Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Explosion of Metaphors

When I first got back into knitting (August 2003) I was struck by the parallels between looping yarn over needles and writing. It got to the point where I had to close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears, and start humming really loud to keep them at bay.

And then it stopped. Knitting was knitting. Writing was writing. Two separate activities with absolutely nothing in common but me. One was wordless. One was (God help me) sometimes a little too wordy. Both had the qualities of an addiction. Unfortunately only one could pay the mortgage. (Unless you count the two-scarf contract from Penguin that Goldisox likes to tease me about.)

Just when I thought I was over the worst of it and the metaphor monster had been put to rest along with the Ab Fabs and the multi-directional scarves and novelty yarns, it came swooping back in at me thanks to Susan Wiggs and the terrific workshop she's holding this week over at the Romance Divas Forum. Susan is talking about Plotting From the Inside Out (a technique I definitely hold close to my heart) and she asked a fascinating question. What type of writer are you? A quilter? A sculptor? A knitter?

You guessed it: I'm a knitter through and through. I work line by line, row by row, and have to frog the whole damned thing each and every time I find a mistake. I long to be a rough draft kind of writer, someone who powers through the story from start to finish in an explosion of heat and enthusiasm and then, when the passion cools, goes back and layers in detail, dialogue, changes in direction. But I'm not. I can't move forward without taking at least two or three steps backward. How can you know where you're going if you're not sure where you've been? I have to know where I've been, know it in great and excruciating detail, before I can take that leap of faith into the next page, the next chapter.

Kind of like where I am right now with the never-ending What Am I Going To Do With This Gorgeous Noro Silk Garden series of scarf attempts. That's Take #3 (WAVY from Knitty) up there. It's longer now.
Fortunately, so is the book in progress.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cupcake and how to finish so it looks professional

Hi everone, I'm finding this blog addictive. First, a photo of the delectable new cupcakes from the cupcake shop down the block. A red velvet beauty!

Next, my biggest knitting issue is finishing. I've been making sweaters in the round because I don't have to deal with putting the sides together. I am now halfway through a cardigan with openwork and I want it to look fantastic. Is there a link or a book or anything that can help me put the pieces together so it doesn't look as though I put the pieces together with a crowbar? I'm at wits end!!

Someone also asked for a bio, so here is this quick, shy version. I'm a novelist, just sold my 9th novel Breathe to Algonquin Books. I write a book column for The Boston Globe an Dame magazine and I'm a book critic for People. I also on the faculty of UCLA, teaching advanced novel writing online--and I have private clients. Oh, and I write scripts. I'm the mother of a fabulous 12 year old son and I have a fabulous journalist husband. We used to have a cranky tortoise (for 20 years), but he died two years ago. We live in NYC's unofficial 6th borough, Hoboken!

So, anyway, I would really, really, really appreciate any tips or help in terms of putting the sweater pieces together.

Thanks everyone!

Monday, August 25, 2008


I used to think cabling without a needle was the coolest thing on the planet. Fast, efficient, and you could do it anywhere. What's not to like?

Then I discovered Clover's cable needles at Jimmy Beans Wool and my theories were shattered.
Now it was a scientific study, I promise you. I made Goldisox time me with the stopwatch function on my (new) iPod Classic (more about that later; how did I live without having The Sopranos on a 2 inch square screen?) and I can tell you that I am a 50% faster cabler with those cute little Clover plastic fish hooks than I am without.
Right now I have another Irish Hiking Scarf on the needles and 40% of a Vintage Velvet and I'm working both with the Clovers so they're getting a workout. When I reach the cable stitches I scoop them up onto the hook itself, slide them to the bend, then knit them off the straight portion. Effortless cabling. You can even hang the thing from the cable gap so you can easily count up to the next cabling point.
Highly recommended!

