Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coat (Embroidery) Issues

So here is my current dilemma. (One of many.) I set out to buy a short winter coat today, because my old one has a hole in it, which is not acceptable in Chicago winters. Macy's had a mongo sale, and I was able to find a ton of coats in my price range (under $200), many of which had been marked down significantly. Unfortunately, most were not in my size. Or were black, and I didn't want black. So of the few that were left, I settled on a dark purple coat in a luscious cashmere/lambswool blend, which is very touchable and fits me reasonably (only gaping very slightly at my rack o'doom). So far so good.

I came home and tried it on. And oh, this coat no longer pleases me. The color is still good, but it is so very very very boring. No bell sleeves, or puff sleeves, or any other kind of interesting sleeves. And while it's more fitted than my last coat (which is good, since Kevin said that one made me look like a hobbit), it doesn't flare out as delightfully as many other coats this season. Boring, right?

So I'm left with two options:

a) return it and try to find a prettier coat, maybe at Nordstrom or some such (I checked Anthropologie, but no dice; either out of my price range or out of my size)

b) try to improve the coat

And this is where I get a bit terrified. Because while yes, I took an embroidery class this past weekend, and it seemed fairly straightforward, and I can totally imagine adding some interest to this coat with embroidery, as so many gorgeous coats seem to have (if this Kashmir coat were more fitted, I'd be pretty tempted by it) -- I'm also afraid that a) you can't add embroidery at this late stage in the coat-making process (all the seams will show on the inside, after all, unless you take out the lining first, which I don't think I'm competent to do neatly), and b) even if you can, if I attempt it, I will ruin an expensive item of clothing with my ham-handed efforts.

Serious advice needed here. Is wool coat embroidery strictly a for-experienced-players-only sort of project? (If you think I can do it, where would be best? Along the center line on either side? Along the base? Somewhere else?)

Or if I should abandon the attempt, should I keep this coat, or is it really too boring to live? (Jed commented that it looked very professional. I have NO NEED to look professional in this coat. I want beautiful, lush, lovely, dammit.) Does it make me look like a constipated chipmunk? Advice, please!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Help, I am being attacked by gloves!

Can someone please help? I am desperate to learn how to knit gloves, and am having no luck at all.  I tried a sideways knit pattern, but it was bulky and I wasn't wild about the garter stitch you have to use.  I can easily knit in the round and do thumb gussets like a pro, and I have made my weight in fingerless gloves by now, but I really want to do fingered gloves.  So, I make the glove as I would a fingerless mitten, past the thumb gusset and then I panic. When I get to the stage where you have to divide for the fingers, my brain crashes shut.   is there an easy way of understanding this? Is it that you basically take that in-the-round-top (beside the thumb gusset) and divide it into stitches for each finger? Do you put the stitches on two holders? Do you need to add on any stitches for the parts in between the fingers?  I have a zillion patterns and I. Just. Do. Not. Understand. Them. 

dying to make gloves Caroline

Mossy Scarf Pattern?

So, I tried to write up the pattern for this. If any of you experienced crocheters have time to glance over this and tell me if it seems to make sense, that would be greatly appreciated!

Mossy Dreams of Squares and Bobbles

This scarf is basically worked in three blocks: a open squares block, a cluster block (which I only used near the ends), and a solid block. In my version, I alternated open squares and solid for the body of the scarf, but you can vary the blocks to your taste. It's totally a beginner level pattern, with the only new stitch the cluster stitch, described in detail below. This took me just over two skeins of bulky-weight yarn, but of course that's dependent on how long you want your finished scarf.

Level: Beginner
Yarn: Misti Alpaca Chartreuse Bulky
Hook: G

Row 1: chain 19
Row 2: ch 4 (first tr of row), tr 18

Open Squares Block:

Row 3: ch 4, (chain 2, skip 2, tr)*, repeat *6 times (forming 6 open squares)
Row 4-5: repeat row 3

Clusters Block:

Row 6: ch 2, sc 18
Row 7: ch 4, tr 18
Row 8: ch 4, tr, cluster (*yo, insert hook in stitch, yo and pull up a loop, yo and draw through 2 loops on hook; repeat from * 3 times more, yo and draw and through all 5 loops on hook), tr 6, cluster, tr 6, cluster, tr 2
Row 9: dc 18
Row 10: repeat row 8
Row 11: ch 4, tr 18
Row 12: ch 2, sc 18

Open Squares Block:

Row 13: ch 4, (chain 2, skip 2, tr)*, repeat *6 times (forming 6 open squares)
Row 14-15: repeat row 3

Solid Block:

Row 16: ch 3, dc 18
Row 17-19: ch 4, dc 18
Row 20: ch 3, dc 18

Rows 21 -- onwards: repeat open square and solid blocks until desired length is reached, ending with an open square, and leaving length for one more cluster block, open square block. Finish with a row of tr and a row of sc. You're done!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksturkey everyone!

