Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Daring Proposal for the New Year

Okay, how about this: we each knit something wonderful in January (or January and February and March) and actually keep it for ourselves!

Has this ever been done before in the annals of knitting history? We've all spent countless knithours creating masterpieces (okay, maybe not masterpieces but some really nice stuff created with lots of love if not expertise [yes, I'm speaking about myself]) for people we love (who will--we can pray--love the fact we made them handknit goodies) and waved goodbye as it all went flying out the door for Hanukkah and Christmas and Kwanzaa and every other holiday celebration during the year.

Don't get me wrong. I love knitting for people I love. I love knitting for charities close to my heart. But, damn it, right now what I really want to do is knit something and keep it for myself! There. I said it.

I want to knit something wonderful (or at least acceptable) and keep it for myself! I want to make something JUST FOR ME!

I'm going to gather up some gorgeous Debbie Bliss Cashmerino and make myself a long pair of arm/wrist warmers that reach the elbow (think stripper gloves) and cover my hand practically to the fingertips.

Anyone else out there feeling the need for tweed. . . sweaters, that is . . . or soft cushy socks . . . or a felted tote (hello, Nancy!) . . . or a great winter cap . . . or a spectacular lace shawl?

Post-holiday blues? Not around this blog. Break out the chocolate. Open a bottle of wine. Dig into your stash for the perfect yarn for the perfect item for your perfect self.

And join me.

Maybe this can be a knitalong. Maybe there will be prizes. Maybe. Whaddya say, knitters? Let me know via comments or at wickedsplitty and I'll start the ball (of yarn) rolling.

(Nancy, I couldn't help swiping your fab photo of yarn champagne. I think it should be our logo!)

New Yarn Resolutions

It's that time of year when we make promises to ourselves. We sit down and think about what goals we'd like to set for the coming year. Although we don't always keep these self-made bargains, it's still a useful exercise. If we don't consider what we'd like to accomplish, we're unlikely to accomplish anything. Or someone else will set goals for us that we may not entirely agree with.

In the spirit of the season, I decided to set some modest knitting goals for myself:

1) To make a felted totebag (inspired by Kim's Stash-Buster and Catmum's Laptop Tote.)
2) To keep one of my projects for myself (possibly the aforementioned totebag).
3) To learn to "kitchener" because Barbara talks about it all the time and I found a clear explanation of it (with photos) in a knitting book.
4) To lose weight. (Okay, that has nothing to do with knitting but I figure if I put it on every resolution list I make, I might actually do it.)
5) To make something that isn't square or rectangular.

Does anyone else have New Year's knitting resolutions you'd like to inspire us with?

Whether you're making resolutions or not, here's hoping that your 2007 is happy , healthy and free of frogging!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Congratulations to the perfectly-named Ann Feltz, who is the final prize winner in our ongoing GET FELTED extravaganza!

Ann, watch your inbox because you'll be receiving a $25 gift certificate from WEBS with my compliments.

Thanks to all of you who made the last two months so much fun for everyone. Don't stop posting your photos to Flickr or sending them onto me directly because I fully intend to keep displaying them here on the blog. You're as much a part of things as we are and we hope to keep it that way.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Some ten years ago, I found two skeins of gorgeous mohair boucle in the sale bin of my local yarn shop. They lived in my stash until 2002, when I decided a strand of boucle was just the thing to liven up mittens knit from an uneven bulky handspun yarn. They're my favorite mittens, and alas, I lost them when I moved in 2005.

I found them on Christmas Eve, while sorting during a last desperate attempt to find a missing Christmas stocking. Yippee for me! I also found a misplaced bag of bargain bin finds, odd skeins just waiting for the right flash of inspiration to occur. I put them with the rest of the stash so they wouldn't be lonely.

And then, because I apparently don't have enough of those odd skeins around, I fell victim a few days ago to serendipity...fate...or whatever. My son had an interview for an internship in a city three hours from the farm, and for various reasons I ended up along for the ride. I'd brought my laptop and notebooks with the intent of making some serious progress while he was touring the facility and being grilled by whoever's responsible for picking interns. I dropped him off at the interview site, drove a half block to a quickie mart for sustenance, and was just about to start to work when my daughter called on the cellphone.

'Hey, Mom, there's a yarn store really close.'

