Monthly Archives

May 2016

Juniper by Jen Lucas

Juniper by Jen Lucas. Knit in Nirvana lace.

Note that I am not typing this from the confines of a mental institution. Further note this is significant given my last update on my little ol’ lace project.

In an alternate ending, this could have been my eulogy. Or at least A Eulogy. Of something. Not good. In fact, in said alternate ending, this entire post could have read something like:

F$#%%$$% S^&^^&%%^^^%^%^% &**&&&&&& *****&^%$#@!@#$^

Except I got lucky.Juniper by Jen Lucas. Knit in Nirvana lace.

Fanfare aside, it all worked out fairly well in the end, once I got past the first lace repeat. My psychic instinct must have kicked when I decided to skip one of the lace repeats after all. And what a good thing it was. I cast of with a meter of yarn to spare, braced to unravel my swatch if need be. Granted, the final shawl is nearly twice as long as specified in the pattern. And, no, I didn’t compare my swatch to the pattern to calculate necessary adjustments. Instead, I ignored my swatch entirely and just went for it.

Dove in.

Sink or swim.Juniper by Jen Lucas. Knit in Nirvana lace.

I still don’t know when I will ever wear this thing, as lovely as it is. I barely made it through blocking without snagging it. And my cat barely made it through blocking without being permanently relocated to a new home.

Here is what I know: no more lace for me for quite some time. Don’t let me forget.

Please.Juniper by Jen Lucas. Knit in Nirvana lace.

Pattern: Juniper by Jen Lucas

Yarn: Nirvana Lace-one skein

Needles: Size 8 (5 mm)

It’s Going to be a Poncho

All things considered, I am making great strides to complete my knitting bucket list for the year. I’ve finished the last of my 2015 projects, and my Waterlily tee even double counts as a tunic. (It came out a bit long, so I’ve been wearing it with leggings.) I dabbled in colorwork and even managed to finish my beginner project, although I still want to give Fair Isle a whirl. We’ll see. I’ve knit one sweater from Home & Away*, and I am determined to knit at least one more this year.

Swatching up a poncho in Puna Amano alpaca.

Progress, people. Progress.

Next up: the poncho. The yarn has been purchased (four skeins of 100% alpaca Puna Amano sportweight in misty grey, I believe). I almost wish I had a worsted weight and perhaps a darker shade of grey, but this will do just fine. One can’t always expect a LYS be stocked with absolutely everything. Sometimes a knitter must be flexible and leave a bit up to fate AKA The Yarn Gods.

Swatching up a poncho in Puna Amano alpaca.

The Amano has knit up quite well, as scrumptiously soft yarns tend to do. Swatched. Pinned. Dried. Not curling. Generally behaving. The future is bright.

I wonder if the neighborhood alpacas will be offended or flattered when I wear it to give them their daily treats this later this fall.

Swatching up a poncho in Puna alpaca.

Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along. and happily reading Mother Tongue*, which is written by one of my all-time favorite bloggers.

*Affiliate link. Thank you for being you! 

A Scarf AKA Rescue Rope

Dear child of mine,

What a day we had. I don’t remember much of my own childhood from when I was your age, and maybe you won’t grow to remember today either. But I hope you do.

You were undeterred by the spring drizzle this morning as we ventured out to visit the neighborhood alpacas. It was their annual haircut day. You were greeted with chocolate covered doughnuts (your first) and immediately set to putting on quite a show (jumping, twirling, and profusely chattering) for the older girls, enlisted to assist in the ritual of the event.

Although the alpacas seemed most displeased*, you were fully entertained by the spectacle and refused to mosey along until all nine beasts had been sheared. Mom, on the other hand, was mystified by the news that the fleece would not be milled, as reportedly the expense is too great to be worthwhile for so few alpacas. This was particularly heartbreaking considering Mom spent the prior evening swatching with 100% alpaca yarn. Apparently the alpaca fleece economy in Peru is different. On the up side, Mom learned the fleece is a great gopher repellent in the garden.A scrap yarn toddler scarf.

Finally satisfied the alpaca business was over, we continued on our usual walking route. I tried to skip the side jaunt to the river, citing wet weather and a headache, both true. You would hear none of it.

The river it was.

