Get Your Festive On!

Chicago wears the holidays well. All around town, decorations are up for all to enjoy. From the enormous tree at Daley Plaza:

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To the windows at Cartier and Tiffany’s:

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To the planting beds along Michigan Avenue, otherwise known as the Magnificent Mile, where shopping is the main activity. This year’s displays seem more naturalistic than usual, and less glitzy. Perhaps a reflection of the mood in a city that has its share of troubles.

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And then there’s the more spiritual, less materialistic vision of the holidays…

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I hope you enjoy these glimpses of my beautiful city!

More December Happiness

With a pot of our family’s favorite “turkey carcass soup” simmering on the stove and the rest of the Thanksgiving leftovers winnowed down to manageable size in the fridge, I have a few free moments.

The hat swap is complete because now I am the recipient of my very own “Selbu Modern” cap, the pattern for which is available for free on Ravelry:

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The yarn is superwash Fingering Merino from Sundara Yarn, in Midnight Sky and Red Roses (from my stash). I adore the way little sparks of lighter blue illuminate the navy and black of the background, and the lovely warmth of the red against them. As usual, Sundara is brilliant when it comes to color.

IMG_1829The palette was selected to go with my winter coat, and I couldn’t be more pleased!

My friend W. also gifted me with the most wonderful additions to my owl collection, one of which is this pair of lovely cherry wood knitting needles in US size 7 (one of my most often-used sizes) from Indian Lake Artisans.

IMG_1818The wood needles are turned to form a hexagonal shape, which is supposed to be more comfortable for the knitter. They are available in 14″ and 10″ lengths. I can’t wait to take them out for a spin!

Happy December

It’s astonishing how quickly this year has flown by… December already! Thanksgiving is already in the rear view mirror, meaning that this:

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has been consumed in multiple forms, from roasted root vegetables (original Thanksgiving dinner), to Leftover Thanksgiving Pie (Post-feast casserole), to what will soon be a pot of our family’s favorite, Turkey Carcass Soup.

This was also the first year I made “Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish,” described by NPR’s Susan Stamberg as “atrociously pink, like Pepto-Bismol,” but delicious. Evidently, Craig Claiborne invented the original recipe back in 1959, but Ms. Stamberg popularized it beyond either’s imagining. And it is amazing, adding just the right degree of horseradish-y zippiness to the holiday meal.

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I also completed my first Lucy Hat, by Carina Spencer, the pattern for which is available for sale on Ravelry. My unreasonable love for cloche-style hats adds fuel to my suspicion that I was born into the wrong era, fashion-wise. Having made one Lucy Hat, I now feel ready to experiment with alternative cloche styles, brims, and embellishments. Stay tuned.

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However, I can’t decide which button(s) to use on this one as a simple adornment, despite many attempts. These are the three finalists. What do you think? Please help me choose! The first two options are antique carved black glass, probably Czech.

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The final option is the large antique brass button shown above. If the winner is either button #2 or button #3, I will also probably add some simple embroidery in the charcoal gray yarn to encircle the single large button. The three small buttons, however, can stand on their own with no additional embellishment.

My Monomania

At VKLive in Chicago earlier this month, I happened upon a booth where all the women in it were wearing a cardigan of Ann Weaver‘s design, called Monomania. I fell instantly, dangerously, in love.

I loved the way it fit every body working the booth. I loved the varied palettes each knitter had chosen.

I loved the thoughtful, mathematically elegant, figure-flattering design – these are all characteristics I strive to achieve in my own designs, so I definitely appreciate them in others’.

The problem is, I seldom have time to knit someone else’s pattern. But Monomania… Well.

Had. To. Have. It.

Here are the first few inches of my version, with the color palette in deep greens and blues sparked by chartreuse.

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Still in love. Can’t knit fast enough.

Meanwhile, having completed all twelve of the designs for my upcoming knitting book, the reason I can knit my own Monomania is that until the end of this year I “get to” knit whatever I want. As soon as 2014 rolls around, however, I’ll be working on a new set of designs for another knitting book project.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving wherever and whenever you celebrate.

Although this was a difficult year for many reasons, it’s good to remember that I also have much to be thankful for. Especially my blog readers (all three of you!). You are so appreciated.

Knowing that you have little free time, I’m honored that you choose to spend some of it with me.

