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Twins bound by a love of knitting talk about knitting and more.

Archive for the ‘Knitting Philosophy’

Episode 54 — Just Ducky!!

In which we discuss connecting with old friends and friends of our daughter/niece, the Iditarod and Iknitarod, cold, snow, trips to the theater and to the emergency room, an interview with Sherill Roi who encourages us to spin 15 in 15, and a review of the book, “Solefull Socks”.

Thanks to listeners, old and new, for joining us!

Patterns of Our Lives:

Both twins are enjoying melting snow – especially as Ellen watches the Iknitarod where the mushers and dogs are dealing with -40F!!!? That kind of weather would make anyone howl. Jan is looking forward to moving out of mud season. Ellen is looking forward to TwinSet Summer Camp in July, the 10-12th to be exact.? The registration form can be found here.

Ellen headed to California for work on water stewardship. She is just about done with the colds that have been plaguing her.? They didn’t keep her from tech editing another pattern for Mary Lou Egan.

Jan has been just ducky – every since her husband, who had resisted having ducks on the farm, fell for the cute little ducklings that were for sale at the farm store.? Four adorable Khaki Campbell ducks are living in Jan’s basement and will soon move out to the duck palace Dale will be constructing. It brought up memories, hard memories, of being pushed to eat duck eggs as children.? We hoped that we could hatch out more ducks, but we only had one duck, so odds of the resulting eggs being fertile were quite low.? Quite low indeed.

Check out Dale’s woodwork at Maryland Sheep & Wool.? Especially since Dale has suffered for his art, in the form of a trip to the emergency rooms as Dale learned not to wear loose-fitting clothing while working with his lathe.

And that lathe can keep running through a power outage as Jan is celebrating a new generator.? Not so much for the lathe, as for keeping water flowing to the animals.

Finely or Finally Knit

Ellen finished a bun and crow – her project, Eating Crow, is a pair of socks knit from her own design, Bunny Socks.? She called it Eating Crow because she found so many problems with this old pattern.? She’s cleaned it up and reposted it – it’s free, so enjoy now that she has improved the pattern.? The bun is the Bun Ellen has knit for one of the many babies to come this summer.? It’s in Swan’s Island organic washable DK – wonderfully soft yarn for babies.

Jan also did a baby bonnet – Béguin de Printemps, a very cute and fast little baby bonnet by Lili Comme Tout. She used Skinny Bugga in the Acmon Blue colorway which is a lovely gray lavender depending on the light. It is superwash MCN, a pleasure to knit with and perfect for a baby. Jan’s project is called Dean of Grandbabies.? It is for the grandbaby of one of her college deans.

Jan finished with her Tilde vest, out of the Ewetopia from Frogtree Yarns and called it Vice Versatile, as she decided to leave the shifted rib on the back of one side – kind of vice versa except not quite. Yes, this is the second project for which Jan has a project page, which pleases Ellen a great deal.

On the Runway

Jan has finished some things, and she finds her existing WIPs are cold. She is working on the reknit of her Top Stitch Mittens and writing the pattern as she goes.? But otherwise, not much else is going since she finished up the bonnet and the vest.

Ellen continues work on a simple stole.? The pattern name: Stole.? Yep, that simple.? Theresa Gaffey’s design is simple but delightful by virtue of understated color work, simple stripes in gorgeous colors, Ellen’s out of Rach-Al-Paca Suri alpaca in lustrous colors ranging from deep orange through creams and on to greens and blues.

Ellen’s other work in progress is for the Iknitarod, a project knit during the running of the Iditarod sled dog race.? She cast on a Baby Sweater on Two Needles by Elizabeth Zimmerman (aka February Baby Sweater), calling hers March into February.? Knit on sock yarn, Ellen added another round of increases so it wouldn’t be a preemie sweater.? That means a lot more stitches, and a bit of an effort to finish before the Red Lantern (the last musher to finish the race).? It is out of Sea Star Handpaints Super Foot in Sea Glass Blues.

Bitten by our Knittin’

Jan’s vest really chewed her up.? A straightforward, simple pattern is a recipe for not paying attention.? She dropped back and crossed cables, dropped back and re-crossed cables the right way, harvested yarn from the back tails of the vest and finally ended with about 18″ of yarn.? She even had to seam the sweater with another yarn.? She loves the project, but admits it was a lesson in the perils of hubris.

Ellen had to replace the bunny’s face on the front of her little hat, but that was easily done and worked out quite well.

Design Principle

Jan extolled the value of prototyping – with the knitter in mind.? Stitch acrobatics that the designer enjoys might not make the most approachable pattern for a knitter off the street.? And a simpler pattern is easier to describe.? Her advice – simplify the design to the critical elements.? And prototype to be sure it all makes sense.? Sometimes that can be done with knitting, sometimes with paper, a la’ Erica Gunn.

Design Aesthetic

Ellen reviewed Betty Slpekar’s Soleful Socks, “the very best book on knitted footwear in the world” according to Cat Bordhi. That may be true, or may be close to true, but the book is definitely wonderful and presents a great new approach to creating socks.

