just a kindergarten-aged knitter, and I want to do it all the time. 

I knit in every room of my house, including my front and back porches. I take knitting on the road, in the car, to work, the library, parks, local fountains, restaurants, bookstores, airports, the woods, the beach, church, several Starbucks locations and even to the grocery store, just in case I have a chance to sit in the little grocery store deli and have a snack. If I leave home without my knitting, it feels just as weird as leaving my shoes behind...or maybe more like leaving my vital organs behind.

Knitting is pretty important to me, as it is to all you fellow Knitaddicts for whom knitting is not just a hobby or a post-apocolyptic skill, it is an appendage. Like your soul.

This is why we knit everywhere and with wild abandon and with no thoughts (sometimes) for our own safety. Yes, we knit anywhere, and meetings are no exception.

I love knitting in meetings. I get the best ideas for impromptu sock patterns during them. It's like a
The fit of this sock is pretty loose. See the baggy heel?
game where you are given limited supplies and told: make something awesome. Like the television show Chopped where would be star chefs are given a date, some brown sugar and an old boot and the game show host says, "You have 30 minutes to make a 5 course meal using all these ingredients: GO!" 

That is what is in my mind when I am faced with an 8 hour meeting. The voice in my head says, "Janelle, you have one set of needles, you only remembered to bring zero stitch dictionaries, you have one skein of sock yarn and we are providing an old dude staring you down during the next 8 hours with disdain as he decides whethere or not he is going to call you out for knitting during this his meeting. Before he sounds our giant gong and drags you out of the room, you must complete one interesting sock and retain all the information presented during this meeting: GO!"

While I do not have an old boot at these meetings, I imagine that I am charged with filling one--in a sort of "shabby chic" way--with a fabulous sock. My mind always races. 

At the last meeting I attended, I was able to complete most of one sock without being dragged off the stage by a hook in front of all of my colleagues. It is a little simple pattern in Kroy Sock gray heather. I love it, except that during the meeting the room was a bit dim (darn PowerPoints and informative slide shows) and I was knitting a bit loosely to compensate for the added blindness hurdle in the imaginary sock competition. 

This became a problem after I returned home to find that I sure do knit with a lot more tension when I have light. And also the (much) bigger sock is not as attractive as the firmer tensioned one. 

I must frog the meeting competition sock and knit it again. 

While this does not constitute a defeat, it is still irritating. Next time I am bringing light yellow yarn.
Actual size difference is about a whole inch!

April 6, 2013


It's one of those days here in the Pacific Northwest. 

As I sit here in an east-facing upstairs room on this early spring morning, I watch. And listen. 

In the mysterious, crisp, supercharged air, it feels like anything might happen.

Outside there is a high, linen-like haze shrouding the blue sky. It serves as a backdrop for grey and white clouds of varying shapes and sizes, all scudding across the charged, stormy atmosphere. Perhaps they are fleeing in terror. Perhaps they are hurrying away to somewhere else in frantic anticipation of some great unknown excitement.

The sun tries to watch them, the clouds in flight. The linen-hazed sky-curtain veils the sun's eyes, but every once in a while, he succeeds in a strained peek. With his thick, orange glow he sees the grey and white travellers leaving him behind. He stays. Stoic. Unmoved. Satisfied. Here to sustain those left behind in the unceratin air.

The wind drives the clouds ever forward, onward, accerlating their flight. They leave a vacuum in their wake. The still-bare trees shudder violently, as if to snap, under the gravity of it.  My window is cracked. The air moves across the small space now and then with great force. It creates a deep music as though I am at the bottom of a great, empty glass jug. I am still, waiting. I take in the sound as if something important is coming. As if it speaks only to me.

It feels like anything might happen. And I don't want to miss it.

February 5, 2013

The Pithy Version

I love Elizabeth Zimmerman. What knitter doesn't? And what knitter doesn't love her not only for her contributions to knitting, but her incredibly spunky, intelligent and unabashed spirit? If one were going to be a visionary of any ilk, one would need to possess these qualities.

I marvel at her.

