Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My LYS Bites The Dust

I posted about my LYS back in November. I'd spent a few truly idyllic, soul-restoring hours in the shop with the owner, her wonderful dog Misha, and that oddly comforting sense that washes over you when you're surrounded by yarn and books and all the tools of our knitting trade. I'd never really been comfortable in that store before. To be honest, I only dashed in and out on the few times I'd visited and never felt that it was a place I wanted to be for any longer than necessary. (One day I'll tell you about my disastrous adventure in spinning.)

Anyway, that visit in November was wonderful and I'd actually been thinking about treating myself to another long visit when I finish this book (I prefer shopping on the internet; I'm more careful on the internet, more demanding, and generally more satisfied with my purchases) when I clicked on their website and found out THE STORE CLOSED!

Yep. My LYS is no more. They're going on-line with their products and will be offering classes at one of the local farms somewhere down the line. (It's definitely a bad time for leisure activities in Princeton: my LYS closed and Micawber Books is in the process of shutting down.) (Nancy, yes! Micawber!) All my plans to maybe, possibly become an outgoing, social knitter went down the drain.

Am I the only one who doesn't really feel comfortable in her LYS? I don't care how nice the store is, how welcoming the personnel, how terrific the prices: I'm counting the seconds until I'm out of there. I invariably choose the wrong yarns, buy the wrong amounts, forget why I was there in the first place, then go racing for the door the second I sign my name to the charge receipt.

Sit me down at the computer with all the time in the world to browse Elann and WEBS and I will wander the virtual aisles forever and a day. Thinking. Planning. Filling my shopping cart (then emptying) over and over again until I've finally settled on exactly the right thing. I spend less, get more, and am usually delighted.

I'm thinking it's the same Loner Gene that turned me into a misanthropic, cave-dwelling, night-stalking writer who hides from daylight and prays for snowstorms.

Really. It's a good thing I'm not allowed out into polite society very often. I'm sounding weird even to me . . . and I've known myself a loooong time.

Obligatory Update on the Top Down Sweater: I didn't knit all weekend. I was on a writing roll (okay, maybe not a roll exactly but I was at least sitting at the laptop with very good intentions) and banned myself from touching the needles. I managed a few inches today and am maybe 10 rounds away from doing the ribbing on the body. After that there's the neckline ribbing and then Sleeve Island X 2.

And the questions for tonight are:

1. Do you have a LYS you love and support or are you a web grrl too?
2. What's on your needles right this second?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Congratulations to Anonymous Betty, Theresa N., and (periwinkle) Cathy (aka Kerowyn's Mom) -- they're the winners of my YARNX Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille giveaway.

I'll need your snail mail addresses so send them to me at wickedsplitty AT earthlink DOT net ASAP and I'll send off your wickedly pretty washcloth yarn immediately.

Watch this space. More goodies to come, randomly chosen, randomly presented, randomly won.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Dream Baby

"I'm going to be a grandmother," my friend said.

"Girl or boy?" I asked.

"A girl, due in April." My friend smiled expectantly. "Will you make her something?"

"Of course. What do you want?"

"A blanket. Something soft and snuggly."

I knew just the pattern I wanted to use: Feather and Fan. But I didn't have anything in my stash that was soft and snuggly enough. Which meant a trip to my LYS. On the drive over, I had my radio tuned to the oldies station and was happily singing along to Roy Orbison and his 1962 hit, "Dream Baby."

Now Roy Orbison was a favorite of mine long before Julia Roberts starred in the "Pretty Woman" movie. His rockabilly songs - songs like "Mean Woman Blues" - invited me to dance, and I did. And his cris de coeur such as "Running Scared" or "Only the Lonely" touched something deep inside me. I've still got all his old 33 1/3 albums and I've got him on CD and DVD, too. And there's always the oldies station ...

But I digress. Well, maybe not too much. Because inside my LYS, I started looking through the yarn choices for babies when what should I find but Plymouth Yarn's DREAM BABY!

Was that a sign, or what? I bought ten balls in a pink/lavender/yellow colorway, came home and started knitting the blanket this weekend. And guess what I've been humming as I work?

P.S. What's your favorite baby blanket pattern?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

YARNX - FREE Crystal Palace Cotton Chenille

Okay, I'll admit it: I hated knitting washcloths. Hated it. And yes, this yarn is beautiful and I still never want to go near it again as long as I live.

But maybe you do.

So if you'd like to claim 1 skein of #9628 Periwinkle and/or 1 skein of #1015 Natural, now's your time. Stake your claim in Comments and tomorrow night I'll randomly choose a winner. (Assuming more than one knitter out there is interested.)
NEW ADDITION: 1 skein of #1109, Bubble Gum pink.

Did I mention they're FREE FREE FREE, no strings attached?

Warning: washcloths can make you crazy. Better to be given a washcloth hand knit by someone else than to hand knit the washcloth yourself.