In honor of Thanksgiving, my Wish Hope fingerless gloves!


Happy Thanksgiving . . . and a blog notice

<==The secret to great stuffing! A quick note to wish those of us who celebrate the holiday a very Happy Thanksgiving. I'm guest blogging today at Tote Bags & Blogs. It's the first in a series of true stories about my Grandma El. (The woman who taught me the importance of Bell's Seasoning.)

But it's not a heartwarming holiday story complete with recipe. It's about the night before Thanksgiving in 1996 when I found photos of her in the arms of a man named Prince Mohindin and stumbled upon my family's Biggest Secret.

I hope you'll stop by and check it out if you have a moment.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Congratulations to Laura Ferguson

Laura Ferguson is the winner of the gorgeous blue laceweight mohair. Congratulations, Laura! There should be an email in your inbox right now requesting shipping info. Happy knitting!

There will be something holidayish up tomorrow so stay tuned.

Mossy Dreams of Squares and Bobbles

A week or so ago, I made an offer -- $75 for three of my books + a handmade scarf.  I wasn't sure anything would take me up on it, but someone actually did.  Cool!  J commissioned a gift for his wife, A.  We discussed options and settled on something a) warm, b) mossy green, and c) contemporary in style.  I delightedly picked up some luxurious Misti chunky baby alpaca in a wonderful chartreuse green (little yellow highlights, but also glints of blue), and I was off.  Or so I thought.

It was a delight working with such soft yarn, and I got pretty far along on this scarf when I realized that twenty-five stitches across (the same as I'd used in my previous scarf) was just too wide in a chunky yarn.  It a) didn't look good, and b) would use up a lot more yarn than was necessary.  But mostly, it didn't look good; the proportions were all off.  And I wanted this scarf to be nice and long, so the owner could wrap it round her neck a time or two if she wanted.  I didn't have the heart to rip it out myself; I asked Kevin to do it while I was sleeping.  I came down in the morning to a pile of not-too-tangled yarn, took a deep breath, and set out again with nineteen stitches across.  Much better.

I didn't try for anything complex or crazy; I wanted to finish this in good time to send off for a holiday gift, not get tangled in something difficult I didn't know how to do.  But I did want to add at least one new element, just to keep myself interested.  I kept the squares from my last scarf, but instead of seashells, tried little clusters instead.  Not all the way through; just a few near the ends.  Easy and fun, and I think they soften the effect of all those squares.  

I'm happy with the finished result -- happy enough that I would have been okay with keeping it and wearing it myself. :-)  But it's off to J's A on Friday, as soon as I make her a little care tag.  It's a little weird sending one of my creations out into the world, with no idea how it'll be received.  I suppose it's not so different from publishing stories in that way.  Hopefully she'll like it!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pink-Orange Scarf and Mittens

This scarf and mittens I made for my daughter are by way of being a happy accident.  In the original plan, I was just going to use a cute fuzzy pink-orange yarn for them, simply-crocheted, and be done with them.  That would have worked well enough, I think.

But I didn't have quite enough yarn to make the mittens as long as would be ideal; plus they really needed ties if they were going to stay on my grabby daughter's hands.  But no yarn!  What to do???

I went to my LYS and found Louisa Harding's Kimono Ribbon, which complemented the original colors beautifully, adding a dash of green to the pink and orange.  Bright and charming!  

So I added on a little more length to the mittens, plus some ties.  And then, for good measure, crocheted a few flowers (baby stars from Crochet Bouquet) to add on, as well as adding a bit of fringe.  

I love the finished effect, and Kavi seems reasonably happy with it too.  Success!

Best Foot Forward #2a

I frogged the toe-up sock I'd started in Cashsoft then decided to cast on for Best Foot Forward. I've made it twice before and loved it. There's something incredibly addictive about those little faux cables. (Best Foot Forward can be found in Erin McCarthy's wonderful Knit Socks! Highly recommended.)

It's one of my favorite sock patterns. What's one of yours?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Branching Out (Take 2)

I'm telling you because you're the only people on this planet who will find this information even remotely newsworthy but if I don't shout it out somewhere fast I'm going to explode.

I'm actually knitting lace (again) and kinda/sorta liking it.

Yes. The Original Lace-o-Phobe is a few pattern repeats into Branching Out (aka Baby Lace) (Lace for Dummies?) and I haven't totally crapped it up or thrown myself out a window. I'll admit I'm using telephone poles for needles (US8 Addi Lace) and rope (Elsebeth Lavold Silky Cashmere) but I'm doing it and I'm thrilled beyond all reason.

