Dispatch: Road Trip

Reed has always been such a good travel buddy, but now he’s a SUPER road tripper. Hours in the car up to Oregon, so excited to see his grandparents that he doesn’t even nap, immersed in searching for wildlife through the scopes of his binoculars, ever and always absorbed in his audio books. A quick blip to check out the great herd of elk among the tallest of redwood trees, breezing up along the Pacific, too windy to stop and play, lest we just blow away, up into the clouds, never again to land on this Earth.

A day in the snow. Alas Reed can finally where his ski sweater and hat to go SKIING. (To be honest, we may have driven five hours just so the ski sweater could finally see some action on the slopes.) Realize with some level of awe that snow really sticks to wool with a force not foreseen. Truly something. A walking four-year-old snow ball, snow gobbed onto wool, layer upon layer. Nothing hot chocolate can’t fix. All the same, the skis click on, he’s up, he’s down. The bunny hill is conquered, or so it seems, on this brilliant spring day.

Now, tuckered by his adventures, Reed sleeps. Mom (that’s me) finishes her wine and starts afresh on her top, now more confident that she will indeed have enough yarn after all. One less thing on the long list of worries.

Tomorrow, we fish.

‘Bout Time!!! Pansyland Cowl Release!!!!

Pansyland Cowl pattern by Andrea @ This Knitted Life.

HeeellllooooooooOOOOOO, Spring!

AKA welcome endless days of rain and rain and rain on my delicate, little flower buds. And mud puddles. LOTS of mud puddles.

It’s such a tease.

I want to go outside, but then I stick my little toe out the door and quickly realize: actually knitting on the sofa will do just fine.

Call me when it hits 70 degrees (21 C). Then and only then, I will go outside.

Pansyland Cowl pattern by Andrea @ This Knitted Life.

I am so proud of the new Pansyland Cowl, not just because it is amazing (it is!) and long overdue (uh, yep), but because it is the first of (hopefully many) collaborations with indie dyers this year. This special yarn was dyed by the talented Allison Barnes. It is a SUPER squishy 4-ply merino worsted in the Alpine Pansy colorway. Allison clearly has an apt for naming colors!

This has been my favorite pattern ever to design because it felt like I was part of a TEAM. So much more fun and inspiring than working in isolation! Plus, Allison’s yarn was really a treat to work with.

Pansyland Cowl pattern by Andrea @ This Knitted Life.

This is also the first time I have made videos to go along with a new pattern. It was so scary and I am honestly quite bad at it. They are fairly dorky AND clunky, but I figured I would check the ol’ ego at the door and simply do my best.

The first video is a quick tutorial demonstrating how to work the main stitch pattern in this cowl. I love the texture from this stitch, and it is actually a fairly easy technique. I hope this video will give newer knitters a bit of confidence to try this stitch! You can do this! All you need is a double pointed needle.

Pansyland Cowl pattern by Andrea @ This Knitted Life.

The second video is an overview of the pattern itself. Still photography has it’s limits, and this video really let’s me show you the cowl, how it moves, and better explain why I love it. Please take a look and let me know what you think.*

Pansyland Cowl pattern by Andrea @ This Knitted Life.

The Pansyland Cowl is a tube-shaped cowl. Tall and narrow. The twist stitch gives it great texture, although really this is primarily a stockinette project (hello, Knitflix!!!).

The pattern includes an option for a tapered neckline that is achieved by working short rows. As a result, the back of the cowl is gently taller than the front. If you are not up for knitting short rows, just skip this part and cast off for a standard tube-shaped cowl. I personally love the shaped collar and feel like it makes this cowl unique and even more functional without being weird. Pansyland Cowl pattern by Andrea @ This Knitted Life.

The Pansyland Cowl is now available on Ravelry for $5.00 USD.** If you aren’t ready to knit this project quite yet, please add it to your Ravelry favorites (click the little heart near the upper right corner) so you can more easily find it in the future.

Okay knitters, off I go to do my sunshine dance. Wish me luck!

