It’s Never Too Late To Have a Happy New Year

At least, that’s my operating strategy going forward, as we kiss January good-bye and usher in that short but unpredictable month of February. So far 2011 is shaping up to be an interesting year. In order of magnitude, let me share the following:

1)  Brave New Knits has gone into a third printing, only five months since its original publication at the end of August, 2010. I had the fantastic honor of doing author signings at both TNNA in Long Beach, CA and at VK Live in NYC; it was so amazing to hear how many knitters keep BNK on their bedside tables to read those designer interviews as much as to drool over the patterns.

2)  Including the holidays, I’ve been stuck and/or stranded in at least two blizzards. Can’t remember the last time I had so much fun in inclement weather.

These experiences made me realize that I should just shut up about my less-than-favorite aspects of living in California, because absolutely no one back east feels the least bit sorry for me; in fact, they undoubtedly view me as the thin-blooded sissy Californian I have become.

3)  I’ve been working on projects both secret and not-so-secret, including the Sabine cardigan which I made for my daughter:

4)  I learned that I have a gluten sensitivity (but not celiac disease, for which I am grateful), and have embarked on a strictly gluten-free diet. One of my two New Year’s resolutions is to explore the GF lifestyle and make sure that everything I eat is as delicious as anything wheat-based would be.

It’s a whole new world out there. So far, I’ve discovered some great GF blogs and websites, and made my first batch of GF biscotti – they are so delicious that I had to stick a packed baggie of them in the freezer to keep myself from snacking on them all day.

What is my other New Year’s resolution, you ask? And if you know me, you’re likely aware that I am not a resolution-making kind of person, so this is rather aberrant behavior for me. And I usually stay away from political commentary on this blog. However, I feel strongly enough about the subject to do this:

5)  In 2011, I will not buy a single item for my own use that was made in China.

Here’s a challenge: go take a look in your closet. If it looks anything like mine, somewhere between 50 and 95 % of what you own and wear was made in China. It occurred to me that as a consumer, I have supported the Chinese economy very generously for many years. I decided that it’s about time I searched for ways to support my own country’s economic efforts more conscientiously.

If you, like me, shop the sales at stores like J. Crew and Banana Republic (and sister stores Gap and Old Navy), not to mention Target and large department stores – pretty much all mainstream clothing purveyors – then most of what you buy was made in China. All those great sweaters from Anthropologie that we scoop up in order to figure out how to knit them for ourselves? Made in China. Next to nothing in those stores is made in the U.S. Sure, you’ll find a few things manufactured in India, Vietnam, and Mexico, but for the most part they come from China. No wonder that country pretty much owns us.

I won’t even start on home electronics, small appliances, and toys.

Part of my goal is to identify manufacturers, designers, and purveyors of stuff made right here in the U.S. The good news is that most of the yarn I buy is U.S.-grown and dyed. Obviously, there are tremendous resources right on the internet. And our good friend Etsy will undoubtedly fill many a need. But please feel free to share resources, since I am a newbie here. Reading labels is just the beginning…

I’m Knitting As Fast As I Can

Having just completed writing up the pattern for a secret project, I needed something soothing to work on. Something a little bit mindless. Something mindless that would nevertheless result in a garment I will be happy to wear.

And that’s why I am Working up another of Cocoknits’ designs, this time the Louisa long-sleeved tunic. I really want to wear it over the holidays, so am knitting practically in my sleep during every spare minute.

Knit in the round in Stockinette to the armholes, this is a relatively speedy project (relatively because as a tunic it is fairly long and that just takes more time compared to a sweater that ends at the hip).

The Habu wool and linen roving is easy on the hands and knits up into a soft, drapey fabric. I especially like the deep, clay green colorway. Lovely!

Even Shadow has offered to help (actually, she’d much rather play with the yarn but knows better than to try… who says cats can’t be taught?).

December Showers…

… bring winter flowers. 

Lest you think the garden is asleep for the winter, let me correct that impression. There are a few spots and pots where even my mostly-green thumbs can’t make anything grow spontaneously, and  it is necessary to import the color from our local nursery.

For those areas, cyclamen do the job nicely, being both fragrant and colorful.

Outside the back door, the camellias are in full bloom. At night, they seem to glow in the dark – when it hasn’t been raining, that is (which turns them soggy and limp in record time).

My favorites, the hellebores, are budding and will be in bloom in another few weeks.

The Meyer lemon crop this winter is outstanding after last year’s disappointment. Visions of lemon marmalade, lemon-infused olive oil, and frozen lemon cubes (for next summer’s lemonade) are already dancing in my head.

And this hairy specimen pitched her web right outside the front gate; some welcome for visitors, right? Her legspan was a good inch and she was hard at work spinning her web, but so far had not managed to lure anything edible into it… though not for lack of trying!