One of my favorite things about her is her writing ability. Her vocabulary seems vast, educated and all around clever. She was a master of word choice. My favorite word she uses very frequently (at least in the Knitter's Almanac, which I have been reading!) is "pithy."

The word pithy, for me, has always conjured up a sort of sarcastic tone. I am not certain where I got the feeling that it was sarcastic, but I think it came from my experiences with one of my high school teachers, Mr. Walker.

Mr. Walker had an I-rule-the-show-Phil Donahue style approach to class lectures and a very bald head, which was always covered in a bike helmet upon his arrival at school. Daily, he would glide silently on his bike through the halls at 7a.m., and right into our first period classroom, stopping abruptly at the front. He would then swing his leg off the bike haughtily in grand jesture. Once both his feet were planted firmly on the floor, he would stare at us cooly as if to say, "Yes, I did ride my bike here. No doubt, you all used up a few quarts of our precious, limited oil resources to get here. And you probably all polluted the air as you did so." If he were teaching today, he might also add something about a carbon footprint.

He was a Unitarian divorcee and a hipster to boot. A 2013-style hipster in 1986, he was a man ahead of his time. He loved to show off his knowledge to others in a way that dared his audience to just try and challenge his brainpower. He enjoyed quoting lofty writings and would make references during class that he knew were way past our young experiences or knowledge. He knew we could never beat him. To pour a bit of salt into this wound, he liked to employ infrequently used vocabulary during lectures to intimidate us further. And he most definitely used "pithy" at some point...with a sneer. No question.

That was my first experinece hearing that word, pithy; I bought and believed the tone and intent, but not the context. Still, it is not Mr. Walker's fault that I did know the definition of this word as I came across it afresh in Ms. Zimmerman's writings. I should have long ago been a good student of critical thinking and looked it up. Mr. Walker would have wanted that, but if I had, then I would not have a story today. So I will thank him here and move on.

While reading The Knitter's Almanac lately, I kept seeing the word "pithy" over and over again. I have read in the past somewhere about Elizabeth Zimmerman's trouble with those who would publish her patterns. I have heard that people thought she should have kept her directions short when writing her patterns as they did not think her conversational style would sell them. So, when I read each story in Knitter's Almanac containing the patterns, which were followed by a set of directions entitled "pithy" version, I misunderstood.

Given the fact that she was, indeed, a woman ahead of her time (sort of like Mr W.),  her intelligence and vocabulary, and what I perceived to be her greater understanding of her own circumstances and the future of knitting, I thought she was sort of thumbing her nose at the publishers as she would first lay out her rambling, lovely and smart stories and patterns, only to follow them with the "pithy directions."

I thought this was a good joke. Then I looked up the word.

It means "concise," "to the point." In short, just a condensed version of something that only contains the facts or the meaty stuff. This was a little disappointing to me. I am learning--as many others have done before me--to hold her up as a pioneer, and maybe as one who just might have thumbed her nose in the faces of those possessing lesser understanding than her. Maybe even with a little defiance. She knew where things were going in the knitting future, and she knew where she was going and who she was.

I sat in my disappointment for only a moment, because I then searched again for the word. And I found this:


  [pith-ee]  Show IPA
adjective, pith·i·er, pith·i·est.
brief, forceful, and meaningful in expressionfull of vigor, substance, or meaning; terse; forcible: apithy observation.

Vigor? Forceful? Substance? Now that is more like it. 

Sometimes "pithy" was all she needed to say after all.

February 3, 2013

WIP #1, now a nearly FO: The notes.

The final product...sort of
I have completed my first WIP for the year. I love it and wear it now as I enter this post. My goal was to reproduce a similar sweater, though I made mine simpler than the original. My confidence boosted, I will feel ready next time to add more of the details in the original and maybe even use some Spud&Cloe Outerwear yarn to do it!

It was fun to make design decisions as I worked with Ann Budd's generic "bones" for a raglan cardigan and to make it my own.