Does this mean I actually like knitting lace? I'm not sure. The floppy, indistinct nature of it still doesn't sit well but I'm loving all those freaky S1K2PSSO commands. They make me feel all accomplished and Zimmermanny.
I have five skeins of Silky Cashmere and I hereby pledge that all five of those suckers will be part of a Branching Out scarf before the year is out.

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Midnight Blue Mohair Laceweight!!

It looks a lot like the Plymouth Outback Mohair from a few days ago. Yards and yards of gorgeous deep blues with a hint of purple and who knows what else hidden in its depth. Approximately 9 ounces of laceweight mohair goodness for one randomly lucky knitter. The RNG will decide on Wednesday night. Don't be left out! Send me an email here with LACE in the subject header and you're in.

I'll be back later with a photo but, trust me, this is gorgeous stuff.

Learning Embroidery -- pink flowers, blue jeans

So Saturday morning, I wandered over to my LYS (Knitting Workshop) and took an embroidery class.  It turned out to be entirely focused on embroidering with yarn, and only covered about half the stitches in my Doodle Stitch book, but it was still useful, I think, just to see someone else making the stitches, especially the lazy daisy, which I think would have taken a while for me to figure out on my own.  The rest of them went pretty fast; it probably helped that I've done a bit of sewing in the past.

Then I came home for a craft day with some friends (Lori and Sean and Anne).  We taught Sean some basic crochet; Lori made good progress on her third crocheted scarf, and Anne worked on a very ambitious quilt.  Anne clearly has mad craft skillz, and I plan to be hitting her up for knitting lessons sometime soon.  I made good progress on my luxurious alpaca scarf, but then ran out of yarn just a few rows from the end.  Argh!  I thought about shortening it, but decided I couldn't bear to do it, so I'm going to have to stop by Nina today for another $15 skein of yarn.  Oof.  Oh well.  But then I borrowed a bit of Anne's embroidery thread and set to work on a plain pair of Kavi's jeans.  An hour or so later, my first embroidery project.  I so proud.

Detail of flowers:  lazy daisy, stem stitch, and a bit of satin stitch.  In retrospect, wish I'd just stuck to stem stitch throughout for the leaves, as I like that look better than the bit of satin stitching (on the leftmost leaf of the flower with two leaves.  Oh well -- will know for next time:

On model (she's reading Franklin's knitting cartoon book):

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Kathy M and the White Chinchilla

Kathy M from "just east of the Mighty Mississippi River" is the winner of the big box of white Chinchilla. Actually I think Berroco calls it Oyster which is certainly more evocative.

Congratulations, Kathy! It's on its way even as I type this.

We had a box of red. We had a box of white. Gee, I wonder what's next . . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gorgeous Faces

Because this is simply too cool not to share. Enjoy those wonderful faces and remember the name Philip Scott Johnson.

A big fat box of WHITE

I blame Willa. Willa is my friend and my web designer and one of the first on-line journalers. I've been following her life for maybe twelve years now and its entirely her fault that I followed her right back into knitting.

It was the Chinchilla scarf that did it. I read the instructions. They seemed easy enough, even for someone who hadn't touched a pair of needles since 1986. I read about Berroco Chinchilla yarn. I bought some on eBay. I dug out a pair of aluminum straights.

And then I cast on and the rest is (sadly for my bank account) history.

Oh the wonders of a Chinchilla scarf! The soft splendor of it! The miracle of fluffy goodness that hides a multitude of sins. And when you strand it with sequins -- oo la la!

Do I really have to tell you that I bought a whole mess of Chinchilla? Do I really have to tell you that I knitted so many Chinchilla scarves that PETA investigated my output just to be sure I was endangering only Acrylics?

And are you the least bit surprised that I found a motherlode tucked away in my office closet behind the college-ruled spiral notebooks and the boxes of Paper Direct goodies I haven't touched since the early 90s?

Of course you're not surprised. You know me too well for that. So how about helping a struggling knitter make room for some new goodies and casting in your lot for a box of fluffy WHITE? Send me an email here with WHITE in the subject header and sometime tomorrow I'll announce a winner. (It's not as snaggled as it looks in the photo. It's still neatly tied together in a hank but a tad rumpled.)

You too could be the proud knitter of 587 fluffy sequinned scarves!
(If you have a moment, check out Willa's terrific jewelry on Etsy. Her storefront is called Intentional Charms--a great place to do some holiday shopping.)

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RED winner

And the winner of the big box of RED is Shirley! I sent you an email, Shirley, but in case you just see this and not that, please send me your mailing address ASAP and I'll ship it off to you immediately.


Details on a big box of WHITE coming up . . .

Hey, ready to be thrown out cardi has no life

Hey, the cardigan I knit with open work stitches that I hated now is working!  I sewed up the front and realized that it could look INTENTIONALLY hip that one side is a bit shorter than the other. The collar started rolling in a way I like, too, so now I have a fave sweater!  Who would have thought????


