Category Archives: Knitting

No sheep were hurt in the making of this video

My mother spotted this video and forwarded it to me. It’s like the intersection between a somewhat surreal knitterly fantasy and commerce in normal life. Love it!

The caption translates (roughly, via Google) to “If you thought traffic was complicated in your city, wait till you see this video.”

FO: Knockoff and socks

In my head, the title for this entry sounds like “Knock your socks off” – but then it has nothing to do with the rest of the post and is a joke that is funny only to me. This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes from one of my favorite people from college.

Q: What is the difference between a duck?
A: One of its legs is the same!

Get it? Get it? Ah, never mind.

Meredith recently informed me: “Mommy, your jokes aren’t really funny.” Ha ha, kiddo, wait until my mere presence is enough to make you feel embarrassed in public.

Speaking of college, I had a very bizarre run-in at work a while ago. I was breezing through the employee cafeteria one morning (thinking deep thoughts like do I want egg whites for breakfast? Or an omelet?) when some random stranger guy stopped me to ask where and when I’d gone to college. (And lordy, I couldn’t immediately remember what year I’d graduated, tee hee, OLD.) But it turns out he recognized me, almost 2 decades later, because we’d shared an undergraduate major and probably a lot of biology classes; moreover, when I mentioned Matt (another biology major back in the day), it turns out that he’d lived in the same dorm as Matt and his sister and even remembered their names. Phenomenal recall. And now he’s a doctor at Mayo, LOL.

I have two recently finished projects to share.

First – another pair of generic socks. To know the pattern is to love the pattern. I never tire of it.

The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine (Berry Pie Mix). This is 50% wool, 30% nylon, and 20% alpaca (all machine washable).

Second – a knockoff of a beloved twirly dress for Meredith.

I used Jalie 2805 as the base pattern for the bodice and sleeves, size M. Never go by their recommended sizing, always use an existing garment and take flat pattern measurements to decide size. I used another dress to determine the total dress length and then divided by 4 to determine the height of the tiers. I multiplied the length of each tier by 1.5 to determine the length of the subsequent tier.

I ruffle-edged each upper edge (the gaps in the rolled hem make me want to upgrade my serger) in contrasting wooly nylon and gathered it to fit the portion above. I used 3 lines of gathering stitches to make it very even. I set the sleeves in flat and then sewed the side seams.

The fabric was actually cotton/poly t-shirts from JoAnn fabrics, I think we cut up 3 size XL shirts. The dyed-to-match ribbed neckband is actually just one of the original t-shirt neckbands, just cut to fit and attached following this technique. Shoulders were stabilized with clear elastic. Seam allowances were serged. Hems were coverstitched.

Twirly, twirly

This was not a difficult project, but it was time consuming (and dare I say – slightly boring). By the time I got to the third tier, it felt like miles of ruffles and gathering. But my girl is thrilled in her new dress.

I just want you to know that she chose her own coordinating clothes (an underdress and Ananda yoga pants) and did her own hair. And whenever I asked her to pose, she always did something like this first:


I was blocking the front pieces for the Metro sweater a few days ago. I was pretty happy that the knitting was finished, although I knew I would have to reknit the back collar (I just wanted to see how it would stretch with blocking). However, I was dismayed to realize that I’d completely messed up establishing the ribs, too.

See how on the left side (right side when worn) has ribs that start an inch earlier than the cables on the opposite side? Arrgggh… How did I knit the whole thing without ever noticing?

I could ladder down the ribbed side and make the ribbing start higher up, but I think I like the look of the longer ribbing better. The plan now is to frog the entire upper portion of the cabled piece and reknit. Ah well. At least I caught it now, instead of after seaming.

FO: Daybreak shawl

This past spring, I cast on a new knit-whilst-reading project. (What, you don’t have one of those? You should!) As before, my only criteria are that it has 1) miles upon miles of stockinette; 2) minimal shaping.

This time, I chose the Daybreak shawl by Stephen West. He’s a relatively new designer (ravelry suggests his first pattern was published in 2009), but I can see why he is so popular. This shawl has a very clean look to it, modern and unfussy.

I bought no new yarn for this one; from my stash, I unearthed 2×50-g skeins of Schoeller Esslinger sock yarn in grey and 1×100-g skein of Colinette Jitterbug in variegated dark purple. I seem to have a lot of lavender-purple-grey-charcoal clothes in my work wardrobe, so I vaguely thought it would mesh well with existing outfits.

The pattern is straightforward and hard to goof up. My only surprise occurred during the bind off. I like to block shawls hard, so I used this classic stretchy bind off. I began binding off, but midway through, I realized I would run out of yarn. I tinked back the bind off and the entire prior row (this is the long purple edge – many hundreds of stitches) and bound off again. This time, I made it through nearly the whole bind off, but when I got to about 3 inches from the end, I realized I wouldn’t have enough yarn. (How much yarn does this bind off eat? For heaven’s sake!) Groaning, I tinked back the bind off and then tinked another row, took a deep breath, and bound off a third time. I spent >5 hours tinking and binding this sucker off.