Here are my decisions, why I made them and what I learned from this project:

1. I wanted a fitted sweater, so I chose not to add a button/buttonhole band. Instead, I sewed in a zipper. I also made the entire sweater in 2x2 ribbing, causing the finished fabric to "draw in," while still have nice give and enough stitches to be a comfy fit. I made a size 38" finished bust in 4st/inch with Patons Shetland Chunky Tweed, brown. When choosing the size, I also remembered to consider that most sizes that should fit me (usually should be able to wear a size smaller and store bought or in knitting patterns according to my actual bust circumference) usually do not fit my shoulders. Thus, I jumped up a size. For more info on this, check out Amy Herzog's Fit to Flatter here.

Basting? I think so. Maybe I will
even cover it in some flannel fabric....
2. The zipper, lightweight and sturdy, also accomplished an "indoor/outdoor" feel to the cardigan. (I found it in my Grandma Miller's zipper stash) It is 26" long to come up almost all the way to the top of the split funnel collar to add more "coat" feeling.

Even though I am a sewer as well as a knitter, I used Deborah Newton's "Finishing School" for some good advice on installing a zipper into knitwear.

She also is a sewer (and a former costume designer, learn more about her here) and gave this important advice: sewing zippers into knitwear is NOT the same as traditional sewing installation! They are handsewn with larger stitches, and an up and down "poking" motion, VERY different than my past experiences with machine sewn installation. This was my first time and it turned out okay. The finished appearance is nice from the outside, but I may tidy up my stitches next and treat the originals as basting so the back/wrong side looks more professionally done. Just in case I needed to do this, I planned ahead and used lighter colored yarn than the zipper or sweater yarn for the "basting."

This pic shows the increases I used. I basically just increased
while following the ribbing pattern as it presented.
3. To get long, cozysleeves, I had to add 3 inches to the original sleeve length (I also have long arms). This gave a more modern appearance, and also gives the option to make cuffs by turning them up. A person could even add an eyelet/button hole style spot to put a thumb through at the end, make a sort of fingerless mitt and the edge. hmmm....might have to try that...

The zip does not go all the way up so as not to scractch my
4. The collar stands up pretty nicely with the thicker yarn as I wanted a mock turtleneck style (does that phrase give away my 80's growing up?). The top edges of the zipper also help. I left just enough space at the top to allow a little split so as not to constrict the neck area. This was something a bit (very tiny bit) annoying in the original sweater.

I did not use the crew neck shaping and BO followed by picked up stitches for the collar as given in the training wheels pattern. When the raglan shaping was done, I just kept knitting in the rib pattern all the way to the end of the collar to add continuity. I also did not want the collar to slope away from the center, since I wanted the zipper to go all the way up, nearly to the top.

5. Difficulties: This pattern is knitted from the bottom-up. When attaching the sleeves to the body, the tension is pretty, well, tense at those joins for a few rounds. For me, this created ladders along the first few rows of ragalan shaping. I sewed them up for the most part, but am considering doing a single crochet "edge" along the seam from the inside of the sweater in a smaller yarn, just to add some strength to the join areas.

6. This brings me to the yarn. In my experience, this yarn tends to be very soft and droops with time. Due to this characteristic (especially since I made a large sweater with chunky weight in the Patons), reinforcing the raglan seams altogether seems like a good idea. Already, I can tell that the weight of the sleeves may be a pull in the future.

I look forward to doing this again with a higher quality yarn, such as the Spud&Chloe I mentioned above. Maybe I will try a smaller sweater for Amy Rose to practice the joins.

Me in the a.m. after coffee but before
shower. Forgive me.
Summing it up: This sweater took me about 2 weeks to complete. This was evenings and weekends and a couple of marathon hours (4 at a time) on my days off. Ann Budd's book is very helpful and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to design their own sweater but are afraid to do it from scratch.

A note on finishing: I really liked the advice found in Newton's book on finishing. Those little things really matter and when we spend so much time and effort on our work, why not go that that little extra step to make the final product so much more awesomer? (Yes, awesomer.)

I will make more sweaters/projects from both books and I look forward to improving my knitting skills!

Next up: a pair of socks to stay awake at all day meetings...

