Monday, June 29, 2009

Bad News, Good News with prizes!

The Bad News is that my favorite Local Yarn Store is closing its doors, a victim of competition and the sagging economy. No more squeezing the cashmere for me. Boo-hoo!

The Good News (for you guys) is that they are having a sale on their inventory so I bought some goodies to give away to my favorite Yarnies.

The first of the goodies is this cool variegated ribbon yarn Noro Gisha in Color No. 109. I scooped up six skeins which measure 69 meters each. (You do the conversion; I never learned the metric system, despite constant threats that the U. S. was going metric any day now.)

Here it is up close so you can see the shades and texture better:

If you'd like a chance to win it, send an email with "Noro" in the subject line to

I'll draw the winner this Friday, July 3rd, as a Happy Fourth of July prize!

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Victorian Morning

I was working at the dining table this morning, and suddenly realized just how Victorian my workspace looked. Funny! I had to take some photos to demonstrate:

The dining table as a whole, suitable cluttered in Victorian fashion. Note curtains in the background (they liked curtains), and richly-patterned rug, very much in keeping with their sense of style.

The Victorians enjoyed books about the domestic arts. This one is The Victorian House Book, by Robin Guild -- I'm almost done reading this, and highly recommend it -- it's the perfect resource for someone contemplating buying/renovating a Victorian, with tons of interesting information on how Victorians lived (but not in overly tedious detail), a host of gorgeous photos of different styles of Victorian (and renovated) decor, sketches and diagrams of everything from gardens to fireplaces to curtains, and tons of practical suggestions for how one might renovate in a comfortable, livable manner. I don't agree with everything Guild suggests, but almost!

A mug of tea (strong black tea, with milk and sugar, just they would have drunk it), in a mug I actually bought in England, with a delightful illustration and text from Charles Dodson's original Alice in Wonderland. (Mclaggan Smith Mugs, Ltd., copyright the British Library Board -- and now that I've visited that site, I want many more of their mugs -- dangerous!) I also love my new table runner, embroidered with cheerful orange and magenta flowers on a dark mustard yellow background. Not hand-embroidered, alas -- this one's the Bridget runner from Crate and Barrel (currently on sale, if you're tempted). Hand-embroidering something like this is far beyond my skills -- and my patience!

This is more my crafty speed -- a baby blanket I'm crocheting as a gift. I recently ran out of green yarn, luckily just past the end of a good round, so I switched to white yarn. Both of which were left over from other projects, so I feel quite frugal and thrifty about this blanket. I also love the way it's coming out. As you can see from the pattern, it's only about halfway done, if I were making a regular-sized baby blanket. But I think this one will be sized small for a preemie, so just another round or two and I'll be done. I particularly like that this looks so fancy, but is actually quite simple to make -- it's almost entirely a simple double-crochet stitch, so an easy project for beginners, as long as they know how to count! :-)

Agricola board game that Kevin and I were playing last night -- the Victorians were very fond of parlor games, as am I! Although I think they might have had a separate little table for it. Ah well.

A new rose from my garden -- Abraham Darby, one of my David Austin roses. This one is just opening, so you may want to take a look at a fully-opened one to get a better sense of what they look like. It has a lovely fruity rose scent to go with that pretty apricot color. I think it's a little bland for me in color, and probably won't make it into my garden at the new house, but we'll wait and see. I should at least let it open fully before I decide.

And a few Rainbow Knockout blooms -- they start out dark apricot and fade to pink. Nice.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Frogging a Novel

I'm frogging, y'all, which is not something I ever enjoy. I'm frogging and reknitting at the same time, and I'm doing the same dang thing in my writing.

I finished the second book in my contract. I gave it a couple of passes, but no major revisions, which is what it really needed. I felt it, of course. You know when that niggling voice whispers in your ear? Okay, mine is a little louder. (WHERE IS YOUR CONFLICT? WHAT IS KEEPING THEM APART? GOOD GOD, WOMAN!)

So now I'm revising, big time. I'm in the middle of it, and I'm moving scenes, deleting them, changing characters into who they need to be and killing the ones who don't matter. It's hard work, but I'm giving it my best shot.

During all this, I've been designing a sweater for the book. I had something clearly in mind: a moss stitch cardigan with pockets. I knit the whole dang thing, and then I HATED it. I'm not even bothering to ball the yarn; I'm just reknitting it right from the prior sweater's pieces (into lovely smooth stockinette).

(Crap picture, but you can see the moss turning into smooth stockinette. Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted, in Firefly)

It feels good, both things. I like the symmetry.

Just keep writing. Just keep knitting.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Things You Hate to Find....

This is the Vortex Shawl. I'm not knitting it in this colorway but actually in a Lorna's Laces sock yarn on the Mining colorway. Think earth tones :). It really will be gorgeous when it's done.

I was merrily knitting on the Vortex Shawl this weekend and when I stopped to admire the loveliness that is my knitting ... only to discover an unintentional (and incorrect) make one (additional stitch) about eight rows ago. I'd finally gotten comfortable with fixing dropped stitches and thought maybe I could drop the extra stitch and fix it. No such luck - I now had a gap at the current row about a half inch wide.

There was no choice - I had to unknit back to this row and fix it

In a way, it reminds me of when something goes wrong in a story and, in fact, the editing I'm doing for my Ellora's Cave release right now. There's no quick fix. All you can do is suck it up, undo back to where something went wrong and redo it.