5 Minute Interview

We are joined by Sherril Roi, aka Baabonnybelle on Instagram or Ravelry, who shares with us her thoughts on daily spinning and what you don’t have to do with your handspun.

360 Degrees

Ellen has spun on many different spindles in the last few weeks – spindles are great for traveling.? She’s focused on spinning some baby camel on a supported Russian spindle. She is considering applying some cop winding advice from an industrial spinning site – to evenly wind on for one layer and then run a widely spaced strand back to the beginning to create a separating layer before winding on the next even layer. Jan has signed on for some more alpaca samples – none of them being suri alpaca, which she doesn’t enjoy spinning.

Fiber Jargon

Jan shares huarizo, not chorizo (yum – we wish she’d shared some of that!).?? This term refers to an alpaca-llama hybrid, which is a fiber classification that may have no connection to an actual animal.? The fiber is measured at 32 micron per? The Inca Group Classification system.


Ellen loves the new Dansko’s and also loves that Dansko is a B Corp!

Jan recommends
“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Fun Fur

Ellen enjoys matching project bags and wonders if there will ever be a project bag perfect for #pocketsulu. FrontRangeBags is offering some Star Trek bags on her Etsy shop – maybe she’ll do some Lt Sulu fabric someday.

Slick Trick

Avoiding second sock syndrome – a tip Ellen stole off the Iknitarod board, posted by smokeyblue, proprietress of the Spinning Bunny. “I have second sock syndrome so I suggest doing the Leap Frog Method which works really well for me. Get one sock started through the toe increases. Then with a second set of circs, do the same to the second sock, only take this one up to the gussets. Then pick up the first sock , take it up to and through the gussets, etc etc etc.”

Jan’s slick trick is to duplicate stitch over worn spots on your socks BEFORE it breaks through and needs darning. Simple, and slick.

You May Already be a Wiener

Watch the Ravelry group for a thread to give away a copy of Judy’s book Beyond Toes or Betty’s Book Soleful Socks.

Fashion Forecast for 2015

Ellen? has signed up for Yarnover class with Susan B Anderson and Myrna Stahman.? Susan is sticking around for StevenBe’s FiberFest, so maybe Ellen will take more than one class in April with her.

It isn’t too early to think about summer.? And with summer comes TwinSet Summer Camp!? July 10-12, 2015.? Registration form can be found here:


Registration fee of $265 ($240 if registration postmarked prior to April 30) includes:
?A real bed for Friday and Saturday night! ?With back-pampering Tempurpedic mattresses!
?Meals served family style in the camp lodge, Friday supper through Sunday brunch. Special diets are well-looked after, please note requirements on registration form.
?Lots of camp activities, like knitting by the river, knitting by the swimming pool, hiking into the woods to knit, singing campfire songs while knitting, making and eating s’mores (no knitting!), and more. ?We hope to have some vendors, and we’ll schedule one knitting/craft class, but the name of the game for the weekend is relax in the woods, let someone else do the cooking, and knit and enjoy each other!

We hope to see you there.

Enjoy the show!

Episode 51 — Don’t Call Me Shirley!

In which we discuss things. ?And for which there are no outtakes due to an incomplete edit. ?I explain the very sad reason why in the introduction.

Thanks to listeners, old and new, for joining us!

Patterns of Our Lives:

It seem that colds are making the rounds – if last episode you tracked voices by thinking “It is Ellen Jan that has the deep husky cold-voice”, note that this episode it is Jan Ellen.? Sheesh, this is getting dumb.

The weather in Minnesota has also been cold — well below 0F — giving Ellen a chance to deep freeze her stash.? She stored her favorite bins of yarn out on the deck for a few days, hoping to kill off any possible infestations.

Lots of holiday travel and events took place in the lives of both twins.? Writing this in March, Ellen has to admit she isn’t finding it of enough compelling interest to mention it.? Suffice it to say that lots of visits, lovely Solstice celebrations and Christmas celebrations, with the highlight of handmade hats for Jan’s entire family — made by her daughter!? Jan got a late Christmas gift by taking ownership of the car that replaced the one the deer crash totaled.

On the farm, Valor is in his glory as the ewes have now joined him in his pasture.? Saber the guard llama does not approve.

turbogal AKA Lisa and Ellen had a fun evening at StevenBe’s masquerade birthday party.? Steven’s great knitting paired with vintage garments from two local shops — Restyle and Autumn’s Vintage.

Finely or Finally Knit

Jan finished the hat she was working on in the last episode and is very pleased with it. It is a tam style with a? 9-point floral motif. She says she need to come up with a name for it and get pictures posted. Ellen can confirm this, there is not project page for this.? It is not unique in this feature.

She has also finished up a Hitchhiker by Martina Behm out of Schoppel Crazy Zauberball Starke 6.? Classic yarn, classic pattern.

Ellen knit a hat, too! She called it the 23 hour hat because that is how long it was from cast on to bind off. She’d picked up some glittery nail polish with purples and greens and silver sparkles in it for a holiday gift for my niece and on a whim walked into the big box craft store next door to see if there might matching yarn. sbobet ฟรี เครดิต ล่าสุดRed Heart Boutique Midnight in the colorway Serenade was perfect, especially given that it was near bulky weight. Her niece chose the Nola Cloche by Hilary Smith Callis for the pattern, and it was a fun and simple hat to knit.