Aw-oh. Magic words. Sweet child of mine, she'd thought of her mother while browsing away her boredom. Two hours later, I'd added several sock yarn skeins, an interesting bamboo/wool blend yarn, and a gorgeous wool and soybean fiber yarn to the stash. Plus, I found two sweater patterns that are perfect for batches of stash yarn that have been patiently awaiting their final purposes. And...drum roll...a felted gloves pattern that looks simple enough for even me. The wonderful staff helped me solve a knitting problem. The customer choosing an aran sweater pattern inspired me to consider learning steeks. The crowded shop was packed, floor to ceiling with yarns to die for, patterns, books, supplies, and some of the most awesome buttons that I started thinking of sweaters to knit just so I'd have a venue for the buttons. Ah, life is good.

I truly love living way out here in the boonies, but I do miss the joys of a LYS, the warmth and camaraderie to be found in such places. If I were a better knitter, I might even consider opening my own LYS, but I'd be such a dud at helping customers fix problems and learn new and challenging techniques. So I'm stuck wishing someone else will open one near me and imagining what it would be like.

Who has the perfect local yarn store, and who else, like me, is stuck wishing? And what makes a local yarn store great?

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Once upon a time in the Borough of Queens in the City of New York there lived a young couple named Mel and Vi who in due time produced a curly-haired little girl named Barbara who happened to love dogs.

Now Mel and Vi usually followed their hearts and not their heads (a family trait) and they fell in love with a six-month old Irish Terrier who had been purchased, abused, then returned to the pet shop down the block.

They didn't tell their curly-haired three year old daughter that but since soft-heartedness toward our four-legged friends ran in the family she fell in love with the same dog too and put "Ginger" on the top of her Santa list.

Now the curly-haired little girl wasn't the sharpest knife in that particular drawer and she actually believed Santa would make a sidetrip to the pet shop at the corner of Queens Boulevard and Cornish Avenue to pick up Ginger and deliver her to the two-story brick house at 83-17 but that's another story.

Christmas morning arrived and our fuzzy-haired heroine wasn't disappointed! (Although in this picture it looks like she's checking out the tree and not her new best friend, doesn't it?)

You want the truth? I remember that moment like it was yesterday. The thrill of my very first dog, a beloved sister redhead, was overwhelming!

Of course, there were things to be learned and my mother set out to give me a course on how to treat a dog with kindness and gentleness but I was a natural. I adored Ginger with every fiber of my being and hoped she understood that she would be with us forever.

Here we are getting to know each other. I was in awe. She was probably terrified, wondering if we'd be kind to her.

I'm happy to say Ginger was with us from December 1953 until she died in January 1965. She was a good dog who was never quite able to drop her guard around humans. She loved us fiercely but the rest of the population she wasn't too sure about. She went on every vacation with us, car trips to the Adirondack and Schroon Lake, to Candlewood Lake in Connecticut and up to Cape Cod. I suppose it would have been easier if we'd brought home a frisky, happy, confident puppy who would melt into our family life like butter on toast instead of a nervous, slightly fearful young dog whose body carried the marks of human cruelty but if my parents ever regretted their choice they never told me.

So here's to Ginger and all of the wonderful pets who've shared our lives and taught us how to be better people--our lives would be empty without you.

Merry Christmas to Ginger, Peppy, Lucky, Murtle the Turtle #1 through #11, Suzi, Brother, Punch, Nickel, Tyger, Perks, Tuffy, Dopey, Jingles, Baby, Whitey, Cubby, Buffy, Chrissy, Scooter, Dopey, Clyde, Sammi, Judy, Bonnie, Walter, Groucho, and Squirt.

Happy Holidays!

I wanted to share our tree with all my friends here at Romancing the Yarn. The ornaments have been collected over the years and each one holds a memory. Some are from places we visited, some were made by the children, some were my parents', some just appealed for their beauty and many were given to us by those we love.

May your holidays be filled with warmth and may your new year be brimming with health and satisfaction!

Friday, December 22, 2006


***GUEST PET: That's Walter, our 32 year old Double Yellow Head Amazon who moved in with us on 12/30/1974 when he was four months old.

Walter is a Long Island boy, hatched in Bay Shore. For the first ten years he absolutely adored me then one day he took a good look at Goldisox and kicked me to the curb. It was love, I tell you, L-U-V. He worships the ground Goldisox walks on and even whispers "I love you" when he thinks I'm not listening.

He's also scary smart. Witness the use of utensils in the picture. Yes, he's using a spoon to eat some cereal. When you say "bird brain" in our house, believe me it's a compliment.