January 29, 2013

Sweater Reproduction: WIP #1

Done so far: body, sleeves and 50 percent of
the crewneck (before adding a collar)
I have always wanted to recreate a particular sweater of mine. I bought it at the Goodwill a while back. It is a light green cardigan with a front zipper and a few cables on it. It was originally from The Gap (and since they may go out of business, I hear, it may become collectible soon!). From what I can tell, it is knitted in a bulky weight yarn at about 4 stitches to the inch. It is a raglan cardigan in wool and cotton, and  is ribbed on the front, stockinette on the back. It has a high collar that does not turn down, and it very nicely fitted. It is a big fav of mine to wear around the house, to take a walk, or go to the store....just about everywhere.

I wear it so much that it is really starting to show its age and I figure I had better get to work on reproducing it before it wears out. After all, it came to me used in the first place--I might not have long!

To accomplish this, I am going to start learning more about sweaters. I have only made about 5 of them in my knitting life and, while I have a general idea about their construction, my knowledge is limited to only those sweaters I have made. Besides, I just don't feel confident enough to step out on the sweater design limb just yet--not completely.

I have decided to use some training wheels in my endeavor. Ann Budd has a great book, The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns, which is working out great for this project. In it, she gives basic instructions for different sweater designs, with a wide allowance for your own stitch patterns, collars, length, etc.

I have decided to keep my first try at this simple. My sweater will be completely ribbed for a fitted feel and will have the same stand up collar. It is going to be a cardigan with a zipper on the front (using another book for the installment of that later on) and will be knitted in brown tweed, Patons Shetland Chunky Tweed.

For the sleeves: I watch a lot of Downton Abbey while knitting,
which made it hard to pay attention to my sleeve increases.
I used stitch markers to mark every increase, so that I
only have to keep track of the stitch markers. Every marker
equals 2 stitch increases, and I needed 8 in total.
Ann Budd uses a seamless construction knitted bottom us for this particular style, which is interesting since I have only tried top-down for a seamless sweater in the past. It is very clever in design. The only thing I have run into that has been a bit difficult is the tension in the fabric once the sleeves, which are knitted separately from the body, are attached to the body. There seems to be quite a bit of pull on the join areas on either side of the sleeve until you knit a few rows and mine is going to need a little sewing to cinch a few spots up.

Keeping track of everything I do so that I may refine
this design in the future.
Other than that, I can hardly put it down! It's like a good book that you can't stand to stop reading--at every step of the way, I just have to see what happens next!

January 27, 2013

Calling All Solitary Knitters! Get Plugged In!

Some of my peeps on a weekend knitting trip. We stayed up till 2 a.m.
every night just knitting our brains out and being together. We love each
other so much, that we call our group "The Sisterhood of the Clickin' Sticks."
Early on in my knitting life, I learned one thing very quickly: there are an unfathomable number of knitters out there!

You may not recognize them right away, but they are there. And they are waiting to befriend YOU.    

In the U.S., we have a very individualistic society. Ask any sociology major (or anyone with eyeballs) and you can easily start a discussion on many topics from why we build fences around our yards, to the concept of pursuing one's own dream, to the preservation of individual expression, to even, perhaps, why most U.S. restaurants do not serve food family style.

But if the conversation ever turns to the subject of knitting, you will find an interesting paradox.

In one of the most indivualistic cultures in the world (perhaps the most, in fact), we find individuals  who frequently strive to--no--feel driven to find creative ways to do a very individual activity together. They are the knitters.

In spite of the fact, that each one must ultimately produce his or her own final product with their own hands (most of the time), knitters find a way to make the actitivity a group effort.

They meet other like minded folks and create friendships and groups not only in Local Yarn Shops (LYS), but also in their churches, workplaces, libraries and other more unlikely places: here in Vancouver, Washington, even a local grocery store started a knitting night. And it is well attended.

And as if those local groups are not enough for us, we also carry on in a big way internationally--online at sites like Ravlery or in person through worldwide knitting tours to places like Iceland (that one is on my bucket list--I met a sheep herder from Iceland the other day and he was excited at the prospect of our work knitting group visiting his family there, but I digress) or the UK (also on my bucket list--I am descended from the Macleans of Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull...digressing again...). The point is, knitters want to knit together.