Immediately you set about the usual repertoire: digging for dinosaur bones, building a house, and a variety of martial arts related maneuvers and vocabulary (Hi-ya!), which is a new phase. I assume this comes from preschool, as we don’t get much kung fu business in our household. You probably could have stayed all day, but at last we set off for home (even though I was quite content progressing on a sock despite the never-ending sprays of sand flying my way.)A scrap yarn toddler scarf.

After a late lunch and bird house building (Go Mom, Go!), I snuck in a few moments to weave in the final ends of your scrappy scarf while you wrestled with dad in the other room. This scarf has been on the needles for a while now. (It was mom’s Learning Colorwork project.) I might have let the project go, to ever languish in the knitting bag unfinished. Oh but the guilt. You asked me about the status of your little scarf whenever you caught me knitting.

Is that my scarf?

Finally the guilt got to me. Weaving in all the ends also got to me. Mom sucks at that.A scrap yarn toddler scarf.

I had to force you to get dressed before presenting you with your new scarf. You are often adverse to wearing clothing.

You know what you said when I finally presented the new treasure, hand in hand  as we walked across the yard to Reedland, one of your favorite places to play, hidden in the grove of olive trees?

Thanks for my rescue rope, Mom. I love it.

You’re welcome, Little Bear. I love you. A scrap yarn toddler scarf.

*More photos over on Facebook. Check them out.


Before I forget, Craftsy has almost of all their knitting class on sale for 50% off. Offer expires Saturday. Check it out!  Remember, even if you purchase a class now, you can watch it anytime down the line (when you have more time, fewer dishes, and more wine.)♦

I would like to thank my mother, for never holding me back, letting me be me, and still wearing (with considerable frequency) one of the very first scarves I ever knit, back in 1997 (think: scratchy turquoise tweed yarn and the seed stitch). I would like to thank my LYS for stocking this skein of lace for under $10, in the most captivating of colors—too affordable and jewel toned to resist. I would like to thank my husband, who patiently watched his fishing show while I muttered and moaned on the sofa, unable to form even one complete sentence that actually made sense. I would like to thank my best knitting friend, who wisely warned me it might roll funny when I proudly announced my Great Plan to cut out two of the four lace repeats to reduce the frill factor as well as the number of decades it might require me to complete this project. I would like to thank my local library for generously providing me with one copy of Sock-Yarn Shawls II by Jen Lucas♦ , from which I arbitrary decided to knit Juniper because I wanted to learn how to do shaping for a short-row, smaller crescent shawl. (It took me under ten minutes to decide on the pattern, possibly a record.) I would NOT like to thank my adventurous, over-confident inner-knitting spirit for thinking it would be reasonably achievable to knit a perfectly lovely sock yarn shawl pattern in lace weight (albeit using larger needles) without losing my mind, planning my own funeral, and causing myself great anxiety thinking of all the other, more sensible*, less difficult**, and fantastically modern pursuits*** I could alternatively have underway. I would also NOT like to thank myself for NOT being a hoarder and instead suffering from some inner compulsion to knit random yarn I spontaneously bought and stuffed into my oddly small stash, heaven forbid it just sit in the hall closet indefinitely.

Oh, you thought I was done my with shawl?


I just spent three nights knitting eight rows, one every thirty minutes or so. That’s 2,792 stitches of lace. Averaging one mistake to haphazardly correct every 36 stitches. Yep. Lots of mistakes despite my extra-cautious snail pace.

I have already decided that if a bunch of stitches slide off the needles and explode into lace oblivion, I am not going to mount a rescue. I will instead burn the whole darn thing in effigy****. I’m not even sure a lifeline could save me now (although if I were smart, I would thread one in about now.)

*Not lace weight.

**Like that skein of Madelinetosh Pashmina DK that is equally in need of use.

***What on earth am I going to do with a lace weight shawl? It seems very Not Me.

****Surely if wool gets hot enough, it WILL burn.

Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along. I just finished reading Original Sin: A Sally Sin Adventure♦, which I must admit I couldn’t put down. It actually cut into my knitting time over the weekend, more so than I care to admit. I highly recommend it for anyone who liked watching Alias, Covert Affairs, Nikita... and has survived life with young children.

Affiliate link. Thank you for being you! 

