Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why is it an "afghan"?

I have launched into the Quick & Easy Afghan from the January 2009 Creative Knitting magazine. It's a marvelous pattern for mindless knitting: I can carry on a conversation without making any mistakes which is quite a feat for me. Also it looks glorious and impresses the heck out of the non-knitters I'm conversing with.

The yarn (pictured above): Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca Chunky. Ahhhhhhhh, what a soft, sensual, lovely yarn it is to work with in a glorious heathered turquoise blue (#562-Monterey Bay). I'm in heaven every time I pick up the project.

As I knitted away, it suddenly struck me that I had no idea why a simple, knitted blanket carried the exotic label "afghan". So, being a writer and therefore a master at procrastination-by-research, I looked it up. The truth? No one really knows. However, afghan as a synonym for a blanket was first found in writing in 1833 in England. The speculation is that it refers to the beautiful geometric patterns seen in the textiles from Afghanistan which were also found in the knitted blankets. The etymologists figure the word was shortened from the descriptive "Afghanistan blanket" to just "afghan" at some point before the written record. (BTW, the word blanket comes from the French word blanc, which means white. Just in case you were curious.)

Has anybody heard any other theories on why a blanket by any other name is an afghan? Or do you know interesting origins of other knitting words? Word games are such fun!

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In Search of a Pattern

This fetching sweater is featured in the newest catalog from Chadwick's of Boston. It's crocheted, but I wonder if anyone knows of a similar pattern for a knitted version? Of course, I could simply buy this one, but I'm not crazy about the color, and I would really love to make one myself.

So -- any ideas?

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

We Have A Winner

The winner of the Knit Kit is Patsy A. from Charlotte, NC! It goes out in the morning mail, Patsy. Enjoy!

New contest tomorrow that will interest all of you (crazy) lace knitters.


I'm more than 95,000 words into my first draft of my second book for my Cypress Hollow Yarns series. The first book, How to Knit a Love Song, will be out early next year. And I'm thinking a lot about knitting.

My main character in Book Two is designing and knitting a sweater, so I decided to knit it along with her, designing it as I go. (It's easier for her than it is for me, I guarantee.) I've been fascinated by how the process has tied me to the writing. I'll be somewhere, knitting, and I'll hold it up: Why is it slanting? What the hell? Did my character have the same problem? Will it block out?

My character is as frustrated as I am, I think, and she's worried, too, holding the back piece up against her stomach (always a bad idea). She worries about fit and about the color, a strange mustard yellow. Has she lost her mind? But all that money she spent on yarn! Must. Keep. Knitting.

And I must keep writing. I'm inches from finishing this book, and then I can plunge into the editing phase -- my favorite part. This isn't something that translates to my knitting, though. I'm not a ripper. If something doesn't work out in knitting the chances that I will push it onto the back of a yarn shelf is WAY higher than the chance that I'll frog the yarn and start over.

With the book, I can't wait to start over, to start reading from the beginning with eyes that are hopefully somewhat fresh, since I don't edit as I write, and work my way through. I'm wondering what my editing knitting will be. Maybe something small, like socks, that I can pick up and knit on while wondering what the hell I was thinking, writing this particular scene. Then I'll drop them in my lap and move paragraphs around.

I can't wait.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Hi everyone!

I just wanted to stop in and thank Barbara for the great introduction and for inviting me to join in on the fun. I've been reading through the archives, and am impressed with all the great projects (writing and knitting) that have been shared here.

Since Barbara asked, let me tell you a little about myself. I'm a writer, knitter, and mom. I've written and sold a fair amount of short fiction (mostly fantasy and science fiction) to magazines and anthologies. I tend to knit strange things, novelties, and toys.

My novel career is just starting off, with a six book urban fantasy series through Roc (a division of Penguin Books) The first three books in the series, MAGIC TO THE BONE, MAGIC IN THE BLOOD, MAGIC IN THE SHADOWS will hit the store shelves six months apart: November 2008, May 2009 (!) and November 2009.

The books are set in modern day Portland, Oregon where magic is the new technology. Anyone can use magic, so long as they're willing to pay the price. The price for using magic? Pain. Allie Beckstrom pays that price and sometimes a little more--magic takes away bits of her memories. Now she must track down the person who put a magical hit on a little boy, using him to endure the pain of their use of magic. When a handsome and mysterious stranger gets involved in the case, it is more than just Allie's life or memory on the line, it is also her heart. Mystery, romance, fantasy, butt-kicking action, and humor, these books are a ton of fun to write!

Books 4-6 are currently untitled. There are three more books that complete the series at nine books...but we haven't told the publisher about that yet...shhhh...

Having a book come out every six months means I stay busy trying to hit those deadlines. As Barbara said, book 2, MAGIC IN THE BLOOD will be out in eleven days (eek!) but I just finished the copy edits on book 3, and am trying to get book 4 written and turned in soon.