The big finish for the episode was Jan’s FOG LIGHTS!!?Fog Lights is her variation on a Bohus reproduction sweater (Jan has made some color modifications to the original design of the Green Mist pullover by Kerstin Olson).? Needles: 1.5mm.? Yarn: laceweight merino:angora from Solsilke (now retired).? She isn’t going to wear it right away so she can enter it in the Farm Show — the PA version of a state fair.

On the Runway

Ellen continues work on her Bohus Reproduction, Many Moments of Grace, which is the design Rimfrost by Annika Malmstrom-Baldini.? Finishing it seems close.

Ellen is all done with Scotch Tango, her? Shirley Paden Design-along 4? Fair Isle design, except for figuring out how she wants to handle the raw edges of the steeks and blocking.?? With this project about done, she is turning her attention to the rest of the Master Knitter Level 3 program and along with turbogal, aka Lisa, has been laying out a plan for tackling that.

And Ellen continues the work on the socks she is working up? for Modeknit Yarns out of ModeSock.? The pattern is well underway, but she wants to knit one more sock as a sample of another size.

Jan is ready to get back to her Tilde vest, out of the Ewetopia from Frogtree Yarns.

Bitten by our Knittin’:

Jan didn’t get bit.? Ellen maybe did.? She was moving so fast through her Scotch Tango that she forgot to change colors and had several episodes of frogging.
What Would Susan Ask?

If you limited yourself to designing one type of thing, what would you design?? For Ellen it is gloves – so many designs, so much to learn.? Some of the designers she admires include Julia Mueller, the Rainey Sisters and Regina Satta.? And Jan would knit sweaters, with the same thinking.? Except that she would be a cheater-cheat-cheaty and design sweaters with attached hats, attached mittens, attached pants…

Note that Julia Mueller of Laris Designs has made her glove patterns available for free rather than deal with the convoluted Euorpean VAT situation.

Design Principles

Jan says you need to organize yourself to design. She didn’t do that last year, at least not the part about organizing herself to translate the knitted objects into a pattern.? Schedule time, arrange the space, arrange your tools, and make it a priority objective. If it isn’t a priority, that’s ok, but don’t expect it to happen.

5 Minute Interview

Dr. Yarn tells us about great pets for knitter.

360 Degrees

Ellen spent a good bit of time fighting with a felted braid.? She found that moving from a fat singles (she’d like to develop the skill to spin fat singles so she can experiment with the yarns in Sarah Anderson’s The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs) to a thin singles made it much easier – fewer fibers are easier to pull from the felted fiber and less likely to do so in clumps.

Fiber Jargon

Tailspun yarn – yarn spun so that curly locks are embedded at their cut ends into the yarn, leaving the curls to fall free from the strand.


Jan enjoyed her Solar Christmas Lights – they charge during the day, burn till the battery is out overnight, and recharge the next day.

Fun Fur

Pocket Sulu! A holiday ornament of Lt Sulu of Star Trek, purportedly from George Takei, #pocketsulu traveled to the Christmas holidays with Ellen. He has appeared in a number of Instagram photos exploring the holiday landscape, and you can expect to see him join in more fun in the future.

Slick Trick

When cutting the end of an end woven in, fray it rather than clipping it sharply off.? The frayed edge will stick to the fabric and be less likely to unravel.? This tip was shared in a knitting class taught by Annie Modesitt.

Fashion Forecast for 2015

The twins shared their goals for the coming year.? For Ellen, it mostly involves eating more beans.? She believes in achievable goals.? Her theme is to knit fresh, and she intends to keep clearing off her needles so she can do just that.? Jan’s main goal is to continue clearing space in her life, physical space at first, but mental space as a result.? And she hopes to schedule the time to write up those patterns.

It isn’t too early to think about summer.? And with summer comes TwinSet Summer Camp!? July 10-12, 2015.? Registration form can be found here:


Registration fee of $265 ($240 if registration postmarked prior to April 30) includes:
?A real bed for Friday and Saturday night! ?With back-pampering Tempurpedic mattresses!
?Meals served family style in the camp lodge, Friday supper through Sunday brunch. Special diets are well-looked after, please note requirements on registration form.
?Lots of camp activities, like knitting by the river, knitting by the swimming pool, hiking into the woods to knit, singing campfire songs while knitting, making and eating s’mores (no knitting!), and more. ?We hope to have some vendors, and we’ll schedule one knitting/craft class, but the name of the game for the weekend is relax in the woods, let someone else do the cooking, and knit and enjoy each other!

We hope to see you there.

Enjoy the show!

Episode 49 — Full Bellies

In which we discuss filling up our bellies at Thanksgiving, podcast endings and podcaster beginnings, cabbages and kings (well, not kings), fine dining in NYC and nights on the town in DC, visitors and the proper pie ratio, new members of the farm family and a bit of farm animal photography!

Thanks to listeners, old and new, for joining us!

