Monday, June 30, 2008

WINNER! (And a new contest begins . . . )

Congratulations to Sydney (whose wonderful blog can be found here) on being chosen by the impartial, all-knowing, ever-surprising Random Number Generator. All I need is your snail mail address, Sydney, and the evil Karabella Gossamer will be on its way to you.

And because what's life without a contest -- or yarn for that matter -- I feel like celebrating our upcoming second blogaversary with our Second Annual Yarnapalooza extravaganza. Each day in July the RNG will choose one lucky entrant will receive something fibery from yours truly with gratitude and appreciation for your comments and support.

If you entered the KG contest, I'll roll you over into the Yarnapalooza. (Sounds kinda kinky, doesn't it?) Otherwise, send me an email at with TWO in the subject header and I'll do the rest. Warning: lots of sock yarn will be on its way to new homes and eager needles.

Good luck!

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Contest Time!

Because I am evil and because I believe lace-knitting misery deserves company, I invite you to enter a drawing for 2 sneaky little balls of KARABELLA GOSSAMER in a particularly devious shade of purple.

OCEAN BREEZES recommends KARABELLA GOSSAMER as the yarn of choice for the SEA FOAM scarf and we all know how that ended up for me. Maybe you'll be luckier. Probably you're a better lace-knitter than yours truly. Definitely we'll be dying to see the results.

Just send me an email right here with KG in the subject header and I'll announce the winner on Monday morning.

Beware, knitters: ahead lies a giant frog pond!


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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Branching Out (giving up)

That's my last attempt at Branching Out. (Patternworks Bretton yarn, KnitPicks Options US 6)
I was very distressed by the ripply cast-on edge, decided I was a worthless lace knitter, and quit my umpteenth attempt. Then I went to Ravelry and looked at some other examples of Branching Outs in progress and saw quite a few ripply versions. I'm not quite sure what it means but I was glad to see I'm not alone.
Strange how seeing it in a photo as opposed to seeing it on the arm of my sofa makes me want to try once more.
The trick would be getting it right this time.
Lace comments and helpful hints welcome. (Liz, your lace work is breathtaking! And Nancy, based on your photos I bought the Druchunas book.)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wherein I Get My Butt Kicked

I'm almost 58 years old and I allowed an ounce of mohair to kick my butt clear across the state of New Jersey.
And I'm still not sure exactly how it happened. I mean, I still have all my faculties. I know my way around US9 Knit Picks Options and a ball of Karabella Gossamer. I've knitted with mohair before. I know the drill.
I can't even say the pattern is difficult because it isn't. Sea Foam is fairly common and Sheryl Thies presents a lovely variation in OCEAN BREEZES. There's no reason I should have had to frog three times and then abandon ship quicker than First Class abandoned the Titanic.
Okay, so I did one really stupid thing. I wrote up a little cheat sheet so I could keep the pattern in front of me and I made a wee mistake. (I left out two YOs . . . don't ask.) Which definitely screwed me up. But it's more than that. It's some basic deficiency in my character that turns me into a whimpering, snarling, psychotic mess by the time the first pattern repeat is finished.
I mean, I bailed on Branching Out and nobody bails on Branching Out. A five year old could knit Branching Out.
I love lace. I stand in awe of knitters who turn out yard after yard of whisper-fine lace. Lace-knitting is as close to magic as I'm ever likely to come. But I hate knitting it. Remember how much Nancy hates knitting socks? That's me with lace. My shoulders tense up as soon as I cast on. By the end of the first row, those shoulders are up around my ears. That mushy messy lump of fabric that may or may not block into something fabulous makes my heart beat faster . . . and not in a good way. In a panic attack kind of way. Invariably I lose count or drop a stitch or do something idiotic to throw a monkey wrench into the works and I walk away one more time.
To me, knitting lace is the fiber equivalent of root canal without anaesthetic. Pure torture. So why, I ask you, am I incapable of turning away from it? I actually made a Charlotte (with Ritratto instead of Koigu) late last year (and forgot to photograph it in my Christmas rush) but I'm not sure that counts as real lace. (Nobody has troubles with Charlotte. Nobody but me, that is.)
I hate not being able to do something. I want, just once, to knit a beautiful piece of lace and then walk away from it, back into my happy land of swirling cables and sturdy rectangles.
Hope really does spring eternal.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Ocean Currents in central NJ

I wasn't kidding when I said I needed a shot of color in my knitting life.

