10/20/2014 – It’s He-e-e-re: A Head For Trouble Launches

Thought I’d surface for a bit to report on the launch of A Head For Trouble last week.

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After all, it’s important to come up for air now and then, even during a very busy time. The enthusiasm that greeted the release of this new book has been truly wonderful to behold.

It seems to have struck a chord with knitters who watch shows like Downtown Abbey, see the amazing 1920s clothing designs worn by Lady Mary and the rest of the family, and wish they could own knitted versions of them. I don’t know about you, but I can imagine Mary heading off in the cloche below to manage the latest estate crisis.

It was inspired by Carola Dunn’s lady detective character, Daisy Dalyrymple, who never left home without her “emerald green cloche” in the first few books of the series.

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And can’t you just picture Downton’s newly chic Lady Edith swanning off to London in the cap below? It was inspired by Agatha award-winner Catriona McPherson’s series featuring the lady detective Dandy Gilver, who is a proper lady only when it suits her. Sound like anyone else you might know?

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It’s also been so interesting to see the countries from which knitters are ordering the book; the U.S and Canada, of course. But also France, Denmark, and the U.K., where the e-book has been especially popular, probably because mailing a paperback to Europe, I recently learned, costs $23.50 via Priority Mail International – almost as much as the book itself!

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A Head For Fashion, the bonus collection with six additional Roaring Twenties-inspired hat and accessory patterns, has been equally well-received. The Coco Cloche, above, has been a favorite.

Here’s the deal: Anyone ordering both the paperback AND the e-book of A Head For Trouble together will get the bonus collection PDF for free until Oct. 31. Anyone ordering either the paperback OR the e-book of A Head For Trouble will get the single pattern of her choice from the bonus collection. Either way, it’s always a treat to get something free!

10/15/2014 – A Head For Trouble pre-order promotion begins today!

This is it, knitting friends. The official pre-order promotion for my new book, A Head For Trouble, begins today at 12:00 noon Central Time. I couldn’t be more excited if you told me I’d won the lottery!

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To kick off the launch, I’m offering some special bonuses when you order either the paperback or the electronic versions of A Head For Trouble, or both together.

I’ve mentioned them before, but let’s review the specials one more time so you can jump right on the one you want!

Pre-Order Promotion #1:

Order BOTH the paperback AND the electronic versions of A Head For Trouble together, and you’ll get to download the entire 6-pattern mini-collection PDF of my bonus book, A Head For Fashion. That’s this 46-page book right here, complete with interactive links to the project pages on Ravelry as well as sections devoted to ensuring your success with the patterns, yarn resources, and where to find the unique notions and embellishments that make the projects so delightful:

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Pre-Order Promotion #2:

Order EITHER the paperback OR the electronic version of A Head For Trouble separately, and I’ll email you the PDF to ONE pattern of your choosing from the 6 options in A Head For Fashion. Here they are one more time:

Caroline Toque

Caroline Toque

Coco Cloche

Coco Cloche

Coco Fingerless Mitts

Coco Fingerless Mitts

Simone Cloche

Simone Cloche

Jane Slouch Cloche

Jane Slouch Cloche

Suzanne Toque

Suzanne Toque

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s it. Make one of the two choices above, and collect your special bonus. Sounds like a lovely way to kick off the afternoon!

10/13/14 – A Head For Fashion

The HEAD FOR TROUBLE count-down continues. Take advantage of the pre-order promotion, and your very own copy (signed by yours truly, if you so desire) will ship to you the week of October 26th. Get ready to make a little trouble!!

A HEAD FOR TROUBLETo whet your appetites further, here are the last two of six total designs from my upcoming mini e-book collection, A Head For Fashion:

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    Jane Slouch Cloche

 

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

Please say hello to Caroline (the lovely toque on the left) and Jane (the fetching slouch cloche on the right), both of which already are up on my Ravelry Designer project pages with all the details.

For a very short time (Oct. 15th – 31st, 2014), you can get either one of these patterns for FREE when you pre-order either the paperback or the electronic version of my new book, A HEAD FOR TROUBLE; What To Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders.

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If you order both hard copy AND electronic version, you’ll get the entire mini e-book, A Head For Fashion, with all six patterns. Watch my SHOP section for ordering specifics, coming on October 15th.

10/10/14 – A Head For Trouble pre-order promotions (continued)

With only six days to go until the launch of A Head for Trouble, say hello to Coco, a fetching cloche and fingerless mitts combination, both of which are included in my bonus mini e-book collection, A HEAD FOR FASHION.