Writers Write - a Novelists Inc blog

I'm ranting (a bit) over at the Novelists Inc. blog today. If you have a few moments to spare, please drop by and say hi.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Knitting Pure and Simple: Men's Top Down Cardigan 264

This is Knitting Pure & Simple #264 designed by Diane Soucy. Worked on one circular needle from top down to waistband. Fast and easy knitting. It has a buttonband variation that I worked initially, didn't like, then reworked into the zip-front.

Too Ozzie Nelson.

Highly recommended pattern.

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Okay, so I'm on Ravelry now (as 'mohanraj') -- I'm not sure what to do next?  I've added a few of my projects, and I think I can see how this will be helpful for project tracking.  And I joined a few local Chicago groups, although they mostly don't seem so active.  Any suggestions on what else might be fun to do there?  I'm a little overwhelmed by the size of it.

Pocket Question

Basically what Goldisox has is a pocketless Unhoodie and I think he'd really love pockets. The question on the table is: how do I do it at this point?

I know EZ snips a few stitches and drops in a knitted pocket but I know he'd like the vertical pockets you find on a hoodie. I was lying awake last night thinking about how to do it (get the angle right, etc.) and whether patching them on top of the existing fabric made more sense than cutting into it and reworking but the whole thing just made my head hurt.

Any and all suggestions gratefully received!

Goldisox and the Top Down Zip Front Sweater

A sighting in the wild of an actual knitted-gift recipient wearing said gift as he goes about his daily chores. Goldisox was outside raking leaves to the street before the Leaf Guys come along to suck them into this giant noisy truck that really seems, to my uneducated eye, much more of a carbon blight upon the land than some beautiful crunchy leaves but then what do I know. . .

Anyway, I looked out the window and saw him out there so I grabbed my camera and dashed outside to torture him with a photo shoot. "Work it, baby, work it!" (And this from yours truly who has hated the camera from birth and has been known to burst into tears when one is pointed in her direction.) I really should have flipped on the video and totally embarrassed him but I've been married for forty years and I know better.

It's not a terrific picture but I'm so excited to show you (after so long!) the Knitting Pure & Simple top down zip-front sweater in action and not hanging from a tree.

(I shouldn't have told him to zip it all the way up. Partially open would have been more pleasing aesthetically but it is what it is.)

There is absolutely no greater knitterly thrill than seeing something you made out there in the world!


Okay, I'll admit it. I had a serious stash enhancement problem a few years ago. Right around the time I returned to knitting after a 17 year absence, I discovered the wonders of internet yarn bargains. Smiley's, Herrschner's, and eBay: the unholy trinity of excess. You have no idea how many $1 per skein bargains I snagged during that golden era. And oh the splendid by-the-hank goodies I found on eBay: mountains of chenille, skyscrapers of wool, buckets of acrylic. I had yet to develop a taste for the finer things. I was still positively thrilled to have enough yarn at one time in the same color to make an entire sweater instead of buying it skein by skein and praying it still existed by the time I reached the sleeves. (Which, come to think of it, is one of the reasons I stopped knitting way back when; the budget simply couldn't swing it.)

Anyway, I was poking around in the big storage closet in my office and found two artifacts from the aforementioned golden era that will make some gutsy knitters smile.

First up is a giant mound of red. I think it's wool but the info tag is long gone and I don't want to break off a piece and set it on fire to find out for sure. But it's very bright, very Christmas-y, and there's a whole lot of it. It's maybe the circumference of a fluffy medicine ball. It lacks discipline and will take a patient knitter to wrangle it onto a swift and wind it up but I think it'll be worth the trouble. (And dare I say better you than me? You should have heard me the other day when I was undoing Squirt's damage to the Rowan Cashsoft.)

Just send me an email with RED in the subject header and tomorrow night the RNG will pick a winner.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mohair and Velvet and promises

The Touch Me goes to Cheryl S from SLC. (Cheryl, I need a mailing address. You can email me here.)

And the mohair goes to Marguerite from Michigan.

And there's more as soon as I download some photos.

Don't go away. I'll be right back.

This is a sweater?

The magazine copy said: "Hip Knit. Who says a sweater gift is boring? Not with this light-as-a-cloud hand-knit mohair-blend pullover by Rodarte, price on request."

We all know what "price on request" means: if you have to ask, you can't afford it. Well, I was curious because frankly, this does not look like a sweater to me. It's maybe the suggestion of a sweater and not one I'd wear.

So I looked up the designer Rodarte. No prices, of course. However, there was a photo of a model wearing a similar creation and, no, she didn't wear a camisole underneath it. Not working for me.

A store in France carries Rodarte sweaters though, and I translated the Euros to dollars and discovered this baby runs about $2,400.