Never Too Late To Have a Happy Childhood

When my sisters and I were little, we amused ourselves in what would today be considered extremely low-tech ways. Of course, those were the days when the mothers in our suburban neighborhood, fed up with the usual sibling rivalry and incessant bickering, would yell, “Go outside and PLAY!” and that’s what we did.

Kickball, and spy games, jump rope, and jacks. Yes, even jacks. Hand-to-eye coordination, people!!

But on rainy afternoons, stuck indoors and bored with Monopoly and Scrabble, we’d often entertain each other by making chin faces.

Don’t know what that is?

Well, the other night while in a silly mood, I resurrected this childhood diversion and persuaded my very game husband to play along.

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Now do you remember? With black eyeliner pen and a red lipstick as my only tools, I gave us both an extra face:

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Lying on the living room sofa with our faces upside down, our normally pedestrian conversation was suddenly hilarious. Or at least, it looked hilarious.

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But I’m pretty sure the cat thought we were weird.

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Hat Weather

A couple of weeks ago, my friend W. and I agreed to do a hat-knitting swap. She’d been admiring a lace and appliqué one that I’d made for myself last winter and I, likewise, coveted a color work one that she had whipped up for herself.

We each provided the other with the necessary yarn, and off we went. She gave me two skeins of worsted weight tweed yarn, squashy and deliciously rustic in subtle gray and stormy blue.

I finished mine for her last week, and couldn’t resist trying it on:

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Naturally, it looks better on her, and fortunately she is happy with the end product:

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It looks darling on her, don’t you think? She wears a lot more gray than I do, so this hat will be the perfect accessory to her winter coat. Bonus – there’s enough yarn left over from both skeins to make herself a pair of matching fingerless mitts.

And with the temperature topping out at 26 degrees today, they’ll be good to have!

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Peace and Quiet… and Knitting

When my father was alive, every year as his birthday approached my sisters and I would ask him what gift he would like.

His response never varied from year to year; “Peace and Quiet,” he would say wistfully, surely aware that his three rambunctious daughters would be unlikely (and constitutionally unable) to follow through with such a present.

Following a long weekend that included no fewer than three – yes, three! – birthday celebrations, with multiple house guests and other family members staying at nearby hotels in order to be close to the festivities, I have a new appreciation for my father’s annual request.

Enjoyable as it was to have a full house, loved ones to talk to, lots of cooking as well as eating out, and to make a suitably sweet and sugary fuss over all the birthdays:

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now that everyone has flown back to his or her own home, I am relishing the peace and quiet that has been restored to my space.

And after no knitting whatsoever for three full days, I am anxious to get back to it. I’m completing a cozy winter hat for a friend:

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and am just starting a new cardigan for myself after spending most of this year designing and knitting the sweaters for my new book.

After a freakishly warm Sunday that included sheets of torrential rain and tornados (!) touching down all over the Midwest – just to add to the drama – we are now heading into what feels suspiciously like “real” winter. By the end of this week, the temperature won’t get much higher than 30 degrees during the day.

Sunset arrives earlier every day, and that lovely orange glow from the setting sun is deceptive because it has no true warmth.

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(Yes, that white dot is the moon, and this photo was taken from our balcony around 4 pm) 

Chicago is donning its holiday regalia; this is from one of my favorite neighborhood attractions, the courtyard garden at the Driehaus financial offices. Today I couldn’t resist playing tourist to capture their latest lovely seasonal planting:

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Rainy Day Knitting

Outside my windows, today is like one of those Italian cookies called “bruti ma buoni,” which translates to “ugly but good.” It’s gray, raw, and drizzling, and I understand that out in the suburbs there are even snow flurries.

But this unpleasant weather makes staying indoors all the more cozy. What could be better than a mug of steaming, sweet herbal tea (or in my case, an extra-hot, large and frothy latté) at my elbow and my latest knitting project on my needles?

Ok, if I’m being honest, maybe a plate of homemade cookies to nibble between rows could make it even better…

I just finished and blocked a quick little birthday gift for my husband. He chose the yarn for this cowl from my stash; Madelinetosh Vintage in Tart, one of my absolute favorites, and a gorgeous color on him.

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Here’s a close-up of the chevron stitch pattern. It’s simple but visually effective, and addictive once you get going with it:

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I love the way it plays up the color subtleties in Vintage’s semi-solid colorway.

Is Anybody Out There?

