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!

Tah-Daaah! Gyroscopic Cardigan Pattern…

Thank you for your patience! The Gyroscopic Cardigan pattern has been uploaded to my Ravelry Pattern Store and is now available for sale. I’ll also upload it to my Pattern Store on this site in a week or so.

I appreciate all the comments this design has already generated, including those that mention its generous range of sizes (up to a 56″ bust), and those expressing surprise to discover that a cardi worked in bulky weight yarn can still be so flattering and drapey.

The yarns used for the two samples have different properties. The Queensland Collection Uruguay Chunky (blue version) has a tighter twist. Although the recommended needle size for this yarn is a US #10.5, I worked the project on US #10 needles to achieve the gauge of 4 stitches to the inch. That made all the difference in adding depth and definition to the cable design.

The resulting fabric feels a bit denser and has slightly less drape (but is so soft and cozy that I won’t want to take it off this coming winter) than the yellow version worked in Lana Grossa’s Bingo.

Bingo is a looser ply and although the recommended needle size is smaller (US #9), the gauge on the label is the same 4 stitches to the inch. It has a loftier, lighter feel than the Uruguay Chunky, but shows off the cables equally well.

I’d love to see finished versions of Gyroscopic as readers complete theirs. Enjoy the pattern, and please feel free to share your results!

A Good Rant Is Hard To Find

But before I get all wound up, I’ve got to show you the second version of the Gyroscopic Cardigan, expertly modeled by my photogenic friend, Suzy:

Isn’t the color gorgeous? I adore how it shows off the Gyroscope Cable motif. My test knitter, Glenna, did a fabulous job with all the details.


The pattern is with my tech editor now, and should be ready for launch within the next week!

OK, ready for the rant? My daughter was home from college from mid-May to mid-June, during which time we scheduled her a series of personal health “tune-ups” — a cleaning at the dentist, a visit to her primary care doctor about that wonky hip that bothers her when she exercises, and finally an appointment to the optometrist at our local LensCrafters.

I come from a long line of squinty-eyed, glasses-wearing myopics and not surprisingly, my daughter has inherited my less-than-perfect vision. She gets her eyes checked annually, and her vision seems to change every time. What I have noticed about “our” LensCrafters is that it is impossible to get out of there in less than two and a half hours EVER.

Yes, it takes 15 minutes for the pupils to dilate after they put those drops in. I get that. And we’ve learned to schedule our family’s appointments first thing in the morning so they don’t have time to get backed up. That should help, right? Emphatically, that answer is – No.

No, this shop runs consistently behind schedule, EVERY time. This visit, my daughter brought a book and I brought my knitting, so we were prepared to settle in for the usual wait. But my daughter’s appointment time came and went, and half an hour later the optometrist with whom she had her appointment had not even shown up to work.

What is going on here? Does LensCrafters HQ never check on their individual stores to make sure they are being run efficiently? Do they seriously believe it’s ok to leave their customers milling around for hours, listlessly entertaining themselves by trying on one pair of frames after another as the day ticks by? Whatever happened to sticking to the schedule? Why are customers expected to be on time for their appointments, but LensCrafters’ (and many – if not most – doctors as well) employees are not? Do they not get that they are in a service business, and that their customers deserve that service in a timely manner? Is this any way to run a franchise? I could go on and on (and on), but I think I’ve made my point.

As we sat and fumed, I suddenly remembered that a new LensCrafters had opened recently in the next town. I stormed up to the counter, and (politely) demanded of the hapless store manager behind it that our entire family’s records be faxed over to the new store. Further, I stood over the poor guy (after all, it wasn’t his fault that the optometrist hadn’t appeared) while he phoned the other LensCrafters and scheduled an appointment for my daughter ASAP. I made it clear that we would never EVER be back (was that an expression of relief I saw flitter across the manager’s face…?), and that was that. We were outta there.