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vacation Knitting

Part of the fun of driving to a vacation is being able to knit en route. (The photo is from the amusement park at Ocean City. Miles of boardwalk to bike on, tons of arcades to waste, um I mean, spend money in, minigolf, food, and the ocean.) I discovered this great pattern from loop-d-loop which had a lace leaf patttern in it. However, the sweater itself was too bulky and fitted (shouldn't bulky be loose?) plus the designer insisted on making you graft the front together in two sections which didn't make sense to me. So I robbed the lace leaf motif and put it on a cardigan pattern I have. It's the first time I've done any sort of open work and it looks very cool. The sleeves have some sort of yarn over ladder effect that I'm having trouble with, but hopefully it will come.

Two writers at the beach means we spent most of our time not relaxing, as my mother urges, but running around in ceaseless activity. So now, of course, it's hard to sit quietly at my desk and get back to my novel.

Caroline Leavitt

Friday, August 22, 2008

Red Scarf, Blue Screen of Death

I thought I had it beat. My annual Springtime Computer Explosion didn't happen this year. I actually sailed through April and May without losing a single piece of electronic equipment to the mysterious powers that apparently flow through my fingers. The television lived, the radios, the MP3, the printers, the laptop. They not only lived, they thrived.

I thought it was over. The curse had been broken. Peace reigned in the House of Chaos.

Well, think again. This has been a week in hell. First I saw the Blue Screen of Death. Then the computer resurrected itself. Then as I tried a midnight back-up (which took eleven hours; don't ask) I received a message that said, "There is no hard drive."


If there's no hard drive, how can you be leaving me a message on my computer screen? Don't I need a hard drive to send and/or receive that message?

It found its hard drive again later with a) patience and b) loud swearing.

And then I embarked on another round of frantic backing up which ended ten minutes ago in the happy message: "Close all programs. Restart computer. Run Setup. You are missing .dll extensions."

I. Am. Not. Happy.

At least not with computers. I am happy, however, with my knitting. I finished my red Irish Hiking Scarf for this year's Red Scarf project and I am delighted. What a perfectly designed, perfectly satisfying piece of knitting. No wonder it's so popular. All you have to do is knit one pattern repeat and you've got it down cold. And oh do I love cables. I could cable all day. I could cable in my sleep. I could cable when I should be writing. Cables are better than chocolate. And when the cabled scarf is going to the Red Scarf project, it just doesn't get any better.

I'm also working on a Vintage Velvet (Scarf Styles) in cream Touch Me. More cables! Big soft squishy yarn that will gently felt into the most gorgeous antique-looking soft swoony velvet imaginable.

This week knitting was the only thing that kept me from throwing myself into traffic on the Garden State.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008


This has to be one of the year's most brilliant ideas: Vogue Knitting has produced a short video to go with their Fall 2008 Issue (the one with those fab mittens). Imagine seeing the sweater you're thinking about casting on in motion on a real live human being! What will they think of next??

Thanks to Dallas for the link.

And take note of this from a VK email:

Save the Date:
Designer guest chat with Jared Flood! (Brooklyn Tweed)
WHO: Cover mitten designer Jared Flood
WHEN: Wednesday, August 27 at 12 p.m.
WHAT: Are you knitting our Fall ‘08 cover project or thinking about it? Talk to the man behind the mittens in an exclusive live chat with designer Jared Flood. Stop in at next week for all the details.

Good times ahead for knitters!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sneak peek: chapter two is posted

Yes, this is shameless huckstering but I promise to make it up to you with some knitting content. (I'm too lazy weave in the ends and photograph my completed Irish Hiking Scarf, (designer: Adrian Bazilia) but I will very very shortly. Honestly. I promise. You have my word . . . )