Patterns of Our Lives:

Ellen and Jan enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner together – it didn’t include any of the homemade sauerkraut that Ellen has been making in her basement, but it did include lots of pie.? Jan’s work is going very well and so has the associated social life.? Jan enjoyed wearing her sparkly handknit shoulder stole to the National Defense University Gala.? Kind of like prom for the middle-aged, eh?

Jan has a new llama named Saber to guard her ewes, and Ellen has several new inches of snow.? Besides the frozen water, Ellen reported on water in general and her proud attendance in Chicago at The Nature Conservancy Global Water Summit where General Mills’ (her employer) water stewardship work, much of it part of Ellen’s responsibility, was highlighted.

Jan says no water has broken in the alpaca herd – no cria has shown up at Dahlia’s side and Jan is starting to suspect she really isn’t pregnant.? Dahlia, that is, not Jan.

Finely or Finally Knit

Ellen had no finished items, but Jan did finish the stole mentioned above – one of her Streambed Shoulder Stoles knit out of? Art Yarns Mohair Splash Beaded 74% Mohair and 26% Silk in midnight blue. ? She also needle-felted a little chickadee to decorate a future holiday gift.

On the Runway

Ellen took advantage of #SKYKNITTING on the way to Chicago and then to Thanksgiving to make great progress on Scotch Tango, her? Shirley Paden Design-along 4? Fair Isle design.? She is working her sleeves flat but in the round – she is working both sleeves at once, joining them at the edges with a steek so she doesn’t have to work fair isle from the non-public side.? She continues to work on a new sock design for Modeknit Yarns out of ModeSock.

Jan has continued work on her socks out of Opal’s Van Gogh Sock Yarn in the colorway Cafe Terrace at Night.? Ruby, her little dog, will appreciate the new dog bed that Jan has started and made great progress on.? And even with all those projects, Ellen was still unable to find project pages for any of them.? Sigh.

Karen, Ellen’s daughter, was nearing the finish of her own Green Mist Bohus reproduction sweater, and this is motivating Jan to get going on her Fog Lights (Janhas made some color modifications to the original design of the Green Mist pullover by Kerstin Olson).

Bitten by our Knittin’:

Ellen swapped techniques in the middle of the corrugated ribbing for her Scotch Tango and the resulting change in tension means she is needing to adjust some of the stitches by giving them a tug with the tip of her needle all the way around the band.

Counting tripped Ellen up, too, or rather not counting – she didn’t decrease the foot of her sock to the proper number and had to tear back a chunk of the foot and rework it.?? Tip to listeners – just because you designed the sock doesn’t mean you can ignore the pattern.

Jan wasn’t pleased with the rate of increases on the large gauge dog bed (2 sts/inch!) to create a circle and she needed to pull back and reknit.? At that gauge, it probably didn’t take much more than 5 minutes to reknit, so I’m not sure it is even worth mentioning here.

Ready to Wear:

Ellen introduced the Diana’s Quiver socks – Modeknit Yarns ModeSock, a 60:30:10 merino/bamboo/nylon in wonderful colorways – lots of tonals and near tonals as well as variegated yarns. The pattern is designed for this sort of subtle colorplay – with floats on the surface to create both texture and flickers of a solid color dispersed across the dappled background. Two sizes – a 64 st and a 72st sock on US size 1 needles (2.25 mm). One skein will make the pair. She is selling the pattern on Ravelry, but if you’d like a copy for free, order some ModeSock and let Annie know you’d like the pattern.

She notes that there is another sock pattern out there that uses the little tent stitch – and the sock looks quite similar to hers though she had a very different inspiration. Ellen’s sock does handle the ribbing and the gusset differently, and the details of the heels and toes differ. She just wanted to be up front and acknowledge this pattern, though she didn’t know it existed until she received a comment on the blog that the reader was knitting a very similar sock.

Negative Space

Ellen’s essay, “Bigger on the Inside”, has since been mentioned on the Knit.Theory podcast Episode 31 in the Literary.Theory section (around 32.30 in the recording).? Check out Ammie’s lovely videocast if you’d enjoy seeing lots of knitting and do some thinking as well.? Ammie promises a quiz show theme for 2015, which should be lots of fun.? Thanks for the mention, Ammie!

360 Degrees

Besides finishing a braid up for Jan, Ellen has been spinning up some of her own batts on Catherine the Great Wheel.? That wheel spins so fast that even with lace weight yarn, progress is fast.? She spun from the fold, which prevents locking up of the fiber because the twist has moved back into the fiber mass.? For a photo tutorial, check out Abby’s Flickr display.?? She also plied and plied and finally finished off a two-ply laceweight – 1,268 yards!? This was out of Fiber Optic gradient braids of merino:silk – fun to spin and promises to be fun to knit.

Jan mentioned the fun of bringing an old spinning wheel back to spinning condition while Ellen visited.? It was like a puzzle, given that there were more than one spinning wheel.

Fiber Jargon – telekiknitting: from The Knitting Dish‘s husband.? When you are so tired that you don’t have energy to actually knit, so you just knit in your mind.? Try it – it really can calm you down or help you be patient when you can’t actually hold knitting in your hand.? (Check out The Knitting Dish – even more enjoyable than telekiknitting).