I guess it's a little like having several projects on the needles at once, something of which I am perpetually guilty. Right now I'm knitting squares for the charity Knit A Square, and I'm also knitting Wash's sweater from Firefly: the Big Damn Sweater. Those are current projects. My back project list is....long, LOL!

In the days to come, I hope to post pictures of my progress on the sweater. I'm mostly a self-taught knitter, and the sweater is a combination of techniques. So far, it seems like a pretty straight-forward project. (I know, I'll eat those words, won't I?)

Now, for the fun part. I'd like to give away a copy of both my books: MAGIC TO THE BONE and MAGIC IN THE BLOOD. Just leave a comment here on the blog, and I'll do a random drawing a week from today, on Friday, May 1st. One lucky winner will win both copies. I'll mail internationally, so if you're overseas, don't let that stop you.

Thank you everyone, for having me on! I'm really looking forward to getting to know you, and sharing in the knitty and wordy goodness.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Welcome Devon Monk!

Nancy found her first. (I have to give credit where it's due.) "This woman can write," she emailed me. And, it turned out, she can knit too!

So you know what happened. I couldn't resist. The more the merrier, right?

I contacted Devon and extended an invitation which she accepted and then we both disappeared into the dark and murky netherworld of missing emails. Last night we managed to connect again, Blogger cooperated and voila! We are thrilled to announce that Devon Monk has joined us.

Devon writes (among many other things) urban fantasy (you really have to visit her website) and knits great monkeys. Seriously.

Devon will be along shortly to introduce herself and tell you all about the new book that will be on the stands in a matter of days. It's called MAGIC IN THE BLOOD and is second in a series.

So welcome, Devon! I'm turning the mic over to you . . .

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Socks On a Plane

I took a weekend trip to Chicago recently. I'm an uneasy flyer, but I've found that knitting, usually while listening to an audio book, helps me stay much calmer while in the air. My favorite portable knitting is socks, so I packed up my current WIP pair for this trip.

Unfortunately, two nights before my flight, my trusty bamboo sock needles split -- a hazard of knitting with size one toothpicks. My LYS was out of that size, so I pulled out my metal needles and said a prayer they would pass through security. I know people SAY it's safe to travel with knitting needles, but the FAA site says circular or plastic or wooden needles.

But I didn't have any trouble. One thing I've found is that knitting on a plane is a great conversation starter. My seat mates always want to know what I'm working on. Two different flight attendants stopped to exclaim over my project. People who knit want to discuss techniques and yarns and patterns. People who don't knit are fascinated by the process.

I'm traveling a lot this year, so I expect to get a lot of knitting done!

Meanwhile, though I haven't been posting much, I have been knitting a lot. In addition to the above socks, right now I have on the needles the Swiffer cover from the second Mason-Dixon Knitting book Outside the Lines

I just finished two pairs of lace mitts to go with my belly dancing costumes -- one in shiny turquoise New Smoking and one in sparkly black New Smoking. (These mitts are essentially the leg portion of a sock, in this case I knit in Gull Wing lace from the Socks, Socks, Socks! book.)

And after reading Mary Anne's post with its mention of the February Lady sweater, I looked up the pattern and fell in love, so I've ordered yarn for that project -- along with a new set of Harmony wooden double points in size one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Contest! Blog post! Hello!

Is that cool or what? It's the Knit Kit (you can read more about it here) and one lucky knitter will win one on Saturday when my Human Random Number Generator plucks a number from the cosmos. (Translation: "Hey, Goldisox! Pick a number between 1 and 8372.") (Trust me, 8372 is a wildly inflated number. Your chances are much better.)

All you have to do is send me an email here with KNITKIT in the subject header and I'll do the rest.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks around here. First I finished the sequel to CASTING SPELLS then I sent it off. Then the copy-edited version came back to me. Then I sent that off. Now the page edits are screaming for my attention this weekend. Add to that a ton of promo stuff (script for video; Author Buzz info; answering mail that's been languishing longer than I care to admit) and new proposals and I feel like my head's going to pop off.

I've been longing to knit but it's been relegated to car time only which means not much is getting done. I hope to remedy that over the weekend and cast on some new, fun stuff. (Meaning: enough already with the Lion Brand spiral socks. This girl needs some spice in her knitting life.)

Now here comes the confessional part of the program: I've been cheating on you with other blogs. Honestly, it's not you, it's me. But the truth is out there and you can see for yourself.

Part 6 of my grandmother's story is here and available now at Totebags 'n' Blogs. (Book giveaway in progress.)

Where ideas come from -- CASTING SPELLS specifically -- will be up and running here at Fang-tastic Books tomorrow. (And another giveaway.)

I hope you'll stop by and say hi.

Don't laugh but I'm going to plant tomatoes next week. It'll probably go as well as my attempts to knit lace but the gardening urge is irresistible this year. Now if we can just keep the deer and rabbits away we might get somewhere . . .

More to come on that tomorrow.

