Knitting In the Sun

Why, yes, there is a book of that title by Kristi Porter. And yet, it seemed an appropriate title for this post because it explains why – for at least one week out of the last few, I did not post here. My daughter was on spring break, and we took her to Jamaica.

I dared to travel without my computer. What a mistake that turned out to be (more on that later).

After record snowfall back east this winter (and rain here in CA), we almost didn’t know what to do with ourselves in all that sunshine. Almost. But we soon figured it out.

Gazing out at the clear turquoise sea was always popular.

Sampling the seemingly endless variety of sugary, high-octane tropical drinks was also high on the list.


We each had our own method of relaxing. Some of us read books – Fiction! For Fun!

Some of us stayed up very, very, very late into the night playing pool at the resort’s nightclub.

And some of us – well, me anyway – did lots of knitting. Isn’t that what everybody does on a tropical island?

While my daughter worked on her tan, I assiduously maintained my nearly phosphorescent pallor through frequent applications of sunblock in SPF Gazillion. It seems to have worked; all I can claim is a few more freckles on this otherwise pasty alabaster skin.

And when we returned home, Shadow made her displeasure known in no uncertain terms. What were we thinking, to have left her behind?!!

(While we were away, my Facebook account got hacked and countless,egregiously obnoxious amounts of spam got dumped on all of my FB friends. Every time I ventured down to the resort’s Business Center to get onto one of their three computers and at least change my FB password, I practically had to take a number and get in line because so many other pathetic souls had the temerity to think they could go on vacation sans laptops. It was a nightmare. Sorry. Sorry! Oh, so sorry!)

It was probably a blessing that I couldn’t keep up with the comment stream, because some of my “friends” got pretty testy as the spam continued to rain down on them. Fixing that was the first thing I did when we got home. Before I unpacked, even. Really.

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….

Loop Signing

I’ve been hearing about Loop in Philadelphia for years, so it was a distinct thrill when owner Craig Rosenfeld invited me to do a signing and trunk show for Brave New Knits there. And I confess to feeling a shiver down my spine when I saw that his shop windows were full of neatly arrayed copies of the book, welcoming knitters inside for the event.

And what a beautiful, bright and airy shop it is! All those pristine cubes stocked in a color-coordinated rainbow of luscious yarn… I sigh with pleasure just thinking about it. It’s no wonder that Craig’s shop won Philadelphia Magazine’s 2010 award for Best Way To Get Crafty.

Here I am with Craig AND one of my all-time favorite knit-blog idols, Carol Sulcoski of Black Bunny Fibers fame, (and writer, and designer) who is even funnier and more charming in person than she is in her blog, goknitinyourhat. Carol drove in from the ‘burbs for the event and oh my, I was all verklempt!

Craig had the display table stocked with more copies of Brave New Knits as well as a beautiful autumnal color story featuring yarns used in the book’s projects – WOW! He wrote a lovely post (with additional photos) about the event here: if you want to read more.

Bobbin’s Nest Studio

How lovely to have a local stop next up on my Brave New Knits tour! Bobbin’s Nest Studio is a fabric and yarn store located just an hour south of me, in Santa Clara.

And owner Erin McGee’s shop is wonderfully diversified, selling both gorgeous yarn AND amazing fabrics and patterns for sewing everything from clothing to home accessories. What a great mix! Colorful, touchable, and a feast of eye candy in every corner.

Take a look at the skirts in the photo above; they are shop samples that just happened to coordinate perfectly with Mari Muinonen’s Krookus Cardigan and with Teresa Gregorio’s Milk Maiden Pullover from the book!

Erin is a tall drink of water, and I guess the beverage that most closely describes me is a single shot of espresso; you can’t tell from the photo above, but she is bending at the knees, and I am standing on my tip-toes to bring us to a similar height.

Jordana Paige, above, whose lovely and delicate Delysia Camisole is one of the Brave New Knits projects, is introducing a new collection of knitting bags to her product line. It was great to have her at Bobbin’s Nest for the afternoon, too. Customers were very excited to have a two-for-one!

And speaking of customers, I met both a Facebook Friend (Hi, Diane!) AND a Ravelry acquaintance (That’s you, Ien!) for the first time in person because both came to the signing. The internet is responsible for all sorts of meet ups these days.

With its carefully edited selection of yarn, books, fabrics, and patterns, all of which are artfully displayed in vintage cabinets, with cozy sofas and overstuffed chairs tucked into corners for customers who just have to sit and knit a while, Bobbin’s Nest Studio would definitely be my go-to shop if it were located closer to home.

Brave New Knits Tour

The Brave New Knits book signing and trunk show tour has begun! Kicking it off with a trip to New England, I visited WEBS for the first time – surely a dream destination on every knitter’s wish list.

Retail Store Manager Karen Minott made lots of display forms and hangers available to me, which made it easy to set up all of the book’s fabulous projects for visitors to admire. About 20 customers came to hear me talk about internet resources for knitters.

I took a brief poll at the beginning, and about half of the knitters in the audience raised their hands when I asked who did NOT regularly use the internet!

And those same customers, one by one, pulled out notebooks and started taking notes as I talked about the list of resources on my outline – which made me feel great because I love to spread the word about Ravelry, Yarndex, Patternfish, and other great sites that serve our community. 

Here’s Karen with me at the end of the evening. That display of knitting needles behind us is just the tip of the iceberg at WEBS. Karen was kind enough to give me a tour of their building before my talk began, and I was absolutely gobsmacked to see so much yarn under one roof.

There were several dazed-looking customers pushing actual shopping carts back in the warehouse, loading up with bags of gorgeous yarn!