*Obviously my YouTube channel is BRAND NEW, but I would love it if you would subscribe. I hope to bring you more video fun throughout the year.  Videography isn’t exactly my strongest skill, but I hope to get better! Or at least embarrass myself less.

**Subscribers: check your inboxes (spam and junk folders) for an email with a special discount code.

You Weren’t Expecting This, Were You!

Yep. It’s a tee.

After knitting four cowls this year (and a pair of socks), I got sick of going ’round and ’round and knitting the same old thing.

I was bored.

And apparently off my rocker one night when I went diving into my stash (which isn’t much of a dive because it isn’t much of a stash…) and found two skeins of Swans Island fingering that I snagged last April during my annual birthday yarn acquisition extravaganza.

Here’s how I feel about yarn: once it’s been hanging out in my closet for a year, I get anxious. I need to use it. It becomes an inexplicable compulsion.

And that’s how I ended up (finally!) casting on Riverton, even though I am still going ’round and ’round with hardly a decrease or increase in sight. At least the yarn is a different color.

I’ve used Swans Island before (when I knit up Tulipland), and I’m a big fan. You get a lot of yarn in a skein at a fair price. It’s soft, and the color palette is right up my alley. Here’s the thing I did learn about this stuff: it grows when you block it. Like, really grows (as in the way my tummy grows after I eat too many brownies).

It’s astonishing. 

Yes, I blocked my swatch to attempt to account for said growth. 

I’ve done all the math.

It should work out.

Because I hate it when I select the wrong size to knit!

Still, I know there’s trouble in my future. Swatches lie. Nothing is ever easy like it should be. And my tee so far looks suspiciously large (even though I have had my gauge independently reviewed by a qualified expert in the field).

Also: I have this sinking feeling I am going to run out of yarn.

I’ve done it again: gone and replaced my boredom with stress.

Figures. 

Books I Have Loved So Far This Year

This is the post you are going to want to read if you feel like you need to spend this weekend curled up with a good book. Maybe the weather has you stuck inside (hello, East Coast snow!), maybe you have a bit of a cold (get well soon!), or maybe you just need some time to yourself to recharge (that’s me, looking in the mirror).

Fear not. I have you covered.

I’ve been accumulating my book list for the past several months with lofty intentions of writing this post ages ago. As always, I am behind.

So here goes.

First, the knitting books.

Like her last stunner, Home & Away, Hannah Fettig’s latest work Texture does not disappoint. The patterns are lovely. The photography is so moody and swoony. It’s all just downright dreamy and makes the casual knitwear piece feel unusually sexy. My knitting library is startling slim, but both titles now adorn it’s (quarter) shelf. Although Texture now bestows custom blue artwork/marker smudges contributed by my mini assistant. I’m currently flipping through this book over and over, trying to decide which sweater to knit first (just as soon as I finish Lesley from her last book!)

I also couldn’t help but notice the Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible (in English!!!!!!!) will be released in September, so I might have accidentally put that baby on pre-order.

Now, for the fiction…Most of these I read, although I did listen to the audiobook versions of a couple (which I will note). I enjoyed all of these books, some more than others. Lucky Boy was my absolute favorite if you have to pick just one for this weekend.

At present, my current read is Sheltering RainI was browsing aimlessly on Amazon for my next book and settled on this one. I’m well into it now and am pleased. I’ve read other books from this author and vaguely remember liking them. (Please do send book recommendations in the comments to spare me future wasted hours haphazardly browsing for my next book!)

Small Admissions was an audiobook listen when we were in Panama. It was light and well narrated, and I definitely passed many a knitting hour while Reed was napping listening to this book, working on my cowl, and sipping passionfruit daiquiris. I miss my vacation already!

Lucky Boy was the hands-down absolute best novel I have read in a LONG TIME. It was intelligent and tugged at my heartstrings. I devoured this when we were in Panama and even set my knitting aside to read this book. I just couldn’t put it down. I wanted everyone to be a winner, but life is never that way. It’s realness was startling.

I picked This Must Be the Place because the description touted it was for people who loved Where’d You Go, Bernadette (which I also LOVED). It was a good book, but Bernadette was better. I found the main female character to be somewhat fascinating.

