December 26, 2012

Christmas Knitting

Does it still count as Christmas knitting if I start it the day after?  I chose to do no holiday knitting this year, which pairs nicely with my No Deadlines rule.  However, I had no gift for my sister and no idea what she'd want.  Then I saw a very cute coffee cup cozy project, dug up some leftover yarn, and swatched last night.

It's a take off on Kate Davies' Owls, but in coffee form.  And much much smaller, so I should be able to start and finish today.  I hope she likes it.  As a neurobiology PhD candidate I know she drinks a lot of coffee!

Owl Coffee Cozy by Tiny Dino

Owls by the super awesome Kate Davies

I've been feeling pretty miserable lately and have had little to post about.  I stuck to the concept "if you can't say anything nice..."

December 20, 2012

We hear that timing is everything, so what does it mean when you have terrible timing?  I have a talent for joining groups after they're already well established, making it difficult to join the inner circle.  I'm mid-30s and single which is some of the worst timing ever.  Jolts of energy for sewing come just as I have to go do something else.  Or I'll read about a fabulous event the day after.

This doesn't mean that I don't have some lovely friends, or don't enjoy life.  I just wish my timing were better and I'd miss out on less.  C'est la vie.

December 4, 2012

Family and Friends

My grandmother was visiting from out of town for a few weeks so I spent as much time with her as I could.  It's fun to be an adult and learn about her early life.  I knit her a ruffle scarf, just like the scarf at right but in plum.  She loved it.  She also went home with a lace shawl, so plenty of knitted lovelies to show off to her friends.  It's so cool being one of the most bragged about grandkids :)

As a shocking departure from previous dating posts, I had a good date!  And then another, with the same man.  The whole world must have turned upside down!  It's still early days but this is more progress than I've made in years, and with a good solid guy.

I'm really looking forward to holiday parties.  Seeing friends and family makes this one of my favorite times of year.  I hope everyone has a Happy Holiday Season!

November 18, 2012

Knitting Backwards Tutorial

On some knitting projects knowing how to knit backwards (left to right) is very handy.  I put together a tutorial to show how I knit backwards.  There are a handful of pictures and short captions and I hope it's helpful to others.

Something messed up Picasa, again, so I reloaded the photos.  I apologize for any inconvenience.

Still Here

It's been a difficult autumn and I've been busy dealing with higher pain and everyday life.  More pleasantly I've done a lot of knitting, and even made some sewing progress.  A vest I'm knitting should go nicely with navy blue wool trousers from Burda.  I'm so excited to get sewing again!

I made up a muslin of Simplicity 4366 but it wasn't the style or fit I'd envisioned.  So I traced the Burda pattern, #119 from 04/2010, checked it against the Simplicity muslin, and it looks like a winner.  I just need to do a shorts muslin, treat my wool twill, and sew them up.
Burda #119 04/2010

I started this vest watching the Presidential election returns so it's appropriately titled Election Vest.  It uses cobalt blue wool/mohair with handdyed bluish-purplish wool for contrast.  I worked a 5" wide ribbed waistband in blue, then started a two color pattern called Bricks to show off the handdyed yarn.  Tonight I'm up to the neckline.


I hope November is treating everyone well.  I haven't had a chance to post about Wovember, the UK's wool promoting month, but have been wearing wool every day and loving it!

October 30, 2012

Knitting FOs

I finished a sweater that had been dragging on for years!  And wore it Fri--soft and cuddly :)

It's knit with a fuzzy silk yarn that is very stretchy and drapey, but the drape caused problems.  The first back piece I knit was 3-4" too wide.  Now I know to start on a sleeve, where gauge issues are less problematic and it's a smaller area to rip out.  Then I was not so wise.  

The sleeves, which I made sure to knit nice and long, turned out to have monkey arms.  I snipped off the extra 3" and conveniently was able to add it to the sweater's lower edge, thus making it plenty long enough to cover my tummy and keep out drafts.

And some socks for my mom.  They kept getting pushed aside for other projects, until recently when I was in the mood for a simple project.  I also wanted to finish them.  They're my 13th pair of socks, in about as many years.

