Sunday, May 5, 2019

Brief Update...Spring 2019

Remember that time I announced I was not going to be a sock knitter? I lied. To myself, mostly. Socks have become my go-to project when times are stressful and I find myself traveling and waiting in places that are not conducive to focusing. Romance novels are also good for this. Both deliver happy-ever-after satisfaction without worrying that I'm missing out on plot details or the joys of reading intricately wrought writing (patterning) while toting the book (project) from a waiting room to a passenger seat to a sofa and back again. There are books and projects that do require more attention to detail waiting in the wings. I can pick them up when my mind is in the right place and full enjoyment can be savored.

Since I last posted, I've ventured a little bit further into photography. Link to my photography blog is above and here: (learning) the art of seeing

In a frustrated heat-of-the-moment snap decision to rid myself of social media anxiety and angst, I deleted my Instagram account a while back. I created a new one, linked in the side bar.

I'm currently in a garment knitting slump, although my yarn acquisitions doesn't show it. Sock knitting is flourishing in the gap.

Spring has delivered change, a great deal of activity, and worry (for myself and others). I'm attempting to clear out clutter, both physical and mental. I'm also striving to work in days that have no expectations pencilled in on any calendars. Those are the only days I can fully recharge.

Brief update over. More to come.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Not a Sock Knitter

I tried. I honestly did. Why did I try as hard as I did? Sock knitters were, and still are, everywhere! I was an early Yarn Harlot follower and socks featured often in her books and blog posts. In my early knitting life, prowling for information and inspiration, socks were ever-present. Socks are basics, not just of wardrobes, but, it seemed, of a knitter's repertoire. Now I regularly watch podcasts hosted by dedicated sock knitters: The Periscoping Sisters, The Yarn Hoarder, the Grocery Girls, The Bakery Bears (of course, they don't limit themselves, but they often deliver divine socks). Socks make nicely portable projects and are wonderfully comfortable in all seasons. I do love the ones that I have actually finished. But finishing! I feel more guilt and negativity from sock WIPs than anything others.

So, I'm setting myself free. I am not a sock knitter. There is no need to label myself or dedicate myself to any one project type in my favorite hands-on hobby. Why encumber myself with unnecessary stress? 

(Just saying that makes me feel nicely empowered. What else can I declare that I'm not? hmmm...)

In other news, my sweater yarn has arrived and I'm already about half way up the back piece of Charlie's Cardigan:

The yarn is Weekend Wool from Green Mountain Spinnery in the color way Pollen. 
I used the suggested tubular cast-on method for the 1x1 ribbing, which was a new technique for me. There are lots of online tutorials and videos for this, but I used Cap Sease's Cast On, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting. I quite like this cast on:

Not only does it give a seamless edge, it's supposed to be stretchier than a long-tailed cast-on (my go-to method) for ribbing. 

I've also begun my first new shawl project of the year, the Geology Shawl by verybusymonkey. Each section features a different textured stitch pattern, including lace stitches and knit/purl stitch motifs. I'm using part of a huge and wonderful skein of Briar Rose Fibers' Joyful (sport weight, 100% Polwarth wool) that I bought at the 2017 Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

I'm really enjoying this beautiful shawl, despite jumping all over the pattern due to its organization. (Since I've written a few patterns, I now have my own organization preferences, and sometimes feel like I have to relearn how to read a pattern with each new designer I find.) My only real "problem" is that I want to make the shawl bigger! I may pop in an extra section and crunch some numbers to make that happen, as well as expand some sections as the designer suggests. Always tinkering.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

2018 - Year of the Sweater

I'm not the only one to declare this year as the "year of the sweater." It's been all over the Instagram knitting community and on podcasts. Some knitters are aiming for nine completed sweaters this year! Nine! I'm specifically interested in Amanda's We Are Yarn podcast and her year-long knit-along, which is broken into quarters. Quarters! So simple, so genius. Three months to knit a sweater...and before long I may have the beginnings of a wardrobe that consists of more than lace shawls! Woop!

Before I get into my 2018 goals, though, let’s take care of the elephant in the room: the fact that I haven't blogged in a year. I could list excuses, but there are always excuses. And, really, to whom are these excuses addressed? Truly, me. (Let's be honest. How many readers do I have? This blog most benefits me by helping me organize thoughts. If you are reading this, though, thank you!) So, let me just jump to explaining what happened with those WIPs mentioned in the previous post and any significant woolly-related news.