They say that if one doesn’t write and post regularly on a blog, the audience drops off precipitously. Guilty as charged.

But what happens when life finally calms down and gets compelling enough that blogging begins to seem like a good idea again? Do formerly loyal readers slowly make their way back, becoming part of the blogger’s community with renewed interest? I guess I’ll just have to find out.

So…..

Hello. Is this thing on?

Hello…?

Is anybody out there?

It’s me. A Californian no longer, living city life in Chicago for a little more than two years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knitting more than ever, and designing collections of creative, fun-to-knit new patterns (all of which are test-knitted and tech edited from heading to footer, from charts to schematics).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardening exclusively in balcony containers…although that’s over until next spring.

Shadow is still the household’s feline companion, never shy about letting us know when she needs a belly rub.

Happy to be back, and hoping you’ll come along for the ride!

Handwork Mitts, Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2011

I received a copy of Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2011 last week. Lo and behold, my ongoing desire to design fingerless mitts patterns continues to bear fruit.

Designed to fit into the section titled “A House With Gables” theme (for the projects’ ornate embellishments), I LOVED creating the Handwork Mitts design. Not only do these mitts include a feminine picot bind-off, but they feature a simple but effective lace cuff as well.

Add to that the knitted and appliqued blooms that adorn the back of the hand. And, there are two options for those pretty little leaves that anchor the blossoms in place. IK shows both – very nice of them!

My original prototype (seen above) had tiny knitted leaves, worked on US Size 1 needles. The version of this project that made it into the magazine features wired-edge ribbon leaves, snipped into 3″ lengths and folded the long way, then stitched to create a center seam, as shown below. Charts for the knitted leaves are also included.

Below are the photos showing how IK modeled the mitts. So delicate and pretty, no? I’m always thrilled by how they photograph and style my projects.

The mitts themselves are easily a weekend project, and the knitted flowers work up, literally, in minutes (and are a fantastic way to use up those little remnant lengths of luxury fiber that we can’t bear to throw away). The leaves take a bit longer, but not much. So if you have a girly-girl on your holiday gift list this year, these Handwork Mitts should elicit the appropriately joyful squeal of happiness~!

Early Fall: Introducing the Fan-cy Fingerless Mitts

This design has been incubating in my pattern file for a while, just waiting for the first cool evening of early fall to make its debut.

The Fan-cy Fingerless Mitts take their name from the fan-like lace and bobble motif that graces the back of each mitt, as well as the dressed-up picot edging that gives them a little extra touch of elegance.

Ribbing on the inside of each cuff ensures a snug fit, and flows organically up from the picot cast-on. Malabrigo’s Super Rosa DK was a great choice for the test project (love, love, LOVE the semi-solid rosy colorway here), and on US size 4 dpns, they went quickly – this is really a weekend project if you have a couple of TV shows to catch up on.

I love mitts that feel warm and cozy on my hands yet have a light, non-bulky appearance – lace motifs without too much openwork usually do that for me! I’ll wear these in my office while I work on the computer this fall and winter – it gets chilly in here. And once we relocate to Chicago (as soon as we sell our house in California), I’ll get even more use out of them.

My fabulous test knitter, Glenna, worked up a pair of these mitts in Sundara Sport Merino in the colorway Harvest Festivities, which to me makes the fan motif resemble Gingko leaves as they turn golden in the fall. See what I mean?

These mitts are made from an earlier version of the yarn; the current batch on Sundara’s website is called Sport Merino II.

Glenna agreed that the fan-like lace and bobble motif is easily memorized. Directions for this motif are both written out AND charted in the pattern, so you’ll have easy-to-follow instructions whichever is your preference.

For now, the pattern is up and available for $4.00 in my Ravelry pattern store.

I will try to get it up into the pattern store on this site within the next week or so, but with realtors bringing their clients over to see our house at unpredictable hours, my time is hardly my own at the moment.

Hope you enjoy this little fall surprise. Following my design inspirations keeps me from dwelling too obsessively on the big changes ahead!

Quercus Correction

Thanks to those of you who pointed out the fact that something looked a little wonky on the Quercus Body Chart. You were right, and the correction was promptly made by the diligent folks at Knitty (thank you, Knitty!). 

The problem is in the cable crosses of the small side cables in the Body Chart (these have now been separated into Chart A, Chart B, and Chart C). Those crosses are supposed to occur every 4th row to create the side cables, but in the final repeat (Row 18) of the original Body Chart, there is an extra row that would place the cross on the 5th row.