By the time we arrived at the new LensCrafters fifteen minutes later, they were ready for my daughter’s appointment. Our records were there, her appointment progressed speedily, and we were on our way with her new-prescription contacts in less than an hour. Sometimes taking one’s business down the road is the only answer.

It was so worth it.

Correction to Origami Shrug Pattern in Brave New Knits

**This post has been edited to reflect a further correction from Melissa, which is that Rows 16 and 18 are worked the same.

The Origami Shrug’s designer, Melissa Wehrle, just brought a correction to my attention for this pattern in Brave New Knits . This error was caught so late because, she thinks, most knitters are working from the Lace Chart on page 120, which is correct, rather than from the line-by-line instructions on page 119.

In any case, I’ve posted the correction in the Errata section of this site, and Melissa has added it to the Ravelry project page.

ORIGAMI SHRUG: Page 119:  The written Stitch Pattern instructions should read as follows for these two rows:

Row 16: *K4, yo, k1, yo, k4, sl 1-ssk-psso, rep from * to end.
Row 18: *K4, yo, k1, yo, k4, sl 1-ssk-psso, rep from * to end.

Gyroscopic Dreams

While my lovely test knitter, Glenna, works on a gorgeous, soft, and cheerful sunflower yellow version of the Gyroscopic Cardigan, (with 3/4-length sleeves), I am poring over the pattern.

My goal is to make it as user-friendly as possible, which is why I include not only a chart for the gyroscopic cable motif, but also a line-by-line option for those who prefer to work a pattern in that manner.

As soon as I receive Glenna’s version, off goes the pattern to my tech editor for a final fine-tooth-combing. Because of course, a second and equally important goal is to make my patterns as error-free as possible.

Please stay tuned; the pattern will be available for sale in my Pattern Store and on Ravelry within the next few weeks!

Down For the Count

I had foot surgery today to remove a neuroma that had been causing me lots of pain for over a year. The worst part of the surgery was the anaesthesia injections. My daughter could hear me yelling from out in the waiting room.

And this follows last week’s cortisone injection in my spine for a herniated disc (on the heels of the cortisone injection, one might say).

The good news is that Shadow is keeping an eye on me. Now if only I can train her to refresh my ice pack every couple of hours… and maybe to bring me a little bowl of ice cream once in a while when I’m feeling sorry for myself.

I should be back in action again after a weekend of elevated foot and minimal activity. If I ever needed an excuse to be a couch potato, this is it. It’s never going to get any better than this.

Gyroscopic Cardigan – Pattern Coming Soon!

The Gyroscopic Cardigan is on the blocking board (taking forever to dry, I might add), and I am writing up more notes on the pattern draft for my test knitter.

The pattern should be ready to launch by mid-to late-June. I still need to choose the perfect buttons for this project, which will actually snap closed. I will stitch the buttons to the front of the buttonband, but want the snaps to give extra stability to the weighty fabric that is the result of the heavy worsted weight project yarn.

The vibrant yarn color is most accurate above; the photo below, for some reason, is very washed-out.

The Gyroscopic will be a cozy cardi in which to greet fall; it will even work for chilly summer nights. I know we’re all about the linen, bamboo, and hemp now that summer is upon us, but I always think ahead to fall and my first project for cooler days.

With everything blooming insanely in the garden right now, fall seems far away. But this weird weather we’re having in the Bay area (barely 70 degrees even on the nicest days, and lots of drizzle and overcast skies most of May), makes me glad to know that I will soon have a warm new cardi at the front of my closet.

Ever since I cut loose on Mother’s Day with a huge and colorful bouquet, I’ve been raiding the garden regularly – and uncharacteristically bringing armsful of flowers indoors.

These are a couple of my latest efforts. Sometimes, just a few blooms do the trick.

Gyroscopic Cardi Part II

Making progress on the Gyroscopic Cardigan, having finished the sleeves and back last week, shaping and all… am absolutely loving the way two repeats of the charted motif create a third one up the center.