Behold the beginnings of Ocean Currents from Sheryl Thies's fascinating OCEAN BREEZES book of scarf patterns.

What's that you said? It looks like a wandering bikini bottom in that first photo taken late last night? I can't disagree. It does.

Now take a look at my morning progress. I'm beginning to finally see what shape the stitch pattern is taking, bobbly bits and twisty bits and all, and I think I'm very happy. Also notice, if you will, the difference in color in the two shots. The second shot (natural light) is the most accurate.
Quick stats: Elann Endless Summer Luna in #5028. KnitPicks Options #5.
The yarn is gorgeous to work with, very silky in the hand, but it splits very easily and tends to untwist itself if you have to (heaven forbid) tink or (gasp) frog.
Not that I ever tink or frog, you understand, being the perfect knitter that I am . . .
Stay tuned for The Lace That Kicked My Butt.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

EZ Garter Stitch Blanket - Day #25? 30?

This is definitely an addictive knit, although I'll admit that the endless neutral landscape is starting to get to me. (I found myself reaching for some shocking pink yarn today and casting on just so I could drink up some color.)

The blanket as designed by Elizabeth Zimmermann consists of two A pieces and two B pieces. It's also designed to be knit with bulky wool double-stranded. I chose to use bulky wool (Cascade Ecological) single-stranded because my hands weren't up for the challenge of honkin' big needles. So far I've knitted up 4 A pieces in 2 different shades of Cascade Eco and 1.75 B pieces. If I sew up the blanket the way the design stipulates, I'll have a small stroller throw for a baby. Which isn't bad but isn't what I'm looking for.

So now I've decided that this will be an ongoing knit, using many of the natural Cascade Eco shades available and I'll just play with them like a squishy fibery jigsaw puzzle and see what I end up with.

The plan is to make four complete mini-blankets and then sew them up into one giant blanket.

Like I said, that's the plan today June 22, 2008. I'm not sure how I'll feel about that after a few more miles of garter stitch in neutral colors . . .

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

These Are A Few Of My Favorite (Knitting) Things

Everyone has their favorites...favorite book, favorite t-shirt, favorite TV show, favorite lipstick. I thought it would be fun if we shared some of our favorite knitting-related items. You never know what you might find out about when we all start to share!

Since it was my idea, I'll go first. ;-) Here are some of my favorite knitting-related things, in no particular order.

Favorite Fiber: Definitely alpaca. I'll never forget the time I strolled through a yarn store (The Elegant Ewe in Concord, NH,, stroking all the yarns to see which I liked best. I was new to "real" yarn stores at that time, having just moved from a state where yarn stores consisted of WalMart. Hah. So I was in heaven, having a great time testing them all out. I truly expected to fall in love with cashmere or angora, having heard about them all my life; but the one I found the softest and most strokable was alpaca. Who'd ever think the wool from animals would be so soft?

Favorite Alpaca Yarn: Buckingham from Bristol Yarn Gallery,
Detail&yarnid=000279&searchcollection=000014 . It's 80% baby alpaca, 20% silk, and 100% gorgeous! It just begs to be stroked and petted. I've used it twice to make the same pattern 'cause I love it so much: the Seashell Shawl by Kristin Omdahl, , top left picture. It's come out beautifully both times. Here's a picture of one of my shawls blocking:

Favorite Knitting Needles: Bryspun flexible knitting needles, . I discovered these recently. I was working on a lace project and having all sorts of trouble with the time I'd poke the needle tip through the bottom of the 3 stitches, the top two would have popped off. (sigh) I went to my local yarn store, The Woolery ( and asked the owner, Deb Degan, what she suggested. She recommended the Bryspun or the Addi lace needles. There was no comparison, price-wise...the Bryspun are much cheaper. So being a mean, being practical, I tried the Bryspun. She even let me try them then and there, in the store, and I was instantly hooked. The plastic shaft of the needle flexes ever so gently, which actually helps if you have arthritis in your hands. Don't ask me how it helps, but it does...I haven't had hand pain while knitting since making the switch. The stitches slide easily on the needles, with just the right amount of "grab" so they don't pop off. And best of all, I like the stiletto-type points with concave tips...they help tremendously when trying to scoop up two, three, or more stitches at one time. I'm a lifetime convert!

Favorite Project (so far) Made With Bryspun Needles: The Wisp Scarf by Cheryl Niamath ( I'm making it a bit wider so I can use it as a shawl, I'll leave off the buttons, and do a few extra repeats for added length. I'm using Madil Yarns Kid Seta ( and oh my, it will be decadent when finished!

Favorite Knitting Pattern Book: Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby (
1933064102/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213801241&sr=1-1). I'm really getting into knitting lace lately, and especially shawls, as you can tell from the projects I've listed above.

Favorite Knitting Pattern From Victorian Lace Today: This book has so many absolutely stunning stoles and shawls and scarves in it, it's tough to decide which one to make first. But I've narrowed it down and decided to try the Curved Shawl with Diamond Edging (you can see a finished one here: Although you wouldn't know it from the other patterns mentioned, I tend to prefer triangular-shaped shawls rather than rectangular. So this one has that curvy, almost-triangular shape going for it. And the pattern is so unusual...I swear it looks like it was tatted instead of knitted. I bought some drool-worthy 80% alpaca, 20% silk yarn to make it with (Areqipa by Ball and Skein,
&cPath=1_5_7&zenid=96a281058c61180051ef8cef9ba49698) in "the blues" colorway. Can't wait to start!

Favorite Felted Knitting Bag Pattern: The Wave Knitting Bag by Shelley Boardman,, scroll down to see it on the left. I did it in deep jewel tones, and it came out very nicely. Let's see if I can post a picture:

Okay, that's enough favorites for now, though I could go on and on. I'm anxious to see a few of YOUR favorites!

Thursday, June 12, 2008


With apologies to Shakespeare's Hamlet, that really is the question.

I made this striped purse from all of last year's leftover Lion wool. It was a pattern I just sort of made up - I think I cast on something like 60 stitches in brown and then knitted 30 rows in garter stitch for the bottom. Then I arranged the colors from the bottom up and just knit in the round with the different wools until I reached the top. I mixed two different colors for each strap and felted the whole thing. After it dried, I lined the bottom with a piece of plastic canvas. Finally I sewed a couple of purple triangle buttons to the bottom to attach the straps there and then used four different colored square buttons to attach them to the top.

It's a darling purse - much cuter, actually, than it looks in this photo. But I think it needs to be lined. And I may have the perfect material to line it.

This is a lovely light cotton print that contains almost every color in the purse. My problem is, I'm not quite sure how to go about lining the purse. Do I cut a big round? Or a big square? Should I use the machine to do a blind hemming stitch or should I sew it by hand?

Help, all you wonderful experienced knitters!

And thanks.


PS I haven't fogotten the extra sock yarn my LYS lady promised me. Just haven't had time to get there yet. But I will. I promise!

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Your lifelines saved my life...

...or at least my sanity! Here is the beginning of my Mobius Scarf from Arctic Lace. See the white strings? Those are my dental floss lifelines. I've used them twice already and I can't thank all of you enough for the brilliant suggestion! I put them in every eight rows (on the straight garter stitch row) because that's the full pattern. I keep three in at a time because that seems like a magic number. The dental floss pulls out really smoothly when I'm ready to use it for the next lifeline.