I was excited to have finished two projects in quick succession, until I realized that I have nothing to knit!  Time to start a couple new projects...

October 23, 2012

We Interrupt This Migraine...

To quickly bang out a blog post. I have been productive with knitting, though. I'm almost done knitting a sweater, finished mending another sweater and am 3/4 done with a pair of socks.

*Picasa ate my photos.  I can't find them to replace them.  I'm sorry.

I have no idea how but one of my sweaters got a tear (or bite?) on the sleeve. I didn't knit this one but it's worth saving for the yoke pattern, echoed at the cuffs. It took me a couple years to find yarn close enough to mend it--sock reinforcing yarn in fact.  Fine black yarn is hard to come by!  Then more time to learn and try a few mending techniques, wait for summer and enough light to mend by, and finally now it's finished.  The fix is pretty invisible when worn, on the underside of the lower sleeve.

Because multiple stitches and rows were destroyed I couldn't just sew over a couple stitches and be done.  I picked up loops of mending yarn above the start of the tear and knit a rectangular patch over the damaged area, sewing the sides of the patch to the sweater at the end of every row.  I accidentally moved over half a column on the left side but it's hardly noticeable.  At the bottom I sewed the patch to the sweater, then wove all the ends in from the back.  The tear was tacked to the patch from the back for stability.

The mend: 1"w x 1 ¼"h  

Inside: tear is diagonal

October 9, 2012

Baby Knits

Babies aren't my thing, but I can get as excited about a teeny tiny (quick to knit!) baby sweater as the next person.  And booties.  This project started out poorly, when the pattern I chose was toddler sized despite being titled Baby Sweater on Two Needles.  However, 75% of the original values creates a baby sized version.

With most of the remaining yarn I knit itty bitty booties.  They're 2.5"/6.5cm long.  All this from less than 220yd!  Now I'm back to working on adult sized projects.

September 29, 2012

Sweater Placket How-To

Or, How to steek a placket: 

*This works best in non-superwash wool.  Steeking relies on wool's tendency to stick to itself so with cotton, soft wools and other fibers it's best to test a sample first.

Instead of knitting a sweater in flat pieces, sewing them together, and dealing with all that purling…knit it as a tube and insert the placket afterward.  You gain the benefits of knitting in the round, especially good when doing colorwork.  Plus you choose the length of the placket after the fact, when you can try on the almost finished sweater.

To begin with, knit a pullover sweater.  Try on the sweater and place a safety pin, stitch marker or piece of yarn where you want the placket to end.  Make sure you measure or count stitches to find the exact center front of the sweater.  My example has a cable around the shoulders with 7 plain sts at center front.  The central 3 sts will be used to create the placket.  If you've never steeked before it's a good idea to try this out on a swatch first.

Baste down the middle of the central stitch with contrasting color sewing thread (I used white), making a horizontal mark at the desired base.  With a sewing machine, matching thread, and a very short stitch, sew a straight line half a stitch to one side of your basted line.  When you reach the basted bottom, pivot the needle 90º to stitch across the center stitch.  Then pivot 90º again and stitch up the sweater half a stitch on the other side of the center stitch.  Backstitch at the beginning and end of each stitching line.  If your yarn may fray, stitch a second reinforcing line half a stitch away from the first.  I reinforced the bottom of the second line of stitching as well.

Basted with 2 lines of stitching
...and ready to cut

Once you've machine stitched and double checked that your cutting line is correct, cut right down the basting stitches.  You're cutting the center front stitch in half and only want to snip the horizontal strands that connect each half of the stitch.  With wool or a wool blend, non-superwash, the stitches should stick to each other.
The cut slit, stitches secure

Remove the basting thread and you're ready to pick up stitches on either side of the placket, 1½ stitches from center front.  The cut edge will fold to the inside and stay nicely out of the way.  If you wish, tack down the raw edges with some yarn or thread.
Picking up placket stitches

I began with the placket overlap, picking up stitches vertically and knitting enough rows to more than cover the 3 stitch gap, then cast off.  You can either pick up a few extra stitches along the bottom edge and knit those together with the last knit stitch every other row, or sew the bottom of the overlap band to the sweater.  I sampled both methods on a swatch and chose the former.  I forgot to take photos at this point I was so excited to be almost finished ;)

To create the underlap I picked up stitches the same way, but 2 fewer sts, then knit the same number of rows and bound off identically.  The bottom of the two layers are staggered and create less bulk.  The base of the underlap was stitched securely to the sweater.