Walter is also a political commentator. I'm not saying if he's Democrat or Republican, but when Dan Quayle was taking the Oath of Office in January 1989, Goldisox and I were watching the proceedings in relative silence until Walter started running up and down his perch in growing agitation, murmuring "Oh my god . . . oh my god . . . oh my god."

True story and it still makes us laugh. (Walter also likes to interrupt my phone conversations with his impersonation of variouis barnyard animals. I've had more than one customer service rep asked me if I lived with a sheep.)***

I have released myself from knitting bondage. I finished the red felted bowl and decided to keep it for myself. It is now filled with a handful of brightly-colored pens and paperclips. I picked up a sock that had been languishing for months and it felt absolutely wonderful to return to the world of heel flaps and gussets.

Clearly the only way to make something for everyone you love is to start the day after Christmas and keep at it until the Night Before. Otherwise you just do what you can do and hope for the best.

How are the ret of you faring?

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Call me childish: I love to be surprised by gifts. They don't have to be expensive or fancy; I just love to know that someone thought of me when I wasn't expecting them to.

This photo shows the gorgeous hat and scarf which arrived on my doorstep last year just before Christmas. The colors are perfect for my red hair because they were chosen by another redhead. Yes, our own Barbara Bretton made and sent these warm accessories to me, completely out of the blue. (Okay, it was Christmas but I wasn't anticipating a glorious handmade gift.) I instantly put them on and went dancing around the house, much to the bemusement of my DH and children. I was so touched that Barbara not only thought of me but MADE something for me with her own hands. So all you guys who are making your presents this year, know that the recipients will find them extra special just like I did.

What's the best surprise gift you've ever gotten?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


GET FELTED has a new winner!

Elizabeth H (LizardKnits) will receive a terrific $25 gift card to Michael's and a signed book from Jamie Denton!

Congratulations, Elizabeth, from all of us at Romancing The Yarn.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Laura's Ralph and Foo Foo
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

***GUEST PET: Meet Laura's heroic Ralph and Baby Bunny Foo Foo.

I'm going to let Laura tell you about them: "Ralph, the 80-pound English Shepherd, meets Baby Bunny Foo Foo. Ralph's the alpha dog on the farm, the valiant protector of all who dwell here. He's
sweet, bossy, loving, gentle, and fierce. He looks after me while I look
after the cattle, and he's trained to stand firm and help me to my feet when I slip on the ice. This dog has walked through fire for me, literally. He stayed by my side for hours during the wildfires last winter that swept across three farms here, and at one point he stepped through a wall of flaming weeds to catch up with me as I hurried to rake dry, smoldering leaves away from the edge of the woods. In the wee hours before dawn, after the firefighters were long gone, he patroled the blackened land and barked a warning when the wind whipped up sparks in hot spots. Then he led me to them so I could douse the coals with buckets of water. He'll stand watch at
an open gate while I sort stock or guard ducklings while they splash in the kiddie pool. As a pup, he was a willing, but clumsy doofus, but he's matured into a fine working partner."

This is one of the many reasons why I think I like animals better than people. I'd vote for Ralph for President.***

So much for yesterday's knitting plans. I managed an inch on some wristwarmers and got a running start on a Christmas red felted bowl before my good intentions slammed up against (here's that word again) reality. That's it. I admit defeat. I am not going to accomplish all that I hoped to accomplish before Christmas. Actually I'm not even sure I'll manage to clean the house or bake cookies. I am drowning in unfinished projects, deadlines, and pressure (both internal and external) and it's time to stop, take a deep breath, and re-evaluate.

That, at least, is the plan.

Monday, December 18, 2006

GET FELTED: Catmum's Glorious Felted Laptop Tote

Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Prepare to be wildly impressed. My laptop actually tried to disappear into itself and crawl inside that gorgeous tote.

Catmum tells us, "My Making Waves laptop tote is finished. I'm just now putting the finishing touches on the padded insert for the bottom (several layers of cardboard bonded with liquid polymer clay, with a knitted envelope around it). Chris Bylsma Designs' Making Waves pattern, done in Noro Big Kureyon, three skeins worth."

Please visit Catmum at


This is my first-ever finished sock. I know, I know, it looks like something Whizzo the Clown might wear. But the person I've made it for (and am wrapping the mate's yarn for) is something of a jester himself. Hence, a pair of socks to make him smile. I hope.

I honestly didn't think I'd be able to do this and am proud of myself for sticking with it. I've even tried on the sock. It's too big in the foot for me but should fit the receiver perfectly. Plus, the yarn feels warm and wonderful. And I can barely see the two little mistakes I made.