Here's what the French store said about the knitted object (I refuse to call it a sweater): "Rodarte is now the most creative brand in the American fashion world and its clothes are real wishes. [I think the translator messed that up a bit.] A very light 'cage' wisely made with different weight yarns."

Frankly, I think the folks here at RTY could produce this for a lot less than $2,400, although I'm not sure why we'd want to.

Anyway, I hope no one gets me this for Christmas. Think of the stash you could build with that amount of disposable cash!

Am I just completely fashion-blind (which I admit is a distinct possibility)? Does someone here understand why you'd fork over thousands of dollars for this?

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Beginner Questions Set #1

  1. If I'm giving a piece as a gift, is there somewhere good to get little tags that say handmade, care instructions, etc.?
  2. Should I block the piece first?  
  3. Should I seriously wash and dry the piece first?
  4. How did I get so much yarn so quickly?
  5. Am I asking so many questions and posting so often that you guys are totally sick of me already, even though I've only been here a week?  Sorry!  I swear the enthusiasm will wear off, although maybe not 'til after the holidays...

First Sock!

Yesterday, I finished one of the socks I'm making Kevin, using this free toe-up crochet pattern, super-simple to make (it's all single crochet). I did it in Lion's Brand Wool-Ease, a wool-acrylic blend in 'woods print', pleasant to work with, machine-washable, and cheap! (on sale $2/2.5 oz.) Some reviewers note pilling problems over repeated washings, but I'm not going to worry about that for socks. For now, I'm liking this yarn a lot, and will probably be buying more of it.

The sock ended up a little big, but I'm expecting the wool to shrink when washed. I'm not sure how to account for that, actually. Do I trust that Kev will always wash them in cold and dry flat, so they don't shrink at all? That seems a lot to ask of a man and his socks. If I just throw it in with the other laundry, will it keep shrinking every time it's washed? I had a cashmere sweater that did that (accidentally got into the laundry a few times instead of being dry-cleaned), and it was very sad. How do other sock-makers deal with this?

The sock is pretty darn comfy; the wool blend feels very nice on the toesies. I could just buy him wool socks, of course, which would be way more efficient and even cheaper. I'm not sure how long my sock enthusiasm will last. Right now, I'm just charmed by the very idea of crocheting a sock for Kevin. It's so insanely domestic. Old friends Tasos and Alex were around when I was working on it yesterday, and Tasos commented that once the socks were done, Kevin would have to wear them constantly or I would get upset. I think that might be true, because I am ridiculously proud of my not-so-little sock. Maybe once I make more socks, I'll get over it. For now, I'll enjoy feeling like an old-time gal, making socks for her man (and eventually complaining about how he goes through the heels so fast. :-)

Once Upon A Time in Mohair

You already know I tend to get a little obsessive about the things (meaning yarns) I like. I throw myself with great abandon into projects that demand total and complete fidelity to one type of yarn for a very very long time. (Think The Great EZ Garter Stitch Blanket that is still in progress.)

Well, back in the beginning of my return to knitting, mohair was my one true love. And not just mohair but mohair in shades of rich blue and purple. Sometimes I knitted it up alone into numerous triangle shawls and throws that were foisted upon my unsuspecting friends. Sometimes I knitted the mohair with sparkly carry-along yarns that totally delighted my bling-loving eye. I fancied myself the Colette of central New Jersey and draped the lamps in my office with sparkly mohair scarves and waited for the Muse to waft into the room with stories of hollow-eyed men who smoked French cigarettes and thought deep thoughts.

Instead I ended up moving toward Debbie Bliss Cashmerino and cables but that's another story altogether.

I'm offering today remnants from the Age of Colette: two big fat squishy hanks of Plymouth Outback Mohair in #858 - 220 yards per skein! It's bulky, it's hairy, it knits up fast and actually keeps you toasty warm.

Interested? Send me an email here with MOHAIR in the subject header and I'll pick a winner tonight or tomorrow morning. I'm planning to do it tonight but you never know. Best intentions and all that . . .

Good luck!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dawn Brocco's Crochet

I had myself one of those forehead-slapping V-8 moments. Dawn has some fabulous crochet on her website.

<-- See?

Of Parrots, Yarn, and Rowan Winner

This is why you never leave your knitting unattended when there's a free range parrot in the room:
The culprit:

The Rowan winner:

Edna T! Congratulations, Edna. You're going to love it.

Another giveaway tomorrow. If you like mohair and lots o'yardage, this is the place to be.