A little known knitting truism.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I Love Knitting Pure & Simple

The answer was right there on the Knitting Pure & Simple website in the FAQ section and if I had half a brain I would have looked beyond Errata my first time around. Not only does the FAQ section provide a ton of information, there's a tutorial on knitting your first top down sweater that's very informative. I am totally in love with the site, the designer, the patterns, the fun of knitting this sweater.

And here, with great fanfare, is the answer to my wonky sleeve stitches question:

Are the sleeve numbers reversed in my pattern?
This is the most asked question. Pure and Simple patterns are written differently than some, and this causes confusion. But sleeves do not need to get longer as a person gets bigger around. The mid back to wrist length stays the same. The average for a woman is 28 inches. So as the body gets larger around, the sleeve needs to be shorter.
Of course, all of the top down patterns have sleeves that are easily made just the length you want, by trying on the sweater and knitting until they are the length you like.

Dallas, you were right. It really is a question of faith. Sometimes you just have to trust the designer and follow where s/he leads.

Good grief! Was that a life lesson??

Friday, January 26, 2007

Tech Question on Top Down Sweater Construction

I'll probably start my first sleeve sometime this weekend. That's the good news.

The bad news? The instructions have me puzzled. Maybe I'm overthinking the whole thing, but the logic of the numbers escapes me and I'm turning to all of you for help. (I'm also emailing Knitting Pure & Simple with the question. I Googled for errata but none popped up.)

Now bear with me while I state the obvious: knitting instructions always move from smallest size to largest. 34 (36 38 40 42) or S (M L XL XXL) The corresponding cast on #s or stitches to knit do as well: 100 (110 120 130 140). Or something like that. I've never seen it vary.

Until now.

Here is the portion of the instructions for Knitting Pure & Simple's Neckdown Pullover for Men #991:

Decrease round - k1, ssk, k to within 3 sts of marker, k2tog, k1. Repeat this round every 7th (6th, 5th, 4th, 4th) round. For a small mans' size, space the decreases closer together. For a tall size, space them farther apart . . . Continue to work as established, changing to larger double point needles when necessary, until sleeve measures 19 (18, 17, 16, 15) inches from armhole at underarm.

See my problem? The instructions as given above show widely-spaced decreases for the smaller size, becoming less widely-spaced as the size goes up. Isn't that the direct opposite of the instructions they give in the next sentence? Am I just not seeing something that's clear to everyone else? And since when does a guy in an XXL sweater have shorter arms than a guy in a S? Girth alone would take up more space. Is the shorter length compensated for by a deeper armhole worked earlier and I'm just not getting it because I'm new to this technique?

I swear to you, the logic (or lack of it) is keeping me up nights. Any help, explanation, or "you moron!" gratefully received!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action

One of my absolute favorite places to knit is in front of the television. I claim I'm not a big TV kind of girl but that just might be a lie. With the exception of GREY'S ANATOMY I don't know too much about what's new and popular but when it comes to the old, the unpopular, and the downright embarrassing I'm a veritable Encyclopaedia Britannica of worthless pop culture information.

(Did I ever tell you that I worked for EB when I was seventeen? They had an office at 575 Madison in Manhattan and it was mainly filled with characters and crazy people. One editor threw her IBM Selectric out of a 10th floor window because she believed my friend Carol had typed on it.) (She thought Carol was possessed by an evil genie that made her irresistible to all the men in the office.) (She was irresistible to men but that's another story.)

Where was I? Anyway, I was knitting and channel-surfing the other evening and everywhere I looked there was Elvis which isn't a big surprise since January is his birthday month. Young Elvis. Adult Elvis. Gorgeous Elvis. Fat Elvis. Paranoid Elvis. Naive Elvis. Tragic Elvis. One of the documentaries contained big gulps of concert footage and it was painfully clear that he was only going through the motions. He forgot the words to ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT. He slurred MY WAY. He didn't give a damn. And then they cut to the limo after the show. He was slumped in the back seat, surrounded by his friends and butt-kissers and hangers-on, and suddenly he starts singing an old gospel tune. Quietly. Passionately. His backup singers add some harmony. He closes his eyes and gives over to the music he loved and you actually saw the years and the drugs drop away from him and all it took was going back to the source.

(Didn't Joseph Campbell say we should follow our bliss? Editors toss out a version of that all the time, "Write the book you love." Great advice if you're not a working writer who needs an income to keep a roof over her head. Not so great advice if you do. Who says that what I love is what you'll love . . . or what tens of thousands of other readers may love? The trick is--and always has been--finding the common ground.)

I wasn't an Elvis fan (the Beatles were my generation's musical icons) but I had a friend who worshiped the man's every pelvic thrust. I met Marita in freshman year of high school and she claimed to be Elvis's biggest fan. I really liked Marita but I found her passion for The King kind of weird. (It was like professing your love for Julius LaRosa or Eddie Fisher. Too bizarre to contemplate.) Marita also said she was planning to become a nun, something nobody at St. Bartholomew's really believed. (She wore ankle bracelets, had a boyfriend, chewed gum, and read True Confessions magazines. This was big stuff at St. Bart's in 1963.)