Another recent FO to share, Sabine is my first – and perhaps my only – knitted holiday gift for this year. 

Sabine is for my daughter, who goes to college in a cold-winter climate, who has coveted this yarn (Mountain Colors “Bearfoot”, a DK weight blend of wool, mohair, and nylon) ever since it first appeared in my stash, and who is the apple of my eye (as the saying goes).

The creation of Julie Wiesenberger of Cocoknits, Sabine is a drapey cardigan knit seamlessly from the top down, with simple eyelet lace details that add a bit of hourglass shaping to the back and a gentle flare to the three-quarter length sleeves. In its own quiet way, it is a joy to make. 

 I first became familiar with the collection of Cocoknits patterns when Julie agreed to participate in Brave New Knits, (her Button child’s tunic is utterly adorable and equally easy to make) and was immediately drawn to the elegant simplicity of her designs.

Yet, her patterns include graceful details and ingenious assembly techniques that make the finished garments look more complicated than they are.

They are heavy on the stockinette, making them excellent projects for evenings when I may watch some TV and don’t necessarily want to work on more demanding projects.

Those gorgeous leaves from our peach tree add just the right autumnal note, don’t they?

And She Comes Up For Air…

Thought I’d forgotten all about blogging, eh?

No, nothing attributable to absent-mindedness here. Just too much life getting in the way and too little blogging as a result. Between caring for elderly parents, wrapping up Brave New Knits book promotions for this year, the random ant infestation:

secret projects, oh yes and Thanksgiving, knitting in general, and preparations for more holiday festivities, blogging fell by the wayside.

Haven’t been checking in regularly on Facebook or Twitter lately, either.

And you know what? Despite missing my community, it has been kind of a relief not to think about it. It has been wonderful to spend my limited free time actually knitting, rather than writing blog posts or scrolling through Ravelry, or poking around with camera in hand to find print-worthy photos.

Maybe I just overthink the blogging. It’s possible. But when I have something to say, I believe in saying it as well as I can. That means writing posts that are both interesting and, if at all possible, grammatically correct.

And lately, that has all seemed like too great an effort given everything else that’s going on here.

But then the urge to share kicked in anew, and here I am. More to follow soon!

Orchid Thief Stole My Heart

The Orchid Thief Shawlette  pattern stole my heart from the moment Ysolda Teague proposed it for my book, Brave New Knits. Eventually, I knew, I would have to make one of my own.

There were exactly two skeins of Sundara Yarn’s (sadly discontinued) Silk Sport in my stash, with 225 yards in each – just enough to complete the project. The Basil Over Buttercup colorway is a glowing, vibrant green so rich it’s almost iridescent. I’ve seen some gorgeous orchids that are close to this shade of green, so although it may not be the first color one thinks of when contemplating orchids, it definitely worked for me.

I’m glad I didn’t attempt this project sooner, because the transition from Chart #3 to #4 would definitely have stumped me without Ysolda’s corrections. But now it works – and so beautifully! Thankfully, both friends and Ravelers with more courage than I were kind enough to post their experiences to help the rest of us overcome our trepidation.

Given how quickly the project went (I’m not an especially fast knitter, so less than two weeks from start to finish is pretty speedy for me) I think I’ll have to make another.

Wow! Just… Wow!

I learned yesterday (thank you, Shannon, for passing along the link) that Brave New Knits made it into the Top Ten Craft books category in’s Best Books of 2010. If you could see me now, you’d be laughing, because I’m doing a very, very, very happy dance!

More Fabulous Places to Knit

Tacoma, Washington is home to Yorkshire Yarns, where I had the pleasure of spending an evening recently to do a signing and trunk show for Brave New Knits. I love the wire mannequin on the far left of the photo below; so Victorian looking, and so perfect for modeling the Silke Jacket.

Sonya Acord is Yorkshire Yarn’s owner; she organized a very fun evening for the book signing event complete with snacks and refreshments.

Yorkshire Yarns is also the LYS of my new friend, Jen Hagan (far right in the photo below), who introduced me to Sonya and facilitated the event. Jen hosted me during my visit to the Pacific Northwest; one more example of how the knitters’ community has grown because of the Internet. I never would have met Jen (and her sweet husband, Fred) if it weren’t for Ravelry and knitting blogs!

A good friend of Jen’s did a fantastic job modeling many of the garments from Brave New Knits. Here she is in the Krookus Cardigan:

And here she is in Jen’s own Global Cable Coat (with one of the pretty little Lace Flower Pins on the lapel). Jen is making a second Global Cable Coat to try out a different yarn… it’s gorgeous already, and I saw only the first six inches or so.

Next stop on my whirlwind tour was Seattle’s Tricoter. I confess that it has been one of the biggest goals in my knitting life to visit Tricoter, which has been one of the premier yarn shops in the U.S. for many years, and whose owners have published a few knitting books of their own.