I can’t pass up a good light read when I am in the mood to turn everything off and relax. My Not So Perfect Life lightened my evenings with quite a few chuckles.

I first saw Mosquitoland on Karen’s blog, and was sold by both the cover and the title. So superficial, I know. It was a bit overly quirky at times, but, as a whole, there was a good story to tell.

The Hopefuls  was another audiobook I started in Panama and just couldn’t stop listening to until the very end. I found I identified with the characters and their passionate drive to manifest change, yet was sometimes irritated by their seemingly rich-people problems. Still, it had me hooked from the start.

Please do share your favorite books from the past few months!

Read well, knit often, and laugh like there’s no tomorrow,

Andrea

P.S. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support.

Surviving the Pom Pom

Reed has asked so many crazy adorable questions lately. I know I am biased, but my kid might be a genius.

Reed recently learned how to use the Google Voice app on the cell phone to search for interesting videos. He’s been asking the phone a litany of standard kid questions.

Reed will ask:

Show me a video of the sun.

And the phone promptly shows him videos of the sun. Or whatever. It is fun to look through his search history each evening, curious as to what Reed has researched that day. It’s all just too cute and modern at the same time.

This morning I heard Reed ask the phone this:

Show me a video of making yarn in a factory.

Yep. He’s a smart one.

Although apparently he hasn’t met a hand spinner yet.

Last week on the way to pre-school, Reed asked me the following questions in under thirty minutes:

  1. Why do clouds float?
  2. How do solar panels work? (This required that I detour past my office en route to pre-school to show him the solar panels on the roof.)
  3. Do we live in the world? (I answered yes.)
  4. If we live in the world, and the world is spinning, then we are spinning too? (I also answered yes.)
  5. Why doesn’t it feel like we are spinning?

A couple of days ago, he provided further evidence of his brilliance (assuming one disregards his ineptitude toward cleaning up after himself and lack of ability to blow his own nose without smearing snot everywhere), by asking:

What is in other planets?

They have been learning about the solar system in pre-school. Tuition money well spent, indeed!

I finished this hat at the end of December, but procrastinated a full two months before making the requisite pom pom to attach to the top.

I had my reasons.

Mostly they were fear-based.

I hadn’t made a pom pom before, and I thought it would be hard.

Not to mention, I had lived the prior 37 years of my life decidedly anti-pom pom as a sort of moral position, and it took me a while to digest my new insatiable NEED to make a pom pom and stick it on the top of Reed’s hat.

I had to process.

It all worked out. I resolved my inner philosophical dilemma on the fine art of pom poms and other accessory attachments. I borrowed the pom pom maker from my favorite knitting friend. I watched the You Tube tutorial. I made the pom pom.

It took under twenty minutes and left me loving pom poms.

I am now trying to ignore that inner hunger to make strings and strings of pom pom garlands with my heap of scrap yarn taking up way too much space in the hall closet.

Because who doesn’t need strings and strings of pom pom garlands collecting dust in their house?

I KNEW you’d understand.

P.S. Many thanks to Julie @ Knitted Bliss for featuring Reed’s hat on her Mod Monday series earlier this week. We were both so flattered!

Tune Ups

One of my goals for the year is to update and triple check my earliest patterns to make sure they are ABSOLUTELY perfect. No mistakes.

Because I don’t have enough to do.

I took my original Twist Cowl pattern with me to Panama, figuring it would be a good travel knit.

It was.

I used the same yarn (Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light), tightened up the gauge, added some length, and developed a double sided option with no “wrong side.”

Once the photo shoot (with an actual human being) is complete, the updated pattern will be uploaded to Ravelry and automatically distributed to everyone who purchased the original pattern.

Thankfully, unlike when I reworked my baby hat pattern, I didn’t come across any glaring errors in the original version and all was generally well.

At least I have that going for my ego.

All the same, the updated version received a good scrub from my tech editor, just to be sure.