Here is the link to Knitty’s new revised chart: http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEff11/images/quercusCHT.jpg

For those of you who are not “seeing” how the centers of the large Body cables take shape, I recommend that you try working up a swatch (I know it’s the knitting world equivalent of being nagged to go clean up your room, but there really is a reason for swatching). If you still have questions then, I will be glad to try and explain further. Happy Knitting!

Introducing the Quercus Cardigan

This has been a hard secret to keep. Really, really hard. I’m not known for my patience, nor for my love of delayed gratification. But for Knitty’s First Fall Surprise issue, it was worth it.

Say hello to the Quercus Cardigan, featured in the new First Fall and Holiday Headstart Surprise issue of Knitty.com.

I’ve submitted design ideas to Amy Singer, Editor of Knitty, for years – to no avail. But the pain of rejection was always tempered by my love for the magazine and by my feeling as each issue went live that I’d just have to step up my game if I ever wanted to join such illustrious company. In other words, Knitty always inspired me to do better.

The Quercus Cardigan is the first of my efforts to be accepted by Knitty. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Although I live in California where the weather is mild, if not downright hot, most of the year, I nonetheless love to wear sweaters. It has a lot to do with the fact that my little house was built in 1948 and is poorly insulated. As a result, during the winter months it is almost as chilly indoors as it is outside.

The Quercus is my answer to late summer breezes, crisp evenings, a sudden pick up in the wind, and every sort of changeable weather; elbow-length sleeves (which could easily be made full-length if desired), an open front that can be secured with a favorite shawl pin, and a collar that can be gathered around the neck for warmth when needed but left to lie flat otherwise.

Quercus’s cable pattern is easily memorized. It is just challenging enough to keep the knitting interesting, but not so demanding as to require constant, undivided attention. In other words, on US Size 8 needles it’s a pretty quick knit that looks far more complex than it actually is.

Jared Flood’s Shelter yarn was a pleasure to work with. It shows off the cable stitches wonderfully, and softens considerably with blocking.

It has a nice elasticity as well, and loosens up after blocking – which is why the pattern recommends checking your gauge on a BLOCKED swatch. It’s worth taking that extra step to ensure the best fit in the final product, trust me.

Knit in one piece to the underarms, where it is divided for the front panels and the back, the garment has very few seams. The cardigan’s back cable motif goes just as far as the waist, from which point the cardigan flows gently and flatteringly over the hips.

Sized to fit from a 34″ to a 54″ bust, this is a cardi that will suit just about everyone. For the tiniest among us, I suggest making those open fronts perhaps an inch narrower on each side – as written, they overlap generously.

The sleeves are knitted in and shaped with short rows from the shoulder to the underarm, and are then worked down to the ribbed cuff. Since I love any technique that eliminates seams, this is one of my favorites.

Among other designers, Wendy Bernard of Knit and Tonic fame devotes a lot of ink to this technique in her book, Custom Knits.

I enjoy the method because it eliminates all the effort required to painstakingly fit a separately-made sleeve into the armscye as in typical sweater construction.

Many thanks to my good friend Suzy for her expert modeling. She really got into the spirit of things, and was beyond patient as we scouted to find just the right location for our photo shoot.

As you may notice in these photos, there is a talented and unusually creative brick-worker in my town. His idiosyncratic brick sculptures can be found in several out-of-the-way locations in our downtown retail district, and he was kind enough to let us hold our photo shoot in the most unusual spot of all.

I hope you’ll enjoy making your own Quercus as much as I enjoyed designing it!

Change Is Good… Right?

Lots going on here in my little corner of the blogosphere. So much, in fact, that this summer whizzed by without a single blog post since June. So I have to ask, Does this thing still work? And is anybody still out there?

Because very soon I will be leaving this:

For this:

And this natural splendor will be left behind:

In exchange for splendor of a very different kind:

And instead of seeing these on my way out the front door:

I’ll be seeing these:

Just in case you haven’t already figured it out, we are moving to Chicago. My husband has accepted a new job there that starts right after Labor Day weekend. As soon as our California house has sold, I will join him there. It promises to be a strange autumn, and I’ve no doubt that knitting will help keep me sane.

More new designs are on the needles (that’s one thing I managed to accomplish this summer) that I’ll share over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more details about the relocation!