Well, Marita had the last laugh. She went into the convent in 1967 and took her vows in 1968. (The year Elvis made his comeback.)

Any guesses what name she took? Yes, knitter in the back row, that's right: Sister Lisa Marie.

What is it with girls and singers? Why do we turn them into demigods? Geez, you'd think they were a roomful of Kureyon or something . . .

My aunt shivered in the rain to get tickets to see Frank Sinatra when she was a teenager and then, twenty years later, shivered in the rain again to see Harry Belafonte in concert. I screamed my brains out over the Beatles at Forest Hills and even to this day, would walk a mile to see anything Motown. (Marvin Gaye.) (I rest my case.) My 90 year old friend Margie rented one of those electric Rascals so she could go down to Atlantic City and see Engelbert Humperdinck. (Don't get me started on E.H. . . . "ick" doesn't begin to cover it.) And yes, I really did scream "Oh, Frankie!" during a Four Seasons concert in 1975. I know I should be ashamed but, damn it, I'm not.

I sat there knitting as the images on the screen flew by and I think I saw my life fly by with them, all sorts of stories and memories and vignettes jumbled up together with Elvis as a common thread.

There's something about sitting in front of the television and knitting that sets my mind spinning down all sorts of weird avenues. What is the connection between repetitive motion and creativity? I know it's a strong one but I've never been able to understand what neurons or impulses are linked up between our fingers and the right side of our brains.

The top down sweater is moving along. I have maybe eight more inches to knit before I do the bottom ribbing. The gauge is 4 stitches to the inch and 5 rows to the inch. I have a big question about the instructions but I'll save that for next time.

Who needs Elizabeth Zimmerman when you have Elvis as your Muse? Now if I could just get him to finish writing my book . . .

Now I Understand

All of you long-time knitters always talk about having two or three projects going at the same time, and I couldn't figure out why you would do that. I was strictly a finish-one-project-before-starting-another gal. Now I understand.

I began working on the convertible mittens for my daughter and discovered they are uncomfortably close to knitting socks. They require concentration, and the pattern is not as detailed or clear as I might wish, given that this is the first time I'm attempting something of this sort. I can only work on the mittens when I have time to focus and think things through. (Not to mention, rip things out!)

(This is a photo I took for reference so I'd remember how to do the second mitten's flap. I'm having problems with keeping my needles oriented the right way so I don't knit it inside out.)

However, I like to knit during commercials when I'm watching my beloved New Jersey Devils play hockey. Although the ads often seem endless, in fact, they aren't long enough to get going on the mittens.

So I broke my own rule and started another project: a scarf for myself, knitted out of the leftover yarn from my husband's seven-footer (which I finally finished--see photo). I'm using the same scarf pattern (but changing how the colors are arranged so we avoid having matching mufflers) which makes it delightfully mindless.

(Does this look like seven feet of cashmere? It is!)

I keep each project in a separate kniting bag by the couch in the family room. That way all the necessary materials are at hand and I can pick up whichever one suits my concentration level. Or I can grab the scarf bag to take with me when I'm going to be waiting somewhere (like the orthdontist's office or soccer practice).

You see what a bad influence you guys are! Next thing you know I'll be buying yarn just because it's pretty.

So what's the maximum (and minimum!) number of projects you have going at the same time?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Donna, you're the winner of the Cool Stuff I offered in our first YarnX(change). I posted your win last week in the comments section and would have emailed you personally but I don't have an addy for you.

Please drop me a note at with your snail mail information and I'll send the gorgeous yarn out to you ASAP.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I Love This Pattern!

I'm in love.

No, not with Mr. Sweater Model over there. I'm in love with the Knitting Pure & Simple pattern.

Yes, it's the same one I screwed up a few days ago when I forgot to place the first stitch marker but I'm over my trauma and zipping along. With a little luck I'll be pulling off the sleeve stitches and stowing them on waste yarn today and beginning the long trek down the body of the sweater toward the hem.

This is truly a fabulous way to knit. It's top down which means circs which means no purling which means sheer delight. Now I don't hate purling but I'd rather limit my exposure. It's fascinating to see the way the kf&b increases on either side of the markers form a fake seam that also serves as a very cool design element. I'm using my Denises (sizes 9 and 6) and if you're familiar with them, you know how light and flexible they are and how easy on the hands and arms. (Especially since I'm knitting with a fairly hefty yarn -- Elann's Peruvian Highland Chunky.)

This is one of those addictive projects that I may have to ask Goldisox to store behind lock and key when I should be working. I find myself grabbing every spare second I can to try to squeeze in just one more round.

Thanks be to Elizabeth Zimmerman: my knitting mojo's back!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Knitting is Sexy!

