Back to Square One

I did an Internet search on the topic “Knitting in the Dark”. Among the things I found were:

I, of course, immediately purchased the flashlight. And with good reason.

It so cold was this past winter, I started a “simple squares throw” for my bed–which seemed practical and easy. I chose this pattern not only for it’s simplicity, but also because I had made it previously and loved the look. Lately, I’m so mentally tired from overworking, when I pick up my needles it needs to be restful. IMG_3824

I thought I would be able to knit, not think. Except–that’s an oversimplification. I failed to think of another problem–that not only was I knitting in the dark with a dark yarn, but that sometimes even simple projects aren’t so simple when you are tired.

You know how they say that driving tired can make your reaction time slower–even more than if you’ve been drinking? The same appears to be true with knitting. You lack good judgement and just assume everything will be okay. After all, you tell yourself, “I’ve been knitting forever! Right?”

In this case, I would pull the project out of the bag and just knit whatever direction seemed right. And sometimes I got it wrong. So I created short row holes in the middle of a blanket that needs neither holes or short rows.

Earlier this week in the bright sunny light, I laid it out to survey my progress. I was so proud of how much progress was made on such a big project (it’s about 8′ across). I was about a 1/3 done (up about four squares). That’s when I noticed first one hole, two and then three. At first I tried dropping down 80 rows to an affected stitch and that’s when I realized how unfixable it was–I didn’t find a dropped stitch, I encountered a loop!  :-/

So tear, tear, tear it out I did, some 90 rows on a 8′ wide piece. /sigh!

It took a couple of days of ignoring it for me to come back around and reconsider it a worthy project. And now I’m, well, back to square one.


I Love Your Sweater!


Music to a knitter’s ears.

Especially when you can come back with “I made it!”

Perhaps now is NOT the time to knit that ski sweater I’ve got my eye on. I’ve even knitted the swatch for a Slopes Pullover from the cover of KnitScene Winter 2016. But now, after hearing this sweater compliment when I checked into my hotel in DC, I’m thinking, ‘Why am I knitting a ski sweater and more woolen socks?’ and ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to work on a nice cotton yarn?’

I’d reknit this “Perfect Periwinkle” sweater  by Stefanie Japel in a heartbeat now! Maybe even using a purple yarn like the fuchsia Bernat Panama Worsted Weight cotton I have in my stash.

And maybe I’ll make up my own cardigan pattern to go with it or modify her Off-Rib Cardigan to make it match. 😊

Stefanie Japel’s Off-Rib Cardigan

How Many Times Do I Have to Knit THIS Sock?

Socks! Socks! Socks! The bane of my knitting existence! How can such a small project be so challenging to a long time knitter? I swear they ARE worse than a poke in the eye with a sharp size 1 knitting needle!

I’ve made a commitment to give this a go for lots of reasons and frankly they ARE an extremely portal project. When you commute (hands free) a long distance to and from work, this is a Must Have feature. And even though they were hard for me, so far I have managed to complete two pairs—one for me and one for my husband. Just 4 little socks in all.

Oddly the first pair went okayish—a top down reasonable simple pattern from KnitPicks Sockacular! I found a bug in the afterthought heel pattern, but quickly sorted that out.

Just starting out

Then I knit a toe up pair from the same book ones for me I had *crazy* problems. Like a strand crossover on the heel—just for one single stitch. How the heck?!? You might ask. I don’t know! So after finishing—literally casting off—I had to tear it back to the instep. I was so frustrated I knit the other sock to completion (in only 3 tries) before tearing it out the first one just to make sure I wanted to complete the project at all.

And toe up? I cannot cast on a single sock without tearing it out at least five times. top count? 10 tries. I’ve watched different methods on YouTube, read up on it, nothing helps except try, try, try, try some more, try, try again. Each toe is a painful reminder that there has to be an easier way.

On my present pair I’m on the 12th cast on, third heel and the 6th instep of a Basket Rib patterned pair. By now, I’ve surely knit enough fabric to create thigh-high stockings for Boban Marjanović of the Detroit Pistons or hip wader liners for Ryan Pickett of the Green Bay Packers.IMG_5400.JPG

I’m going forward—there is no turning back with the myriad of sock yarns I’ve purchased to quench my husband’s new found hankering for ones made by yours truly. So if you know of the truly EASIEST sock pattern for sock (fingering) yarns. I’m all ears!