There are new two chapters of CASTING SPELLS available for you to read on my website. They're in the Sneak Peek section but I'll make it easy for you. Just click here and you'll be whisked away. The book won't be out until somewhere around Halloween (official pub date is 11/4 -- Election Day!!) but my first review popped up in my inbox this afternoon and I'm grinning from ear to ear. "Excellent read," says Susan Randall from ARMCHAIR INTERVIEWS.
And I'm very excited to announce that THE WENDY (aka Wendy D. Johnson of Wendy Knits) and Dawn Brocco (Dawn Brocco Designs and blog)
both contributed some wonderful knitting tips that appear in the book. In fact their hints were so good that the ARMCHAIR INTERVIEW review took note:
Although I am not a knitter myself, the 10 things you need to know about knitting in
general are quite funny as well as the 10 things you need to know
about knitting lace and knitting socks in the back of the book are a keeper.
So here's a big loud heartfelt "Thank you!" to Dawn and Wendy for their help. I owe you one.
And while I have your attention, Fran mentioned Nancy Herkness's fabulous book MUSIC OF THE NIGHT in comments and I have to say I second, third, and fourth her praise. Nancy wrote a taut, sexy, witty, intelligent mystery that swept me up into the very different worlds of music and police work and held me captive until the last page. This comes highly recommended!
One more thing: we'll be adding another writing knitter/knitting writer to the roster in the next few weeks. Caroline Leavitt, whose talent leaves me literally speechless, will be joining us here at Romancing the Yarn. I first discovered Caroline's work around 1982 when I devoured her first novel (I think it was her first) MEETING ROZZY HALFWAY. It's twenty-six years later and I can still remember scenes and passages. That's how good a book it is. I hope you'll take time to visit Caroline's website and get to know her. And check out her blog. I think you'll love her.
And here I thought I had nothing to say tonight.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

We have a winner!

Due to a brain blip, I forgot to draw the winner for the Hawaiian earrings until today. My apologies!

The Random Number Generator chose lucky number 13 in my entry list: Adrienne Fong. Congratulations, Adrienne! Email me your snail mail address and I'll send them your way! My email is

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Promo and Prizes

As you may (or may not) know, I'm a publisher as well as an author. A small press publisher, true, but a publisher nonetheless. And this month Delphi Books has published a book I'm really proud of. It's called A Place in the Shower Schedule: 101 Favorite Columns by Roger H. Aylworth.

The book is a collection of humor columns written by a newspaperman for the Enterprise Recorder in Chico, CA. Roger is also the father of seven children - six sons and one daughter, and if I had to give you a quick description of his book, I'd say "think a male Erma Bombeck." The reviews that have come in to date are really good. For example, called it "A charming and easy read." And readers at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are praising it as well.

Anyway, if you or someone you know appreciates good, clean family oriented humor, please ask for the book at your favorite bookstore or public library.

Now on to the second half of this post. As some of you may recall, my LYS owner was saving sock yarn for me. The other day, I finally got down there and got the bag. Unfortunately, it's all the same yarn: Marks & Kattens Clown in a pretty blue and green on cream. I've pulled the winners' names - georg and Mary Campbell and Lana F. - and will be sending their yarn early next week.

LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST: Here's four balls of Noro that my LYS owner dropped in my bag before I left the store. She's not going to carry it anymore because it's so hard to get. But what do we care? It's FREE. And if you're interested in winning these four balls of Noro, send an email to FRAN at FRANBAKER dot COM with Noro in the subject line. Since the yarn is wool and more suited to fall and winter, I'll draw the winner's name on September 1 to sort of jumpstart the season.

Good luck!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Commission Completed

Here's the finished Short Row Scarf being blocked on my guestroom floor. Of course, the blocking board wasn't long enough for it so I had to add a garbage bag-wrapped piece of foam core. Does anyone own a blocking board big enough for all their projects? Sigh.

Here's the finished commission! I delivered it to my brother-in-law on Tuesday. (Being a full-service knitter, I even put it in a holiday gift bag.) He was amazed that I had finished it before December 24th. Obviously, he knows something about writers and deadlines. When I pulled it out of the bag, he was delighted, and now I'm afraid he won't be able to resist giving it to his wife long before Christmas.

Project specifications:

All About Short Rows Scarf (with some modifications for gauge) from Creative Knitting Magazine, March 2008.

Keja 100% Mongolian Cashmere in Uptown Red (Colorway #15) from Jade Sapphire Exotic Fibres, 2 skeins, approx. 200 yards each. (I used every inch of the yarn to avoid buying another pricey skein.)