Below is the staff of Tricoter, from left to right: Jason, Beryl, Julie, Ola, and Lindy. I spent a lovely afternoon there signing copies of Brave New Knits and meeting some of the knitters who are lucky to call this wonderful shop their LYS.

Jen met me at Tricoter for the afternoon to see the shop for herself after hearing so much about it over the years, and to introduce her amazing pattern line, Figheadh Yarnworks, to the owners. Below you see her working on that second Global Cable Coat… thanks for the company, Jen!

Fabulous Places to Knit

The last two weeks of October took me to some amazing yarn shops and introduced me to some amazing knitters. One was based on the ground floor of a beautiful Victorian house, complete with charming cottage garden. Mona Rummel, long-time owner of this shop, Eugene, Oregon’s wonderful Soft Horizons Fibre (which does not, by choice, have an internet presence, hence the Yelp link for information about the shop), decided she had to make Shannon Okey’s Silke Jacket for herself:

Customer Sara, who pre-ordered her copy of Brave New Knits, was enamored with Melissa Wehrle’s Origami Shrug:

Another customer, whose name I didn’t get (sorry!), fell in love with Ann Weaver’s Johnny Rotten Jacket:

Kate, a Soft Horizons Fibre employee (and such a willing model that she tried on most of the book’s projects!), was particularly fond of Teresa Gregorio’s Milk Maiden Pullover:

And staffer Sydney was very excited to try on Ysolda Teague’s Orchid Thief Shawlette before casting on for one of her own:

At Portland, Oregon’s Knit Purl, the walls of color were a total feast for the eyes, though I didn’t manage to catch those stealthy staffers trying on the garments from Brave New Knits.

Finally… An Ishbel To Call My Own

Although it seems that lately I don’t have much time to knit other designers’ patterns, Ysolda Teague’s Ishbel shawl made a great plane project a few weeks ago.

Everywhere I go, I run into a knitter who tells me with great excitement that she has knit up four Ishbels, or sometimes five, or maybe even as many as eight, no lie! So finally, I just had to try it for myself.

And I have to admit it is a very satifsying project; simple stockinette concluded with a simple lace border repeat. Great for a long plane or car ride. A wonderful way to show off a beautiful skein of laceweight or sock yarn.

Mine is in Malabrigo Sock, color #809, Solis. Mmmm… the scrumptious yarn in that divine colorway was as lovely to work as the project itself. I even had quite a bit left over of the single skein, leading me to believe I should have made the large version after all. Next time. I guess I might just become one of those serial Ishbel knitters….


When the fun folks at Interweave Knits gave me a creative challenge, I did my best to rise to the occasion. And now that the Holiday 2010 issue is on its way to your mailbox and local yarn shop, I can share what they asked me to do.

It was a fun little project; knitted embellishments that are suitable for holiday gift-giving. Four different little leaves, to be precise, with the designs charted out to make them really easy-peasy. And oh, the magical ways in which to use them:

Little Pleated Clutch, Hana Jason, Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2010

I can see them tied to holiday packages, topping a length of I-cord for use as a bookmark, or lots of them gathered to make a wreath, or bulky weight versions pressed into service as coasters…

Looking through all the great projects in this issue, it is clear that the IK editors had a blast putting it together. I was happy to be included, as this project gave me a great excuse to browse again through a photography book by Karl Blossfeldt, a truly fabulous little book of inspiration that features sharply-detailed black and white photos of seed pods, leaves, and flowers.

So Behind It Looks Caught Up To Me

The latest radio silence is attributable to nothing more serious than travel and then more time needed to catch up on life.

But I couldn’t let my new pattern release go entirely unheralded.

Please say hello to Sonja, a rectangular stole and bonus scarf pattern in a total of three sizes. After much test knitting and pattern tweaking, she is finally ready for her close-up. Two simple but satisfying lace patterns are combined to create a wonderfully soft and warm wrap that will keep you cozy on a winter day.

Should you desire a Sonja of your own (and why wouldn’t you, she said in a shameless plug), you have the option of making her in one of three sizes: Large – 17″ wide x 84″ long for a truly sumptuous wrap, Small – 17″wide x 66″ long for those of us who tend to get warm a bit too quickly and often these days, and Scarf – 8 3/4″ wide x 66″ long, for anyone who just wants a wrap around her neck rather than her entire torso.



Fingering or laceweight yarns are recommended for Sonja; the large red version is worked in about 2 2/3 skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Sock; the small teal version is knit up in slightly less than two 400-yd. skeins of Fearless Fibers Laceweight Merino Wool, and the scarf is made from less than one skein – 500 yds. – of Sundara Yarn Fingering Silky Merino.

Whichever yarn you choose, all were made on US Size 6 needles. Obviously, in the laceweight the resulting wrap is a more open, airier lace than in the fingering weight choices.