Happy, Merry and lots of hugs!


***GUEST PET: I know, I know. All together now: AWWWWWW!

That's Lucky and Kenyetta's lucky daughter: "That is my youngest daughter sound asleep on Lucky! She would kill me if she knew I was still showing that one...shhh!"

I think Lucky deserves an extra treat in his Christmas stocking . . . ***

The bad news is there are only 7 Knitting Days Before Christmas. The good news is we're heading out the door which means I'll get lots of productive car knitting time.

Oh, the wonderful plans I had to knit something special for everyone I love.

Oh, the cold harsh sting of reality as it bites me in the butt.

Friday, December 15, 2006


***GUEST PET(S): Meet Dinah (foreground) and Pyewacket (background), Willa Cline's famous companions.

Willa (who happens to be my website genius/designer/guardian and the website g/d/g of many other authors including Bertrice Small and Susan Wiggs) is one of the original on-line diarists who pioneered what we've come to call blogging. I started reading Willa's Journal ten years ago and quickly became a huge fan.

I'm not alone. Willa has a considerable following and I urge you to stop by and get to know her and her girls.

Willa says, "Dinah and Pyewacket, looking out the window just seconds after Dinah hissed at Pye and jumped off my lap. She's a *very* weird cat. :) They co-exist, not always peacefully."***

Like every other female on the planet, I am so far behind that I've almost caught up with myself.

Too many projects, too little time.

Too many deadlines, too few braincells.

Too much chocolate, too--

Oh, who am I kidding?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Location, Location, Location

Cindi's post about being productive got me to thinking about where people usually knit. So here's a picture of where most of my needlework takes place: on the couch in my family room. (You can see my yarn bag on the floor to the right of the couch.)

I knit while my family is watching television because, frankly, I'm not a big fan of T.V. but I like to sit with them and chat. They think they're watching the Boob Tube; I know I'm being constructive; and we all end up having a conversation, a rare occurrence in a household ruled by teenagers' busy schedules.

I envy folks who can knit in a moving vehicle. I get horribly, wretchedly carsick if I attempt it. (Reading has the same effect.) I never knit in bed because that's my main reading spot. However, I will take my knitting to family gatherings where I know we'll all be sitting around and talking for the same reasons stated in paragraph one.

Where do you do most of your knitting?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

GET FELTED: We have another winner!

Congratulations to Janet Daum! Janet will be receiving a wonderful box of goodies from (the extremely talented) Dallas. In fact the goodies are so outrageously wonderful that I'm kicking myself for not entering the contest myself!

There is nothing on the planet better than a felted tote. I've been using my Constant Companion (thanks, Dallas!) on a daily basis for over a year now and I love it more with every passing day. Who needs Coach when you can have Brown Sheep or Cascade 220??

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Not knitting, not writing...

This is what I've been doing instead of writing...instead of knitting. The interior view of my new greenhouse might not look that impressive now, but it's my favorite playground these days -- 960 square feet of dirt. A blank canvas, so to speak. I've great plans for every bit of it. The artistry began last weekend when I finished double-digging the tulip bed. I planted 200 bulbs of tulips, early and late varieties.

The process was invigorating. I worked up a good sweat, shed a couple of layers of winter warm clothing, and was tempted to join my daughter in kicking off the boots to wriggle my toes through the dirt. Since I was the one operating the shovel, I left the boots on.

While I was grubbing around, busting clods and positioning bulbs, I started naming the color patterns that prevailed. Rich shades of brown, bits of stubborn green grass, a winter reddened sprout of an even more stubborn blackberry bush. I started thinking of sweaters, mittens, hats, and scarves in nature's colorways. And now, everywhere I go, I'm mentally naming the colorways I see in the land around me. Morning Prairie Mist. Cardinals in the Snow. Prairie Snowmelt. Yada yada yada. Then the colorways bloomed into words and more words, descriptions, conversations, and scenes . . . and I was no longer stuck on a problem with the current book either.

Why is it always such a surprise to me that an afternoon of hard work will blow the cobwebs out of my brain?

Barbara's I-Didn't-Reinvent-The-Wheel Mitts

There they are. My pride and joy. Flawed? Hell, yes. But all mine.

Take a good look at them. It's better than one of those "What's wrong with this picture?" puzzles we worked as kids. I'll bet you can find five mistakes without even trying.

But why not let me do it for you. And not in a bad way. This is a learning process and I am delighted to say I'm learning a lot.