Embellishments – Ellen’s is a double-pointed needle WIP holder handcrafted by Dale of Fair Winds Farm (yes, that would be Jan’s husband).? Jan’s embellishment is her goody box from the Savvy Girls Swapetition courtesy of crouchingcheese on Ravelry.? What a bounty – everything from brooches, candy, teapots and even hedgehogs (in the form of a teapot cozy)!

Fun Fur

Check out #FeministPrincessBride.? Feminist! Feminist! Feminist!

Slick Trick

The backward loop is a very low bulk cast on. It works well over a few stitches – but when you cast on more than 5 or 6 stitches, it just isn’t snug enough. You probably noticed that as you knit the first round by the time you got to the last stitch of the cast on you probably had a big loop of extra yarn — and a hole in the underarm. One way to resolve this is to cast on a few stitches less than specified – maybe one less for every 5 or 6 stitches called for. Then, as you knit the first round, as you get that extra loopiness, just use it to make a cast on stitch to replace the one you didn’t cast on originally.

You May Already be a Weiner!

hotknitter will have hot hands after winning Laura Rickett’s most excellent ebook of Sami mitten patterns,? Beauties From the Far North – Swedish Sami Knitted Mittens.

Have fun storming the Patriarchy!? (And enjoy the show!)

When you least expect it…

Dear Jan,

19.jpgI got quite the delightful surprise earlier this week, which is what led to me getting to knit for a few minutes with Kathryn and has led to so many kind words from friends and colleagues.? First, the great news that a local TV station wanted to do a story on Warm Hats Not Hot Heads, our knitters’ campaign to encourage civility in public discourse.? Then, in walks the interviewer with this crazy big check – they were giving me an award for this effort!? Then – it kept getting better – up walks Kathryn, who had nominated me for the award!!

A work colleague saw the award bit as it first aired and she forwarded the link to many of my colleagues and then they posted it on the corporate home page, and boy, did my inbox fill up fast.? So many nice notes of congratulations and also of thanks – and to every? person out there who has knit a hat or passed along the word about the project, you deserve those thanks, too.

In other unexpected but delightful news this week, when one of the knitters asked about why not try to cover the Senate first, it prodded me to review the tracker.? I discovered that with a few more folks jumping in, it was feasible to do this.? And now we have!? We have committed hats to be sent to 100% of the Senate!

63.jpgMotivated by all the support, I somehow ended the week with two more hats off my needles.? The blue is Hurricane by Andrea Goutier;? I am calling it Political Fan(atic) for the Fanatic brand of yarn I used.? The second is an improvised one I am calling Three Hour Skull Cap.? It is knit from White Buffalo unspun wool, very chunky, and really does take just 3 hours if you don’t frog twice to correct the fit.

23.jpgA last bit of unexpected pleasure late yesterday? afternoon, this male cardinal like a jewel against the greys and greens of maple branches and spruce needles.? He is part of a mated pair who have just started showing up at the feeders together.? There sure is a lot of unexpected good around me these days.

I hope your weekend is unexpectedly good, too.

Perpetual Motion

Dear Ellen,

dsc00802.JPGdsc00826.JPGTimes like the last several weeks make me cherish my knitting. More and more it serves as a means to slow myself down just a bit so that I can process all the activity going on in my life.? And lately that has been a LOT of activity including two trips to three different places (St. Louis, Fayetteville — where I stayed at the Very VIP quarters on post — complete with kitchen staff — and Tampa), weekend visitors 3 weekends in a row, a mid-week visitor, and multiple work crises (some real, some concocted).? While I haven’t been able to knit as much as I’d like to, I have done quite a bit — and I seem to be gaining speed, so I do have some progress on two projects and a new project well underway.

dsc00861.JPGdsc00827.JPGdsc00828.JPGTropical Gorillas are about 75% done, having rounded the heel and picked up the gusset on sock? number two.? TGIF is blocked and ready for seaming thanks to Ruby’s fine assistance.? All that remains once seamed will be the extra large button bands and shall collar — picked up along the entire front edge and worked in ribbing.? dsc00858.JPGAnd I cast on Woodland Vines, my version of Ysolda Teague’s Vine Yoke Cardigan in very woodland colors — the Briar Rose yarn I bought at Yarnover (remember?).? I have to say, it is putting the completion of the others at risk because it is such a fun project to knit.? The construction design is brilliant. It is knit side to side in mostly garter with some patterning at the yoke and hem to keep you interested.? And you knit the sleeves as you go round with short row raglans.? It’s crazy I tell you, crazy!? And it knits pretty quickly, so even if the others stall, I should be back to them soon.

dsc00792.JPGSeveral of our visitors were our children.? Allen was here a few weekends ago and I took Allen in to work with me…we snuck a picture outside the Pentagon.? He was down for some interviews and I had fun showing him around and showing him off. ? Marie and Heidi were here this weekend…and guess what!? Marie has picked up knitting again!? dsc00862.JPGShe’s working on a cute little baby bonnet and doing pretty well for having not picked up a needle for about 2 and 1/2 years! Hearing she wanted to try knitting again was almost as good as if she had said she was working on a different kind of baby project.? Not really that close, but still.