Dr. Seuss Capelet Pattern

This pattern is based on my Quickie Caplet pattern. As with that one, it holds multiple yarns together and uses big needles to make it a quick, fun knit. The one pictured above is the Long length. All versions have three “furry” rows, but in the medium length version, they are narrower and the collar is slightly shorter.

Why Dr. Seuss? Well, you can dress it up a bit by bunching it up over a frock and you might resemble Seuss’s character Foona-Lagoona Baboona. If you wear it poncho style over casual clothes or a jacket you’ll fall somewhere between the Dr. Seuss birds the Goo-Goo Goose or a Pelf.


Downloadable pattern: 2017-dr-suess-caplet

Needles: a 32” circular needle–size 17.

Yarns: 2 skeins Red Heart Super Saver and 3 skeins Red Heart Fur Sure

Gauge: stockinette holding two strands of Red Heart super saver together 7 sts over 4 inches

Fuzzy rounds are created by holding one strand of Fur Sure together with one strand of Super Saver. Plain rounds are created by hold two strands of the Super Saver alone.

Pattern: Medium length (Long length)

Cast on 72 (88) stitches holding one strand fur yarn and one strand worsted plain yarn together. Join yarn to knit in the round, placing a marker.

Continue in the round using a K2P2 rib (all fuzzy rows are ribbed) for 6 (8) rows. Decrease one stitch at marker each row (on fuzzy rows only) to hide reductions.

Row 7 (9) drop Fur Sure and pick up another strand of smooth yarn (two smooth yarn strands held together. Knit in stockinette for 6 (8) more rounds even (do not decrease on smooth/stockinette rows to hide decreases).

Repeat rows 1-12 (1-16)

Row 13 (17) drop one strand of smooth yarn and pick up the furry strand. Rib for 6 (8 rows). Decrease one stitch at the marker each row.

Row 19 (25) Drop furry yarn and holding two smooth yarns together knit in K2P2 rib for 10 (14 rows). Do not reduce.

Row 29 (39) Cast off loosely

© Kristin Tolle. This pattern is freely available and without restriction to all would be capelet makers and Dr. Seuss lovers!

Where’d It Go? or Seller’s Remorse

My stash is prodigious. It’s mine and my grandmothers with a few of my friends’ grandmothers thrown in. There was a time, in the not too distant past, that knitting was a dying art. So when people saw me knitting, I would get given all the spare yarn that hadn’t been used up.

Yarn Collage
Just a fraction of the yarn from my stash

One Fall when I was on sabbatical I took to photographing and cataloguing all of my yarn—at least the small portion of it that remained after I donated most of it to charity—about 75%. But don’t let that fool you, I’ve still got an immense supply which grows every time I go to a knitting event—much faster, I might add, than I can possibly knit it with a very busy full time job that never seems to end at the end of the day.

To second the Ravelry post on January 6th by MaryHeatherB “Tip: 3 Things to do on Ravelry in the New Year”, Tip #1 is to catalogue your yarn on Ravelry. I highly recommend that you go through the exercise. Now I tend to shop at home because I know what I have and in what quantities. And now that you can “slurp” in photos you won’t have the added hassle I had in photographing 200 yarns.

I’ve been knitting things for the women members of my team and trying to pick up a few new skills along the way leveraging free patterns on Ravelry. One didn’t go so well. I attempted to give Aran Cabled Shrug in Kaya Wool by Crystal Palace Yarns a more modern look by switching the ribbing to garter and adding increases to compensate for the lack of give. I love how it came out, but feel it is a bit too misshapen to give away—not to mention way too small for its intended receiver. I’m still trying to work out a closure for it that helps hide the underarm “bump”.

Next I turned to a different project that I ended up falling in love with—a Bias Scarf by Shelby Dyas. It came out so pretty (and heavy) that it hard to part with. I bought some Lion Brand Homeland in Bryce Canyon and paired it with an unidentifiable yarn in my grandma’s stash—a slick, nylon, ribbon yarn in burgundy by Malibu Mark which reminds me a lot of Anne Blatt’s Antique.