Review: Naughty Needles by Nikol Lohr

There’s some good stuff in Naughty Needles: Sexy, Saucy Knits for the Bedroom and Beyond. The author Nikol Lohr begins with the delightful statement that “Knitting is sexy.” She explains that “it fuses vision and skill into a creative superpower. Doing something resourceful and productive feels like magic because it is.” She also points out that not everyone knows how to knit so it’s mysterious too.

Writers can relate to the genesis of the book. After being misinterpreted and misquoted in an interview Nikol decided to crochet the journalist a baby blue ball gag. (I can think of a couple of folks I’d like to send one of those to.) The ball gag got her to thinking along the lines of…well, you know, so she developed the patterns in this book.

Nikol enjoys knitting her racy creations in public. She says that “when the old man on the bus asks what you’re making and you get to answer ‘vibrator cozy,’ it makes knitting that much more fun.” I’m not sure I’m that bold but perhaps others on this blog are.

This book is definitely not for prudes. The language occasionally veers into an R-rating and there are indeed patterns for vibrator cozies, ball gags, pasties and condom critters (which I thought were kind of cute). However, there is also a very alluring lace-up bustier, a beautiful felted cape, and a straitjacket which can be easily converted into a stylish sweater. (She offers a pattern for socks too but you know how I feel about knitting those.)

The patterns range from “easy-peasy” to intermediate and are clearly explained. There’s a glossary with excellent photographs for the occasional advanced stitch. Included is a detailed demonstration of the kitchener.

My biggest problem is with the photos. There are lots of them and although the pictures are professional and colorful, I found them off-putting. They are surprisingly tame, given the theme of the book, but something about the models and their poses is unattractive. I didn’t look at them and think, “Wow, I’d like to knit that!” In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’d like the book better without the photos. The author has a fun, sassy voice which is not well-served by the retro, kitschy visuals.

If you’d like more information about Nikol and her book, she has several websites:, and The first two offer extra patterns and photos of her more recent creations.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Knitter's Lament

I was so proud of myself.

The (early) winter of my discontent was finally over. Late yesterday afternoon I cast on for a simple top-down sweater for Goldisox from my stash, thereby fulfilling one of my two knitting resolutions for 2007. (I'm going to knit something for myself. I promise.)

Anyway, I'd had the pattern for ages, a Knitting Pure & Simple top down, stockinette, K1P1 ribbing at the round neckline, the hem, the cuffs. A simple heathery yarn from my Elann stash. (Goldisox has stringent criteria for sweaters: no patterning, no striping, only muted colors [if they can be called colors at all], traditional ribbing.) What could be better?

Knitting it correctlyfor starters, that's what.

You see, I have a secret index card addiction. When the writing gets muddled, the motivations seem unclear, the plot turns into something from a truly bad soap (and I love truly good soaps), I whip out a big fat stack of index cards and start playing. One idea, one plot point, one whatever per card. As few words as possible. Incomplete sentences only, thank you. Preferably written with a big fat Flair pen in an eye-searingly bright color. And I have to write fast. Scribble an idea, toss the card into a pile. Scribble another idea. Toss the card on top of the other cards in the pile.

The ideas were flying this weekend. The stack of cards was skyscraper high. It was only a matter of time before all of this rampant creativity spilled over into my knitting.

See where this is going? I grabbed for my pattern and decided why lug around a burdensome 8.5 X 11 inch sheet of paper when I could reduce the opening sequences to one (or two) index cards.

Which is what I did.

Unfortunately I did it W R O N G. I left out the placement of one key marker in the cast on row and screwed up the WHOLE #*@(!)##@)** THING.

I knew something was wrong but I second-guessed myself into pushing forward just the same. The directions said, "Things might look strange but trust us. It'll make sense later." They're right. Done correctly it =will= make sense later. Done incorrectly, it will only get worse.

I actually dreamed about it last night and when I came downstairs this morning I dug out the original pattern and instantly saw my problem . . . and solution. We're going to the Frog Pond, knitters, and not a moment too soon. (BTW, did you notice the gold earring dangling from my knitting? I had to mark the beginning of a round and didn't have any markers handy so I pressed my earring into service.)

Well, at least I'm knitting again, right? We'll ignore the fact that four hours of knitting time equal absofreakinglutely nothing tangible except a reminder that we all make mistakes. In writing. In knitting. In life. (If only it were half as easy to repair life's mistakes as it is to repair knitting mistakes.)

Anyway, say goodbye to Top Down Sweater #1. And fingers crossed for #2.

Jamie's Stash Box

This sorry attempt at a sock is from yarn hidden in my stash box. Well, not my "real" stash box, but my newer stash box. Neither is by any means as extensive as my fellow RTYer's, but they're getting there. I'm confident with a little more diligence I can do the team justice. Most of the yarns I have stashed in my "real" stash box are for overly ambitious crochet projects that have yet to see the light of day because I'm trapped in knitting heaven. Not a bad place to be, right?