The one on the right is the first one I did. See how the K2P2 ribbing fights the pattern? I managed to work my way around that in the second one by doing a K1 instead of K2 at one of the needle changes and that small change made a big difference.

See the bump at the top right of the righthand mitt? That's part of the thumbhole. Not my finest hour . . . or best decision.

Here are some stats:

Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran - needed less than 1 skein
#5US Addi Turbos - Magic Loop

42 stitches
I used K2P2 ribbing but wouldn't do that again. I'd use K1P1 ribbing -- less obtrusive, much more graceful.

The pattern stitch is as follows:

(multiples of 7)

Round 1: *K1, P2, TW, P2; repeat from * to end of round
Rounds 2-4: *K1, P2, K2, P2; repeat from * to end of round

TW: K2TOG leaving both sts on left needle; K again into first st on left needle and slip both sts off needle.

I worked the pattern to the point where I wanted a thumbhole opening and used one of the methods mentioned in Voodoo Wristwarmers on the Knitty site. I'm not sure I would do that again. The faux cable pattern stitch exerts a certain amount of stress on the stitches and any weakness or tendency toward holes is exacerbated by the almost crude nature of the buttonhole opening. (Even one that's reinforced to a certain degree.) I think the fortified thumb in Knitty's Fetching design or even a full-out gusseted thumb joint would work better.

I needed to tidy up the stretched-out parts and holes during the finishing process.

BTW: long-tail cast on and normal (loose) bind-off.

The stitches maintain their integrity on the back of the hand but the cable stitches slant very noticeably to conform to the contours of the palm and pad of thumb. Not a major problem but it threw me initially.

And there you have it. It ain't much but it's all mine and overall I'm very happy with 'em.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Like many of you, my fingers have been flying, making Christmas gifts. So far I've completed two sets of handwarmers, a scarf, and the three hats shown here.

These hats were the answer to a prayer. I have two twenty-something nephews whom I dearly love -- but who are impossible to buy gifts for. So I get them gift cards. But I hate to give just a gift card. Then I remembered that they and almost every other young man I know wear knit beanies. A quick search of the web turned up a knit beanie pattern which their grandmother assures me my nephews will love. So the maroon and green beanies are for them.

Upon seeing the beanies I knit for the boys, my husband requested one for himself -- but with a cuff he could turn up or down according to the weather. Hence the blue one.

These were knit from Lion Wool-ease and were amazingly fast --each took about one long evening. You can find the pattern here:

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

***GUEST PET: This is my pal Groucho. He's a 19 year old Yellow Nape Amazon who was born in Kansas City. We found him when he was ten weeks old, a tiny round bundle of feathers too young to perch or crack open sunflower seeds.

To say I adore his every feather is an understatement. I mean, he greets me in the morning with a cheery, "Good morning, Sweetheart" and an occasional "Shiver me timbers."

See the towel stuffed under the ottoman? That's to keep parrots from disappearing under the furniture. The old furniture was a tad higher and we had to sweep parrots out from under the sofa a few times a day.***

I designed a pair of wrist warmers.

I'll pause while the amazingness of that statement sinks in. I'm not saying I reinvented the wheel or anything. I'm not saying that there aren't a bushelful of modifications I need to/want to make on the next pair but I did it and it worked.

Pix tomorrow but the gist of it is as follows:

42 stitches
K2P2 ribbing for 5 rows
Switch to the faux cable from the Simply Splendid Socks in SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS
Continue until you feel like doing a buttonhole thumb
Continue in pattern for another inch
Then do 10 rows of K2P2 ribbing

I'll show you the places where the above really doesn't work when I post the photos but right now I feel like the love child of Elizabeh Zimmerman and Barbara Walker.

(It doesn't take much to make me a happy knitter.)

GET FELTED: Big Kureyon felted bowl

GET FELTED: Big Kureyon felted bowl
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

This is from scraps of Big Kureyon in various dark colourways. Again, it's handsomer (and more even) in person.

The question, of course, is: How many knitted/felted bowls can one woman make before Christmas and still retain her sanity?

GET FELTED: Big Kureyon/Elann Peruvian Chunky Bowl

GET FELTED: Big Kureyon/Elann Peruvian Chunky Bowl
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

I love this. And no there isn't a dent in the front. That's an optical illusion, courtesy of a blob of blue.