I actually did clean up that out-of-control pile of WIPs, but now I have 2 smaller piles. The first pile has 11 project bags, 10 of which contain WIPs, and one with a pattern and a cake of yarn, just waiting for its time to shine. Of these 10 WIPs:
-4 are sock projects that may or may not be finished, because I'm seriously doubting my identity as a "sock knitter
-1 is the Telja yoked sweater (designed by Jennifer Steingass), which I’m working up in beautiful Icelandic from a small American farm, that needs to be frogged and reknit because I chose a ridiculously large size

- 1 is the Find Your Fade shawl, which lost its glossy newness just as I approached the final color (yeah, I know.)

-2 other shawls that lost my interest (they date from 2016!)
-and, finally, one scrappy shawl that I may have fallen out of love with.
That leaves 2 other projects: a cable vest and a Custom Fit sweater (more about that later). The other pile, much much smaller, consists of several WIPs that are actually partially designed or need to be fixed. Projects in the second pile may be frogged or become other projects altogether. I'm letting them live freely at the moment.

Now that I've written that out, it seems pretty obvious that I have more frogging to do!

Amber, of the Yarn Hoarder podcast, recently shared an IG story of how she went through her own WIP pile and decided what projects survived and which ones were frogged. I found this short demo to be surprisingly helpful. Hearing another knitter say that it’s OK to fall out of love with a project or realize she can no longer see it as a part of her wardrobe was actually empowering.

This also connects with what I've been considering for the last couple of months. What does my ideal wardrobe look like? Do the patterns in my favorites lists on Ravelry fit into this ideal or vision? I want to make sure that I will enjoy knitting and wearing the sweaters I make. That means ensuring correct fit and careful selection of yarn. Correct fit means understanding my body better. Which brings me to Custom Fit.

It has been surprisingly difficult to translate my body measurements into wearable pattern sizes, mainly due to a brain-block, I think. I kept avoiding the size closest to my bust size in favor of pattern measurements that included what I mistakenly understood to be "ease." Instead of ease, I got swimming pools of wool. So, I bit the bullet and took Amy Herzog's Craftsy class "Sweater Modifications for a Custom Fit". After also creating an account with Herzog's Custom Fit site and working on my first Custom Fit pattern, I think I'm finally grasping the concept that wool is forgiving and for my best fit I need to look at more than numbers. For example, I’ve begun to pay attention to set-in versus raglan sleeves. I decided that I'm definitely not a fan of drop sleeves, unless a bit of tinkering is possible. I think I now understand that negative ease and fitted are not necessarily the same thing. And that positive ease does not need to mean lots and lots of inches. It could be an inch or two beyond my bust measurement and still result in a comfy garment that doesn’t slide off my body like the blob just rejected me.

I now find myself paying more and more attention to fit. For example, the recently Uber-popular Sunset Highway yoked sweater by Caitlin Hunter. This is a gorgeous sweater, but when I'm ready to tackle a fingering-weight sweater (not yet), I think I would need to tinker with the pattern to make sure the sweater's arm pits match my actual arm pits. Not all yokes sit on the body like this one. One of the few sweaters I've knit that fit me well has a circular yoke. It can be done. I just don't think that much positive ease would do anything good for my body. See?! I'm learning about myself!

I love Shannon Cook's Timber cardigan, but I'm hesitating because I've seen others mention that it doesn't fit as well for those with larger busts, and the raglan sleeves are suspected of being the cause. I already own the pattern (in the Within pattern collection), so I could tinker with it. But, I think this makes my point: I've been focused on design elements and fit.

Although I voiced my fears about knitting a size 47" for my 46" bust ("Mom! This will be waaayyy too small!"), I did it anyway, following the Custom Fit directions for a standard v-neck cardigan in "relaxed" fit. I'm now finishing up the last sleeve. All that remains is to seam and pick up for the neck and button bands. Once I have this test garment finished, I plan to plow ahead with sweater after sweater!

This is where Amanda's quarterly sweater schedule should help keep me on track. I'm already feeling so confident that I've purchased Charlie's Cardigan (another pattern from Custom Fit) and ordered yarn. After swatching extensively with a skein purchased at SAFF, I ordered a sweater's worth of Green Mountain Spinnery's Weekend Wool in the Pollen color way. So excited!