Coco Cloche and Mitts_2_10 14That’s Coco as in Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel; brilliant, innovative fashion designer and deeply flawed human being. Creator of the “little black dress.” That Coco Chanel.

Picture-48Chanel was the designer who, during the 1920s, popularized comfortable jersey knit fabric for women’s clothing, when it had previously been relegated to the manufacture of men’s underwear.

Coco Cloche and Mitts_5_10 14As a style-maker, she was a great proponent of the high-low mix; blending expensive couture pieces with costume jewelry, for example. Her brand, encompassing clothing, handbags, and even the iconic Chanel No. 5 perfume, is successful even today.

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Coco Mitts_3_10 14The Coco Cloche and Fingerless Mitts are two separate patterns in A HEAD FOR FASHION. The patterns include instructions for the sweet knitted roses and leaves you see in the photos, naturellement. Unexpected texture, and tiny mother-of-pearl buttons at the cuffs are extra special embellishments that make these two projects unique and easy to personalize.

10/8/2014 – A Head For Trouble Count-Down

Only one week to go until A Head For Trouble‘s pre-order promotions begin.

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I hate to admit it, being a grown-up and all, but I’m having a really, really hard time containing my excitement.

Because given my tendency toward excess, I couldn’t just create a new book with 20 projects in it.

Oh, no.

That would be far too restrained for me. Sometimes I believe, to paraphrase Mae West, that “too much of a good thing is wonderful.”

So here’s what I did: I designed a collection of six bonus patterns – five additional hats and an utterly charming pair of fingerless mitts, also inspired by the Roaring Twenties. These will be available online as a PDF only. Let’s have a little sneak preview:

Suzanne Toque

Simone ClocheAll six of these bonus patterns have been collected into a mini e-book called A Head For Fashion, and you’ll be able to purchase it right around the same time that A Head For Trouble is released.

375178Why A Head For Fashion, you ask? Each of the six bonus projects is inspired by a female fashion designer who was known for her innovative hat creations, and was active during the 1920s, such as Rose Talbot (one of her stunning millinery designs is modeled below on the left) and Simone Mirman, who rose from poverty to become “Milliner to the Queen” of England during her long life:

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But here’s the really exciting news: if you pre-order both the hard copy and the e-book of A Head For Trouble together during the promotional period of October 15-31, 2014, you will get this bonus e-book for FREE.

If you decide you want only the hard copy or the electronic version of A Head For Trouble but not both, of course that’s fine, too. Not to worry – you’ll still get something extra special.

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Purchase either the hard copy or the electronic version during the promotional period, and you will be able to choose any one of the six bonus patterns from the e-book for FREE.

The individual patterns from the bonus collection will be available to purchase both on Ravelry and here on my website for $5.00 each. The mini e-book collection will be available to purchase as well, for $14.95…. and any way you look at it, that’s an amazing deal. The collection includes special features such as detailed instructions for sizing and styling to ensure your success with the patterns, as well as resources for the fabulous notions you’ll see on the projects.

More information and bonus collection photos coming soon!

A Head For Trouble

Knit something special for your inner flapper!

Pre-order promotions start on October 15, so stay tuned!

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Just in time for holiday gift-knitting, A Head For Trouble is nearly ready to launch! It has been really, really hard to keep this big project a secret, but the wait is nearly over. In fact, the pattern basics are now up on Ravelry, so you can decide which to knit first.

I hope you’ll feel moved to pull out your treasured skeins of luxury yarn, and work up some of these special designs.

I got a few advance copies of the book last week, and couldn’t be more excited about the way it turned out.

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The theme is quirky, I know. But how better to combine my passion for 1920s fashion with my love of literary mysteries that feature strong female crime-busters?

As a knitwear designer, nothing gets my creativity more fired up than a challenge like the one I set for myself with A Head For Trouble.

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For all of us who adore Downton Abbey and similar period TV shows, we know that it’s the fabulous fashions as much as the compelling story lines that keep us tuning in week after week, and season after season.

And again, as a knitwear designer with a penchant for period fashion, it was a thrill to set myself the task of interpreting the Roaring Twenties for today’s knitter. 

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The 1920s was a time of unprecedented change for women. Also known as the “between the wars” period because WWI had ended and WWII was not yet even a distant rumble on the horizon, in the 1920s women enjoyed freedoms that had previously been exclusive to men.