Once knitters are assembled and organized, they get shit done. Sorry, that's the fact, and I am no one of authority to deny it.

Knitters function like a world class, well oiled team of pros. If we were a football team, we would win the Super Bowl every year. If we were an olympic team, they would eventually ask us to stop competing so others could have a chance to win the gold medals.

I am not talking purely about skill--though there are some knitters out there who produce nothing less than their own works of art each and every time they set their hands to the needles--I am simply talking about community.

Knitters as a larger group stick together in a way that rivals religion. There is no cultural boundary, no mountain, no ocean that can prevent the knitting connection. You want help with a project? You will find it in spades. Skill building? It is at your fingertips if only you look. Community efforts to help the homeless? You got it. Friendship? Some of the best you will ever find--and then some.

How do you tap this resource? If you are not connected, but want to be, there is one step:

Open your mouth.

My dining room table where we sometimes sit and knit for hours on end.
Chances are you are already around other humans every single day, right? You can bet your last dollar that some of them are knitters. And they want to know you. Open up to someone. Have you ever started up a random conversation about knitting? Asked someone if they made their scarf? Admired a sweater, following the complement with the question: "who made it?"

I have. And we now have nearly 25 people in our knitting club at the dental office where I work including staff , patients and freinds and neighbors of each.

Most of you are likely already connected with knitting friends, co workers, and fellow fiber lovers. If you are, take a moment to reflect on your good fortune. But if you aren't, suprise yourself with what is already around you. It's time to get on board, climb on in, step in time, catch the wave, click those sticks, get online and get in touch.

We are waiting for you.

*I have provided a mini guide to connecting with other knitters for anyone interested in the upper left corner of the blog with a few ideas! Get your own ideas flowing, and happy knitting!

January 18, 2013

George was Right: Cold Water DOES Cause Shrinkage! The OOPS! Files.

I should have put on my thinking face.
 I thought I had it. I was sooooo smart. My hubris was clearly my first mistake.

I have been doing laundry most of my life. I could not have said that at 15 years old, or at 25 or even at 30. But now, at 43 years old, I have had 30 years of total laundering experience; more than 50% of my life has been spent as "the person who does the laundry." Alas, 30 years of washing has not been enough--not enough to save my precious hand knits from certain and unforseen doom.

Amy frolics in the sand, not knowing what it
In one my more stupider moves, (yes, I said "more stupider") I single-handedly destroyed one of my favorite hand knits: my Petite Facile by Meghan Jones  from the Winter 2011 issue of Interweave Knits, made for Amy Rose.

I made it last spring for our Memorial Day weekend trip to Fort Stevens, which is at the Oregon Coast and can be a cozy, albeit damp and cold place. I used some precious Plymouth Mushishi in wool and silk to knit this adorable (and very warm) sweater. No, my preschooler was not going to suffer the cold and wind as we hiked on this trip!

Making this sweater even more special, was the fact that this was a first: The project turned out with nice, even tension throughout and nice, straight, tidy edges. And I even lengthened the sleeves to accomodate a turned up wrist cuff. I was very proud of it. It was perfect. Until...

Upon returning from camping, the sweater was worn a few more times. Fellow mothers know that, in spite of careful use, there is no such thing as an ever-clean guarantee when it comes to garments worn by very active preschoolers. I had been avoiding it, but the time eventually came when I had to face it:

The Wash.

This would have been fine (maybe) had I done the wash on a weekend, in the morning, when my coffee buzz was in full swing and the sun was shining on a day with no soccer practice or dance classes. However, I wisely chose to do the laundry after a hectic workday, at night, in the late summertime dark after dinner, dishes, and a 3-year-old's bath time, which falls right before the same 3-year-old's bedtime.

We all know that nighttime rituals are carefully orchestrated feats of mental and physical prowess,  requiring delicate balances of love and coercion, care and speed, reward and punishment. There are intricate dances between homework, housework, husbands, children, cats, mealtimes, bathtimes and bedtimes. Each needs attention in its sequence. There can be no slip ups in timing, especially as it relates to preschoolers waiting for their stories before bedtime. It would be better to be a tight rope walker in a large circus who misses a step while working without a net. I was taking a chance sneaking in some laundry.