A Yak-Tacular Success

The cowl of all cowls. Dreamy. Silk/yak yarn and a perfect stitch pattern. Heaven in an accessory.

The cowl of all cowls. Dreamy. Silk/yak yarn and a perfect stitch pattern. Heaven in an accessory.  The cowl of all cowls. Dreamy. Silk/yak yarn and a perfect stitch pattern. Heaven in an accessory.Holy guacamole. This might just be my favorite knit. Ever. I don’t know what crazed soul thought it might be cool to combine yak and silk, but they deserve a medal. Truly.

Off I go Google how to become a yak farmer… How hard could it possibly be*?

I used two skeins of Lang Yarns Asia (70% silk/30% yak) to knit a cowl in the round. I had just a tiny bit of yarn left over. It’s the dinkiest scrap of all time, but I am going to save it and treasure it as if it were a precious stone. I just might stitch it into the inside of my pillow or something weird like that (why not?).

This is the perfect cowl of all time. And I’m not just saying it because I knit the darn thing. It’s just my honest, uncensored opinion. Its got drape like there’s no tomorrow. Springs like a slinky. Dimensional, simple stitching. Pleasantly reversible. Perfect length to wear long. Equally perfect length to wrap double. No curling. No rolling. No bunching. Nothing weird. No drama. Touchable to know end. I just know complete strangers in the grocery store are going come up to me and start to fondle my cowl the way they used to fondle Reed when he was a baby. It’s unavoidable.

Aside from my slight issue twisting the cast on join, I didn’t screw it up. Not even once.

If I didn’t have a project queue fifty billion miles long, I would knit a dozen more of these. The colorways this stuff comes in are stunning. Why knit just one when you can knit ’em all?

This is what I want to know: how does one turn a black yak into magenta? Bleach, then dye?

Your Complete Guide to Online Knitting Stitch Dictionaries

The complete guide to free online knitting stitch dictionaries. Every website in one spot!

Updated July 23, 2016 to add sites suggested by readers. Keep em’ coming!

Even before I started designing, I would sit down and browse the vast Internet for knitting stitches. This would occur most frequently if I wanted to knit a scarf. I spent way too much time searching for just the perfect stitch pattern before I cast on, often something reversible.

As a general rule, I think ALL of the free online catalogs of basic knitting stitch patterns could benefit from a technological makeover. The sites are largely clunky and challenging to browse. Many of the swatch photos could use a brush up. Some of the better organized sites that have done a reasonable job keeping up with website technology have limited stitch offerings.

Alas, the world is not perfect. Clunky or limited as they may be, these free websites are better than nothing. I often use these sites as sources of inspiration for new designs. When it comes to stitch patterns, my personal philosophy is similar to travel. Just like I don’t like to visit the same country twice (the world is so big…I want to see somewhere new!), I like to try different stitch patterns for each new project.

The universe of possible knitting stitches is also vast.

I recently invested in a couple actual books of knitting stitchtionaries after renewing the library versions five thousand times. I love my new books and plan to share them soon. In the meantime, here’s my list of free websites, for your convenience. These sites are easily available on Google, but here they are consolidated in one spot.

If you know of additional free online knitting stitchtionaries, please share site names or links in the comments. I will update this post to include them as websites come to my attention. I assume their must be some non-US sites that might have charting, even if my Russian/German/Japanese, etc. is non-existent.

eKnitting Stitches

Pros: This is a newer site and thus a little more modern and easier to use. Able to visually browse and sort by category. Good photos and new. New swatches are still being added regularly.

Cons: There are a limited number of stitch types, although I understand there are plans to expand shortly.

Knitting Fool

Pros: This site probably offers the greatest number of stitch patterns to browse. Sortable by column and row count or stitch type. Best for browsing visually.

Cons: Clunky site. So-so photos.

Vogue Knitting

Pros: Better photos than a lot of the other sites. Sorted by stitch type.

Cons: Limited numbers of stitch patterns.

Knitting on the Net

Pros: Stitches are sorted by stitch type.

Cons: Clunky site. So-so photos. Not a ton of stitch patterns, but sometimes less is more when you are trying to make a decision. You have to click through patterns one by one and can’t browse visually.