dsc00852.JPGdsc00834.JPGdsc00831.JPGWe did make it up to Fair Winds yesterday while the girls create-your-own-range-google-chrome-7202010-34933-pmbmp.jpgdsc00853.JPGslept in.? We cleared brush, burned brush, watched fuzzy caterpillars, were amazed by the height of the corn, mused over the possible additions for our future kitchen (wouldn’t that be a GREAT stove!!), and had our eye caught by the colors of the surrounds.? I personally found it very reassuring to know that 24 hours a day we can acquire live bait via vending machine down at the local grocery.? Almost as good as a vend-o-mat for those late night munchies, I should imagine!? We decided we would go a different way for our end of trip treat and headed over to Maplehof’s for ice cream before heading back.

dsc00829.JPGWe’re hoping for a quiet week.? I’d be happy to have an empty guest room for a few days at this point.? Plus we’d love to avoid the excitement nature sent our way this past Tuesday when hurricane force winds hit very suddenly.? We had some minor damage to the townhouse in which we’re living, but the neighborhood was hit much harder.? We lost some really beautiful trees.? The one in the photo (and several others nearby) caused the George? Washington Parkway to be closed for quite a bit until it could be cut up and moved off the road.? Fortunately, no one near us was hurt.? I hope your week is filled with good fortune too!

Love, Jan

New Starts

Dear Ellen,

There’s something I love about setting up the computer file structures for the new year. ? I only have chronological files for my pictures and those are pretty straightforward.? There’s “2010” and “2010 Knitting”.? Under the former I have a folder for miscellaneous shots sorted with folders for each month and then the big events get their own folder.? Under the latter it starts out pretty empty.? I move in the folders for the projects from the previous year that didn’t get finished and guess what?? This year there are only three.? Then I add folders for each new project when I cast on or have planned them out to the point of readying the project bag.? I have 5 folders already.? dscn2254.JPGA Stitch Away from Genius (down to a few rows of the collar, some blocking and some buttons!), Cinnamon Tee and the Hugs and Kisses Socks are carry-overs.? Sea Glass and Not So Naive are new starts.? I’ve decided to make Cinnamon Tee and the socks my WIPs Wrestling entries for Ravelympics.? Not sure I’ll do a bigger effort, finishing the 2009 work will be Olympian enough!

dscn2258.JPGdscn2259.JPGNot So Naive was planned, but never packaged nor started last summer.? It’s the Ingenue sweater from Classic Knits.? I’m making it from a luscious chocolate brown llama yarn spun from fiber generously shared by Narcissus, one of the llamas at Table Rock Llamas Fiber Arts Studio in Black Forest, CO.? (I’m verifying the llama’s name with the store…was so sure it was Jack, but then the tag said Narcissus.)? That, and the occasional bit of straw, etc. that I come across in the yarn makes me feel very close to the source as I work on this.? The sweater is knit from the neck down and has a wide neck opening.? I’ll appreciate that as I don’t like being choked by sweaters…I overheat too quickly.? The pattern stitch for the neckline is repeated at the cuffs and hem.

dscn2261.JPGSea Glass is…the Hanami Stole.? You and the cell mates have tempted me over.? I’m calling my version Sea Glass because…well, just look at the picture.? You’re bright enough to figure it out.? I may try the cast on tonight.? My plan is to try to do it with the beads already strung…I hate screwing around with a tiny crochet hook.? If it doesn’t work, oh well.? I may see if I can figure out how to use the Gansey cast on as well.? Pictures to follow if it works.

A belated, but very sincere happy birthday to Wilson!? And I hope you can ease into the new year smoothly.

Love, Jan

Guest Author

Dear Ellen,

Lately I have been so consumed by life (much like the mother in the book you got from Jeanne) that I have utterly failed as a partner in this blog. ?Oh wait, that’s right, I’m a partner, and that means I have someone who helps carry the load when I can’t. ?I guess I performed the needing someone to help part of partnership pretty darned well, so I’m not an utter failure! ?Thanks so much for being there and keeping the conversation going while I’ve been under the weather and overwhelmed.

For those not in our out-of-channel communications, here’s what’s been up in the last month.

  • Worst head cold ever (in bed for 3 days, but no fever, so not flu). ?I was home but so tired I didn’t even keep up with e-mail, much less feel like blogging.
  • Traveled to Millington, TN twice for Navy business
  • Traveled to Pennsylvania to work on and walk on Fair Winds
  • Labyrinthitis (extreme vertigo) that put me back in bed for another 3+ days — I couldn’t concentrate on the computer screen without feeling nauseous…It’s now minor, but still troubling — I see the doctor again Monday.
  • Marie broke her left ankle badly…I drove to New Jersey to stay with her in the hospital post-surgery. ?She went home after 4 days and is healing slowly — will need a second surgery in several weeks. ?She did get permission from her doctor for car travel, so Dale is picking her up right now and will bring her down here for 5 days. ?It will be a good change of scenery for her and a good break for Heidi who has been heroic through it all.
  • Long, long hours at work while we struggle with resource allocation and strategy in the Middle East.