I had about 30 seconds.

I decided to "save time," and put all the dark clothing in the washing machine together. I even felt that this was an advanced washing technique. After all, don't all those commercials for laundry soap brag that in cold water, you can mix the colors in the same load? I further patted myself on the back knowing that (as I tossed the little precious sweater into the front load washer without the agitator) the missing agitation + the cold water=no felting for my sweater. After all, I had washed many a commercial woolen sweater in my day. I knew what I was doing. Right?


Amy can't even get her head into the hole now.
As I read once (I wish I could say it was after the ruined sweater, but I am embarrassed to say that it was before the fact) in Clara Parkes' Book of Yarn, fibers felt, in part, due to the scales from the fleece. They are separated in the strands of yarn, but when washed, the agitation alone can rub them together and sort of bring them back together, irreparably shrinking the knitted fabric.

Of course, the shrinking depends on other things too. In the presence of heat, for example, the shrinkage is greater. But no matter. In my example, agitation and cold water were enough. Even though I have no center agitator like top load machines, the other clothes in the load were enough to cause enough damage to make the garment unwearable--at least by anyone but an infant (if it has a small head--and fat chance on that.).

Here is what we have learned today:

Precious hand knit+cold water+other clothes (mechanical agitation)=  Mom freaking out (emotional agitation)

We can simplify this formula for future reference:


Not even stoichiometry can save this one.

Put another way:

At least I have another skein of Mushishi.

For those who want to do it right...

January 16, 2013

Being Objective.

Now that the new year is in full swing and "looking back" is done, it's time for me to get back to the business at hand--that is, as it relates to the study of knitting.

I am going to use the blog as a journal for learning, reflecting and recording mistakes. (After all, aren't blogs supposed to be online journals anyway?)

To this end, I will divide my posts as follows: Reading Reflections; Minutia; W'sIP; New Projects;
Eureka!; OOPS!; Blog Stories; Toying with Design; and What I Learned on Ravlery.

Reading Reflections: May contain information about a book/article I have been reading (see list to left). I will talk about why I like a particular book or article, what I learned from it and why it might be a valuable resource going forward. May also just be a reaction to a reading, silly or otherwise. (Can't forget to be silly!)

Minutia: The little stuff. Details and very (seemingly) small matters. For example, learning to really SEE what twisted stitches look like and how to fix them if they were unintended.

WIP: Projects I am working on, what my learning objectives are, how it is working out--or not working out. Sometimes these are also known as UFO's. The difference is that a WIP is a project in your hands, a UFO is a project that has been in your knitting basket for so long that you start to wonder if it ever really existed. Just like an alien.

New Projects: May be simultaneous--new and ongoing projects will overlap. I plan to do a larger project "in the background" for a longer time and do a few smaller ones to learn new skills or just take a break!

Eureka!: Reserved for the "AHA!" moments, there will likely not be many of these posts.

OOPS!: There will be many more of these.

Blog Stories: I will not forsake the sillies when it comes to sharing my life in the ultimate City of Hipsters, Portland, Oregon.

Toying with Design: These posts will outline my ideas for design, my branching out a bit and then actually stepping out ONTO the branch and hopefully not falling to the ground. (I hope there is soft grass down there and that it will be a sunny day with a prince on a horse nearby to rescue me...and I hope the horse doesn't step on my fingers as they approach me as I lay on the ground...)

What I Learned on Ravelry: I have a lot of reading to do. A LOT. There is so much to learn about the knitting business! As much as I have read, I realize keenly that I have not even scratched the surface of the surface of the surface as it relates to the design business, or even the art of knitting for that matter. (Well, maybe I have scratched the surface of the surface on that one.) Ravelry has many forums and groups to help folks like me (and maybe you, too!) in the pursuit of one's bliss.

Onward! And may your yarn never slide off your needles...until you want it to.

January 10, 2013

what i made in first annual recap...

Not Pictured (given away too soon!):
2012: 36 total projects and an untold sum in yards of yarn. 