The geometric pattern gives a nice textural interest to a solid color yarn, IMO. Blocking improved the scarf; it emphasized the geometry of the triangles by straightening out their lines. Of course, the pure cashmere feels absolutely luscious.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Goodbye, Morning Surf

Goodbye, Morning Surf, originally uploaded by wickedsplitty5.


Well, I've finally finished lining the purse. It didn't turn out too bad, if I do say so myself. Only problem was, I had to piece the lining along one side and the bottom. The material, which I got as a 66 cent remnant at JoAnn's, was thin and had to be doubled. But I love it. Love, love, love it. So knitters of the world, may I present my first lined purse and my fall carry-all.

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Morning Surf: The Jury's Out

morning surf 1 vertical, originally uploaded by wickedsplitty5.

I can't say I'm thrilled with this. I cast on Saturday evening, frogged it, cast on again, frogged again, cast on one last time and finally realized it's probably going to look all amoeba-ish and floppy and unpleasant until I'm finished and it's been blocked and the gods of magickal knitting redemptions have their way with it.

It looks better laid out flat when I can impose some of my will on those stitches but not a whole lot better. The colors, though, are Noro-gorgeous. Fortunately the edges are nice and straight (although you wouldn't know that from this photo.)

A horrible thought just occurred to me: maybe I should have used a smaller needle. I wonder if that would firm up the infrastructure. Right now it's like a plate of runny eggs.

Noro Silk Garden #8. Knit Picks Options US7. Middle-aged knitter.

A recipe for disaster.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hawaii Chronicles: fiber of a different sort

For all you fiber addicts out there (and I know who you are), here's a beautiful native Hawaiian craft I discovered at Honolulu's Bishop Museum: lauhala weaving. These particular hats and baskets were made by Elizabeth Maluihi Lee, a "Living Treasure of Hawaii" and a native of Kona, the Big Island (where the volcanos still erupt but more on that another day). She once traded her gorgeous hats (which she learned to make at the age of 10!) for salt, kerosene and matches at a local store. Now they sell for thousands of dollars and reside in museums.

The fiber (which is very durable and resistant to rot) used in lauhala weaving comes from hala, or pandanus, trees, which were once plentiful on the Big Island but are now falling to development. The leaves are picked after they turn brown and then cleaned and prepped, a process which constitutes about three-quarters of the weaver's job. Once the hala is pliable, it takes one to two days to make a hat.

Photo: crescent baskets

Originally lauhala weaving was purely functional. Farm workers needed hats to protect them from the sun and baskets to put the coffee beans in. Mats and fans are also woven from the hala fibers but hats are the crowning (sorry, bad pun alert!) project for a lauhala weaver. Only a select few rise to that level. (Equivalent to lace knitting perhaps?)

Elizabeth Lee saw knowledge of this Hawaiian craft beginning to disappear so she started the Ka Ulu Lauhala o Kona Weaving Conference on Kona, the center of lauhala. It now attracts weavers from all over the Hawaiian Islands and the world. I'd love to see the gorgeous artifacts that gathering must produce!

Has anyone here done weaving with a similar sort of fiber? I'd love to hear more about it!

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Baby Surprise Jacket #2 - finished!

I am completely delighted with the finished project. The Baby Surprise Jacket is even more fun the second time around. I see why people end up making dozens of them.

Details: Berroco Comfort Yarn in (obviously!) yellow and white. I used 1.3 skeins of yellow and maybe 1/3 skein of white. Knit Picks Options #6, I think. Maybe #5. I'd have to check. Comfort is wonderful to knit with but with one minor quibble: it's kind of splitty and I do not like splitty yarn. Other than that it was a dream project.

The buttons are from As Cute As A Button and I love them too. I almost went with fat round yellow ones but the daisies were irresistible.

If you haven't already knitted a BSJ, you owe it to yourself to try one. I mean, what knitting project would keep your techie husband up a few extra hours while he tried to prove his theory that Elizabeth Zimmermann reverse-engineered it. I watched as he deconstructed an old shirt to prove it (I wanted to take pictures but he wasn't thrilled with the idea) and then whipped out one of my EZ books and read him the Legend of the Baby Surprise Jacket.