I did put a good dent in my "new" stash box (the one filling up fast with yarns I simply must knit something with) over the holidays with three sweaters, a shawl, a couple of scarves and some dishcloths. Immediately after Christmas, I accomplished my first ever cable knit sweater for my eldest grandson (he turned 7 last week), then just for the heck of it and because it's so freaking cold in North Dakota where my mom still lives, I made a snood (combination scarf/hood) for her out of Lion Brand Chenille in a stunning shade of deep teal. I wish I'd thought to take a picture for y'all, but you'll have to take my word for it, it was a gorgeous creation!

After whipping off another fair isle sweater for granddaughter #3's birthday (she'll be 6 next week), I dug into the "new" stash box and pulled out a couple of skeins of Paton's SWS in Natural Blue (#70128). When I purchased the yarn, I'd asked the sales clerk for assistance and told her I wanted a self striping yarn. I'd wanted a yarn similar to what I'd seen one of Sock Hoppers use during our October Sock Hop, and she directed me to the Paton's SWS. It didn't do what I thought it would do, but it was self-striping, I suppose in a more subtle way. Since the next couple of months here at RTY have been designated "knitting for me" I had the brilliant idea that I'd use this super-soft yarn for a cool pair of socks for myself.

Pfffttt!! I'm not sure I'm cut for socks. I had no trouble turning the heel or making the heel flap. Those were quite simple, but something went haywire on me when it came to shaping the toe. I think I know what went wrong, and I'm hoping someone with much more experience than me can determine from the photo above what the heck I did wrong.

After the heel was completed, I readjusted the stitches on the needles to make them more evenly distributed, mostly because I have an unrealistic fear of dropping stitches. I don't think I was supposed to do that and I'm hoping someone can confirm my suspicions.

Instead of soldiering on and completing the second sock, I abandoned that ship in an hurry and and decided to knit one of those London Beanie's our Cindi had mentioned in her blog post here not too long ago. As you can see, I managed to conquer beanie-dom fairly successfully (isn't that yarn goregous!), however I face yet another issue. The thing is too small for an adult head. My DH tried it on, and he doesn't have an overly large head, but it was just a bit too small. And yes, I even checked the gauge before starting. I'll be sending it to grandson #5.

I'll be trying the beanie thing again, too. Two of my sons have birthdays coming up in February and March. I'm going to use US8's this time rather then the US7's the pattern calls for and see if that helps. The DH wants one, too, but he wants one of those hats with the really long tail that you can wrap around your neck for a scarf. What can I say, the man has never been a fashionista :::sigh:::.

So, here are my questions:

1. What did I do wrong with the sock? My toe sucks!

2. Does anyone know where I can find a pattern for the hat/scarf combo thingy for the DH?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Knitting and Writing

Ways in which my approach to writing and my approach to knitting are the same:

1. I always have more ideas I want to write -- and projects I want to knit -- than I will ever have time for.

2. I have all these incomplete/future projects stashed around my office and/or craft room (aka spare bedroom.) I use the many tote bags I get from writing conferences to hold yarn, patterns, needles for things I'm going to make someday. And file folders for the book and story ideas.

3. Halfway through the current project, the new one beckons almost irresistably. The middle of the book is the hardest part for me and invariably that 'new' book idea sounds like so much more fun. And more times than I can count, when I'm halfway through a knitting project, I see a new yarn or pattern and think how much fun it would be to start that right now!

4. When I'm working on a book and in the flow, time flies and I'm lost to everything else. Same for knitting.

Ways in which knitting and writing are nothing alike:

1. No one edits my knitting.

2. Most of the writing is done on a deadline. I can't abandon a book in the middle to start something else. I sometimes do put aside a knitting project to make something else.

3. Knitting is just for me and people I make gifts for. Writing it something I share with the world.

4. My writing job pays for my knitting hobby.

And now for a picture.
A bad hair day prompted me to set aside the sweater I'm working on and knit a headband. It's a simple seed stitch knit on size 7 needles with Lion wool-ease. (Speaking of stash, I don't have much of one. What I do have is 5 or 6 skeins of various colors of Wool-ease. I don't even remember how I got them.)

The Cat and the Hat

I need another hat like I need another of those proverbial holes in my head. But it is time to use up some of the stash, right? So I pulled out a ball of black-and-white Splash, a ball of black Encore and my size 10 double-point needles and made this hat.

Then it was time to take a picture of the hat so I could post it on the blog. After I took the first pic, I thought it would be fun to put it in front of the sliding doors in the kitchen so you could see the accumulation of ice (and soon, snow!) on my deck. Well, who wanders into the kitchen to look longingly out the door but Squeaky, the feral cat who's lived with us for a year now. I couldn't resist.

So with apologies to the dearly beloved Dr. Suess, I proudly present ... The Cat and the Hat!

Now that I've shared my first Stashable, I have to ask: What are you making from your stash?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

YarnX(change): 1 skein Cool Stuff

I went temporarily insane two summers ago at Patternworks in New Hampshire. I mean I actually took leave of my senses and claimed anything and everything that wasn't already still attached to sheep, alpaca, or swimming in a mystery vat in some mad scientist's lab.