There you have your henley placket, nicely finished from the outside and stable on the inside.  This placket has no buttons or buttonholes but go ahead and add them if you wish.  The neckline of my sweater was bound off with 2 st I-cord.  I knit 3 rows I-cord per 2 decreased sts and it lies flat on the body (though not in photos).

Finished placket, pre-steaming
Ta da!

September 20, 2012

My Mom

In a word, my mom is amazing.  I've dealt with chronic illness for 19 years and she's supported me the whole way.  While friends and community have fallen away, she's remained despite the pain she feels seeing me in pain.  My entire life she's been loving and supportive.  She's my best friend.

I mentioned hoping to go to a party last weekend and she said she'd drive me.  That would involve over an hour of driving just to pick me up and drop me off, plus her evening gone, but she's happy if it means I can see friends and enjoy myself.  I do the best I can to take care of myself, and I work really hard at it, but for the many many times I fall short it's so good to know my mom has my back.

That's why I was thrilled to discover that the Tangled Yoke sweater fits her perfectly!  She was so excited to have a new sweater, it's essentially made to measure for her, and the project was an unmitigated success :)
My beautiful mother in her new sweater :)

I took some in-progress photos while creating the front placket, so stay tuned for that mini tutorial plus better photos of the cable.

September 19, 2012

Serger Tension Settings

I had an email asking about my serger, and in the process of trying to explain how I find tension settings I thought "this would make a great blog post".   I use a scientific-ish method, typically changing one setting at a time.  The test results are written down on scratch paper, then the final settings are noted along with the fabric type, number of layers, and other information.

Recently I serged cotton jersey, 2 layers, with a 3 thread stitch and 2mm stitch length.  I usually make note of the stitch width as well.

My notes looked like this, x representing the unused needle:

                                  L R UL LL  [left, right needles, upper looper, lower looper]
2 layer jersey, 3thr 2ℓ    x  4  5½  5     lower looper tight; upper looper wraps under
                                             x  4  5½ 3½   upper very loose
                                             x  4  6½ 3½   skips stitches
                                             x  4  4    4      upper loose
                                             x  4  5    4      Final setting

Next time I need to serge cotton jersey I'll save a great deal of time testing settings.  Some tweaking is usually required, especially when changing stitch length or width, and that is also noted.  I keep very close watch on these notes as you can imagine!  Cotton jersey may work close to 4-4-4-4 base settings but muslin and poly satin have quite different characteristics.  That's not even getting into rolled hems!

September 12, 2012

Hip Meausurements

I've always been confused about hip measurements and sewing.  The directions are to measure around the widest part, which is my butt.  I know that's an important measure to have, but where exactly are my hips?  And what do they measure?  The hip is above the crotch, but where exactly?  And I'll still need to add width below the hip in order for my rear end to fit.  So confusing!

Recently I finally found an answer in black and white.  It was something like, High hip is 7" below waist, Full Hip 9" below waist.  This is what I'd been doing--finding the pattern's hip, measuring it, comparing the two--but now I had proof that I was right. lol

September 10, 2012

Sweater Update

After letting the Tangled Yoke sweater relax overnight, and myself too, the fit had improved!  I've given up trying to understand the whims of The Harsh Mistresses Gauge and Wool and just go with it.  There's the usual yoke sweater excess at the underarm but not a big bubble like the first night.  The fit is generally great, and I'll be able to steam out the few remaining bubbles under the cable.

I've been really sick so have no photos.  Tomorrow I'm hoping to sew the steek* and insert the placket.  I'll try to take photos of the process.  I started trying to sew tonight with grey thread on blue tweed wool and it just wasn't working.