I love Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light and have used it often over the past several years. There are so many colors to choose from! My local yarn shops don’t carry Mad Tosh (sad!), but I do purchase it online as needed. I will say I did a thorough internet search of my favorite places to buy yarn online with free shipping (Websters, based in Ashland, OR, which is nearly local, and Yarn.com) but found Jimmy Bean’s Wools (which I don’t usually use) BY FAR had the MOST SUBSTANTIAL selection of Mad Tosh Merino Light colorways. Impressive and overwhelming all at once.

Just saying, in case you’re also in the market…

Given I am banned from using grey this year (oh, the pain!), I thinking I am turning to pale pinks as my new go to quasi-neutral (okay, not at all neutral) addiction.

This cowl is one of my favorites because it so so simple (mostly stockinette) with some interesting but not too busy stitch texture thrown in the mix.

(Speaking of texture, did you know Hannah Fettig’s newest book Texture hit Amazon? Or check your LYS to shop local. $24 well spent!)

I designed the original Twist Cowl almost exactly two years ago when we last vacation (Hawaii) and nearly no one had discovered this quirky knitting space. Apparently I had yet to discover Lightroom because those early photos aren’t exactly impressive. Nonetheless, here we are, two years later, together. Polishing things up a bit and aiming for the stars.

Because we all have a little sparkle going on in that wool.

Knitley Road: Paving the Pathway to Heaven with Wool Love

This is what I’m doing today.

Also on the list: paying bills, several loads of laundry, too many loads of dishes, oodles of cooking, minor amounts of cleaning, also sadly minor amounts of parenting, modest consumption of cookies, and major consumption of wine (is it 4:00 yet????). (Aw, the perils of the modern housewife.)

But this is the best.

I’ve been staring at this yarn for a few weeks now. And, let me tell you, it’s been staring right back.

It has eyes! Very soulful indeed.

It’s a rustic wool fingering from my indie dyer partner Knitley Road, hailing from Edmonton, Canada. I guess I’ve had a thing with Edmonton lately. …Never been but the yarn dyers up that way are FANTASTIC. Seriously.

To be honest, I can’t decide: cowl or shawl???

These are the hard choices in life.

No wonder I’m so stressed.

I do know this: there will be a swatch before I sleep.

I hope.

This yarn just screams SPRING to me. This was also how I felt about the fresh, bright blossoms on our apricot and nectarine trees until it started SNOWING on them this morning. Spring is always such a tease!  It is literally snowing on my hyacinths and budding lilacs and hydrangeas. It pains me so.

I dashed into the grocery store last night (under the cloak of sweat pants and my hood up) to grab nothing other than double brownie fudge ice cream (gasp! hey, a mom’s got to survive!!!) and almost drowned in Easter candy despite the hard fact that this now sugar-laden holiday is more than a month away. Even the Easter bunny would have been shocked.

I’ve been pondering whether or not to knit Reed another Easter stuffie, but then I reread my torrid saga from last year and remembered HEK NO. The PTSD is insurmountable.

Lucky for me, swatching up this spring sparkle will soothe my nerves.

Introducing Allison Barnes

As you know, I’ve self-declared 2017 the Year of the Indie Dyer and made a commitment to support and partner with the talented fiber artists I have met through this space. Allison Barnes hales from a land far from me, yet somehow magically connected through international shipping: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Allison and I are currently collaborating on a project. She supplied the yarn (100% merino wool worsted in Alpine Pansy). I am working on a bright and cheery cowl design to be released this spring.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Allison Barnes today, in her own words.

Enjoy.

I never intended to become an artist. In fact I was most interested in Math and Science growing up. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and a Diploma in Hydrogeology/Environmental Science. I worked for a Consulting firm as an Environmental Scientist for five years before having my son. But the path to where I am now makes sense as I look back…

I’ve always been interested in creative pursuits. I used to do large scale paintings of cute woodland animals on the exterior walls of the buildings on my parent’s lake property. My mom taught me how to crochet afghans when I was in University and I think all of my friends received a blanket for their birthday. Later on I became interested in decorating wood pieces with glass mosaic tiles and gifted many mosaic mirrors to my favourite people. I opened up my Etsy shop and sold a few mosaic pieces there before moving on to new things. I dabbled in photography.