My AmEx is still recovering.

One of my purchases was the utterly irresistible Cool Stuff, an odd 150 yard melange of fizzy and funky novelty yarns in shades of hyacinth and lavender and orchid that made me feel good just looking at it. I had a plan (don't I always??) for it, the ubiquitous skinny diagonal scarf that showed off the color/yarn changes to best advantage. (Did I mention that Cool Stuff comprises many different yarns of different textures?) I envisioned the recipient's delight when she saw the finished product, how much she'd love it, how even the $50 price tag was nothing compared to that.

Well, I changed my mind. Somewhere between my Patternworks euphoria and casting on, I discovered that she not only wouldn't appreciate a homegrown gift, she would actually feel offended by it.

Scratch one Cool Stuff scarf.

Scratch the urge to knit it for someone else.

Here are some stats:

  • 150 yards
  • Cotton, Viscose, Poly, Nylon, Silk
  • 3-4 ounces
  • #8US needles
  • Custom dyed by

All in gorgeous light purples, lavenders, orchids, etc. (I may append a photo tomorrow.)

Anyway it's yours for the taking. If you're interested post a comment. I'll check back Monday afternoon and if you're the only taker, it's yours. If not, I'll log onto the handy dandy Random Number Generator and pick a winner.

Let the YarnX (and our Season of Stash) begin!

My Stash Or Yours?

Fran had a great idea and I'm going to shamelessly steal and run with it.

I hereby declare this the Season of Stash and I also hereby declare that between now and the Vernal Equinox I will knit (assuming I ever knit again) only from stash . . . mine or somebody else's.

(Emergency purchases don't count.)

(According to THE Wendy, neither does sock yarn.)

(Or fancy-shmancy extra-special gift yarn.)

"Fine for you," I can hear some of you saying, "but we're not all crazy stashaholics who are actually losing square footage to worsted and DK. Some of us have it under control already."

So how does an ongoing Yarn Exchange sound to you? Nothing formal. Nothing fancy. If you have something you'd like to swap for something else, let us know. Either write to me or post it in comments and I'll post it here with your details. Photos welcome if you have 'em. (Don't worry if you don't.)

It can be a one-for-one swap or a simple yarn adoption with no strings attached. It's your call and your deal.

Knit from your stash or knit from mine. Share the results with us right here. Swap yarns you're tired of for yarns you crave.

Knitters, what do you think?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Stash Management Revisited

Now I'm not the most New Age-y girl you're likely to come across, but even I have to sit up and pay attention when the Universe whacks me upside the head three times with the same idea.

First THE Wendy announced her Knit From Your Stash 2007 pledge. Then Laura wrote about whipping (knitting?) her stash into shape. Then today Dallas and I talked about the same thing during a long (very long) (very wonderful) phone conversation.

See what I mean? The idea's out there and it isn't going away. When your stash has the half-life of uranium and will outlive even the most ambitious knitter by at least a dozen years, I say it's time to take stock and stop visiting the WEBS site on an almost-hourly basis.

I managed to fight my way into my yarn-clogged guest room, climbed over a mountain of Schachenmayer Stretch, elbowed past some Noro Implessions and shoved aside more Sirdar Highlander than I'm willing to admit owning and still couldn't find what I was looking for. Wherever the book was, it was buried in yarn of all weights, all colors, all possibilities. If I hadn't been laughing so hard, I might actually have felt a smidgen of shame. Covetousness, thy name is Knitter. I am the missing Collier sister, except instead of accumulating newspapers, I hoard yarn.

And, knitters, we are reaching critical mass. It was cute when only a closet or two were impacted but now we're threatening entire rooms, full basements, unsuspecting neighborhoods.

It's time to stop the madness!

I hereby pledge to knit from my stash and my stash alone for the next few months. (I can hear you laughing from here. Considering the fact I'm not knitting at all right now, this should be a breeze!) Maybe through June. Maybe through September. What, I ask you, is the point to all of this gorgeous yarn if I don't knit any of it?

I'm still searching for an answer . . .

Tales from the Dark Side

I was born a night owl. Okay, maybe not literally (I was born a little after 6 p.m.) but right from the start it was clear to all and sundry that I was most definitely my mother's daughter. My father was a lark who rose, happy and even-tempered, with the sun and faded not long after moonrise. My mother? She was a whole different story. Mornings were best ignored. Afternoons were a little better. But once the sun went down, my mother's energy levels, enthusiasm, and creativity kicked into overdrive and kept on kicking until four or five in the morning.

Which, quite frankly, made life in a four room apartment during the conform-to-the-norm 50s in Queens a bit of a stretch for all concerned.

I exhibited my night owl tendencies early. There were stories about my three year old self sneaking out of her bedroom at night to watch Steve Allen or whoever the king of late night was at the moment. There were stories about a six year old who refused to go to bed and actually outwaited her parents who decided to try one of Dr. Spock's theories and just leave me alone in the living room at midnight with only the TV (set to a presidential convention, one of my guilty pleasures) for company. "The child will quickly retreat to the safety of his or her room," the good psychologists predicted.