Without getting too lecture-y here (but I do love history!), for the first time women were holding jobs in traditionally male professions. They owned and drove their own automobiles. They sought higher education in greater numbers, and the right to vote became a lightening rod issue of the day. 

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We see all of these forces at work in period dramas like Downton Abbey, and fashion was perhaps the most visible manifestation of the new freedoms that women demanded.

No more corsets, bustles, or “dressing” one’s hair into an elaborate coiffure. Skirts were shortened and tops became loose and drapey to allow for freedom of movement. Women bobbed their hair into a short, manageable style known as a “shingle,” or an “Eton crop.” These new hair styles necessitated new hat styles to complement them, and that’s where A Head For Trouble comes in.

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As you’ll soon see, A Head For Trouble includes all the hat styles popular during the Jazz Age, along with the most important accessories to accompany them. And I can hardly wait to share them with you.

8/6/14

Here’s a question: how many books can one author sign in 7 minutes?

Answer: 42 – a full case (and a cramped hand, but that’s another story).

And how do I know this? In preparation for book signings at Stitches Midwest this coming weekend, I signed lots (and lots) of copies of Knits That Breathe. Hope to see you there!

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On another note, I can’t wait to share the details of this new design, coming for fall:

IMG_4139Meanwhile, summer in the city is in full swing, with all its most compelling distractions on display. For example, these new temporary sculpture exhibits at Millenium Park:

IMG_4041Concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion, the perfect picnic venue:

IMG_4126The “living” art fountain display at Millennium Park:

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IMG_4036And the majesty of several spectacular summer storms, complete with dramatic cloud formations, lightning strikes on the tallest antennae in the city, and claps of thunder that send the cat scurrying for her “safe place” in the apartment, otherwise known as “under the dining room table.”

IMG_4101That is, when she’s not helping me knit:

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8/4/2014

Working on new swatches all week, in preparation for some fantastic surprises this fall:

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Experimenting with new stitches and embellishments, which are always fun to audition before stitching them oh-so-carefully onto the final project. I was irrationally pleased to find a home for a cherished vintage button from the stash:

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A little bit cross-eyed from this working up mini-landscape of cable crosses:

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It’s always a challenge is finding the best foundation textures for a new project. Sometimes it falls into place quickly, when the *perfect* stitch pattern leaps out at me from the pages of one of my stitch dictionaries. More often, though, I’ll swatch four or five different stitches to discover the best one for a particular yarn. Here’s one example:

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8/2/2014

I’m excited to be gearing up for Stitches Midwest, which takes place in Schaumburg, IL next weekend (Aug. 7-10). Lots of preparation to do between now and then.

Knits That Breathe

Four of the garments from Knits That Breathe will be in the event’s fashion show, so attendees will be able to see these cool, drapey tunics and tees in action!

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If you don’t already have your own signed copy of Knits That Breathe, I’ll be doing several book signings at Stitches on Saturday afternoon. Here’s the line-up so far:

Yarn Barn of Kansas: 12:00 pm

Fine Needle: 1:00 pm

Fine Point: late afternoon

See you there!

7/24/2014

The knitting happening here these days is mostly of the secret variety, and awfully exciting despite the fact that I can’t discuss it. For example, today I got a FedEx package from my printer containing digital proofs for the next book! I’d like nothing better than to show you those photos, but I’m working on my secret-keeping skills and this is a perfect opportunity to practice saying, “My lips are sealed.” Although I haven’t figured out how to say it and do it at the same time!

I can, however, offer a sneak peak of a new project in the works:

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It’s related to the next book, but it won’t spoil anything if I share the photo above. The Plucky Knitter yarns (Traveler in Morticia and Plucky Bello Worsted in Old Copper) are a joy to work with. There’s nothing about rich, saturated colors and heavenly soft fiber that I don’t like!

In addition, I’ve added a new recipe to my culinary repertoire this summer: mini-frittatas that make a fabulous quick breakfast or lunch on the go. The following recipe is not terribly precise, but is detailed enough for you to make your own, equally delicious, version of these frittatas.

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Now for the recipe itself:

First take several (I used 8 large ones) farm fresh eggs, break them into a large bowl, and mix them with a generous splash of milk and a shake of salt and pepper:

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Then, dice a small onion and sauté it in 1 TBSP of olive oil until it softens. If it turns a little brown at the edges, too, that’s ok. While the onion sautés, cut a smallish head of broccoli florets into bite size pieces and steam them for a minute or so, or until just tender.

If you haven’t already turned on the oven, go do that now.