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I've started writing another book. Hah! It is to laugh, or cry, I'm not sure. That makes how many books in progress?
  • Arbitrary Passions -- memoir/travelogue, close to done
  • Rasathi -- YA fantasy, three quarters-done, but I kind of want to rip out half of it and redo it with a better protagonist
  • Writing Your Identity -- writing book, maybe one-quarter drafted; sort of stalled out during busy semester
  • Kamala -- literary novel, one tiny chapter written; need to do masses of war research before I'm really comfortable writing this one; god, a grant would be helpful here, giving me a teaching release so I can travel, interview soldiers, and have research time. Must apply for grants.
  • The Arrangement -- literary novel on back burner, completed, but I think I may want to go back and revise it at some point before it goes out on the market again
  • Domestic -- new book!
On the plus side, the new book will be very quick to write. Or at least, I can write it in quick bits. Because it is a book of poems! I was writing a new poem a few days ago, spurred I think by reading so much good poetry for the Wisconsin Arts Council jury, and suddenly realized that in fact, the new poem and "Learning the Hour" would work well as part of a series of poems -- several of them jumped to mind right away, in fact. I want to write about domesticity in a variety of arenas -- cooking and cleaning and childcare and guilt and anxiety and partnership and exhaustion and servants and organizing closets and crocheting -- what makes up most of the daily fabric of my life, in fact. I'm quite excited about the idea. I love the poem I just wrote.

One unfortunate consequence though is that I won't be posting new poems on my site as I normally would -- I'll be sending them out, hoping to get them published first. It feels a bit unnerving to do this; I don't generally think of myself as a serious poet. The thought terrifies me a little bit, actually. But sometimes you have to just follow where the writing takes you.

A couple of people have been giving me career advice lately, about these questions of writing critical papers or YA fantasy or what-have-you. And the advice all boils down to the same advice I gave some parents at Beth's 40th birthday party last night, when they told me that their brilliant fifteen-year-old daughter wanted to write, and what did I think she should write about? I told them she should write what she feels passionate about. She should write what she loves and hates and can't stop thinking and talking about. I know this is the right choice when writing. It's funny that I need to hear it from other people to start believing it for myself again.

This is a poem someone wrote for me in the rec.arts.poems newsgroup, about fifteen years ago. Sorry it took me so long, Ralph. I'm going to try to do better now.

Your resistance to being perceived as a strong effective poet
perhaps some residue
from a time
perhaps a lifetime
when you felt
not what something within you said you should be
it is not up to you
the truthfulness of your heart
all you can do is foster it
impede it.
You still have a choice.
You can say "no" some days
you can say "yes" some days
I have known you to say

-- Ralph Cherubini

Ollie the Owl

Say hello to our new owl. I think his name may be Ollie.

A few notes:

  • Super-fast to make; started it one evening, finished it the next morning, while chatting with Alex. 2-3 hours total. Conclusion: animals with fewer limbs are much faster to make. :-)
  • I made Ollie notably bigger than Edward, Sir Heffalump (using an I hook instead of a G, and thicker yarn), because I thought he would be more cuddly for Kavi. I think that's the right choice, given the intended function, but the animal does seem a little less cute when it's bigger. Do you agree? I want to be consistent in size with the toys I make from this point going forward, so they can be a little woodland family, which means I do need to decide whether they're hand-sized, arm-sized, etc.
  • I used the Red Heart acrylic this time (TLC essentials in brown and linen), because of the notes on how it's good to make amigurumi in tough, machine-washable yarn, to stand up to toddler play. I think that was a big mistake, for two reasons:

    1. I find this yarn unpleasant to work with, having sort of rubbery feel as it slides through my fingers, and
    2. Kavi looks at the owl, says with great excitement 'owl!', grabs it, holds it to her face for a second, and then drops it, instead of snuggling it the way she will her other stuffed toys. 

    We're pretty sure she likes her toys to be softer; this owl is somewhat rough and very artificial in texture. Sad. No more Red Heart for me! (Lori/Simone, I have most of two balls left, please feel free to claim it next time you're over if you want to experiment.)
Pattern from Amigurumi World

You Want Magic? I'll Give You Magic!

This is Vintage Velvet #2 (5 skeins Muench Touch Me in Cream) post-knitting, pre-felting. I love it more than creme brulee and that's saying something.

This is a close-up of the VV2, pre-felting, so you can see how loose and floppy the stitches are. Observe the infamous chenille worming phenomenon up close.

Now here is the finished, post-knitting post-felting product (and trust me when I say no photo taken by yours truly could possibly do justice to the wonder of a Vintage Velvet):

The pictures are so lifeless. This is a sensual scarf. You want to roll around on it. You can't stop touching it. You don't care who sees you gazing lovingly in its velvety eyes. It's a 3-D wonder that my photography can't capture.

I gave it two shots through the washer and dryer and am contemplating a third just to tighten it up and enhance the vintage velvet attributes. But I'm going to wait a week or two before I decide.

You need to make this scarf. You need to experience felted Touch Me. The first time I decided to make this scarf was 2003. I made it halfway through the first ball of TM and bailed. Way too expensive for a project I wasn't sure would live up to expectations. Oh, who am I kidding? I wasn't convinced it would be anything but total disaster. I sold off the extras on eBay and forgot about it for a couple years.