I swatched like a pro, baby!
Oh, and purchasing a sweater's worth is a completely new thing, too! Not because I haven't done it before, but because I don't need nearly as much yardage as I used to think! 

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017, when did you get here?

It is an embarrassment to see that my last post was pre-Scotland, September 2016. Mom and I did indeed spend two weeks in Scotland. Our side trips were perhaps not quite so grand as envisioned--did you know that when they say that back roads are narrow, they mean as narrow as proper spaghetti. And we were on all the back roads, driving on the left side, and I had to totally depend on Mom to help me not take out the whole left side of the car against stone walls or fall into ditches! We drove for miles with Mom chanting "left, left, left"! I was sick for the first 2 days or so and once recovered, we quickly realized that our plans to see Glencoe and drive to Inverness via the Great Glen were far too grand. We ended up taking short trips down to Doune Castle, Inchmahome Priory, Stirling Castle, and then a very short jaunt into Edinburgh. We even climbed a small mountain, Ben A'an, that provided an amazing challenge for out-of-shape, pudgy me, but also an amazing view and wonderful experience. But I'm not going to look back at this time. I'll post more about the trip in later entries.

So, 2017!

I'm completely wrapped up in yarn this new year. In fact, so tightly wrapped, that my only true resolution is for only one month! Other goals, yes, but none so firm as this. January 2017 is officially my WIPE OUT WIPs month! I have cast on only one new project, and it was particularly begun after the ball dropped in order to qualify for two knitting group KALs. That new cast on is Find Your Fade by Andrea Mowry.

Here's the very tip of the shawl. The precious project bag was specially made for me by Ashley Eskew of Twist Fiber Studio for Christmas (thank you thank you).

If you are familiar with the Find Your Fade pattern, the original takes 7 different colors. I decided to make it a stash busting projecting and ended up with enough yarn to make 2 full shawls! 

But I decided on the palette to the far left for my first Find Your Fade, assuming I do enjoy it and can stomach making a second one.

I've begun with the pale fawn color, which is Reindeer on Tosh Merino Light. Color B will be Voolenvine's Gashlycrumb; Color C is Tuscan Spice on Plymouth Yarn's Happy Feet 100 Splash; Color D is Botticelli Red on Malabrigo Sock; Color E is Amber Trinket on Tosh Merino Light; Color F is the fabulous Rusty Nail on Rock & String Creations Jitterbug Sock; and finally Thunderstorm on Tosh Merino Light. From light to dark. I think it will be very nice.

My progress for WIPE OUT WIPs month? I'm almost done with the Antler sweater by Anke Strick, which is for Mom. The next two obvious projects to finish are my Rosemont Cardigan by Hannah Fettig (only lacks a sleeve and the large buttonless band) and the Triple Falls shawl that is my own design. But...there will be a significant amount of actual frogging to meet this goal. I don't anticipate getting rid of all works in progress, but I hope to get the piles and stashed bags to a reasonable level.

To be honest about the size of this month-long project, I'd best show the evidence. Mom and I have cleaned up the craft room substantially and now the WIP problem cannot be denied. Of all these, only 1 project bag with a WIP is claimed by Mom (that wee little blue bag on top). Whoa.

Here are the bags:

But, that's not all folks!

Ummm, realizing that I've been knitting since approximately 2002 / 2003, and I've been carting some of these WIPs around since then...that stack is a little overwhelming. Part of me wants to toss it and pretend it never existed. Goodness knows my stash is large enough and I don't need the yarn! (Forget I said that about not needing the yarn...that was a total lie to facilitate making space for just that, more yarn!) Goodness, one box is even screaming to be frogged in Sharpie!

More on this goal later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

FĂ ilte gu Alba

Welcome to Scotland! At least, that's what will be written on the signs I hope to see this time next month!

I'm taking mom and we're heading to Scotland. Pardon me. I need to pinch myself. Again.

Warning: If you've ever wanted to go to Scotland, what follows is a disgusting amount of chatting about where I hope to take us. Consider yourself forewarned! 