On Monday I head to Europe for the week, so will probably go fairly silent again, but this time I expect it will be for a far shorter period. ?At least I surely hope so!

On the knitting front, I have clung to opportunities to click my needles together and say, “There’s no place like knitting! ?There’s no place like knitting!” ?It has really helped me keep my sanity. ?I have concluded that I am absolutely a process knitter as it was so evident that just having 10 minutes to focus on the creation of stitches would slow my heart rate and give me a tiny escape in which I blocked out thoughts of the craze going on in my life. ?I found it very rewarding to have a tangible product — proof that I was moving forward on something! ?And move forward I did.

dscn2044.JPGdscn2030.JPGI finished the?Fractured Fairytale Socks. ?And they are awesome. ?They have about an inch of negative ease lengthwise and I now know the perfect length for me. ?Working a simple gusset toe-up sock, if I start the gusset just when the sock reaches the crease of my thumb when slipped over my hand, the sock turns out at the perfect length.? This will prove very helpful on airplanes when trying to check the size of a sock in progress.? I wonder if it’s true for most people?? dscn2046.JPGThe lattice is made with simple twist-left and twist-right stitch work and was fun to watch grow. ?I can tell you I was under more stress while knitting the second one and it is ever so slightly smaller than the first. ?And with the last pair that did this, I was under more stress for the first sock — also the ever more slightly smaller of the two. ?Do we see a pattern? ?It works out okay for me as my ankles are different sizes from abuse I’ve heaped on them over the years, but I will now think about breathing more as I knit. ?That seems to “even me out.”

dscn2036.JPGdscn2035.JPGI also made some real headway on the Cinnamon Tee that I started at the beginning of the summer. ?I am loving this fabric. ?The yarn is?Elann Nilo?and it is?perfect for summer sweaters and tanks, though it doesn’t have much spring as there’s no wool in it. ?There’s cotton, linen and viscose — the latter adds a nice bit of sheen and some interest as it picks up the dye with a bit of a different intensity.

dscn2034.JPGA Stitch Away From Genius?is also making progress. ? I expect to even be able to wear it this year. ?I’ve knit it on the short side, expecting the bulky alpaca to stretch a bit. ?How about that, I’m actually planning in accommodations for my yarn choices.? It seems so unlike me to plan ahead.? Hmmm….

dscn2032.JPGdscn2033.JPGMidnight Moth?is very nearly complete. ?I have 2 rows and the bind-off to go. ?Of course, these are at the hem edge, so they are very, very long rows. ?This is done in Elann Soie Bamboo, which I think they’ve discontinued. ?A shame really, the fabric is soft, as I’d expected, but is also quite warm. ?I didn’t expect that. ?I am guessing it’s the silk that adds that characteristic. ?I found the yarn to be quite splitty, but after adjusting to it, it was fine and I love how the pattern is turning out.? I hope to have it blocked in time ot travel to Europe with me.? Just the thing to add a dash of fashion to my garb.

dscn2055.JPGI’ve chosen yarn to test knit your gansey cap, which I’m going to name Winter Sky…400 yds of fingering weight that is Tempted Good Grrl in the Helena colorway, a variegation in greys and light blues that makes me think of those winter days that want to be bright, but still have snow clouds hanging there. ?I know gansey is traditionally a solid, but this appealed to me and I wanted to see how it would work. ?Stop me now if you think this is wrong. ?I would have wound the yarn and cast on for this two weeks ago had it not been for Marie’s accident. ?It’s hard to use a swift while driving on the New Jersey turnpike. ?I’ll be taking it with me to Europe.

dscn2052.JPGdscn2053.JPGI hope to get it started tomorrow, but first I have to finish a project for Marie…a cast cozy.? I’m making it out of Dream in Color Starry in the Gold Experience colorway. ?The stitch pattern is a variation on the broken rib stitch. ?I’m calling it the broken ankle stitch. ?I’m sure it already exists as something like “interrupted seed” or “broken seed,” but I’m claiming unvention rights regardless. ?It looks like a pretty cool Christmas Stocking, so maybe she can re-purpose it by then. ?I hope she’ll launder it first. ?In the meantime it should keep her toes warm and her leg dressed up a bit.

Love, Jan

All gussetted up…

Hi, Jan,

We got the weekend off to a great start with a nice longish but not killer bike ride and a great dinner of grilled salmon and fresh raspberries – and I am having so much fun working on ‘brainless’ now that I have the gauge and needles that fit the sock.

2.jpgI can’t stress enough what a lesson this was for me.? Sheer cast-on-adrenaline had taken me to slightly past the toe when I was working on the size 0 metal needles.? But my fingers hurt and the yarn squeaked and split and it was, honestly, painful to knit.? I gave it a few days rest that extended to six weeks.? And now, in the 5 days since knit group where I frogged that start and changed to size 1 bamboo dpns, I have a sock complete to the gusset.