Lion Brand

Pros: They have some cable stitches I haven’t seen before with fun names (Hugs and Kisses, Tower of Song). Although, then again, I don’t get out much.

Cons: The list is clunky and doesn’t support visual browsing. You have to click through the list one by one.


Pros: Set up to support visual browsing. Better photos.

Cons: Very limited selection of stitch patterns.

Knitting Pattern Central

Pros: Respectable photos. Stitches are often hyperlinked to instruction videos and/or patterns, which is nice.

Cons: Clunky site. As with some of the other sites, the list doesn’t support visual browsing. You have to click through the list one by one.

Reader contributions!!!

Knitting Stitch Patterns

Pros: Good photos. Patterns are written and some even have videos. Well organized by category and able to visually browse.

Cons: Limited inventory. Not charted, if that’s your thing.


Pros: Respectable photos. Most patterns are written and charted. Able to visually brose by category. Photos of backside of stitch also, which is a first.

Cons: Limited selection, but enough to make it worth a peak. (This is definitely one of the better sites…I hope they invest in expanding a bit.)


Pros: This is a Russian site a reader emailed me about. There are a lot of uncommon stitch patterns not typically seen. Organized by category, I think (I don’t speak Russian), so fairly easy to click around and see what surprise awaits if you are in the mood. The site includes a free translation toolbar, although I did not try it. Although instructions are in Russian, many of the stitch patterns are charted and thus “readable.”

Cons: Not all are charted. The foreign language aspect may overwhelm some.

Joining Ginny and still listening to Eleanor and Park*. I love it.

*Affiliate link. Thank you for being you!

Behind the Scenes: Life Dispatch 

Happy Mother’s Day!Oh Spring. These past weeks have been so full. Mostly of the best things. Time in the sun. Time at the beach (the river version and the ocean version). Time in the garden. And, yes, most of this time spent with my little helper/mess maker at my side.

Yesterday morning we set out on our usual route to the river (the Trinity River in northern California, for those of you wondering), ample snacks and sand toys loaded into the well worn stroller that my growing son is nearly bursting out of. At last we arrive. Reed takes to the serious activity of making mud while I sneak out my sock for a few rounds. (If you happen to keep tabs on my Instagram feed, you may have noticed this sock has gotten a lot of face time with the river in the background. Progress has been slow. But steady. Thankfully we go to the river at least once or twice a week.) I had to laugh out loud today when my precious skein of yarn tumbled down the sandy slope and splashed into the river. Call it a pre-blocking soak. The recipient of these socks will enjoy the dual benefit of hand-knit wool and exfoliation. Frequent trips to the river have left the sock with a special gritty quality.

Knitting in the wild is not without its hazards. 

The spring weather has everything growing gangbusters! The hills and our garden! Reed picked all of these peas by himself. He was so proud. This is time of year, my fridge is bursting from the spring harvest and I find myself continually wondering why on earth I thought I needed to plant 24 heads of lettuce, all of which ripen on the same day. Ditto with the broccoli, spinach, and everything else. I have enough ripe vegetables to feed an army (but no army) and so many weeds to abate that I truly do need said army to feed just for some help to keep up with the chore. I think I have previously mused in this space that anyone who tells you gardening is anything more than constantly weeding is simply fibbing. To be generous.

Alas, I labor on. The tomatoes, basil, and peppers are now in. All I need is a couple of eggplants, and the summer plantings will be complete. Phew.

There is so much to celebrate lately. My birthday. Mother’s Day! An anniversary. This means there has been one bottle of champagne uncorked after the other. So much indulgence. I like to let the champagne corks fly off the front porch into my flower beds when I pop the bottle. Later when I come across them again (while weeding), I remember back to the happy time, cork throttling threw the air amidst merriment.

Despite all the busyness of daily life and special occasions, I have managed to sneak in an occasional cocktail on the front porch, lingering in the not-too-hot spring sun, flipping pages in a new knitting magazine and risking a few rows. This particular Bloody Mary was concocted with last summer’s tomatoes and garnished with freshly pickled asparagus from the garden. Yum. When faced with an abundance of garden bounty, one is forced to eat AND drink the harvest to keep up. It’s a requirement, actually.I know summer is only moments away. Just yesterday I ventured onto my beloved floaty for my first pool float of the season.* It was glorious! Reed is finally old enough now that I can actually float in peace for a ten minute stretch, just looking up at the clouds in the sky or watching my sweet child skip about the yard, collecting flowers and leaves for Top Secret three-year-old projects. Those are the moments when I reflect on my life and feel complete. Nothing is missing. It’s all there. My family. My passion in yarn. Beautiful sun. Bountiful garden and rural beauty.