GET FELTED: Big Kureyon/Elann Peruvian Chunky Bowl Bottom

GET FELTED: Big Kureyon/Elann Peruvian Chunky Bowl Bottom
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

I'm starting to worry. I really do love felted bowl bottoms . . .

This is scraps of Big Kureyon from other projects and some Elann Peruvian Highland Chunky in a medium denim blue.

Friday, December 08, 2006

GET FELTED: Outback Wool Bowl Bottom

GET FELTED: Outback Wool Bowl Bottom
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Just for the kinky fun of it.

Seriously I love the way this looks. I could stare at the bowl's bottom all day. I love the way the double decreases radiate out from the center. (The decrease I was told about at my LYS really makes a stable bottom: over 45 stitches it begins with K5, SSK, K2TOG, K5, SSK, K2TOG --> to end of round. Knit next round plain. Then K3, SSK, K2TOG etc.)

GET FELTED: Outback Wool bowl, finally felted

GET FELTED: Outback Wool bowl, finally felted
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

I warned you it didn't look like much. The felting made a huge difference in the fabric but very little difference in the look. Stitches are still clearly defined but the fabric has weight and stiffness to it. It also looks more even in person. I don't recommend balancing objects on a rocker pad when taking pictures.

SOCKS - Leftover Sirdar Highlander

SOCKS - Leftover Sirdar Highlander
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

I made these from scraps left over from Goldisox projects. Sirdar Highlander in grey tweed and dark, dark navy. Toe up using Knitty's Magic Toe. The heel is the commercial heel from the Tulsa skyline socks in SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS. I think I used #4US Addis.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Barbara's Big Less Ugly Washcloth #2

Barbara's Big Less Ugly Washcloth #2
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

This is kind of pretty but still humongous. Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille again. #5US Addi Turbos. Maybe 40 stitches or thereabouts. Seed stitch. Machine washed and dried. I've since blocked it square but why I did something so ridiculous is beyond me. It's a WASHCLOTH, Bretton!! It's meant to be wet and soapy and used.

Dare I say never again?

Barbara's Big Ugly Washcloth #1

Barbara's Big Ugly Washcloth #1
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille. US#6 Addi Turbos. Basketweave stitch. I think 50 stitches or thereabouts. Somehow it ended up big enough to serve as a tarp for an SUV. This is doubled w/the sides crocheted together. And hot-water washed and machine dried. It's still huge. Oh yeah, and the stitches popped too. An altogether terrible experience.


GET FELTED: pet-chloe-dallas
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

***GUEST PET: That's Dallas's beautiful girl Chloe who is feeling a bit under the weather. Feel better, Chloe! (Walter, Groucho, and Squirt send their very best . . . )***

My idea of knitting hell: washcloths.

Don't get me started. I bought up a ton of Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille (lovely yarn) with the idea that I'd knit a ton of garterlac washcloths, drape them artistically around these wonderful bars of fancy-schmancy soap I found one day, then present them in handknitted-then-felted bowls.

Yeah, right.

The first washcloth, the test washcloth as it were, is a total bust. Even I can't bring myself to use it. Big. Floppy. Stupid looking. I folded it in half, crocheted it shut, washed it in hot water, dried it in the machine. It still looked big, floppy, and stupid. And it popped threads all over the place. Not a happy experience. (I swear it took me longer to knit that monstrosity than it takes to knit a sock.)

The second washcloth is an improvement. Seed stitch. A little less big, floppy, and stupid. Actually kind of giftable. But it took so loooong to knit. I'd sit there and knit and knit and knit and there'd be no measurable progress. I felt like Penelope waiting for Odysseus to come home . . . except without the reunion sex. (And the Big Talk about those damn Sirens.)

Do you knit washcloths? Are they a life's commitment or can you whip 'em out? If I want to give washcloths next year, I'd better start now.

The Tangled Skein of a Writer's Brain

This photo is a visual representation of what my brain looks like right now. It's a mess...and that's only the writing part of it. I won't even attempt to convey the disaster that is the holiday-shopping-addressing-cards-decorating-house-keeping-up-with-children's-schedule part of it. It would give you nightmares.

My knitting project is taken care of for quite some time into my future since my husband's scarf-in-progress is going to be seven feet long. How much can one say about a scarf that repeats the same pattern for seven whole feet? That's why I'm blogging about writing (although you should notice how cleverly I tied it to knitting).