Here’s another view. The twisted stitches and minimal cable crossings create wonderful texture up the back, undulating from ribbed hem to neckline. The larger sizes will include widely-spaced ribbed borders that frame the central cable motif, adding interest to those side stitches that allow room for the waist and bust shaping.

One of the many things I love about this cable motif is how easily it is memorized. Once you get into the rhythm of the curves, it just flows off the needles.

While my pattern for the cardigan (being test-knit as I write) will include line-by-line directions for the cable motif, written out in meticulous detail for knitters who prefer that format, I am a chart fanatic myself, and find charts so much easier to work from.

Decided to keep the sleeves simple, referring to the widely-spaced ribbed outer swirls of the cable motif as a way to add interest but not let the sleeve design get too busy. Although you won’t hear me say this very often, sometimes the simplest solution is the most elegant.

And set-in sleeves are definitely the way to go with this cardi. The heavy worsted weight yarn creates a fabric that demands the structure of seaming.

Taking advantage of last week’s warmish weather, I was able to knit outside on the terrace quite often and keep up with the evolution of the garden.

Not that I accomplished any weeding (the Gyroscopic Cardi demands my complete attention, of course…) but I could still delude tell myself that I was making mental notes of the work that needs to be done outside, just as soon as there is a break in the knitting. Not that there are many of those.

The bouquet below features four different kinds of roses, as well as calla lilies and their leaves.

Twirling Like a Gyroscope

With so much secret knitting kept necessarily under wraps, it has been quite some time since I last had the opportunity to design a new sweater for yours truly. In fact, it has been a long time since I could blog about anything more exciting than baby caps, of which I have been enamored lately both for their stash-busting properties and for their “instant gratification” factor.

But finally I’ve found a little window, and have thrown myself into the design of this new cardigan. Cardis are my favorite garment, cables are among my favorite stitch textures, and a full bag of this extraordinarily beautiful blue bulky weight yarn (Queensland Collection Uruguay Chunky, a sublimely soft and decadently dense blend of merino wool, alpaca, and silk) has been burning a hole in my stash.

After much tinkering and swatching, I’ve decided upon this combination cable and twist pattern that creates a lovely gyroscopic swirl, hence the name I’ve chosen for the project.

It’s exciting to see the pattern grow, and so far I am thrilled with the way the shaping of the cardigan is evolving. On US Size 10 needles, it’s moving along quite nicely, too; a couple of days of intensive effort as time permits and the front pieces are nearly complete.

Follow along with me; I’ll post updates on the progress as long as it takes.

I quickly realized that the 10 skeins I already had of this yarn were not going to be quite enough to complete the cardi I envision unless I made it with cap sleeves. I’ve ordered a few extra skeins and assuming the dyelots are not a perfect match, will have to alternate skeins as I work the back and sleeves.

Happy Mother’s Day!


On this day of all days, I felt entitled to go outside early this morning and raid the garden…

Although I usually enjoy the roses ON the bush and seldom bring any into the house, today I picked myself a whopping armful of the most spectacular, wildly fragrant roses from every bush in the garden…

and arranged them into the most colorful, exuberant bouquet I could assemble, in my favorite antique etched glass vase.

Only my daughter’s phone call this morning to wish me a happy day (she’ll be home from college at the end of next week) gave me more pleasure than this riot of gorgeous blooms.

And to focus for just a moment on knitting (oh, yeah, this IS supposed to be a knitting blog, isn’t it?), I whipped up another sweet little baby cap during my plane ride home from NY on Friday. Blues, lavenders, and greens for this one, for which I used another skein of Koigu Kersti from my stash. Now to attend to the creation of a few crocheted flowers so it will have the proper embellishment for someone’s new babe…

Thoughts on Trunk Shows

Tuesday evening’s Brave New Knits signing and trunk show at Katonah Yarn in New York was great fun, and everybody enjoyed seeing the book’s projects “in person,” commenting (not surprisingly) that they look even better in real life than they do in the book’s pages.