When my son was born, we used cloth diapers. I became interested in using wool as a natural, breathable diaper cover. I purchased a few hand knit and recycled wool diaper covers and loved them so much I decided to bring out the sewing machine I was gifted as a wedding shower gift but had never touched. I re-learned how to sew (not having sewn since my Home Economics class in Grade 7) and started making diaper covers for my son. I decided to try listing some for sale in my Etsy shop and on my Facebook page and I did really well! That ship sailed as I became interested in sewing new things. I made necktie clutches, sun hats, children’s shorts and skirts. You name it; I tried it!

Along with my sewing I re-taught myself to crochet. I wanted my son to have all the cute hats that I kept seeing on social media. I made one and posted a photo and started getting orders from friends and family. I was busy. Really busy. Crochet was and still is my go-to for relaxation and a creative outlet. One day I came across a friend who was looking to de-stash some handspun yarn. I was curious. To sweeten the deal, my friend offered to provide a crochet pattern for free to use with the handpsun yarn.

This was my first taste of handspun thick and thin yarn. It was confusing at first. I couldn’t see where the “V” at the top of the stitch was because of the variation in thickness of the yarn. Eventually it became intuitive and I loved feeling that gorgeous merino yarn in my hands. I wanted more. I wanted to learn to spin my own yarn.

One day I took the plunge and ordered a drop spindle and some roving online. I didn’t start right away – I had to work up to convince myself to start.

It was daunting.

I watched video after video then finally tried spinning. They say to practice for 10 minutes every day – it sure helped. I was terrible at first. Eventually I got better and was able to produce usable yarn. I was spinning thick and thin yarn on a drop spindle but was annoyed that I could not produce enough in one go. I looked for spinning wheel classes and was so excited when I found one at my local Weavers Guild. By this point spinning came naturally since I had been using a drop spindle for about 6 months. After the class was complete I met a lady at the guild who sold me one of her spinning wheels. I couldn’t believe my luck!

I had been collecting indie-dyed roving (it was my favourite) and spun it all. It was getting expensive for me to keep this up. A dear friend of mine said “Hey, why not dye your own roving?” She pointed me in the direction of some YouTube videos and I researched for weeks before ordering roving and dyes and finally tried dyeing in a crockpot and IT WORKED! I dyed all the roving. I began selling my roving and handspun yarn more and more, and selling my crocheted and knit items less and less. One day I ran out of roving. I really had the urge to dye something while I was waiting for more roving to arrive and that same dear friend said “have you thought of dyeing yarn?” I had not! I went to my local craft store in search of some undyed 100% wool yarn, skeined it, and hand-painted it. IT WAS AMAZING! I bought more and dyed more. I was taking orders for hand-dyed yarn! I searched out places to buy bare yarn wholesale and found a Canadian mill, which is where I’ve been sourcing my undyed yarn and roving from since 2015.My techniques have evolved, my skill has blossomed, and I’m just the happiest girl in the world dyeing yarn and roving in my little dungeon of a dye room in the basement of my home. I am now a full-time dyer and occasionally get time to spin yarn for my Etsy shop. I sell at markets throughout the year and have my yarn in a small yarn shop called Alberta Yarn Project. I still sew from time to time, making knitting bags to keep your projects in, and sewing for my family. I’m still trying to figure out a good balance between work, home, and family – but who isn’t?

Where to find Allison:

Etsy:  www.allisonbcollection.etsy.com

No, It’s Not Secretly Fall

Unless you live south of the equator.

Which I don’t.

I simply don’t plan well. That’s all.

I used to be a good planner. I even own a planner. Several actually. I just haven’t been able to properly apply good use of said planner(s).

I basically live in chaos, but that’s okay.
This cowl (knit in Spincycle Independence) was my New Year’s knit. At the time, my stash was light. This had been on the to-knit list since fall (whoops), so I just went for it.