Well, the good psychologists hadn't met yours truly who sat there in her footie pj's until almost two when her parents dragged her, wide-awake and talkative, off to bed.

The truth is, we spend most of our lives trying to live within the framework set up for civilization and it doesn't work for all of us. I loved it during the early years of our marriage when Goldisox worked swing and night shifts in the Air Force and then again with AT&T. I loved being the only one awake in a sleeping neighborhood, that sense of being part of a world known only to a few. I loved knowing the phone wouldn't ring, nobody would show up at the door unannounced (that, at least, is the hope at three in the morning!), that these hours belonged to me and I could do whatever I wanted with them. (Did I mention that up until I sold my first book I had done my best to remain gainfully underemployed, doing truly crap jobs that would provide needed money but absolutely no sense of accomplishment or fulfillment. That's what writing was for. That was where all of my hopes and dreams were focused.) So there I was, sitting alone in the living room, watching old movies while I transcribed court reporters' notes into readable text or typed addresses onto fancy-schmancy envelopes for a Steuben Glass mailing, happier than a pig in manure to be living counter to the universe.

Given our druthers, both Goldisox and I would live the night owl life. We reverted to type over the holidays and it hasn't been easy switching back. The thing is, doctors and dentists and banks and post offices and all manner of necessary services aren't skewed with the night owl's needs in mind. Night owls have to bend in order to survive in the real world and it isn't always easy.

Last year I was working on a book and having horrendous trouble. My brain doesn't click during the sunny hours of midday. Unfortunately my brain wasn't clicking during the evening either. One morning I woke up around five, heart pounding with anxiety over the book that wasn't, and unable to fall back asleep. I crept from the room and went downstairs to make a cup of tea and mull over my hideous state of affairs. The laptop on the table caught my eye. I was half-asleep, under-caffeinated, desperate enough to try anything. I booted up, sat down, and suddenly the words started pouring out. I couldn't have stopped them if I'd wanted to. I worked until nine-thirty and in those few hours accomplished twice what I normally accomplished in an entire day.

Not being a total moron, I lathered, rinsed, and repeated the next day with the same results. Clearly the middle of the night (or beginning of the morning) was a fertile creative time for me and I managed to hang onto the magic right through to the end of the book. For the first time in ages, the process of writing was sheer delight and I wasn't left an exhausted, depleted shell of a writer when it was over.

Am I a nightowl? An upside down lark? A cuckoo? Beats me. All I know is that I'm not going to regain my mojo until I get this whole Circadian rhythm thing worked out.

And there's more. Lots more. Even some knitting stuff.

Stay tuned.

Lady Eleanor Strikes Again

I did finish one gift in time for Christmas giving but I couldn't mention it on the blog because it was for my sister and I was afraid she'd read about it. I made her my favorite thing to knit: the Lady Eleanor Stole (love that entrelac!) from ScarfStyle. That's my Darling Daughter modeling it in the photo since I haven't yet gotten to see it on my sister.

The yarn is Manos in a variegated purple to pink colorway. Purple is Sis's old favorite color and pink is her new one so it seemed perfect. Her reaction upon opening the stole was quite gratifying: she cried!

The stole has rather an emotional history. Our golden retriever Max (whom I've mentioned on this blog before) died in September. As you know, he was a much-loved member of our family. He developed brain cancer but for six long days we didn't know this. He had very weird symptoms which required that someone be with him day and night so he wouldn't injure himself. While I watched over him, I worked on my sister's stole. It helped keep me awake and soothed my nerves. I could pick it up and put it down as Max needed me.

As I told my sister in the note I enclosed with the stole, there was a lot of love knitted into the entrelac: love for her and love for Max. I knew I was saying good-bye to him over those six days and I made sure to let him know what a wonderful gift he had been to our family. Oh, how I miss him!

His memory will always be with me and the purple Lady Eleanor stole will be a tangible reminder of his life. I know my sister will leave the dog hairs woven in because she understands how I felt about Max and knows the honor I did her in giving her "his" last project.

Do you use knitting as therapy? Has it gotten you through a tough time?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Missing: One Knitter's Mojo

The year isn't even two weeks old and I've been reduced to quoting Austin Powers.

Yes, knitters, I've lost my mojo and I'm not sure it's ever coming back.

The clock struck twelve on December 31st and I waved goodbye to the old year . . . and my knitting resolve. I don't know why it left. I don't know where it went. All I can tell you is that my mind is filled with projects I'd love to start but my hands refuse to cast on so much as a single stitch.

I still pore over patterns and pet my stash. I dream about finishing the grey Step socks and starting the Celtic Sweater just for me. So why don't I quit dreaming and start doing? What's stopping me? Enough already with the lethargy. Wake up, Bretton, and start knitting!

Good advice. If only I'd follow it.