That’s when I got the idea to make a shrug from the pattern—a square you can wear. If it were wider it would be perfect and I knew of just the yarn to pair up with a bit more ribbon yarn—but this time of KNOWN origin, Lane Borgosesia Diamante in a variegated black-taupe-white and/or solid black. On the hunt I went and I came up empty. I searched by stash and it was not to be found. Where was it? I sold it!  And no doubt now these two beauties are probably knitted up, possibly together, in some gorgeous creation.

And there was this VERY old Berroco Glace variegated cotton-blend ribbon yarn which barely deviated from white in the palest of pinks and blue. I was purusing Ravelry, as I often do on weekends, and found a great summer top to use it up with, feeling so proud to be shopping in my stash. Firstly, I couldn’t find it in my stash, but I was certain I still had it so I went to my storage rack… Gone! Well, it wasn’t my color, I rationalized. Er, um. *sigh*

I’m happy to have them get used and there was no telling when I would have used them, so it’s for the best, of that I’m certain. What it did get me to do was “rethink” my trade or sale portion of my stash on Ravelry.

Purposeful Purchases–or not!

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Stitches West I go!

I was on the fence about it, but I decided I needed to spend some time with my fellow stitchery folks at Stitches West. Not to mention I am way overdue for some time off from work.

Last year felt a bit solitary, but this year I managed to stay at the conference hotel and run into lots of singles—not unmarried folks—but knitters there on their own. So each night I had dinner with a different crafter from a different part of the country. It was MARVELOUS fun.

Zauberbal Sock Yarn in Harvest, Stonewash and Heilix Bleche

This year I had plans in place to avoid the purchasing frenzy that happened last year (mostly project bags). So while I waited for the Marketplace to open on Thursday night, a couple of other “singles” and I swapped strategies (over Chardonnay) for keeping ourselves in check. Mine was, don’t buy anything you don’t a project in mind for and no more bags, which for me meant I could buy a few sock yarns—which I did.

A half hour after the market opened we moseyed over and subsequently threw all those strategies to the wind, dashing from aisle to aisle, burdened by purchases. Perhaps abstaining from alcohol before visiting the Marketplace should be next years’ strategy.

The Stitches organizers were far from sympathetic self-proclaiming to be “devils” and querying what was in our bags as we left the market floor. But as we all know those are really in the details of what to knit next!

I have excuses for each purchase. Miss Babs was because of a scarf my neighbor made out of it in my Ridge Heddle Weaving class. The Malabrigio is screaming to be made into a Spiral Staircase Scarf for resale at the resort next door (no restrictions!). Though I have to call “uncle” on the Louisa Harding. That was simply a fabulous price and fills a hole in my stash for light fingering projects.

Next week I’m back to work, but for now I’m hanging out at home dreaming of what to make and filling up my queue on Ravelry!

Happy knitting!



Got the Blues

Boy was I sunny this weekend despite the rain. I finally did it. I talked to the resort next door and asked if they’d carry my knitwear. I’m so excited because they said yes! Then the blues set in.

I’ve considered setting up an online store and decided there was too much competition, not to mention the difficulties and cost to ship from the Island. Living in a vacation destination means people with disposable income visit—frequently. They often want to bring a piece of their experience back, so why not a practical item like a hat scarf, yoga hood, or scarf? Now all I need is a label and I’ve reached out to a local designer for assistance.

For supplies I’ve got scads of grandma yarn (free to me wool) to use for these small portable projects while I’m still commuting and flying around the world for the job that keeps a roof over my head and food on the table. Though I’d never really planned to make a profit, it is still good to have things to keep my hands busy and I’m a bit over hatted, scarved and mitted at the moment. As is my trusty husband.

Yoga Hood I am planning to sell at the resort next door

I’ve already posted about the Yoga hood I cobbled together from gift yarn—which will likely be the first item on sale. The next item I planned to show them was a matching hat and mitts I was making from leftover Tosh DK for my Woolful KAL George Hancock Home and Away sweater in lovely Worn Denim.

The mitts are no problem, because that is my own design. But as I was knitting the waffle hat I pulled out the pattern to look to see the decreases and to my disappointment the pattern says that it can only be used for personal use and non-profit use. And while I wasn’t planning on selling it for a profit (just cost) it seems like that would violate the disclaimer.  