*Steek: A slit cut in a column of knitting to insert a sleeve or to create a cardigan opening.  Lines of machine stitching can be sewn on either side of the slit to prevent raveling.  I'm inserting a henley placket via this method.

September 7, 2012

Sweater Failure

I was 98% finished with the Tangled Yoke sweater, tried it on (again) and realized that it's a total failure a mess up top.  The cable turned out ok but the fit of the yoke is poor and not something I can fix without major surgery.  There's a bubble of extra fabric above each underarm, more than is typical for a yoke sweater.  Adding a few decreases, a la raglan sweaters, would probably eliminate that.

I'm very upset that a designer's bad choice messed up something I've been working on since June.  I took many measurements of myself and my favorite sweaters, compared them against the stitch counts and schematic, and thought I had a winner.

I'll try to post photos tomorrow of the problem spots.  Even the magazine photos show the excess fabric at underarm:

The gathering under the cables:

September 4, 2012

The Cable is Vanquished!

I win I win I win I win :D  Sure it took me two tries, but that's the beauty of yarn.  You make a knitting mistake and it's completely reparable.  Now I just need to finish the bit above the shoulders, and the finishing-up, and the sweater she is done.  More of the Tangled Yoke saga.

The center back, where things went wrong terribly wrong the first time

I apologize for the terrible photo, it's dark.  And one of the cats tried to stand in the light.

I thought I'd share a super quick and easy "dinner".  It's also a side dish if you have higher aspirations than me.

Easy Yummy Lentils
1 cup lentils
1 smallish onion, cut into 10-12 wedges
1/2 tsp salt
dash cayenne pepper, if desired

Pop the lentils and onion wedges into a small pot and just cover with water (approx 3 cups).  Bring to a simmer and add the salt and cayenne.  Cover and cook, still simmering, for 20 minutes until the lentils are cooked through but still firm.  Serve hot or cold, seasoning to taste with more salt.  We add some salt during cooking so the lentils aren't bland, but too much salt (i.e., enough) and legumes won't soften.  One of those fun food chemistry facts :)

August 29, 2012

Knitting Mishaps

It's not been the best week here.  I was very excited to finish the cable on the Tangled Yoke sweater.  Then I realized that I'd somehow lost 2 stitches early on in a crucial place, so the entire center back was off center.  The only way to fix it was to rip out most of my work and reknit it.  I considered undoing a portion, enough to add back the stitches, but 1) lots of work and 2) finding the mistake isn't easy.  The sweater is in time out for now.

My hands and arms are very sore from arthritis and I need a new rheumatologist.  This one isn't concerned that osteoarthritis is destroying my hands, my last functional part.  Also my elbows, wrists, toes..  Insurance changes are afoot in the next few months, and then I'll be able to see a couple rheumatologists who specialize in connective tissue disorders, which is me!

Mostly I'm tired, hurting, lonely, and dating has just been another source of unpleasantness.  I'd rather find out the guy turns nasty before meeting, but it still hurts.

August 26, 2012

Let's Yarn Bomb a House!

What would it look like, you may wonder, if someone did yarn bomb a house?  A little like this:

I was walking to the grocery store on Fri night, past an abandoned house/store, and was amazed to see it almost covered with knitted goodness!  I went by today and even the porch roof and gable were bombed.  It is truly amazing.  The exhibit will be up for 2 months so I'll have to stop by during daylight and get some photos.
I love my neighborhood!

They have a Facebook page

August 18, 2012

A Friend Needs Help

Kim and Sketcher 2010

A friend of mine, Kim, really needs help.  You can read the whole story here.  Her service dog Sketcher is dying of liver failure.  The illness is sudden, Kim is chronically ill and unable to work, and she has no savings to buy and raise another dog.  Kim's medical problems are the result of three automobile collisions, none her fault, which have caused serious injuries, brain damage, mobility problems and pain.  Sketcher is trained to do everything from remove her socks, bring her medication or phone, alert to medical emergencies, and support her in public, and Kim just can't function without this help.  She is hoping to buy a puppy while Sketcher is still alive so that he can help train the pup and, as important, die knowing there's someone to take his place.  Sketcher is more conscientious than many people.