And, yes, I have project ADD. I know it. I'm still hoping to get update pictures soon.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Reawakening my embroidery jones

We went out to look for a replacement for one of the pine trees out back and ended up wandering through Ambleside, our local garden shop. Okay, so maybe it's my writerly imagination (coupled with the fact that as a species writers don't get out enough) but three steps into the gardens and I felt like I was wandering through an enchanted forest. I mean, there were baby rabbits scurryiing around, newly-fledged robins and blue jays. I half-expected Bambi to stroll up the path toward me.

I, of course, was suitably attired in something gauzy and floral-y, silky straight hair upswept against the heat, strappy sandals, a faint glow on my cheeks and forehead from the sultry heat.

. . .

Yeah. Right. I was wearing old paint-stained jeans, a crappy top with embellishments (yes, I'm deeply ashamed), ratty old sneakers (Keds, if you must know), my hair was one giant ball of frizz and sweat trickled down the back of my neck.

It wasn't pretty.

But I definitely can't say that about my surroundings.

Suddenly I flashed on Erica Wilson. Anyone out there remember Erica? She was the Martha Stewart of needlework back in the day, the queen of all good things that can be done with a sharp-point needle and some thread. I was an Erica groupie. I lived for her PBS show. I pined for her needlework kits. I hoarded her tapestry yarn like it was spun from gold. Her crewel embroidery themes were invariably nature (with touches of Shakespearean poetry for good measure) and I can't tell you how many plump bumblebees, juicy strawberries, and perky daisies I embroidered in the 1970s.

It's been ages since I did any crewel work but it all came rushing back at me today in Ambleside. I mean, how can you look at those gorgeous flowers and not want to capture them with padded satin stitch and French knots and lazy daisies?

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thanks for supporting the auction!

I know quite a few people from Romancing the Yarn supported Brenda Novak's Auction to Benefit Diabetes Research, both by donating auction items and by buying them, so I wanted to pass on Brenda's thanks.

With everyone's help, the auction raised over $270,000 in one month! That's really impressive, especially in an economy where charitable donations are down, proving once again that writers and knitters are great people.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sneak Peek: Laced With Magic

Chapter 2 is up and waiting for you. Enjoy!

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I'm delighted to announce that Ellen H. from Jacksonville FL is the winner of the cream Soie Bambou!

And yes there's more to come.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Contest, Giveaway, Whatever - Wanna win some yarn?

More Elann Soie Bambou, this time in luscious cream. I've been making you all work way too hard. Anyone who entered for the Pink Voile is automatically entered in this contest. If you want to enter again, terrific! Just email me here or here at barbarabretton AT gmail DOT com with CB in the subject header and I'll do the rest. Winner will be announced Wednesday night.

Good luck!!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Pink Voile Soie Bambou Winner

Congratulations to Sharon Rose, winner of that gorgeous Pink Voile Soie Bambou.

But don't despair. Tomorrow is another day . . .

Friday, June 05, 2009

Why Squirrels Will Rule the World

Squirrel-proof feeder meets feeder-proof squirrel. We have a winner . . .

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

NINC blog post up

I have a new blog post up at Novelists Inc. It's titled Fear Factor and it's about writing scared. I hope you'll stop by and check it out if you have a chance. Thanks!

Visit Novelists, Inc.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Soie Bambou just for you

<--picture courtesy

Yes, another giveaway. (Admit it: contest sounds more exciting, doesn't it? The element of chance!)

How about a cone of Elann Soie Bambou in a delicate Voile Pink?

Fibre Content: 65% Silk/ 35% Bamboo
Made In: France
Care: Hand Wash Gentle/ Dry Flat
Gauge: 23 st/4 inches 3.75mm (US 5)
Yardage: 624 m (680 yards)
Size: 227g (8 oz) cone

Just shoot off an email to me here or at barbarabretton AT gmail DOT com with VP in the subject header and I'll do the rest.

Winner will be announced Saturday evening. Good luck!

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Irish Moss Winner!

Congratulations to Vickie B!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Obsession, thy name is procrastinating writer

I've been blathering on about my tomatoes over at my personal blog but I had to share a photo of the four (even though you can only see 1.5) tomatoes that popped out on one of the deck plants. Apparently all it takes is even the hint of a blossom to turn me into a total back-to-nature girl. I am completely obsessed with my plants. You'd think they were made of cashmere or something, the way I fawn all over them. I mean, I dash outside first thing in the morning in PJs and clogs to see their dewy faces. I tuck them in at night. I'd sing them lullabys if I had even the slightest musical ability but they have enough obstacles what with the rabbits and deer and squirrels who frequent our back yard.

Of course I'll probably be singing (shrieking) a different tune the first time I find a bug. I am not a fan of bugs. My brain shuts down at the sight of anything with a stinger. I've often said I'd probably drive off a bridge if a bee ever got into the car with me. Something primitive takes over and drives rational thought from my brain and turns me into one giant mass of terror.

But then maybe we'll be lucky. Maybe the bugs will cut us some slack. (They'd better since I'm going pesticide-free.)

And yes, we're trying the Topsy Turvy. When it comes to tacky tv pitches, I'm an easy mark. I'll probably end up with Sham Wow and the pasta steamer. (I already have a Vidalia Chopper and love it.)

I have this romantic vision of summer evenings on the deck surrounded by daisies and marigolds, zucchini and eggplant and tomatoes and tarragon and basil and Greek oregano and fragrant basil and cucumbers and a sock that practically knits itself at the speed of light.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

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