Katonah Yarn has all the best qualities of a wonderful yarn shop: it is bright, spacious yet cozy, full of beautiful yarns temptingly displayed, and staffed by a pair of lovely women who smilingly offer assistance to one and all. Jennifer, Rae, and staffer Dani made me feel very welcome at their regular weekly “knit night,” when they stay open late and a group of knitters works on their projects, chatting all the while.

Some customers tried on every single project, and found that even the ones they’d been iffy about looked great on them.

The shop’s apple green wall color was practically a match to the Sundara Silk Sport I used to make my Orchid Thief Shawlette from the book, and Rae’s version in a gorgeous worsted weight merlot colored wool was in beautiful contrast.

(Owner Jennifer, me, Dani, and owner Rae)

A fantastic surprise was seeing my high school friend, Joanne, with whom I reconnected on Facebook last year. She lives in the area, and although she is (sadly) not a knitter herself, she attended the signing with a knitter friend.

OK, not to be a scold, but I’m going to get up on my soapbox for a minute here to share my thoughts about something that happened at the event. A young woman came into the shop and tried on all the projects from the book. Then she began surreptitiously photographing all of them, as well as the labels that identified the yarns used for each. Simultaneously, she was on her phone with a knitter friend who had not been able to join her. The owner eventually asked her to stop photographing the projects, and she did.

This woman spent the rest of the evening at the shop, making a dinner out of the lovely refreshments that the Katonah Yarn owners had been kind enough to provide for the event, and chatting with the other knitters. When she finally departed, she did not purchase a copy of the book, or as much as a single skein of yarn, or any notions.

For all I know, she had already bought Brave New Knits on Amazon or from another retailer. Or perhaps after all the effort of sneaking photos of the projects and their details, she decided she didn’t like them enough to make some herself after all. Sometimes one has to look through a book at length and see the garments up close to make that decision. Maybe she couldn’t afford to add another knitting book to her personal library. Or maybe she had taken enough photos of the pertinent details to be able to reproduce the projects she liked the best without the benefit of the actual patterns. Who knows?

I just wonder what was going through her head. Though I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt, her behavior seemed clueless at best, and unconscionably rude at worst. The owners were upset that this “customer” seemed to think it was appropriate to photograph the book’s projects. They never mentioned the fact that she did not ultimately purchase a copy; it was my observation. And there’s no law saying she had to make the purchase. Fortunately, several customers did buy the book as well as yarn to make their first projects from it.

Jennifer and Rae are small business owners; they have kept Katonah Yarn open for five years, which means they survived the worst of the economic downturn in 2008-9. They are established in their community, and as I said earlier, you couldn’t ask for a nicer LYS. It upset me on their behalf that this young woman would think it was okay to spend the evening at their shop, eat their food, try on all the projects from Brave New Knits, take numerous pictures of them, and then not buy a copy.

Where I come from, we have a name for people like this: a Schnorrer, which is someone who takes advantage of the generosity of others; a parasite. Perhaps this woman was simply in the market for an evening of free entertainment, and she certainly made the most of it. But I don’t like what her actions say about her lack of respect for Jennifer and Rae and their efforts to keep their business running and successful. What do you think?

Future Food

Just before leaving home, I planted the vegetable garden. My back may never forgive me.

Now that the weather has finally turned the corner (high 70’s all day today), those seedlings will actually get enough heat and sunlight to grow. I planted three different varieties of peppers,

eight different kinds of tomatoes (three of which are cherry tomatoes) and two different squashes.

The big clump above is a mash-up of beet greens and chard that wintered over and self-seeded.

Four sweet basil plants from Trader Joe’s, which always has them this time of year. Bright marigolds, companion planted near the tomatoes to keep insects at bay. Two different varieties of lettuce.

And finally, three different kinds of cucumbers. After all these years of trial and error, I realized that once we have picked the green beans a few times, everybody gets sick of them and the rest get huge and woody – and remain uneaten, so it made no sense to plant them again.

Can’t wait to start picking – though the harvest is at least 8 weeks away.