My problem is that I cannot decide which book I should work on right now. As a result, I'm working on none, which is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs for a writer. I have three possibilities rolling around in my brain:

1) My hockey romance of which I've written about 150 pages. The heroine is a poet and the hero is a gorgeous superstar hockey goalie. Not only are their professions diametrically oppposed but he is seven years younger than she is. The proposal for this novel won first place in the Book of Your Heart Contest (wahoo!) but I can't get a publisher interested in it. I adore the characters and would love to see how their story ends.

2) A women's fiction story about a woman who delivers her last child to college. The next day her husband announces that he's only stayed with her for the sake of the children and now he wants a divorce. She meets another woman in a bar where she's gone to drown her sorrows. The strange woman ends up as her boarder in the suddenly very empty house. The woman's past brings violence into the home. I'm interested in exploring how a divorced wife could rebuild her sense of identity and self-worth when the foundations of her life have been totally destroyed.

3) A paranormal romance about humans with psychic powers. This would require some interesting "world-building" where I get to make up the rules about how psychic abilities function in our reality. The heroine is a Sensor whose skill is recognizing extra-intellectual potential in others. She works for "The Fold", an organization dedicated to educating the mentally super-gifted about how to use their abilities constructively. The Fold is seeking a powerful Controller to combat another powerful psychic who has turned to the dark side. (Can you hear Darth Vader's breathing? He's my all-time favorite villain.) She finds her Controller but he's the CEO of a mega-corporation who doesn't want to believe that his success is based on strange mental abilities he's not even aware he possesses.

So, if you were me, which one of these skeins would you choose to weave into words during the holiday season?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Drum Roll, Please: Red Spirals Are Finished

Drum Roll, Please: Red Spirals Are Finished
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

It was either those damn socks or me.

I'm happy(relieved)(grateful)(amazed) to tell you that I closed the toe on the second (and last) Red Spiral an hour ago. There they are, sprawled across an old rocking chair, awaiting a reviving run through the washing machine. They look like the Wicked Witch's feet poking out from under Dorothy's house. Except they're red.

Those socks nearly broke my knitting spirit.

I'm not sure if this means I'm tenacious (possible), stubborn (definitely), or just plain crazy (absolutely) but I'm thinking maybe I'll try another pair in a nice Socks That Rock colorway . . .

Then again maybe not.

Pink Outback Wool prefelted bowl

Pink Outback Wool prefelted bowl from Barbara Bretton
Originally uploaded by

The title really says it all. Two strands of Plymouth Outback Wool, #13 US Denises, prefelt. Truth is it doesn't look all that much different postfelt. That's the nature of the Outback beast, at least for me. It does tighten up, assume a bowl-like shape but the stitches remain clearly defined. I'm using the bowl for knitting doodads and have to empty it long enough to snap a picture.

(That's a finished Light & Lofty [Seashore] crocheted baby blanket beneath the bowl. Size O plastic hook.)

Prefelted Kureyon/Peruvian Highland Bowl

Prefelted bowl from Barbara Bretton
Originally uploaded by

This is a combination of Big Kureyon scraps and Elann Peruvian Highland Chunky scraps. It's currently enduring its second cycle in my washing machine even as I type this.

Knitty's Fetching Wristwarmers

Fetching Wristwarmers from Barbara Bretton
Originally uploaded by

Two pairs of wristwarmers made from Knitty's Fetching pattern and in need of a touch of mild blocking to uncurl the thumbs and show the picot bind-off to best advantage.

Details: #6US Addi Turbos, Magic Loop technique, Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. (That's a crocheted "critter" blanket behind the wristwarmers, soon to be en route to a shelter.)

GET FELTED - We Have Another Winner!

Congratulations to Laurie Boatsman! Laurie is our latest GET FELTED winner and she'll receive some wonderful Lion Brand Wool feltable yarn from our very own knitting wizard Fran Baker.

Take heart, GET FELTEDs! You still have 3 more chances to win.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Stash Bash

So there I was, wandering through Macy*s the other day, admiring all the lovely knitted hats and scarves and gloves. And feeling a tad smug because I've made a bunch of those already, and for, oh, a half to a third of the store price. I've made so many, in fact, that I froze my neck, shoulders, arms and hands in some fairly unnatural positions!

Anyway, I'm unfrozen now and taking a few days off from knitting. But I thought I'd show you just a little of what I've made. Multiply it by four for the rolled-brim hats (all in different colors, of course), ten for the scarves, and eight for the slipper socks and that should give you an idea of what a knitting maniac I've been of late. And that doesn't count the third purse - this one in Noro pink - that I'm about ready to felt. Or, rather, that I've set aside for a day or two.