Kim is creating knitted and felted items for sale to raise money for new service dog.  After speaking with the dog breeder the timeline was changed from months to weeks, however, and she cannot raise $5000 in that time without help.

Sketcher in healthier times


Kim's service dog budget, first two years: 
$2000 = dog and shipping fee
$600 = mobility harness
$500 = food 
$1000 = vet care, shots, neuter, emergencies 
$500 = puppy kindergarten, puppy obedience, one advanced course at local training/rescue, and Good Citizen course.
$1000 = training treats. Lots and lots of training treats in the first two years 
$250 = toys 
$250 = training aids (collar, cabinet pulls, wall protector around lightswitch, scents for training, etc)

August 14, 2012

New-Old Sundress

Years ago, when I was maybe 15, my mom sewed me a sundress.  Since I have a long torso the waist was a little short, and I was too self conscious to wear something that not everyone else was wearing.  I kept it, though, planning to at least reuse the fabric.  I unpicked the main seams a couple years ago.

Now I'm gong to sew it back together, adding a waistband for extra length if necessary.  It's a cute fabric, a polished cotton floral, with cut-on sleeves and a gathered skirt.  The buttonholes have already been worked all the way up the center front, with pink flower buttons.  If I can finish it quickly I'll be able to wear it this summer :)  We're having hot weather and tomorrow seems like a perfect day to stay indoors and whip up a sundress.

August 8, 2012

Sweater Progress

I've been working on the Tangled Yoke sweater since late June.  The pattern makes a cardigan but I'm changing it to a henley.  Thankfully another knitter documented her henley variation so I'm not flying blind.  The original neckline is fairly high in front and I'll be lowering it, and keeping the fit quite close.

Today was the day I joined the sleeves to the body!  All that's left is to knit the yoke, with the interesting cable design :), and then wait until autumn to wear it.

The actual color is shown in the bottom photo.  It's very difficult to catch, and changes depending on the light (which I like).

Lower sleeve

Body progress
Yarn's actual color, courtesy

August 6, 2012

Men and Women's Fashion

Peter asked a question (actually my question): Why are men the arbiter of women's fashion?  His answer, and the answer most commonly given in comments, is that men are bored with their own clothes.  I don't see this as an acceptable reason to tell women how to dress, and with it how to act, how to walk, and so on.  If men's fashion is boring, make it interesting!  Peter's toile jeans and cabana wear attest to the unexplored possibilities in men's wardrobes.

In my opinion, it's a quantum leap from "men's clothes are boring" to forcing women into painful and impossible molds.  Maybe women's tenuous roles over the last 150 years made us easier to manipulate.  What better way to do this than by reaching into the core of how we feel about ourselves?  Male designers may mean to create something new or make women beautiful.  But by decreeing what's hot and what's not they draw a line down the middle of each woman that separates her strength and intelligence from her fears of not measuring up.

The unrealistic standards that proliferate in the West today, and have been rampant for over 50 years, make sure that women can never measure up.  This is not a world I want to live in so I stopped buying into the dominant paradigm.  By rejecting the idea that women look like ageless 16 year-olds, have beauty before brains, and sacrifice everything just to look good, I've created a more healthy space to create my own self-image.  Yet I'm like an avalanche survivor: you can create an air pocket with your hands, but eventually you run out of air.  Maybe by joining together we can save each other.

August 4, 2012


Every summer Seattle has Seafair, a celebration of the ocean, the city and country, and our amazement at warm sunny weather.  The Blue Angels perform, Navy ships visit, there's a Pirate parade, and hydroplane races!  I'm especially aware since the Blue Angels practice over my neighborhood.  Nothing like seeing a formation of F-18s flying past your window!

I went to the waterfront on Wed to watch the Navy Ship parade, and got a sunburn.  But it's the first time all summer that I'd been in the sun long enough to risk a sunburn so I'm feeling philosophical about it.  I'm still dealing with migraines and trying to find a new balance to life.