But done is done, and it looks great. ๐Ÿ™‚

It was blocked using wires, and I tried really hard to make the neckline symmetric in its roundness. Didn’t quite make it, but it is close enough. It reminds me of an eclipse, with the open circle moving in to cover the grey circle.

Meredith saw this and exclaimed, “A spider web!”

The tail ends curve generously toward the front, and it turns out that I like this feature very much. (I’ve only made rectangular and triangular shawls previously.) It sits well on the shoulders, tied or untied, although I tend to keep it tied.

In other news, I had my first mammograms ~2 weeks ago. I’m fine, everything is OK, but I just wanted to remind you to take a few minutes to check yourself (or tell your loved ones to go check).

I was taking a shower on the Friday before Thanksgiving when I noticed a distinct lump in my breast. I thought, hm, this seems… not normal. Matt agreed, and I got in to see a primary care doc later that morning.

Doc also agreed that it seemed unusual and asked me when I first noticed it. Uh, a few hours ago? She asked me how often I checked. Every few months, I said, and I’d had a physical in June that included a breast exam with normal findings. I asked if it might be cycle related, and she said no, the lump was a little too large for that. She ordered some tests for the following Monday.

I tell you, it was very strange to kick around the idea over the weekend that I might get bad news. Monday afternoon, I had 2 mammograms and an ultrasound. Every person who examined me (3 techs, 2 docs) asked me how often I checked and when did I first notice it. I’m assuming this is because the lump was so damn large (4.3 cm in its largest dimension) that they couldn’t believe I’d discovered it only a few days earlier.

Turns out they think I have an “unusual presentation” of a common, benign condition (fibrocystic changes) because the lumpy area is kind of concentrated in one spot instead of being diffusely spread. Even though they want me back for another scan in a half year, I’m feeling quite relieved and lucky. But ladies, do check yourselves… maybe more often than every couple of months.

I did not get to the State Fair this year

We were out of town, visiting in-laws, during the week of the MN State Fair. I’d tentatively planned to go on Labor Day Monday, the day of our return flight, but weather delays and children cranky from being trapped in an airplane put an end to that idea.

Luckily, I am connected enough to MN Knitterati that I was able to call on someone who was going to the fair to take a few snaps for me.

Photos taken by Laura and used with permission.

I was eager to get some photos because my Artichaut shawl won a special award from the Northern Lights Handspinners Guild! If I understand it correctly, all handknit articles (from 46 categories) are pooled and the handspun pieces are culled from this meta-group and placed in their own category. For all I know, I may have won because my entry was the only one that qualified, LOL.

I’m excited about the win and humbled by the recognition. The State Fair staff will be mailing my article back to me soon, with comments from the judge(s). Looking forward to seeing that and hearing about how I can improve.

FO: Socks and…?

I’ve been slowly replenishing my worn-out sock collection. Same pattern, same mods. I’m sticking to a “1 in, 1 out” philosophy and can now toss a pair of old handknit socks.

This yarn is Knitpicks Stroll Tonal sock yarn. The positive is that they really nailed the color – it stripes nicely and doesn’t pool (at least with a 60-st circumference on size 0 needles).

However, like most (all) of Knitpicks yarns, it seems to be very loosely spun. It fuzzed even while knitting, and I have low confidence about its longevity. But it was good to try the yarn for myself and satisfy my curiosity about it.

I was hoping to post a recipe for this:

But in truth, it did not taste very good. Too… lemony, too garlicky, too something. And yet the dish seemed weirdly bland but still salty. The sauce was too thick, borderline mucous. I dunno. The family barely ate it. I even threw away leftovers, something I nearly never do.

So instead, my latest success is this:


They were an instant hit. Sometimes, ya gotta know when to give up cooking for yourself and instead cook for the majority audience.

FO: Artichaut shawl

When I first saw the Artichaut Shawl in 2009, I gasped. It literally took my breath away for an instant. (“Artichaut” is French for “artichoke.” The lace pattern is an interpretation of the artichoke plant and fruit.) When designer Anne Hanson posted her own photos, highlighting the intricately scalloped edge, I knew I had to have one. Go look at the pictures, go on. I’ll wait. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sorry about the crummy wide shot – I had 15 min (while the fish sticks were baking and the girls were playing outside) to tape the shawl to the wall and snap a few. IRL, the shawl is straight across the top, not pointy.

My shawl is made from a 3-ply handspun fingering-weight blend of camel and tussah silk (50/50). Singles were spun on a Bosworth mini and plied on a David Reed Smith Judi. I have a lot of pleasant memories of sitting in Meredith’s room at night, spindling away on my camel and silk, while Matt read bedtime stories out loud. I remember being hugely pregnant and having to sit with my knees spread to make room for my enormous belly. Meredith was still only 1 at the time and would watch me spin, sometimes reaching out to stroke the soft top as we listened to Matt’s voice.

The yarn, originally creamy off-white, was dyed by the ever-fabulous Kim of The Woolen Rabbit. I’m a big fan of Kim’s work, as you may recall, and I so appreciate that she is willing to work with yarns that aren’t part of her regular stock. You’re awesome, Kim! Thanks so much!!!