Thanks, Jona for the idea :)

January 9, 2013

The Reading List

The start of a love affair with knitting
books, circa 2011/ 
Since I am a college-minded chick (meaning I enjoy school),  I have decided to approach my desire to succeed in knitting (see my terms in previous post) as though I were in college.

I like the way organized classes work: laying out learning objectives; giving students several types of resource options (eg. reference books, websites, textbooks); and finally giving them the chance to try out the knowledge.

I cannot attend the Oregon School of Art and Craft--too expensive and far away from where I live right now. Nor can I flee my family and career to live in New York or another fashion-trendy city and learn Ready to Wear design, considering majors in things like "fiber" or textiles. And I have had a difficult time finding online college courses for such things.

I must remain put here in Portlandia/The 'Couve (that's Vancouver, Washington, affectionately nicknamed by locals who love to call to mind the old white trash stereotype of Vancouver) and learn on my own, with the help of groups like Ravelry, the library, the local Fort Vancouver Knitting Guild and let's not forget all the LYS's and my own friends.

In fact, there is so much information available to aspiring knitters and designer wannabes that there is nearly no excuse not to be able to learn.This picture (left) of a stack of books was taken back when I was preparing for Sock Summit 2011. It reflects my "earlier" love of knitting books, collected from 2008 to spring 2011. That early love could have easily been a passing fancy as I am one of those people who gets excited--really excited--about new ideas, prospects, projects. And usually, I share the common quality with those other excitable people of very poor follow through. But not this time.

After 4 years of buying yarn, books and classes, of attending events and joining Ravelry, of making new knitterly friends wherever I find them, and even starting a knitting group of my own at work, I think it is safe to say that this is not a passing fancy for me. I love knitting more than ever--and now that I have such an arsenal of personal equipment, I am glad of it when it comes to  the study of knitting.

Since the book stack photo was taken, I have amassed many more, including 9 received as gifts for Christmas in 2012.

As the years have progressed, my book selections have evolved. It used to be that I would buy knitting books based on the lovely cover photos more than on the content. I am not immune to that today, but now I know that the books with the more scholarly approaches tend to be my favorites--and I intend to use them in my quest for more intense learning.

With that in mind, I am creating a booklist for myself. It is comprised of my own collection mostly, and if I do not own one of the books I feel I need as I go along, I will either get a copy from the library or--glee of glees--have an excuse to buy just one more. (Amazon should have me on some sort of gold star customer list)

To the left of the blog, I have listed some books, along with my (initial) intended use for them. Most of the books cross over multiple categories as they each cover a variety of topics from skill expansion to finishing to design to fiber info to just terrific and beautiful patterns and photography.

As I go along in my quest for knitting knowledge and skills, I may add or subtract reading and study materials, but I will start with some basics and go from there. After all, this is not going to be a short ride.

January 8, 2013

What to do with knitting?

This is my daughter's boyfriend, Andrew
(sporting a knitted hat and mitts I made
for him). In this pic, he looks like
a thoughtful hipster. While he is not really
an official "hipster," striking a thoughtful
pose may not be a bad idea.
Especially if it is only
As each year ends, I ask myself the same question: What do I want to do with knitting? 

Then is starts: What do I want to do this year? For the future? For my family? For my knitterly learning? How many months are in the year again? Do I knit small, faster items to learn more techniques? Or should I take on an epic project in fingering weight yarn that will take a whole year to complete by itself, knowing that I may (or may not) incidentally learn things along the way? 

My questions branch out like that--farther and farther, until they have developed into some kind of giant tree of dichotomous logic in reverse, with the overarching question left behind at the top, and the huge, tangled, expansive root-questions at the bottom.

For those of you who read the blog, you know this is really not only a perennial question for me but an ongoing and irritating one. I will not pretend to be the only irritated person, mind you. You may be irritated along with me, or even at me. I will not blame you.

To solve this irritation requires direction and I think I am ready to take on the daunting task of reigning in my scattered brain for a purpose: a greater knitting purpose that will eventually solve all my dilemmas.

If you will humor me, I will think out loud (in print) and start to sort this out. Maybe others may empathize. Who knows?