July 21, 2012


When I read about the shooting in Denver, that it was the worst in recent history, I was so angry.  How and why do we tolerate the ridiculous gun laws in the US?  It boggles my mind that things remain unchanged when average people aren't safe.  Mass shootings get headlines but every day there are gun-related killings that wouldn't happen if dangerous people weren't allowed to own guns!  The US is arming Mexican drug wars, and we get upset when the violence spills over the border.  Isn't there enough pain, suffering and death in the world already, without having to add to it?

July 17, 2012

Lace Scarf Idea

I had an idea today for an unusual lace scarf.  Instead of knitting a strip of lace and surrounding it with borders, how about the border as the whole scarf?  Lace borders typically have one straight and one scalloped edge which I think would be a cool look.  I'd use thicker yarn to speed up knitting and increase warmth.  What do you think?

Some examples of knitted lace borders:

Wave design:

Gorgeous wide Shetland Lace:

My Rose Trellis shawl

July 7, 2012

Summer Has Arrived (and Kitties!)

It is summertime in Seattle!  The clouds and rain and cold have gone, blue skies and 70+F for days or even weeks at a time are here.  Every year it seems like miracle--I actually forgot that sunshine can feel hot!

I'm knitting another shawl like this, for gift or sale.  Since watching knitting is about as fun as paint drying I give you cute kitties:

Ella, snuggly on my lap

Jake, belly up for maximum heat dispersal,
sleeping with one eye open

July 4, 2012

Value of Not Creating, Part 2

I realized after writing the previous post that I wasted a fabulous post title.  Now that my thoughts have coalesced I'll give it another go.

In the West we live with such abundance.  The easy availability of anything you could ever want is mind blowing.  From clothing to electronics to food, everywhere we look there's excess.  I'm in favor of people creating, especially with their own hands, but at a certain point it's too much.

When your hobby is making things that cover the body, like mine, you eventually have too many dresses or sweaters or scarves.  We love to acquire, it's instinctive to gather while the gathering's good.  I have tubs of stored fabric, a chest of yarn, and I love it all.  But when I look at my life and the lives of those around me I don't see a need for more.  The gathering is always good.

We create beautiful things as a way to add to the world and fulfill a creative desire.  Part of appreciating what we have is being able to see and use those things.  Is having ten gorgeous hats really better than having two or three?  For me less is more.  The beauty of a flower lies not just in its bloom, but in the progress of bud to blossom to seed.  It's all the more lovely because it's ephemeral, and the knowledge that next spring will bring more flowers gives hope and meaning to the routine of our lives.

Happy Independence Day to US readers, and to all worldwide who are blessed to have freedom.

July 3, 2012

Best of the Web!

How about that: I made Be In Style's Best of the Web series!  A big thanks for including me--it's my first feature--and I'm excited to share my corner of the internet.  Welcome to all new readers :)

In lieu of more content I offer a cute picture of my lap cat, Ella.

July 2, 2012

The Value of Not Creating

I'd been feeling down lately because I've not been well enough to sew.  Then I remembered that I have plenty of clothes, which is why I took a break from sewing to begin with.  I just read The Slapdash Sewist's post about shopping as the American pastime.  She's so right!  Whether we're aware of it or not, America exists to consume.

I'm feeling much better about myself now.  I'd love to have the energy on a regular basis to wear dresses and cute outfits, but I feel like I'm doing pretty well.  Moreover, I'm doing my best.  And that's all anyone can ask, even of themselves :)

*This post continues in Part 2, trying to balance creative hobbies in a society of excess.

June 25, 2012

More Lace

I knit this Good Day Sunshine shawl in May, as a while-my-sprained-finger-heals project.  I made a couple changes: removed the first 2 reps (24 rows) to make a crescent shaped shawl and kept the lower density of 3into3 sts through the entire Sun chart.

I finally have some good photos to share :)  I've also worn it a couple times and it's great!  Beautiful as well as warm and soft against my neck.  I used white JaggerSpun Zephyr, one of my favorite lace yarns.  Initially I planned to dye the finished shawl but I really like it white.

The sun ray-like pattern
This reminds me of a dinosaur wing

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