I rented a cottage in a small village inside the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, less than an hour northwest of Glasgow. And get this: I'll be driving. Yep. I hear UK drivers are nicer than American ones, so I hope they'll be patient with me. If you're reading this and you live in Scotland, I'll be the one going really, really slow in the tiniest and cheapest rental car possible, with a woman in the passenger seat yelling, "Stay LEFT, LEFT! No, your other left!"

This is a hiking, local yarn-hunting, and unique site-seeing holiday, with a heavy emphasis on relaxation. Although I realize we could probably make it all over the country during our time there (2 full weeks), I do not plan on being away from the cottage for more than an overnight trip.

The one overnight trip we're considering is a loop:
Day 1: Set out early and head north to Glencoe; next to Fort William, in order to follow the Great Glen northeast; picnic lunch at Urquhart Castle and maybe a cruise on Loch Ness. We'll stay in a lovely guest house with a sea view, located in Nairn, down the coast from Inverness.
Day 2: After breakfast at the guest house, we'll visit two other Nairn locations, and the order of which will probably be determined by the weather: Cawdor Castle and the Nairn Wool Shop. If we feel up to it, we'll pick one other castle for the return trip: Braemar, located within the Cairngorms National Park; Scone Palace, near Perth; or Glamis, because...well, I was an English Literature and Creative Writing major with a Masters in Library Science, and once I've seen Inverness and Cawdor, obviously I must consider seeing Glamis, regardless of the distance. (And, before you ask, of course I'm rereading Macbeth.) Now that I think of it, maybe we should see Cawdor on Day One and push on to Glamis for sure.

(Now you may be thinking that we planned that loop around the castles and Loch Ness, but, actually, that yarn shop had a super major role to play.)

I plan on a Stirling and Doune Castle day, both of which are within an hour of the cottage. Doune Castle starred in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and featured as home of Clan MacKenzie in that recent Starz television series based on some book with a hot ginger-haired Scotsman and his sassy Sassenach. Stirling, on the other hand, played a critical role in the actual history of Scotland, but may not be near as well-known to the last several generations of television-viewers.

Of course there will be an all-things-woolly day. The Scottish Wool Centre is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Then I plan on a loop to New Lanark, where the wool mill has been running for two centuries, over to West Kilbride, home of the Old Maiden Aunt Yarns independent dying studio and Craft Town Scotland, and back to the cottage.

What am I doing in preparation, besides reading? I'm knitting, of course! Among my tons of ongoing projects are two hats designed by Kate Davies and I'm using her Scottish wool, Buachaille. Scottish wool to keep our American heids (heads) warm in the unpredictable weather of the September southern Highlands. I finished her Scatness Tam last week, but it was knit in Knit Picks Palette (decidedly not Scottish wool).
There's a wee error in colors, but I think only experienced Scatness Tam knitters would notice it...I hope.

But that hat is very much inspired by Scotland, ancient ruins in Shetland in particular.

And for my truly knitty nerd friends, I even braved a shot of the inside!
I just finished the Epistropheid in Buachaille colors Highland Coo and Squall.

The yarn is wild and smells so sheepy! I love it! Next up is Funyin in Buachaille colors Haar and Yaffle. 

Why am I going to Scotland? Well, it is not because I'm a die-hard fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander book series or the related television series (although I did enjoy the first book). I'm not a beach person, or a tropical paradise person, or someone who enjoys cities, except for the historical types (I really would like to explore Edinburgh, though). Although I can (roughly) trace my genealogy to four brothers (probably one generation removed from Scotland or of Ulster-Scot origins) that entered North Carolina from Pennsylvania via the Great Wagon Road, that is also not why I'm visiting Scotland.

I love history. Especially land that has a history that can be read on its face still. Land that is not yet denuded of character and paved into submission. I love textiles and Scotland weds its wild history with a rich textile tradition that is still to be found in some parts. If anything, deciding on the country was easy. Deciding on a location within Scotland was more difficult. Shetland? Edinburgh? Loch Lomond? The Hebrides? The Cheviot Hills?

Why a cottage in a tiny village in a designated national park? To maximize the potential for relaxation. And because Kate Davies, the talented knitter who designed the hats shown above, has introduced the world to just that neck of the woods via her blog. It has beautiful forest trails, beautiful views, beautiful lakes, beautiful trees, and why not? There's a river running through the backyard. A tea room and a pub within strolling distance. Loch Katrine and a steamboat named the Sir Walter Scott within minutes driving. Did I mention the beautiful trails? And when all else fails, when blisters from walking and sore muscles keeps us inside the pub, we'll sit and knit and be joyful that we're in such a beautiful place. (Which is precisely how I wish I remembered to feel everyday here in my beautiful Smoky Mountains.)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

I didn't expect that...