Here are some facts:

  • I learned to knit later in life, being 43 years old, and having only been a knitter now for 4 years.
  • I want to become a stellar knitstress before I die (or become too arthritic to do it)
  • I want to build my own personal wardrobe of socks and sweaters, gloves and hats
  • I want to provide my family and friends with really cool gifts 
  • I understand that these gifts may prompt more orders from the same folks (in fact, they already have)
  • In addition to making things for everyone and for myself, I want to become a knitwear designer, even if it is only for fun and part time
Here is another fact: there is not unlimited time for someone with a full time job, and 3 of 6 kids still at home, one of whom is 3. 

Here is another fact: those who never get organized and begin their journeys never get where they want to be going.

I can tell you from experience that this is true. I started college at 32 years old after just twiddling around with the idea for nearly 15 years. It took 6 years of hard work, but here I am. Finished. And, while learning never ends (thank God), college in the past and I did it.

I have decided that I will approach knitting in the same way. With purpose, with direction and with the will to learn.

Stay tuned.

January 2, 2013

A Maiden in Her Own Mind

Goldenrod Shawlette, pattern by Marilyn Giselle Maupin. Embellished
by me.
Perhaps you have been saying, "Where have you been, Janelle?" or, " What the heck am I following this blog for, anyway?" Or perhaps you are in another camp, saying right now, "Has it been a while? Funny. I didn't notice." Or worse yet, "What is this line of discussion right now even about?"

Well, whether you care or care not that the blog has been so quiet through the holidays, I am back and ready to rumble. That is, if "rumbling" can mean prattling on about anything that momentarily strikes my fancy.

Let's begin with what I have been up to--knittily speaking--all this time. After all, that is a lot of the fun to be found in knitting blogs.

Let's begin with a shawl. My first real shawl. Not a rectangular shape calling itself a wrap or stole (thought perhaps to be fancy non-shawl words to triangle shawl lovers) but a shawl. It is a crescent in shape and derived from a pattern designed by Marilyn Giselle Maupin, called Goldenrod Shawlette.

One day while trying to figure out how to make a diagonal top for a felted hat (that's another story for another time), I became curious about the way half moons and crescents were formed in knitting. I happened upon Miss Maupin's blog, KnitKat, where she has a nice post on the mathmatical formula for knitted crescents.

Long story short, I decided to knit one of her shawls to really understand the crescent idea. And it was really fun--except that now I can commiserate with other knitters when I hear them complain about how irritating it is to be doing 300 stitches in a single row and taking forever! (I guess I really am saying that I am now proud of the fact.)

Lucky for me, I went to stay with my daughter in Seattle for a weekend (sans my 3-year-old daughter and distract-er extraordinaire) where we did some serious power knitting into the night. (With the help of several episodes of MST 3000, of course.)

I added some fair isle colorwork from one of my stitch dictionaries, The Knitting Stitch Bible by Maria Parry-Jones (The rose pattern I used is found on page 193).

It was a fun and relatively quick project, in spite of the 300something stitches at one point. I made my shawl a little deeper than the original pattern as I added the rows of fair isle, which I kept even--no increases there--and I love it.

Every time I wear this shawl, (which I usually do with my white cotton, very old-fashioned style, sleeveless nightgown, complete with battenburg lace) I imagine how the women in Jane Eyre's (fictional, I know...) or Jane Austen's time would have felt on cold winter mornings, waiting to have their fires built in their rooms for them by the housemaids. Many country women probably even tried to balance their shawls on their shoulders while starting morning fires on their own.

This particular shawl would function well for the latter as the shaping in the pattern causes it to sit well on the shoulders; in the morning, I can flip the gas fireplace switch, grind and make the coffee and cut myself a pastry to got with it, all the while just enjoying the sweetness of the shawl and not ever having to readjust it.

I love the earthy colors I chose, too, as they are rustic and somehow (maybe incorrectly) bring to my mind a country maiden, padding across her wide, wooden paneled floors in stocking feet to make her morning fire. I think of this every day as I go through my own modern morning routine. It takes me to a peaceful place with a serene feeling of connectedness to those people of old.

Too much imagination? I think not. My imagination is a fabulous place to visit. Someday I may just stay there.