I am counting my blessings, feeling grateful, and on my way to put up the mint I just dried en masse for a summer’s worth of sun tea with honey. Watch out world. Hear I come.

*I maintain that floating in the pool on a floaty should be an Olympic sport. The winner will have the slowest pulse short of death. I will be the reining champion to defeat! Think you can beat be? Game on!

Someone, Quick, Get Me A Yak

Swatching the most amazing blend of silk/yak yarn ever before discover (Lang Yarn Asia).

Swatching the most amazing blend of silk/yak yarn ever before discover (Lang Yarn Asia).

Swatching the most amazing blend of silk/yak yarn ever before discover (Lang Yarn Asia).

  1. Go to LYS with a very specific list of yarns to purchase for pre-selected projects to be knit this year. Vow not to stray.
  2. While LYS is winding pre-selected skeins on swift and you have no choice but to browse shop while waiting (they must do this on purpose…), never before seen skeins of a silk/yak blend catches your eye. The colorways are OUT OF THIS UNIVERSE gorgeous. The price is higher than you typically go for, but it’s your (almost) birthday and you get 30% off. Two not-cheap skeins jump out, bite you, and land at the cash register. Whoops.
  3. Shove aside recent lace project to commence silk/yak knit. So much for First-Arrival to the Stash, First-Knit Policy. When it comes to extra soft yarn, rules do not apply. Knitting is a lawless land.
  4. Fondle yarn for an unusual length of time. Yak yarn has never before presented appeal. The local (tiny!) zoo has two yaks on display, both of which are dirty, matted, and don’t suggest KNIT ME!!!. Consider options for jumping fence with scissors to source yak fur (hair?) directly. They LOOK friendly, after all. What could possibly go wrong?
  5. Get stumped at sourcing silk worm colony. Decide to skip jumping fence to groom yaks too. Easier to go to LYS instead.
  6. Night 1: Spend hours and hours browsing online stitch dictionaries for THE PERFECT stitch pattern until becoming cross eyed. Special yarn generates a particular vein of OCD knitting perfection. Eliminate all options with too many cables (holding stitches in back and front). Decide that will take too long. Focus on patterns that look pretty but will be easy. Additional criteria: knits AND purls proportioned such a way to eliminate any possibility of curling, rolling, or other undesired scenarios. There will be no blocking. I think.
  7. Night 2: Swatch endlessly and come up with zilch. Nothing quite right. Lots of silly mistakes and do-overs. Blame the wine. Seems impossible to get past row 4. Of a swatch. Frustrated. Tired. Solace oneself with more wine. Feels like Day 1 of learning to knit. Nothing looks good enough.
  8. Night 3: Decide on a stitch pattern. Finally. Three rows of “final” swatch at last knit.
  9. Night 4: Finish swatch. Measure. Quick math (which is probably wrong). Cast on 260 stitches. (This baby is knit in the round). Take EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA EXTREME caution not to twist while joining round. This happened the last time a circular cowl was knit. Infinity cowls are not for me.
  10. Knit four rounds and decide, despite EXTREME CAUTION, the cowl is indeed twisted. Good grief. (Explicative. Explicative. Explicative.)
  11. Frog.
  12. Night 5: Cast on. Again. Knit on round. Ask: twisted? Knit another round. Ask: twisted? Continue as such for five rounds. Determine cowl doesn’t appear twisted. But that’s what you thought THE LAST TIME.
  13. Next day. Bring to work for second opinion. Result: NOT TWISTED. Hallelujah!
  14. Hope all goes well for the remained of project. Try not to think about the zoo yaks anymore.

Joining Ginny and listening to Eleanor and Park*. Like all Rainbow Rowell books, this one has yet to disappoint.  I am a huge fan.

*Affiliate link. Thank you for being you!

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