Aimless knitter over here. Hand in the air! That’s me!

First: I LOVED this yarn. It was my first Spincycle test drive. Cool stuff. Thick and thin, which I like. Similar to hand spun, but not. Groovy company. It checked all my boxes. I was truly sad when I cast off. Maybe the Easter Bunny will bring me some more.

Easter Bunny? Hello, are you out there???

The design: wear long or, as I prefer, loop to wear short and snuggly. This project FLEW off my needles and was done in NO TIME at all. I found this to be immensely satisfying. It’s a solid Worsted weight, so this thing’s no joke. It would get you through a blizzard.

Or gale force winds.

Just saying.As for the colors, well…clearly they are screaming FALL!  This is classic me given the fact we are in the dead of winter (SNOW visible out all my windows), although spring is creeping in (daffodils also abundant).

Apparently I am living in a state of Seasonal Confusion. Yes, you can check the Handbook of Psychological Disorders for the details on that one. It’s a Real Thing.

I totally made that up. It’s not a real thing. At least, I don’t think so.

I am going to be patient and wait until the Actual North American Fall season to release this pattern. What do you think? 

Hey, before I forget, did you know Craftsy is having a BIG SALE this weekend (Friday-Sunday)??? 50% off knitting kits and supplies. You’re welcome. Wink.

My Fingers Are Tingling With Excitement

If we knew each other in Real Life (not Internet Life), I would tell you how little knitting I’ve been able to do lately.

It’s just been nuts.

I’ve been working the usual three days/week before taking a day to frantically catch up on laundry and dishes, remember what my kid looks like (he’s growing and changing so quickly!), and spend some time just being Mom. Sometimes I am cranky. Sometimes I an upbeat. Reed probably can’t keep track of which version of Mom is coming or going. There’s just no predicting, although I am more likely to be grumpy if I am cleaning. I have come to realize that cleaning up other people’s messes (and possibly my own) really affects my disposition.

After a day at home, it’s drive, drive, drive and paint, paint, paint. We’ve been fixing up a house an hour from our own home. It’s a long story, but basically I can’t wait for it to be over. HGTV make it all look too fun and easy. I will admit I do like the fixing and improving, but week after week… Well, it’s just too much. There’s no break.

And I miss Reed.

And yarn.

I figure I have another few weeks to slog out. Fingers crossed.

The painting and such has greatly impacted my knitting time. I come home too tired to lift a finger. Whatever energy I do have goes toward feeding Reed, bathing Reed, and reading bedtime stories.

That’s it.

Boring and busy all at once.

It’s hard to have a vision for your life and know it just has to wait for a while. There just isn’t time.

I have been making baby steps toward other things that are important to me (exercise not included). I finally swatched up this lovely worsted yarn from the Allison Barnes collection. Allison is an indie dyer I am partnering with, hailing from the great land of Canada. I look forward to sharing more of her story with you soon. She calls this shade Mountain Pansier, which is a perfectly fitting name for the speckles of purple, green, and yellow in this wool.

It’s just so springy and bright that it makes my heart bleat like a little wooly sheep! My swatch dried with so much loft that I almost couldn’t believe it. I am itching to cast on this project…hopefully this week.

More crossed fingers.

In other earth shattering knitting updates, I FINALLY finished the pom pom for Reed’s hat (eh hem, Super Mom!), successfully completed by first proper provisional cast on, and finished my third cowl of the year.

Of course I am behind on pattern writing, photography, and posting.

Soon enough.

It’s been a very wet winter out here in Northern California, and I can’t imagine the upcoming spring will be much drier. All the same, I’ve already noticed the days are getting incrementally longer, even if the skies are drab grey.

At least they aren’t pitch black.

On the coast, trees are flowering. Hyacinths are blooming and tulips are swelling.

(I’ll be complaining about my pollen allergies before you know it!)

I know we’ve turned the corner on the dark days.

Even though it just might snow tonight and I apparently have a new unspoken policy about not going outside if it is cold out.

I simply won’t do it.

I will, however, endure. And knit.

I just can’t help myself otherwise.

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