January 24, 2014

A recent trip to work on my book, including a mini-hiatus to see old friends, is over. With a week-long visit to San Francisco in my rearview mirror, I’ve resumed knitting (and more knitting). While this gorgeousness:

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was plenty distracting, the purpose of my trip was definitely knitting-related. Over two days, the projects for my next knitting book were styled, primped, and positioned to best advantage during the photo shoot, some of which took place outdoors.

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While I created the designs and wrote the patterns, and the ultimate product (The book! The book!) is my responsibility, hiring a fantastic team gives me confidence that the end result will be all I could wish.

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From tech editing the twelve patterns, to design and layout of the book format, to photography of the knitted sample garments, the end result will be the work of many.

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And while overseeing the details has entailed many checklists, spreadsheets, and emails back and forth, at the end of the day it’s so worth it!

Farewell, 2013

Still shocked at how quickly this year has flown by, but now I’m looking ahead to an exciting 2014, when not one, but TWO of my self-published knitting books will be released. A shiver goes up my spine just reading those words!

Had a wonderful visit with my daughter when she spent a week here over Christmas…

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The weather was appropriately wintry and festive with holiday lights.

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We ate lots of excellent food, much of which we cooked ourselves, but which also included a return visit to Eataly (so much for my vow not to set foot in that temple of all foods Italian again until after New Year’s).

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And a trip to Black Dog Gelato.

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Mostly, we goofed around and enjoyed each other’s company.

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There’s a lot to be said for having adult children. And although I’m most definitely biased, I think mine has turned out to be a pretty spectacular human being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pitter Patter

Friends of ours had a baby last week – a little boy. As if I needed an excuse, I whipped up a little something because, well,  I love knitting baby gifts. They work up so quickly!

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They’re so adorable! So tiny! Ergo, they use so little yarn… making them perfect stash-busters.

And this yarn from Black Bunny Fibers, a hand-dyed worsted weight from my friend Carol Sulcoski, is the perfect mix of cheerful but not too sweet. The most accurate color example is in the top photo; a true crimson with bits of burgundy scattered throughout.

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I’m a sucker for that little I-cord fillip at the top of baby hats. It’s cute, but not as gimmicky as hats with ears (although they can be mighty cute, too!).

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Most of all, knitting baby gifts reminds me to be grateful that I’m not the sleep-depraved deprived one changing diapers and trying to function through the fog of baby-brain (Although, secretly, it does make me just a tidge nostalgic for my daughter’s own infancy. She was such a little peanut.).

Do you have a favorite baby gift to knit? What is your go-to hat pattern, bootees, or baby blanket? The bootees you see above are from 50 Baby Bootees to Knit, by Zoë Mellor. There are some wonderful, quick patterns in her book – well worth adding to your knitting library shelf if you don’t already own it. The hat is probably one of the most basic designs in existence, and I love it for two solid reasons:

~ it never fails to please the recipients, and

~ it can be embellished and modified in limitless ways, so it’s really never the same hat twice.

I worked it up using Ann Budd’s Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns for the template.

Choices, Choices….Yarn Selection

My big 2013 knitting book project is complete. Well, let me amend that. My initial responsibilities are complete, meaning that I:

~designed twelve – yes, twelve! – flattering and comfortable new garments (I can’t reveal much, but here’s a sneak peek of one cardi with a vintage mother-of-pearl button from my collection):

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~chose a lovely palette of fantastic yarns for them,

~wrote up all the patterns.

The physical book layout, photography, and production are starting in mid-January, and the file will go to the printer by early March. The book’s target release date is early June, 2014.

With a three-week window wide open before me, I’ve begun selecting yarns for a new book project because god forbid I should have nothing to do between now and mid-January. This new secret project has an exciting theme, a gorgeous color palette, and a bit of a bias toward luxury yarns in small, affordable quantities (although many of the featured yarns will have user-friendly price points). I’m stoked!

Here’s a peek at the prototype for one of the projects already nearing completion:

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I haven’t seen much of this lacy cable design out there, and really wanted to try something new to me that would be easily memorized but would also develop a satisfying pattern reveal as it grows on the needles.

I’ll leave you with a few images of Chicago’s holiday attire:

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For a couple of frigid days, new snow covered every surface, and holiday lights were the only things warming the view at night.

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A little dusting of icy “confectioner’s sugar” on the rooftops:

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Even the river began to ice over, but as soon as it warmed up ju-u-st slightly, these mini ice floes broke free and skimmed down-river.

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It’s Snowing…!

Just in time for weekend guests to arrive and enjoy this winter wonderland.

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I’ll be entertaining them all weekend, but will be back next week.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on some new knitting surprises, and here’s a sneak peek:

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These gorgeous buttons are vintage brass from 1920, embellishing a new project inspired by the same era. The yarn is Sundara’s Aran Silky Merino, a delicious 50/50 blend of silk and merino wool.  More soon!

Like A Kid In A Candy Store…

There’s an infinite variety of things to do in the city, but a very finite amount of time and money with which to do them!

In the past week alone, I’ve attended the holiday party at my mother’s assisted living facility, finalized more of the material going into my new knitting book and started designing patterns for the next one, hosted a holiday party for my neighbors in our building, made a return trip to Chicago’s new Eataly to meet friends there for dinner (and definitely won’t go back until after New Year’s as it was a complete and utter madhouse), and decorated our little holiday tree:

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It looks a bit sad and lonely on the windowsill, but it suits us: I like the simplicity of the manzanita branches and the mix of ornaments we’ve collected over the years. It has the added advantage that it doesn’t have to be taken to the curb after New Year’s (although the ornaments do have to be returned to their boxes). And Shadow, for some reason, leaves it alone. This is the same cat who used to bat at the glass ornaments and try to eat the pine needles in the years when we still brought home a “real” Christmas tree!

Among the events I look forward to every December is Chicago’s One Of A Kind Show and Sale at the Merchandise Mart. This year’s was as terrific as ever; packed with people, but full of lovely gift ideas. This gigantic wreath constructed of yarn balls definitely made me smile!

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It seemed that there were fewer painters and other fine artists, and many more jewelry vendors than in past years, but jewelry was not on my shopping list. Instead, I found an adorable monster doll for friends who are expecting their first child this month:

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There were also several clothing and hat vendors. I haven’t seen such imaginative – but wearable – garments and accessories outside of exclusive little boutiques, and it was fun to try on things that I admired but wouldn’t necessarily wear.

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Confession: In the category of things I most definitely WILL wear, I did find a hat that practically leapt into my arms and demanded to go home with me. I’m a sucker for great millinery, and Karyn Gingras of Lilliput Hats had such a gorgeous, elegant collection that I Could. Not. Resist. Photo to come…

Holy Hat Weather!

Finally stopped equivocating about the button choice for my Lucy Hat, and decided just to get on with it. Of the three options I wrote about recently, I went with one simple vintage black glass button, 1 1/2″ in diameter, enhanced with knitted leaves in the same charcoal gray yarn as the hat’s woven stitch band:

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Ignoring the fact that I look like a total dork in the photo above, let’s examine the details:

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The leaves clearly refer back to the hatband, and the glittery button has its own simple impact. Wanting it front and center, I tucked the base of each leaf underneath the button’s edge when stitching it into place.

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The staggered placement of the leaves also subtly accentuates the curve of the short-rowed hat brim, another element of the Lucy Hat that really appeals to me. All in all, I’m pleased with the end result.

Now, back to my Monomania cardigan! I’ve started the armhole sections, and will have photos soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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