Maybe you feel the same way. You're not willing to make a big financial commitment to anything but a sure thing. Well, I have about 2/3 of a ball of hunter green Touch Me (from last year's project) waiting to be claimed. Why not knit it up in pattern, run it through the washer and dryer, and see what you think.

Leave a note in comments if you're interested and I'll pick somebody at random tomorrow and ship it out.

Yes, I'm a Touch Me enabler. I can't help myself. It's that wonderful.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Well, Howdy!

Hello, there!

How lucky I feel to have to been asked to join forces with these esteemed writers! The last few weeks have seemed like a happy dream, and this just adds to the happiness.

Quick bio: I live in Oakland with my wife, Lala, who plays the banjo. We have three dogs, four cats, many spinning wheels, and even more instruments. I got my MFA at Mills College, and of course, like everyone else, I've wanted to Be A Writer since I was six or seven years old. I've written Yarnagogo since the dark ages, when there were only 30 or 40 knitbloggers out there. Remember that? I love the knitting world, everything about it.

The fact that the dream is coming true is kind of extraordinarily hard to comprehend. It kind of feels like the top of my head has just blown right off. You know?

From my blog post

I started the coffee. I blearily rubbed my eyes. I sat at the computer to work.

Now, my normal M.O. is to sit and write for about an hour or so before I allow myself to check email or anything online. I don’t turn my airport connection off, though, because I like to write with Pandora playing in the background, so I need to be online. So I don’t check email, but my email notifier still comes through, because I’m too lazy to disable it.

I opened the document I had last been working on. I stared at it. My eyes might have crossed in sleepiness, I’m not sure.

My computer bing-ed and I saw a message come in. My gmail notifier lets me see who sent it and displays the first sentence.

The email was from Susanna. It said, “Call me as soon as you wake up.”

Yeah. Yeah!

My heart started to race. Literally. As I dialed her number, my hands were shaking. With delight in her voice, she told me that Avon (a division of HarperCollins) wanted my book! Wanted to BUY it!

Not only that, but they wanted a THREE-BOOK DEAL.

I looked up, out the window, while she was talking. Was I still dreaming? The dream I’d had right before waking up had been so good, so vivid. Was this just an extension of the dream? Was I still in bed? I remember seeing the pigeons that I hate perched up on the eave outside my window. I didn’t think I’d see the pigeons if it was just a good dream. I loved those pigeons at that moment. I think I asked Susanna that, who assured me, no, I wasn’t dreaming.

So now, I'm working on Nanowrimo. Hopefully I'm writing the second book in the series (Eliza's Cottage was originally a Nano from 2006), but the point of Nanowrimo is to write hard and fast, and get a novel done in a month. I'm aiming for 75,000 words, and I'm okay with all the words being total crap -- I'll sort it out later. December is reserved for a final pass-through on Eliza's Cottage, whose due date is January.

Tonight I have a reading at KnitOneOne in Berkeley, and I'm SO nervous about it. Wish me luck.

It's the dream. But I'm really writing. Really writing. And loving every minute of it. Thanks for letting me say hello, and I look forward to being here!

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Welcome, Rachael Herron!

Did you notice there's a new name on our roster? Rachael Herron (many of you probably know Rachael from her fabulous blog Yarn-A-Go-Go) has joined our merry band of knitting writers and I'm delighted. I've been reading Rachael for awhile now and have celebrated her happy times in lurkdom but when I read that she received The Call--well, I couldn't lurk any longer.

The Call is what a writer waits for. The Call doesn't just rock your world; it changes it forever. The Call means somebody you're not related to read your work and liked it enough to pay you! To a writer, The Call means everything.

Here are the details from Publishers Marketplace:

Fiction: Women's/Romance Rachael Herron's debut ELIZA'S COTTAGE, in which a rancher's way of life is threatened by a woman trying to escape her past; the first book in the KNIT TWO TOGETHER series, to May Chen at Avon, in a good deal, at auction, in a three-book deal, for publication in Spring 2010, by Susanna Einstein at LJK Literary Management (NA).

You know how sometimes you find what you need when you need it most? After twenty-five years you can get a little cynical about the business of publishing. Sometimes it's hard to remember that pure, wonderful time when it was all shiny and bright and a reviewer had yet to say "I hope Ms. Bretton keeps her day job."

(Oops. Sorry. I don't know where that came from. And no, I'm not kidding. Flip through my Amazon reviews of ONCE AROUND and you'll find it. It's ten years old and I swear I have it memorized.) (Published Author Rule #1: You only remember the bad reviews. They might be outnumbered 100 to 1 by the good reviews but those stinkers will burn themselves into your brain permanently.)