Which makes me wonder: Are you knitting up a storm for your loved ones this season?

Finished and so hot!

The fisherman's mittens I made from the damaged handspun yarn felted down beautifully. The shunken fabric hides the flaws in the yarn, and the knots and yarn tails made soft fuzzy spots on the inside that aren't a bit bothersome. The fit is a bit large yet, but after working in them outdoors a few days, I've decided I like them that way. I can wear a pair of those cheap stretchy 'magic' gloves underneath so my hands are protected even when I have to quickly shed the mittens to work a cage latch or some other such thing that requires more dexterity than I can manage in mittens.

Last week's winter storm provided the perfect opportunity to test the mittens. Rain, sleet, snow, more sleet, more snow. I fed and watered the livestock, slipped and slid, got splashed, and got my hands good and wet before I'd finished. But they didn't get cold, even after I'd been out a couple of hours. These mittens ROCK!

This is how the mitten looked after a hard morning's work in the snow. I'd taken it off and tucked it under my arm while I shot some photos, and of course I dropped it. I snapped a photo and rescued the mitten just seconds before the pup could snatch it up and run away. Notice the loop at the cuff: I crocheted a chain with the long tail from the cast-on, then attached it to the cuff. The chain felted into a sturdy hanging loop so I can keep the mittens on a hook by the back door.


Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

***GUEST PET: Let me introduce you to (sigh) Quincy White. Look at that face! What can I possibly say that will do that face justice??

Here's what Karen White has to say about him, "I'd love to share a picture of my pet for your Blog!

His name is Quincy (aka "Q-dog, the Quincinator, Furball, Poofy Boy, Puppy Wuppy) and he's a 5-mos. old Havanese puppy and he's adorable---when I'm not chasing him...

This is the first experience of dog-ownership for all members of my family (husband, me, daughter & son) although we have two guinea pigs (does that count?). I was so overwhelmed when we first brought him home that I had to send him to puppy boarding school for a month to get trained!

He's still very much puppy--but he'll sit, stay, down, come and is _almost_ housetrained. I hope my editor understands that having a puppy is a good excuse for why a book is late..."

You can visit Karen at her website

I'll be hiding outside Karen's house with a pocketful of Milk Bones and a first class ticket to New Jersey in Quincy's name . . . ***

I promised pictures, didn't I? Well, the day is still young.

GET FELTED: Monica's Felted Stocking

Felted Stocking
Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

I let out a shriek when I saw this. I'm a big fan of SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS and the mini Christmas sock remains my sock-knitting ideal. Great to see it in a giant felted size!

Monica says, "This is part of a gift for a secret pal exchange. I used the charts from the miniature sock from the Socks, Socks, Socks book and adapted it to a huge felted stocking . It is still wet in the picture and will need to be shaved when dry."

Please visit Monica at

Monday, December 04, 2006

GET FELTED - Day 34 (at least I think it is)

Originally uploaded by sockhoppers.

***GUEST PET: See Judy over there on that very 70s sofa? The girl had quite a life. Judy was one of a pair of siblings my parents took in during a big snowstorm in the winter of 1980. I think I told you before that I grew up in Queens (part of NYC), in the top apartment of a two-family house that specialized in sheltering homeless cats. I can't tell you how many winter mornings I'd open the door from the inner hallway to the outer hallway to be greeted by yawns from assorted cats and kittens who knew food and warmth could be found at 83-17 Cornish Avenue. (Except for the day I opened the door and found myself covered in yowling cats who clung to my winter coat like it was the last life boat on the Titanic. I still haven't recovered from that.)

Man, I can digress with the best of 'em, can't I? Anyway, Punch and Judy were only supposed to come in for the night but as it turned out they came to stay. Unfortunately Punch had other ideas and the day my mother took them to be neutered he decided he wasn't ready to part with any of the important bits and he made a successful bid for freedom. My mother used to see him out back near the railroad tracks with the other cats and it almost broke her heart but at least Judy wasn't going anywhere.

She was a very sweet, very shy cat who kept a low profile for the fourteen years she lived the good life Chez Fuller. She wasn't a cuddler (she didn't trust people well enough for that) but there was never any doubt that she loved her humans and was loved in return.***

I'm a knitting fool. Not that you'd know it from my lack of blog posts and photos but trust me, I am. Would you believe me if I promised to post photos tomorrow?

And thanks so much for the advice on gathering up the live stitches on the thumb opening. It made all the difference in the world!