3.jpg4.jpgThis yarn, Three Irish Girls Adorn sock yarn in colorway Aiden, that I loved in the skein and then disliked on the needle, is now so much fun to watch as it knits up.? Look at the different patterns on the two gussets!? And the striping in the stockinette is charming and changes to pooled stripes during the gusset pattern.? Never a dull moment.

11.jpgI must be channeling the yarn this week as on a walk through a wetland near our house a few days back I was compelled to photograph the blooming cattails (female flowers on top – wild!).?? Colorway look familiar?

So, to review – listen to your knitting!? If it isn’t fun, something’s wrong – change it!? If the yarn squeaks, something’s wrong – change it!? If your fingers hurt, something’s wrong – change it!.? Knitting is supposed to be a pleasure.? When it isn’t, take the time to figure out why and… change it!

I hope your change of location is going totally right and no one is squeaking about hurt fingers.



Timing is Everything

Dear Ellen,

photo2.jpgHow cool is this — I was finishing the Sargasso Sea Shell at exactly the same time that Crackerjack was pulling into her slip!? I don’t have the exact time she finished flemishing the mooring lines, but I do know that they were at that activity while I was weaving in ends.? Not that I’m superstitious, but her voyage turned out well and my shell turned out well too!

I improvised the pattern and I love it.? I didn’t take any notes, but this is super-bulky knitting and I can do dscn1727.JPGa knitting post-mortem to write it up.? And I will…with some modifications.? I want the neck line to be a bit lower and the shoulders to be a bit wider.? I’ll also change the hemline.? I did a narrow 1X1 ribbing (with a ribbed cast-on) on smaller needles and when I was done I found I didn’t like the way it hung at all.? I solved the immediate problem by turning it under and hemming the garment.? The next one will have something different…maybe a turned pico hem.? I’ll think about it.

dscn1725.JPGAs is, I love it…it has a bit of a halter top feel to it and it fits well and I think is flattering.? I deliberately added extra grace for my sizeable hip measurement and only added a bit more room on the front vice shaping both back and front.? The back fits nice and snugly that way and I don’t feel like the fabric is pulled too tightly across my chest.? I love the cable embellishment…next one is likely to have the cable starting lower or running all the way to the hem.? Another feature for me to think about.

This will be a fantastic little top for the rest of the summer.? The fabric is thick, but very cool.? The combination of silk, cotton and rayon feels wonderful.? And I feel like it camouflages bulges nicely — remember how I always wanted to wear a sweatshirt…year round?? This is so much more sophisticated!

Gotta get back to packing!

Love, Jan

Muscle Relaxers and Lace Knitting

Dear Ellen,

You knew from the title that this post would contain some very bad judgment.? It does.

dscn1609.JPGFor some reason I decided that working on Fichu, Gesundheit — the next Vanessa project — would be? a great way to fill time while I was nursing a bad shoulder spasm that started last Thursday.? Yes, I was taking flexeril(tm) and trying to keep my left arm immobilized, but that didn’t stop me.? As the photo shows, I did finally make some progress, but it was only after roughly 8 hours or knitting, tinking, frogging and more knitting.? When I finally realized I was misinterpreting a chart symbol it went a lot better.? MAYBE this could have worked had I already done a few repeats of the pattern, but I had only done the garter stitch neckband and hadn’t even studied the chart.? Oh, wait…studying the chart.? I suppose that might have helped too.? I can report that today the shoulder is much better and when I finish here, I plan on doing another repeat…with a clear head.? I hope the foregoing builds your sense of confidence in our senior military leaders.

dscn1615.JPGdscn1616.JPGA very sensible person would have picked one of the other projects already underway.? For instance, I’ve only gotten about 4 inches into the skirt part of A Stitch Away From Genius — hours to go before I’d have to think of anything other than remembering to dscn1614.JPGslip the first stitch of each row.? And the Robin’s Egg Vest is at point where I can do it pretty much without thinking.? Cinnamon Tee takes some counting to keep track of when to decrease for the fitting, but other than that it’s stockinette…so with so many better options, what the heck was I thinking?? I guess I just needed a challenge…and I had not a bit of sense in between my ears at the time.

dscn1608.JPGdscn1613.JPGAnd evidently, I’m not done with the startitis.? I’ve got this lovely Alpaca from gentle Narcissus of Table Rock Llamas — she’s not pictured on their web site as she’s not for sale.? With it I intend to make Not So Naive with the “Ingenue” pattern in Custom Knits.? It is a great boatneck sweater with a quasi-standup “portrait” collar.? And I’ve committed to make one of two pair of booties for one of the young Lieutenants who has done so much for women in the Navy (including getting the senior Navy women organized on Facebook!) and is now expecting twins.? I’m calling them Hopeful Booties as her first name is Hope. I’m using the Baby Life Ring Booties Pattern from Cat Bordhi’s Magical Knitting site.

Perhaps the muscle relaxers are still affecting me…I do have to be ready to move in less than a month and I’m going to start more projects?!

With that thought in mind, I think I’ll go knit.

Love, Jan

P.S. I was very busy the last two weeks of silence…several trips and mandatory fun.? No need to bore you with it!