I am so grateful and appreciative of the overwhelming and positive response I received from everyone for my first pattern release, the Balsam Range cowl! I was very nervous and didn't know what to expect. What if the pattern left knitters frustrated? What if the piece was not a useful part of a knitter's wardrobe? What if?

It was absolutely amazing to read the kind comments and see the pattern be downloaded by so many. My local knitting group, the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild, has even announced a knit-a-long with my pattern! What!? Amazing. I am so, so appreciative of the support.

Thank you!!

And...then I was stuck. I had spent so much time worrying about that single pattern that I was unprepared for next step. Naturally, that would be to release another pattern. I have a list of inspirations, tons of stitch dictionaries, lots of construction options to explore, and I'm getting the hang of a great software program (StitchMastery) for customizing stitch patterns...and all I could do was sit and stare off into the distance. There were too many possibilities, even when I decided that the best bet would be to begin swatching. Because you can see a stitch pattern in a picture, but not realize its full potential until you begin combining it with different yarns and other patterns in actual swatches. The patterns and fully designed pieces are like words that are hiding on the tip of your tongue, just out of reach. Even when you have an "aha" moment and the possibilities inherent in that stitch, that construction, begin to show is like a scene cut from a Matrix film, with shapes, textures, and colors, all flying everywhere on multiple levels and different directions, radiating...then (just when you think, "hey, that's pretty cool") the designer's version of writer's block smacks you down.

So, that's what I did for a while, immediately after releasing the Balsam Range cowl. I wallowed in my own absurdity. (That's what it felt like, anyway.)

I finally decided to go back to the trick that actually helped me get started with, and finish, Balsam Range. That was Francoise Danoy's rules for her Initiate Knit Design Challenge (check out Aroha Knits). For the challenge, she assigned a limited choice of general topics and a garment shape. So I assigned myself a topic and a construction shape. And I swatched. And swatched some more. Here is one complete section of the larger garment:

That's all I'm showing for now! I'm hard at work on the pattern and knitting up the full sample. Test knitters for lace anyone?

Monday, July 11, 2016

New Frontiers

I've been busy!

Today is the release date for my first test knitted and tech edited clothing / accessory pattern, the Balsam Range lace cowl. I’m a knitwear designer! (If you know me personally, then you know that I’m totally squealing right now, precisely like a gaggle of little girls. A whole gaggle.)

In recent years, I turned back to knitting for comfort. Then a new friend encouraged me to join the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild. In the guild, I met people involved in every imaginable aspect of the fiber world…and I began to dream. I’ve explored yarn dying, spinning yarn, and rigid heddle weaving. But designing was something that had always been whispering in my ear, since I learned to knit over ten years ago. This past spring, Francoise Danoy of Aroha Knits conducted the Initiate Knit Design Challenge to power would-be designers from idea to pattern draft in five days.

It worked. I finished the week with a drafted design and a better sense of the creative process that worked best for me. It took almost two more months to polish the Balsam Range cowl into shape, but it is done. (Did I mention that I’m as excited as a mass of Justin Bieber fans hopped up on Dr. Pepper and too much Halloween candy?)

Now I’m plagued by visions. Visions of knitwear collections, thematically curated and presented in print books introduced by lovingly researched essays, modeled after Kate Davies’ fantastic publications. Dreams of clever constructions in the vein of Norah Gaughan and Bristol Ivy. Plans…oh, I could go on. And I hope I really will. I hope I don’t just chalk these visions up to over-reaching my abilities or over-estimating my talent. None of us are one-hit wonders. It just takes dedication. Or maybe I’ll decide that I like spinning fiber more. Or under-water BB stacking.

Whatever happens next can only happen if I continue forward. There are no gates guarding frontiers. They have been open. All that is required is the courage to step forward.

And have I told you about Scotland, yet? Oh, boy. Talk about adventures!

Until I come back and fill in those details, you can check out my new web site here: But I'll continue to blog here.