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Friday, April 17, 2009


Okay, I think I need help. Here's the background:

Last fall, I picked up crocheting again for the first time in several years. Got hooked. (Heh heh.) Made several items very quickly. Learned to knit. Made a couple things there too. Basically, got obsessed and had yarn in hand basically every day for five months.

And then, sometime around February of this year, I just...stopped. With three projects in the works -- one a simple little cowl mostly in stockinette. One, my first sweater for myself, mostly in garter stitch at the moment (the February Lady Sweater). One, a cute scarf working cables in crochet. None of these are particularly intimidating projects, yet somehow, I find myself scared to pick them up, scared of messing them up. When I think about yarn now, the only thing that doesn't seem scary is maybe crocheting a little baby afghan in dc -- something so simple and small that I can't mess it up. And my daughter just doesn't need any more blankets, dangit. And I don't know the gender of our new baby yet, so not sure what to make for it. Plus, I don't know that the solution to having three unfinished projects hanging over my head (one an overdue birthday present) is to start a fourth project!

I know this feeling. I get it when I haven't written for a while, this fear and tension that I have to just push through to start again. I think this is what some people call writer's block. Is there such a thing as knitter's block? crocheter's block? I've never had this happen to me with crafting before, and it's weirding me out, people. I think maybe it's because I care more about the yarn than about any of my previous short-lived craft endeavors?

I'm going to actually go over to my table now and pick up the stupid yarn. That's the only way I know to get through this kind of mental nonsense. See, I do know how to fix this problem myself, at least in theory. I promise to do a few stiches this morning. At least five, okay? Five stitches. It's ridiculous that I have to say it out loud to make myself do five stitches. But if I didn't embarrass myself by posting about it, I know I wouldn't have actually done it, and I would have gone another week, or month, or year with those three projects just sitting, accusingly, on my dining table.

So thanks for listening, and for not laughing too hard.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sweater Gift

I'm making a gift for a good friend of mine--a sweater in Mellowspun (Mary Maxim), peach, sportweight yarn called the "Easy Lace Cardigan." I found the pattern in the March 2009 issue of Creative Knitting Magazine. It's like the ones I made a couple of years ago from my own pattern, only with knitted lace trim at the bottom of the sweater and the three-quarters length sleeves. Here's what I have done so far:

It looks straightforward enough, but of course, since I so wanted it to be perfectly done--I flubbed up a couple of things. I forgot to knit the last four border stitches (not seen in photo) on a purl side, and remembered four rows of 235 stitches each later. I didn't want to take the rows out, so, one by one, I let the last four stitches drop and rewove them with a crochet hook. Yuck! I hate doing that, as I'm forever knitting instead of purling, and vice versa. Got that done. Then, since the skeins of yarn are only 1.75 ounces or so a piece, there's the weaving the ends in--and I messed that up, even though I was painstakingly following the knitting as I wove them in. Honest I was. Made the border look terrible. So I unraveled the weaved in ends and did it again. I almost threw the whole thing out and said forget it when the last part happened, but now it's almost unnoticeable, so it will be worth it in the end.

Thankfully, I already have great patience because of raising a son with mental handicaps and autism, so I can stick with that sort of thing. Though it's a bit frustrating to hit the snafus on a gift, and also, when you only knit about one hour a day--for relaxation.

Otherwise, I've been working really hard on a new proposal for Steeple Hill LI Suspense while I wait for the copyedits on Mistletoe and Murder, due out in November. Deadly Reunion (w/a Florence Case) is still available.
Happy knitting!

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A cast-on tease

Sure, spring's here now, but I can still feel the kiss of winter in the wee hours sometimes. So when I came across a simple pattern for a knitted balaclava, I snatched it up, grabbed some yarn, and got to work. Then ripped it out because I didn't like the cast-on. Not stretchy enough.
I searched through my knitting books and on the internet and came up with a method that was supposed to produce a VERY stretchy edge. It's not so pretty, and it initially looks like the whole mess will come unraveled. But it doesn't. This method works --
Here's the tease part . . . you have to wait for the instructions. Stay tuned . . . after I finish taxes, I'll be back here with the details.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

FO: Funky ribbon scarf

For this scarf, I decided to channel my inner funkiness. I actually wasn't sure I had any inner funkiness to channel but you expert Yarnies told me not to block it, just to let it march to its own drummer, so I did. As always, following your good advice paid off. In fact, I like the scarf so much that I couldn't resist modeling it myself because it looks better on a person than on a table. So here I am, looking as close to funky as I am capable of doing:

I went with fringe because I like the flutter and sway of it. But again, you warned me against the dangers of trying to make it look neat and tidy (always my first impulse) so I did big fat tassels and did not trim the ends to be even with each other.
It gives the fringe wonderful movement and stays very much in keeping with the loosey-goosey feel of the scarf.
I think my Darling Daughter will love it!
A very hearty thanks for all of your wonderful input! You guys are the best!

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