While I completely agree that you should acknowledge where a pattern comes from. I can also completely understand not duplicating it and serving it up as your own design. Which is why the mitt pattern I created refers back to the Violet Waffles hat pattern as inspiration for their design. And while I completely get why you wouldn’t want a huge conglomerate (e.g., The Gap) taking a pattern and mass producing it as their own design, eliminating low-production, in-person sales of garments is a bit hard to understand. After all, the work of knitting it and the materials are my own. That said, this was a FREE pattern. So that might have something to do with it. I’ve written to the designer to ask her thoughts, just to be sure.

I’ll be sure to check this out before I knit up someone else’s design or design something to match. Another lesson learned the hard way!

I guess my sister-in-law will get this set. *sigh*

Mitts and Hat for the Strong Silent Type

My kayak instructor, a sage and serious young man, is a man of few words. When he speaks you want to listen, especially when you are on open sea. And since Nick and I have become weekenders on Orcas Island, he and his partner are folks we think of as friends.

One mitt done. The other a WIP. The small mitt (left) is the swatch.
One mitt done. The other a WIP. The small mitt (left) is the swatch.

The sage came to the island from the Northeast after his lovely partner decided she wanted to live here. And who wouldn’t! If I could figure out a way to afford to stay full time I would too. They make a go of it and I admit their tenacity. And with their joint help and that of the island shepherdesses, this might happen for me someday.

Finished Mitts
Finished Mitts

Along with partnership, comes shared laundry responsibilities. And like my Nick, his partner is sometimes less cautious with things that might need more care. Nick remembers to cold wash “technical” clothing, but doesn’t think about separating light from dark. So I’ve a load of once ivory, now gray, Lululemon tops. The sage now has smaller and denser woolens, like a Patagucci hat which now resembles a skull cap.

A perfect travel project!
A perfect travel project!

Upon hearing about the troubles (and seeing him try to force it on) I decided I should make him a set of mitts, to keep his hands warm while leaving his fingers free with a matching hat which would be wash and wear. In grandma’s stash was a worsted weight acrylic, called Softee. While the hand is not terribly nice, these yarns have their place. One is for a person in and out of saltwater all day.

I made with very few modifications—mainly making changes only when things were unclear in the patterns (like keeping the ribs vertical on the hat instead of a swirl pattern—see my Notes for details). They are Robbin Abernathy’s Simple Ribbed Fingerless Mitts and Tammy Burke’s Ribbed Hat.

Finished hat with mitts!
Finished hat!

What I’d do differently:

The thumb gusset on the mitts was a bit tighter than expected. This was acerbated by me adding more length to provide more thumb protection from the elements. I’d make the thumbhole bigger. I’d also figure out a way to have more of a K2P2 pattern. The one lone rib looks like it doesn’t quite fit with the rest and adding a second knit stitch might actually kill two birds with one stone.

The hat perfectly matches the mitts. The ribs worked okay, but not great—they are a bit wonky on the edges. Maybe that was my errata, but I suspect not. Could be a result of the yarn too. I’m tempted to start over as I have enough yarn to do so and treat this as a “sample”.

To Buy the Book or Download the Pattern, That is the Question

When one project ends another begins? Hmm. That’s not going so well for me right now. And why is that? Too many choices and this time yarn is less of an issue.

Ella Rae Heather--The Slipper (Yarn) Looking for It's Cinderella (Pattern)
Ella Rae Heather–The Slipper (Yarn) Looking for It’s Cinderella (Pattern)

If you think my stash is extensive, you should see my pattern collection. According to Ravelry I have 3566 patterns as of this writing and rising. Given I have Sequence Knitting by Cecelia Campochiaro in route and Free Spirit Knits by Anne Podlesak on pre-order, the number of patterns in my library will continue to rise. For now.

Only one shelf of many such books
Only one shelf of many such books

The reality is, whether for reading or crafting, I love the feel of a book or magazine in my hands. Still, with the same online patterns readily available and usually less than $10, and given I knit one or less patterns per book, why I’m buying a whole book? It seems much more cost effective to break this purchasing  habit?

Decades of Knitters and Vogue Knitting Magazines
Decades of Knitters and Vogue Knitting Magazines

You have to admit a downloaded pattern lacks the aesthetic of a truly well-designed book. There’s something about crisply presented visuals like those in the Madder Anthologies (1 or 2) by Carrie Bostick Hoge or Hannah Fettig’s Home and Away that get the juices flowing.