Let the broccoli cool along with the onion, and then add both of these ingredients to the bowl of eggs.

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Dice about 1/2 a cup of hard salami (leave this ingredient out if you’re a vegetarian or just want a lighter mini-frittata), and grate or shred about 3/4 cup of the cheese of your choice. I used sharp Cheddar, but Monterey Jack, Gouda, parmesan, or crumbled feta would also be delicious.

Mix these ingredients into the bowl with the eggs and everything else.

Add some fresh herbs. I picked and then tossed in about a TBSP each of lemon thyme and parsley from my little herb garden. Add another dash of salt and pepper.

Mix everything one last time; you should have enough of the egg mixture to fill 2 pans – 12 of the muffin top forms.

Now you’re ready to bake them!

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Spoon the mixture into “Muffin Top” pans. Their shallowness will allow the mini-frittatas to puff up slightly, resulting in round, personal sized frittatas-to-go. Bake for approximately 15 minutes (but start checking on them after 10-12 minutes), until the tops have puffed up, the cheese is melted and bubbling, and the eggs have set.

They should smell pretty delicious when you crack open the oven door to check on them.

To serve, I put mine in the microwave oven (which keeps them from drying out) for 1 minute to heat them up for breakfast, but you could also heat them in a toaster oven, or try them at room temperature. Enjoy!

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7/13/14 – Bastille Day Promotion

Starting tomorrow and in honor of Bastille Day – July 14th – if you order a paperback copy of Knits That Breathe on my website,  you will be able to score a free download of the electronic version with its wonderful interactive features!

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This promotion will run for a limited time, so take advantage of it while you can. As the French would say, *”Le jour de gloire est arrivé.” Only where Knits That Breathe is concerned, there will be several jours de gloire when you can obtain your very own copy.

 

*Translation: The day of glory is here!

7/3/2014

The positive reviews of Knits That Breathe keep appearing, much to my delight and everlasting appreciation. Herewith, two more, the first from Jimmy Beans Wool blog post last week,

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and the next from Carol Sulcoski’s Black Bunny Fibers blog.

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Carol and my friends at Jimmy Beans Wool are among the knitting world folks whose work I most admire. Their creativity and business acumen are qualities I emulate to the best of my ability, and achieve with, at best,  mixed results.

I enjoyed being interviewed for the review by Jimmy Beans… Kristen asked thoughtful questions, most of which were different than those I’ve been asked before.

And when Carol writes one of her “no bull book reviews,” it’s often the final push I need to add a new book to my knitting bookshelf – so I can only hope that those who read her review of Knits That Breathe will be similarly motivated!

Off to enjoy a relaxing Fourth of July weekend, and hope you will do the same! I leave you with several colorful blooms from my recent visit to the Chicago Botanic Gardens that resemble booms – that is, exploding fireworks!

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6/30/2014 – Review: Knitters Curiosity Cabinet III by Hunter Hammersen

Up for review today is the prolific Visionary author Hunter Hammersen‘s final addition to her Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet trilogy, KCC III:

KCC3 front cover

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with either this self-published book series or with Hunter’s prodigious knitting talent, let this be your introduction. I apologize in advance if this sounds like a girl-crush — but in a way it is.

Hunter is the real deal; a multi-talented designer whose intellectual curiosity  is surpassed only by her wide-ranging creativity. She’d probably say that her ability to keep her finger on the pulse of our knitting community’s zeitgeist is just a bonus.

Taking its theme from curiosity cabinets (holding collections of the marvels of natural science) and history, the patterns in KCC III are inspired by antique marine illustrations that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Hunter is an inspired sock knitter, and the projects in KCC III showcase that talent. Here are two lovely examples:

Planorbis corneus Sock

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Fucus asparagoides Sock

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Each sock pattern has a companion project, and these are pretty evenly divided among shawls, hats, and mitts. All are graceful, use only a skein or two of yarn, and are very wearable. Some of my favorites include the delicate Fucus asparagoides Shawl, made from The Plucky Knitter’s Plucky Single:

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Each one features yarn that seems to have been spun and dyed specifically for that project, so beautifully do fiber and end product work together.

PELAGIA NOCTILUCA Hat

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In addition to the projects themselves is ample evidence of Hunter’s affinity for History with a capital ‘H.’ She shares the history of curiosity cabinets as a cultural trend, describing the artifacts people collected in them hundreds of years ago, and weaves a seamless, fascinating tie-in with the knitting.