Reading Rachael's reaction to The Call I remembered how excited I was when Vivian Stephens called me and said, "I want to buy your book." The fun of telling my husband and my parents and my friends. (We won't discuss the friend whose first words were, "Wow! If you can do it, anyone can.") I was two years past my bout with cancer and I was on top of the world! Why do we lose that feeling? I want to get it back.

Rachael will be here to introduce herself in the next few days (she can do a far better job of it than I can) and I know you're going to love her. (Yarn-A-Go-Go readers already do.)

RTYers, any other The Call stories to share?

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ATTENTION: Mary Anne (and all crochet lovers)

You absolutely must visit Knitting Daily's crochet pattern collection. Lots of great stuff I think you'll love.

That's the best crochet cardi I've seen in years.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rose Paul's fabulous socks

Rose won some sock yarn last year and surprised me yesterday with photos of the results. How gorgeous are those socks!

Here are the details straight from the knitter: Thanks so much again for the yarn prize. Although I'm slow, here are my socks knitted as a gift for a girlfriend. I used 2 strands held together, supplemented with some mango colored DK Laine du Nord? to lengthen the legs a bit. Used Turkish cast on, toe up, Fleegle heel, no pattern, ribbing on the leg, 48 stitches. They turned out smashing.

Of course I needed to know what the Fleegle heel is and that led to this link. (Thanks, Rose!)

That's what I love about knitting: there is literally no way any one of us could possibly know all there is to know about the craft or master every single technique. Okay, maybe Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara Walker had/have a shot at it but clearly they're aliens. You never have to worry that you'll outpace the craft. There's always something new to be learned.

Secret Rowan Giveaway Because I'm Too Lazy To Photograph Anything

I'm telling you this cold is kicking my sorry butt. I am oatmeal-brained, too headachy and stupid for plain old garter stitch.

I'd take a photo of tomorrow's giveaway yarn but it's beyond my capabilities right now.

So let's just say it's bulky, it's Rowan, and I used lots of it last year and it felts fabulously. I think there are three skeins but maybe only two. They're in the other room and I'm not and won't be unless there's a fire and I have to evacuate. That's how blah I am right now.

If you're a gutsy adventurous type who'll take a chance on winning something totally mysterious, send me an email here with ROWAN in the subject header and we'll see what happens tomorrow night.

Pictures in the morning. Honest. I can't expect you to trust me forever, can I?

Warm winner...and another chance

The winner of the shawl and chocolate is Sally S. from Marion, Iowa. Many congratulations, Sally!

Everyone who didn't win, do not despair! I'm giving away another shawl and more chocolate on my website as soon as the necklace winner claims her prize. Please revisit my contest Thanksgiving week (the new one should be up by then), if you want another chance at warmth and deliciousness.

Thanks to everyone for visiting my website and all your lovely compliments about it!

Holiday Book/Crochet Extravaganza

Hey, folks. So, it's that gift-gifting time of year, and what could be a better gift than a signed, personalized, slightly sexy, award-finalist, critically-acclaimed, epic family Sri Lankan saga? Nothing, that's what. Plus, this would have the added benefit of getting books out of my house and money in my pocket, so you'd be giving me two gifts at once as well. Three presents for the price of one -- can't beat that!

So for a limited time only (from now until December 15th), I'd be pleased to sell a hardcover copy of Bodies in Motion to you for a mere $10 + shipping ($3 U.S., $5 international). If interested, please drop me a line with the details of how many you want, how they should be inscribed, and where to send 'em.

Also for sale, The Poet's Journey, for a mere $10 as well! That's two bucks off the Amazon price, plus, did we mention, signed and personalized to your desires? What little munchkin or aspiring poet in your life wouldn't love a story of poets, princes, dragons, unicorns, talking animals and wise old trees? Plus, the pretty pictures, by the inimitable Kat Beyer!

And I even have a few copies of A Taste of Serendib for, you guessed it, $10! Signed! Personalized! With extra exclamation points!!! (Or none at all, if you prefer.) Learn how to make Sri Lankan curry powder, and all the delectable dishes that go with it. Appropriate for novice or experienced cooks, whether or not you love spicy food (although, I admit, the recipes taste better if you use a heavy hand with the chili powder).

Oh, so many fabulous books, only $10 each. Plus just $3 shipping ($10 international), no matter how many titles you order. What a deal!

But wait, there's more! Consider the special all-Mary Anne-all-the-time bonus package, in which you get, for a mere $75 + shipping:

  • Bodies in Motion (1)
  • The Poet's Journey (1)
  • A Taste of Serendib (1)
  • hand-crocheted scarf (adult or child-size) in the color of your choice (1), OR
  • amigurumi (animal-type to be agreed upon between us) (1)
Realistically speaking, I can only manage three of those before the holidays, I think, so e-mail quick if interested!