Then I whipped her Pi Are Squares on him, followed by the EPS.

"You're right," he said. "Knitters are geniuses."

I rest my case.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Baby Surprise Jacket #2 - almost done!

bsj2-prefinished, originally uploaded by wickedsplitty5.

The photo is ten minutes old. (I'm reasonably sure my neighbors think I'm crazy. "Who is this woman who hangs knitting from trees?")

The knitting part of the project is completed. I wove in my ends. Now all I have to do is seam it and button it and light a candle to the genius that is Elizabeth Zimmermann.

My husband is an engineer. He has an analytical mind. I tossed him the completed BSJ and said, "Turn this into a sweater."

I think I heard his brain cry.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Brooklyn Tweed and The World's Best Mittens

Brooklyn Tweed has done it again! See those incredible mittens? They're his.
And if you want to see them up close, visit his blog. At the risk of sounding like a fangrrl, they are the most exquisite handcrafted objects I've ever seen. You know how mittens are often big and floppy, kind of like clown shoes for your hands? Not Brooklyn Tweed's mittens. They actually look elegant. Elegant mittens! Who would have thought such a thing was possible. Look at the intricate cabling, the stitch definition, the abso-freaking-lutely everything.
I'm telling you they're a work of art and the ONLY REASON why I would ever leave the house in this hideously hot weather. I've gotta find a copy of Vogue Knitting Fall '08!

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Sunday, August 03, 2008


Looks like Knitty may have some competition. Twist Collective launched on Friday, filled with knitting info, gorgeous photographs, interesting patterns, A-List knitting designers, and a cutting edge layout. The patterns are PDF downloadable for $7 each. I have no problem paying $7 for a pattern and have done so many, many times at various designers' websites. But I have to tell you paying $7 a pop five or six times for patterns in an on-line magazine causes me to stop and ask the question a consumer is never supposed to ask: "Do I really need that?"

I'm not sure what the psychology involved with that reaction says about me but it's true. I spent a lot of time admiring the entire package but I didn't buy a single thing. Not yet, anyway.

Do designers deserve an equitable part of the pie? Of course they do. No question. I'm just not sure how many knitters will be willing to part with $28 or $35 or maybe even $42 an issue to claim patterns. I'd say a discount for multiple purchases might be worth thinking about.

Check it out. It's definitely worth a look.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Winner #31 and cats cats cats

Hooray for winner #31: Wendy G whose blog can be found here. Watch your inbox, Wendy.

And make sure you visit Harriet's blog!

I'm not sure the three parrots I live with will forgive me but this video is too cute for words. It makes me want to make room for cats. (The parrots would definitely have something to say about that idea.) Goldisox and I agree that if we ever win the lottery, we're going to open an animal rescue paradise and live right in the middle of it all.


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To Block Or Not To Block?

I'm in a dilemma. I love knitting lace, but so far it's mostly been confined to small bits of lace on socks or sweater hems or something similar. Like this:

Those are my recently completed Girl's Best Friend Anklets.

I also completed a lovely Seashell Shawl in January. I did block it, as you can see, and it came out wonderfully. But a bit smaller than I expected, so I decided to make it again with larger needles. Same yarn, Bristol Yarn Gallery's Buckingham yarn, which is SO soft…80% baby alpaca, 20% silk. I love that yarn!

The second shawl came out even better as it came out larger. Here's a photo where you can check it out, unblocked:

Forgive my photography, I don't have great skills, nor do I have a great camera.

Anyway, back to the dilemma. I love this shawl just the way it is, unblocked, fluffy, soft, yummy. But I also like the earlier blocked version, more like a spider's web and definitely showing the lace work to perfection. My question: have any of you chosen NOT to block a large finished lace item? If so, why, and how did it turn out? Would you do it again?

Or are you a dyed-in-the-wool (hah!) blocker? If so, why? I want to hear all opinions!