After a Ravelry Search (of my own patterns) these were the top book contenders
After a Ravelry Search (of my own patterns) these were the top book contenders

Still, given I’ve successfully executed sweaters with online patterns wouldn’t it just make more sense to stop buying books? And might that reduce the time from planning to starting a project?

Have you made the conversion and what wisdom might you share?

Narrowing by style gave me just the open books
Narrowing by style gave me just the open books

PS: thank goodness for Ravelry’s library. Since I’ve posted my patterns I’ve found beautiful ones in my own collection I never knew I owned.

The Final Contenders--Vogue Knitting Winter 2012 and Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel
The Final Contenders–Vogue Knitting Winter 2012 and Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Sunset from the nearby beach
Sunset from the nearby beach

Ah the dream of a having a different lifestyle. I’m part way there since I purchased a second home on Orcas Island, though this creates some new challenges (like commuting and costs of second home ownership). It’s definitely quieter spending half weeks here and I suspect it will get even better when I trade the city house for a pied-à-terre.

November will mark my fifth anniversary with my lovely, brilliant husband. And for the first time in my life, it has been a joint endeavor putting clothes on back, food on table and a roof overhead. I have a great paying job—and have had for many years, but the older I get in high-tech the younger everyone else seems, the faster the pace moves, and the more I feel like I’m slipping behind. A book that has helped is French Women Don’t Get Facelifts by Mireille Guiliano. She found a second career in writing—something I love to do too—after being the CEO of Verve Clicquot USA.

Kayaking with husband in Lover's Cove, Orcas Island
Kayaking in Lover’s Cove, Orcas Island

These days I‘m often asked to speak to young researchers about careers and yet, deep inside, I feel a bit lost. So how can I, in good faith, tell them what they should be doing to be successful when I’m not sure about my own career? Of course we are at different career stages, so my advice works for them. It just doesn’t work for me. Not anymore.

There was one bit of advice that I got early in my career than might still be true though, ‘risk equals happiness.’ If you are willing to risk everything, you are much more likely to find a career that you are enthusiastic about.

Sign on once of my deer proof gardens
Sign on one of my deer proof gardens

So is it time to consider that now?

I look at people like Karen Templer and her small business Fringe Association she moved to Nashville, Tennessee and Ashley Yousling of Woolful who has recently moved to Idaho (a place I worked so hard to get out of) to start a sheep ranch. Both women in tech who followed their dreams. I’ll admit it, I’m green with envy. After all,  I’ve been in tech since before they were out of diapers. The point being that younger people can set an example for older ones. You find sages at all ages, no?

Russian blackberries growing everywhere
Russian blackberries growing everywhere–too many to pick!
Gala Apples from the Garden--Yum!
Fresh Gala Apples from the Garden–Yum!
Baby kiwi's (much bigger now)
Baby kiwi’s (much bigger now)

People, and knitters especially, on the island are lovely. “Borrow my loom, please!” and “Stop by for my knitting circle”. The problem is my split life. I simply cannot be an islander and be a constant traveler, researcher and strategist.

More and more I feel the pull of my creative side and I’ve even been talking to a couple of friends on island on how I might promote this site and potentially start selling things—here and at the local gift shops. Even my husband has gotten into it by telling me I should set up a shop called Fruit and Fiber where we could sell my chutneys and the many fruits of our garden alongside wool from the island wool makers and mitts and bags I make from it.

Green Gages Plums
Green Gages Plums
I've got these prune plums coming out my ears!
I’ve got these prune plums coming out my ears!

The trouble is I’d need the time to *make* these items. I also wonder how it will change my desire to knit when it won’t be for myself or gifts for my friends and family. What happens when it becomes my job. Will I still love it so much? I think so.

I’ve got designs and patterns that my friends say will sell and the San Juans, especially Orcas Island, are a vacation mecca where people come to buy little reminders of their trips (or they get cold and buy it out of necessity). They think that even if I didn’t go “online” I’d still have a market for my goods.

A seed Stitch Bag--partially my own design
A seed Stitch Bag–partially my own design

Well that’s my quandary for today. It makes me want to miss the late ferry back to the mainland Monday night. Perhaps not today, but someday. Hopefully soon.

Mitts with the Hat
Mitts with the Hat