I can’t find the colorway on her site right now, but when I e-mailed her back in 2010 with a description of the colors I wanted (“artichoke-like colorway, something that is mostly greenish grey with purple and pink”), she said she could make it up in “Rosemary and Thyme.” And it was exactly what I had been hoping for. I regret that I lack the photography skills to show the true colors of the yarn, but trust me, it is gorgeous.

This shawl is, no question, the most complicated thing I’ve ever knit. Both sides are patterned with knit and purl stitches, k2togs, ssks, p2togs, p2tog through back loops, and single and double yarnovers. (It’s not one of those shawls that have the all-purl even-numbered rows.) That means the symbols on the chart have different meaning, depending on whether you’re on an odd or even row. I found the symbol-switching curiously hard to keep track of – whaddya mean it’s a knit stitch, that dot means purl… oh, right. Multiply that confusion by all the different-slanting decreases and such, and it’s not a project to work on late at night after a long day at work.

Furthermore, the different parts of the chart (border, edge of main, main repeat, center, main repeat, edge of main repeat, border) are not mapped out in a mirror image; instead, you backtrack to the relevant section and then skip forward to the end as needed. Although the nonlinear path allows the chart to fit very conveniently on a single page (whereas a mirror image chart would require 2 pages), it took time for me to adjust to and remember the flow of the different sections.

I had initially attempted this shortly after Jordan and Casey were born but found that I was too feeble-minded from sleep deprivation and general exhaustion to knit without frequent mistakes (I was back at work full-time by then, breastfeeding 2 babies, potty-training a toddler, AND had to keep the house pristine because it was on the market). It wasn’t gonna happen, so I set it aside for a year. This eventually became my lunchtime project – I’d hop on the treadmill and knit whilst walking 2 mph. (Why not, right?) Toward the end, when each row was quite long, I could knit only 4 rows in an hour. Casting off, I used a size US10 needle (6 mm). I first cast off the regular way with the larger needle but found it was still too tight for the eyelets in the scallop to really show. I tinked the entire cast off and tried again using the the surprisingly stretchy bind off. MUCH better.

Blocking was a 2-stage process. First, I washed it, squeezed out the water, threaded it with blocking wires, and pinned it out. It dried overnight. I then removed each pin and pulled the wires back even farther, to maximize the area of the shawl. Each eyelet of each scallop was pinned (I ran out of pins! Had to go buy more… and then ran out again!). After all was repinned, I plugged in my iron and steamed the bejeezus out of it. It dried overnight, and I wove in the final ends and called it finished.

Parting shot – I leave you with a picture of my girl Jordan jumping for joy at the county fair. I pretty much felt like that when the project was done. This shawl was 4 years in the making… and so totally worth it. I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.


For a long time, I’d meant to put a Ravelry button for the DNA scarf on the sidebar, but I kept forgetting.

Well, I went to go fetch it today, and whoa – more than 1,000 people have put it up as a project? Wow. I’m humbled and also so pleased by evidence of knit geekery (long live biomedical knitters and those who knit for them!).

Translation: itsunomanika = before I realized it; apparently suddenly

Fun things are afoot

When you buy a ball of yarn that has this picture on the label:

Don’t you sort of expect that the actual sock will look something like the one in the image?

Um… wow, it didn’t look anything even remotely like that zigzag pattern!

But that’s OK. I use the same sock recipe as before (this pattern, this cast on, this bind off), and I love the finished socks no matter what.

In other news, we are thisclose to making settlement on a house. We’re still about 2 weeks away from the big day, but I guess I’m not worried about jinxing the deal by talking about it here. We’ve been eyeing the Rochester real estate market ever since Matt accepted his job at Mayo 2.5 years ago, and house hunting began in earnest around May or June of last year, when we had finalized a purchase agreement to sell our Northfield home. We’d made a few offers and had come pretty close to buying late last summer, but they never went through for one reason or another (other wealthier bidders, inspection-identified issues, etc). Finally, it’s our turn.

I am thrilled about this place, and I don’t say that lightly (uh, as fussy as I am, it takes a lot to thrill me). Our house-to-be is big enough for all the girls to have some privacy as they get older, enough bathrooms and a water heater sufficient for a family with 4 girl-women (poor Matt!), a sweet kitchen with a ton of storage and prep space (really designed for someone who COOKS, as opposed to someone who mostly heats up food), a finished walkout basement. It’s in a great school district and is <10 minutes' drive from the Mayo campus. Not a ton of yard to mow, but it's enough to maybe put up a small garden and compost bin. Judging from the number of snowmen I'm seeing in the neighboring yards, there are younger children in the area.
Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

We don’t have a lot of furniture (I mean, why buy a bedroom set when you can buy an artisan spinning wheel instead, ha), and I’ve never really tried to decorate a home before, so there’s a lot to think about and learn. Maybe I will blog about some of that. But we’re in no hurry. I can’t wait to move, though!

This just in

New York Times editors appear to not know what Fair Isle looks like! Or, rather, they seem to have confused “Fair Isle” with “color stranding.”

(See slideshow, entries 1, 7, 9-11, and 14. I’m additionally dubious about entries 3 and 5 even being knitted.)

Don’t know the difference? See here or here or here.