The fact that I've needed those amazing lifelines tells you something about how well I'm doing with lace knitting. Clearly my powers of concentration stink. I think I have the pattern pretty well under control and then all of a sudden I'm short a stitch. I carefully tink back to the beginning of the row and I'm still short a stitch. I examine my stitches through a magnifying glass and I'm still short a stitch so then I curse and rip back to the lifeline. I don't foresee alot of lace in my future.

A lace question: this scarf isn't as open and airy as I thought it would be from the photo in Arctic Lace. Would moving from Size 3 needles to Size 5 needles make it more the way I want it? Or would it just look stupid? (Please don't tell me to knit a swatch and see; that's just torture for me.) Or can I stretch it enough when I block it to make it lacier? I'm using Kraemer Sterling Silk and Silver yarn.

Thank you all again for throwing me the lifelines!

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

CASTING SPELLS: trailer, cover copy, and excerpt

I'm delighted to present the trailer for my November book! (You can find an excerpt on my website if you're interested. It's listed under Sneak Peek.) Actual kntting content and a new contest later. Enjoy!

NOTE: Yes, I changed it to the YouTube version because the other one wouldn't stop playing on my machine and if I felt like I was being pecked to death by ducks, I can only imagine how you must've been feeling! My apologies!!

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Monday, June 02, 2008

First Encounter with Lace

The commissioned scarf is finished. The weather is heating up—finally. Hockey season is almost over. I needed a new knitting project that factored in all of the above.

“Lace!” I thought. I have a) the pretty Kraemer Sterling Silk and Silver yarn, and b) the incredibly expensive Quiviuk I bought in Banff. I figured I would do a practice scarf with the Kraemer Sterling so I don’t mess up the incredibly expensive Quiviuk.

I got out my newly acquired copy of Arctic Lace (which you wonderful RTY folks recommended) and really applied myself to it. What a great book! It has the best instructions for doing a long tail cast-on I’ve ever seen. The explanations of lace stitches are terrific. The patterns are easy to read.

Even more amazing, Arctic Lace author Donna Druchunas convinced me to do swatches. I NEVER do swatches. I’m one of those I-refuse-to-do-any-knitting-that-doesn’t-contribute-directly-to-the-project’s-progress knitters. If I make mistakes, that’s what frogging is for. However, Ms. Druchunas’ arguments for swatches were so persuasive that I followed her progression almost to the letter.

Here’s the first swatch, knitted with worsted weight wool on size 7 needles in a simple pattern. But I was proud of it.

Then I graduated to the Kraemer Sterling yarn I would really use and did a more complicated swatch on size 3 needles. (Okay, I skipped the size 5 needles I was supposed to use.). I got this one right too. You will notice that I never actually finish the swatches. Ms. Druchunas’ powers of persuasion were powerful but not quite up to that.

I highly recommend swatching if you haven’t knitted lace before. It made me familiar with the look of the stitches, with reading the pattern, and how the different stitches worked on top of each other.

Most important, I learned that lace knitting requires TOTAL CONCENTRATION. I could not watch a hockey game and knit; I inevitably lost my place. I have started over with my lace project (the Möbius Scarf, only not as wide, in Arctic Lace) three times because either the Penguins or the Red Wings scored at inopportune moments in the pattern.

Fortunately, it is now baseball season. My DH is a die-hard Yankees fan and likes to have me keep him company when he’s engrossed in a game on television. I find watching baseball less exciting than watching grass grow so lace knitting is perfect. I don’t get distracted no matter how loudly he admonishes Derek Jeter to “hit the ball!” because I just don’t care what Derek Jeter does. I don’t even think he’s good eye candy. I prefer Hideki Matsui personally. That’s totally irrelevant to this blog and I don’t know why I even mentioned it.

Back to lace. Here’s my question: how do you pick up stitches in a lace pattern after you rip out mistakes? It’s the one thing I can’t figure out so I keep having to frog the whole darned project back to the garter stitch border when I make a mistake. Is there a trick or do I just have to use trial and error and hard experience?

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Contest Winner: Holly

Congratulations to Holly (msesq), the winner of the totebag-and-yarn contest!