Sonja is offered for sale in my Pattern Store right here on this site, and on my Ravelry Designer page.

Knit-One-One and Nine Rubies Knitting…

If I’m behind on posting photos of the latest Brave New Knits signings, it’s because I’m in transit yet again. But last week was a welcome respite because I got to do a few signings in the Bay area. What a treat to be able to get into my car, drive to the event, and then drive back home!

In addition to the fabulous San Francisco shop ImagiKnit, I had the great good fortune to hold a trunk show at Sile Convery’s premier crafts space Knit-One-One in Berkeley. Joining me there was Julie Weisenberger of Cocoknits fame. Her adorable child’s tunic, Button, is one of the book’s many popular projects.

Julie, when you gonna write up the pattern for that sweater you’re wearing? I want it bad!

Judi (a new transplant to San Francisco) really rocked Stefanie Japel’s Waves Pullover.

This little angel was especially fetching in Anne Hanson’s Hydrangea Neckwarmer.

And some visitors just couldn’t try on too many items at one time!

Nine Rubies Knitting in San Mateo hosted me last Sunday, and had a great group of knitters there for their regular Sunday afternoon gathering. Saloni and her mom Sudha run the shop and had knit up a few of the book’s projects as store samples. They made me feel so welcome!

While I was there, it was really fun to discuss internet resources for knitters; some members of the group were more comfortable than others with all the options that are out there for our community, so it felt good to spread the word!

Fellow Bay area designer Brenda Patipa also stopped by – we were already friends on Ravelry, so it was really nice to meet her in person.

Nine Rubies employee Hannah (Hannahart on Ravelry) proved once again that when you include an informal “Project Runway” as part of a signing, you just might sell more books!

She looked great in everything she tried on, and Jordana Paige’s Delysia (above) and Shannon Okey’s Silke (below) were just two examples from the many she wore.

Both venues were fabulous. And did I mention how great it was not to have to get on a plane in order to do them (I guess this means the rock star/road warrior life is not for me – too much of a homebody)?

Let There Be Knitting

Lest you suspect that all this book promotion stuff has kept me from my own knitting, let me reassure you that is not the case.

Please allow me to introduce the Sonja Stole, named for record-breaking Norwegian Olympic figure skater Sonja Henie. After her incredible first career as a skater in the 1920s and 1930s, she spent several more years as one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses. Talk about reinvention!

The stole’s easily memorized lace stitch pattern throughout the body is interspersed with narrow sections of ruching (and these are spaced progressively closer together for added warmth where it wraps around the neck). Each end is finished with a lovely lace border.

Version #1 shown above (17″ wide x 68″ long, blocked) is a rich semisolid teal, made up with lightening speed by Glenna from less than two 400 yd. skeins of Fearless Fibers Laceweight 100% Merino Wool (you can also purchase Deb’s beautiful yarns in larger skeins, which is perfect for this project).

Version #2 is significantly longer (17″ wide x 84″ long), the better to wrap luxuriously around your shoulders on a cold night when moonlight skating is on the agenda. Worked up in just under three skeins of Madeline Tosh Sock (approximately 1,050 yards), it is sumptuously soft and warm.

Both versions of the stole are knit on US Size 6/ 4.0 mm needles, which means that the laceweight merino (Version #1) knits up with open stitches that are light as air, and the fingering weight wool (Version #2) has more substance.

The pattern will be added within the next week or so to both my Ravelry store and to the Pattern page on this site. It will also include directions for a bonus scarf version of Sonja, just because.

Imagiknit Signing and Trunk Show

Last night was the Brave New Knits signing and trunk show at ImagiKnit in San Francisco. Allison was a most gracious hostess – she and her staff (thanks, Jonah and Jocelyn!) cleared a table and stripped display forms for me so quickly you’d think they had a lot of practice.

Can you believe all the yarn behind my trunk show? The entire shop is packed with gorgeous yarn just like what you see in those cubes behind the BNK display!

Hilary Smith Callis (The Yarniad) was really the star of the evening. Here she is modeling her own Koukla project. I love, love, LOVE those pockets!

And below is another view of all that amazing yarn stocked by ImagiKnit – it’s truly staggering when you see it in person! In fact, a couple of skeins of Madeline Tosh Sock yarn jumped into my bag when I wasn’t looking, and insisted upon coming home with me. Don’t know quite how that happened, but I’m sure it has something (or maybe everything?) to do with my terminal lack of willpower. Thanks for enabling me, Allison…

Some people get to be both tall & beautiful, and some of us make do with short & sassy.

Hilary brought her posse with her to the event, and they had a field day trying on projects from the book.

Rocking the Johnny Rotten Jacket. How sharp is that?

ImagiKnit is located at:

3897 18th St. (at Sanchez)
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 621-6642
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11-6:30, Sunday 11-4