Zostera marina mitt

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Hunter is a staunch proponent of charted directions for lace, cables, and the like. In fact, there are no written row-by-row instructions for the projects in KCC III. But she facilitates the user-friendliness of her charts – and every pattern in the book includes at least one – with detailed stitch keys and careful explanations of every stitch that might give the chart-phobic knitter pause.

I’ve heard that knitters challenge themselves to get comfortable using charts specifically so they can make Hunter’s patterns, and having seen the effort she makes to keep them accessible, I’m not surprised.

Limneus stagnalis cowl

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about production values here. Hunter’s books are, without exception, right at home on the knitter’s bookshelf next to any volume from a major mainstream publisher. In terms of layout and design, photography, and styling, her books are generally more attractive than those from some of the major craft book publishers.

Even details such as paper quality, and whether the cover has a glossy or matte finish, do not go unconsidered. The end results are beautiful, substantial, and uncompromising. All attest to the effort Hunter expends to ensure the quality of her ‘product,’ and make them worth every penny.

Serpula contortuplicata mitt

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For the accessory knitter looking for whimsical but wearable projects, for the history and science buff, and for the aesthete who revels in pure beauty for its own sake, The Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet III is a gorgeous capstone to the 3-volume set.

Padina pavonia Sock

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6/23/2014 – Knits That Breathe

Here’s the thing about writing a new knitting book: you work feverishly for months to source the perfect yarn for each project, and stretch your imagination to design all the wonderful, drool-worthy  projects. This is when you keep a little notebook on your bedside table, because inspiration tends to strike in the middle of the night. And your cat gets cranky because she’s not getting enough attention… or so she’d have you believe.

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Next, you spend hours and hours with calculator in hand drafting the patterns (and sometimes redrafting them, because of course you want to be inclusive and provide grading for several sizes…). This is when you might want more than one glass of wine with dinner because if you’re not math-oriented, at the end of the day your brain is fried. Distracting yourself with something really pretty is restorative, too.

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Then you focus on the book’s physical details like the font, the tech-editing content and style, the layout, and the project photography. You take pride in your work, so you want it all to be perfect. Your name is going right there on the cover, after all! This is when you trust your instincts, and try not to second-guess yourself.

And finally, one day, you get to write this:

Many cases of Knits That Breathe copies are on their way to Amazon this week. It makes me sooo happy to be able to write that last sentence, you can’t imagine. Or maybe you can.

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The wait has seemed long – and to someone not known for her patience, I’ll admit the wait has seemed impossibly long. But at last, it’s nearly over. Several additional cases of Knits That Breathe are on their way to me so I can send out copies to those of you have waited so patiently.

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I have a feeling the postal carrier and I are about to become very good friends!

6/21/2014 – Summer Solstice

As we slog into Chicago’s typical hot and sticky summer weather, I’m getting wonderful use out of the sample knits from Knits That Breathe. Local yarn company/indie dying wizard Beth at Lorna’s Laces put up photos on Facebook today of the designs using her yarns; the luxurious silk and bamboo blend Pearl,

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and the wool and high-tech Outlast blend, Sportmate.

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Now that my recent spate of house guests have all scattered to their respective homes around the country, I’m getting back to work. I’ve begun to ship hard copies of Knits That Breathe to the very patient folks who pre-ordered their copies here. It’s quite a process – and a new one to me – but as I get comfortable with the various steps, it’s going more and more smoothly.

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Quite soon, Amazon should be shipping out copies ordered there, and the LYS owners who placed orders at TNNA should receive their shipments around the end of June. Lots of time yet for summer knits, so I look forward to seeing the finished projects popping up on Ravelry!

After waiting far longer than I would have liked, I finally planted the summer garden out on our balcony a couple of weeks ago. Now that the plants have settled in and seem happy in their containers, they’re ready for a few close-ups.

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Trader Joe’s hibiscus is positively ravishing! The plants’ glossy emerald green leaves set the stage for the daily appearance of fresh vibrant blooms that appear in time to brighten every morning as I sip my first cup of coffee in their company.

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Must admit I’m a sucker for spotty, veiny leaves… not sure I want to know what this says about me, other than the variegation resonates. Perhaps these dramatic plants remind me of the infinite variety we have in yarn colors these days.

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As soon as my tender young basil plants put out some flowers, I’m dying to try a yummy-sounding iced tea recipe that my friend Hunter recently posted on her blog.

Of course, Hunter has far more exciting news these days. Her newest book, Knitter’s Curiosity Cabinet Volume III is out! I’ll be reviewing it next week, so come on back soon, y’hear?