Basically I'm feeling overwhelmed. What I need is to disappear into the book I'm working on and let myself sink into my own imagination and just let the rest of the world go to hell. Unfortunately that's easier said than done. The world is too much with me right now and I can't seem to shut it out. You see, that's the thing about being a night person living in a day people's world. I've been trying to be an early to bed/early to rise kind of girl and to nobody's surprise but my own (hope spring eternal and all that) I'm failing spectacularly. What I should do is give up the ghost. It was a grand experiment but it ain't working and time is running out. Sleeping late isn't a crime against the nation and even if it is, who cares? Will the earth stop spinning on its axis if I work until four a.m. and sleep until ten or eleven? Goldisox doesn't mind. The parrots don't mind. Why on earth am I making it so blasted hard on myself?

No sleep. No knitting. That does not a happy (or productive) writer make.

If you have any suggestions on how to recover my missing knitter's mojo, I'd really love to hear them before I forget how to cast on.

Laura asked about new books on the horizon. Just Like Heaven will hit the stands late next month.

There's a sneak peek on my website.

BTW, if you scroll down the vertical nav bar on the right, you'll find our list of contributors. Make sure you visit our knitting bloggers and check out their websites too.

Stashbusting plan

This is just a small portion of my stash. I spent an hour in the attic yesterday, intending to just pull out the yarn for a couple of projects. I'm distractable, though, so I ended up digging through boxes, tubs, and trunks of fabric & fiber. Fun, fun, fun! I found bags of bargains I'd forgotten about. Wow, it was just as much fun as the shopping the first time around, but I didn't have to spend any more money. I ended up with this big pile at the bottom of the attic ladder.

Wow, what a mess! I left it there for a while. Then I tossed it all into a big box. And thought about how frustrating it would still be to pull out a skein and start the whole process all over know the questions...was the pattern in the book on the shelf or in an issue of Cast-on? And wasn't there more somewhere?


My solution? Zip-lock bags! I packaged the yarn & patterns together into kits, then sorted the kits by type. One box for sweaters. Another for vests. A third for hats, hands & foot stuff. I'm so proud (and somewhat unsettled by the thought that I may be turning into my grandmother.)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Books! Books! Books!

I'm making out my Must Read book list for the year -- which of our Romancing The Yarn authors have 2007 releases? Please, please, let us all know so we can buy them as soon as they're available! Tell me NOW so I can add them to my 'watch for' list, which is organized by month.

Who else has great books I should watch for?

And to bring the topic back to knitting...who's your favorite fictional character who knits?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Help Wanted!

My Darling Daughter turned seventeen yesterday...and passed her driver's test. I won't go into the emotional trauma this causes me on many fronts because I'm sure you can all imagine it.

One of the gifts I gave her was this ball of yarn with a promise to turn it into a pair of "flap mittens" (I don't know the proper name for this accesory): you know, the ones that are fingerless mitts with a flap that flips over the fingers to turn them into warm mittens.

These are de rigueur for marching band practice so you can both play your instrument and keep your fingers warm between pieces. She's worn her old ones out and I was originally going to just buy her an already-knitted pair. Then I saw this yarn and fell in love. What, I wondered, could I make with this gorgeous Malabrigo in a color my DD would adore? Eureka! Flap mittens!

This is where you all come in. I need a good simple pattern that will work with Malabrigo. I'm quite convinced someone in this great group will know of one so I'm seeking your help. (Notice these will not be square or rectangular, thus fulfilling one of my New Yarn Resolutions.) Any suggestions? (Also, what are these doohickeys really called?)

Monday, January 01, 2007

A few of my favorite things ... okay, ONE favorite thing

My favorite Christmas present, a gift from my son.

What's your favorite?

New Year's Revolution

Forget the same-old, same-old. Though wanting to lose weight or quit smoking or exercise more are wonderful resolutions, I'm up for something new. Something that will make me better - more soulful, perhaps? - on the inside while I'm working on the outside.

So here are a few revolutionary ideas to get me started:

I'm going to enjoy my writing again. IOW, the pressure's off. I'm already writing a story I really like, something I used to do all the time. If it sells to a NY publisher, great. If it doesn't ... hey, I've got my own small press, Delphi Books, and I can publish it there.

I'm going to knit something, maybe several somethings, just for me. The RTY Knit-A-Long provides the perfect opportunity for me to take the plunge on that spring shrug I've been eyeing for what seems like forever. And the money I got from my DH for Christmas is more than enough to buy some soft, EXPENSIVE yarn. I'm worth it ... I think.

I'm going to quit judging other people because the jury is still out on me. Eek! As much as I hate to admit it, this is a biggie for me. I don't know when I became such a snap-judgment kind of gal - maybe I'll find out when the jury comes in - but it ends today. And that's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I'm going to continue my five-day-a-week exercise routine ... even if it kills me. LOL!

Last, but certainly not least, I'm going to read more, pray more, laugh more and say "no" more often.

Anyone else up for a revolution?