The next morning I drove from Northampton to Boston, where I had the rest of the day to myself to explore and enjoy one of my favorite cities. With the weather cooperating, I just had to get outdoors after a couple of hours in the car.

A stroll through the Boston Commons put me back into a good mood (I tend to think I love a good road trip until I actually get behind the wheel and drive for hours by myself with only the car radio for company!).

Walking back to my hotel via all the boutiques on Newbury Street was pretty tempting. If I hadn’t blown my budget at WEBS the night before, it could have been downright dangerous.

Continuing my explorations in Beacon Hill, I discovered charming cobblestone streets like this one, lined with beautiful old row houses, lushly planted window boxes, and antique street lamps.

Saturday was the signing and trunk show at Windsor Button in downtown Boston, where Susan Baker was my charming host for the event. The shop is packed full of yarny goodies and, yes, they do have the MOST amazing button collection.

Special local celebrities whose projects are in Brave New Knits joined me at Windsor Button, including Grumperina.

It was great to see Ann Weaver (center) of Weaverknits again – her first self-published pattern collection is due out any day! And Angela Hahn (right) of Kntitude fame drove in from Cape Cod to the event; it was such a pleasure to meet her in person at last, since when we did her interview she was still living in Italy.

The event at Windsor Button was so much fun, and sold out of all the books Susan had pre-ordered!

Vacation Knitting Results

What Knitting Do You Pack for Vacations?

Aside from an extra bathing suit, flip flops, and a couple of outfits, there wasn’t much I needed for my family vacation in Mexico besides yarn and needles. Sure, I brought a book (Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden, which I loved) , but mostly I knew I’d be knitting. Wouldn’t you?

The Best-Laid Plans

I planned to concentrate on the “Knitting While Reading” project mentioned in earlier posts. But on vacation, plans are subject to change, right? Instead, I worked on a new rectangular stole design that I’m calling “Corazon” for its vibrant shade of cherry red (and because I made such great progress on it while in Mexico!). The yarn is Madeline Tosh Sock, and the color is Scarlet (boy, is it ever!).

While Corazon is technically a lace stole, its design is intentionally more solid and less open lace. Although it will have a pretty lace edging, as you work toward the center of the stole, the solid Stockinette ruched sections are spaced closer together for extra warmth around the neck. This will be a warm stole, the kind you’ll want to wrap yourself in when the wind is really howling.

I got nearly half way through while my family was doing things like this:

They had fun and so did I!

Up In The Air

I’m no Ryan Bingham, and certainly no (spoiler alert!) cheatin’ Alex, but lately I’ve been up in the air way too often for my liking. Air travel takes on a whole new perspective when you’re doing it because you HAVE to instead of because you WANT to. While I’d do anything for my family, this back-and-forthing from California to New York is taking a toll. I just don’t bounce back the way I used to, and it takes a full week for me to get back to normal (well, as normal as I ever get!) from the jet-lag.

Dad is back home after two weeks in the hospital, precipitated by a fall that broke 4 ribs and also caused him to 1) suffer massive internal bleeding when one of those broken ribs pierced an artery, and as a result required 2) several blood transfusions, leaving him so compromised that he 3) developed a serious bacterial infection, and 4) had a heart attack, and then 5) developed a secondary bacterial infection. The man is 89.  Evidently, he has nine lives and if it is left up to him, he will tell you that he still has a few to go before he’s done.

In order to make it feasible for him and my mom to return to their very old and creaky two-story house, several things had to happen. The most important of these was that we had to make it possible for them to live exclusively on the ground floor. And then, we had to make it easy for a very frail man (who gets around s-l-o-w-l-y with a walker) to get from the house out to the car for the doctors office visits that now comprise the bulk of his activity. Ramps were installed, furniture was moved, new showerheads and grab bars were installed. And none of this takes into account my mother, whose dementia is pretty bad at this point and who was being taken care of by my dad until all this happened. And let me tell you, it takes a village – but we got it all done. This is what we do for our family, right?

Meanwhile, while I was away, the garden continued to do what it always does at this time of year: it bloomed! One of the best things about coming home from these trips is that I am blown away by the changes in the garden. This means these tiny heirloom roses that were in bud before I left, and ju-u-ust beginning to adapt to their new life climbing the pergola column on the back patio, are now in full, glorious bloom:

The Satsuma plum tree is LOADED with green fruit that over the next several weeks will turn miraculously deep purple and sweet. These plums make the most divine jam, not to mention tarts and crisps. Mmmmmm!

When I left home, the last of the irises from spring were beginning to fade away. The asiatic lilies of summer had not yet begun to bloom, and yet, upon my return it was clear they had decided in my absence that it was time to get their show on the road:

The roses bloom all summer long, and last month they were particularly gorgeous. Still, these Eden double-flowering ones are among my favorites. They cover a back fence (smother is more like it) in a profusion of delicate pink set off by shiny dark green serrated leaves. Although they have only the most subtle fragrance and I usually like my roses stronger, these are so lovely that I gladly forgive them their lack of scent.

Another good thing about travel is that it often presents the opportunity to knit. Ordinarily, I can get quite a lot accomplished when I’m out on the road, but under the circumstances I was often so exhausted by evening that it was all I could do to work a few rows of my current travel project, the Emily Dickinson Shawl by Kieran Foley. Never one to leave well enough alone, I’ve made a couple of modifications to Kieran’s lovely design. As already mentioned, these were the result of having insufficiently sparkly beads coupled with the need to make that broad swath of stockinette a bit more interesting to work sans beads. Wish I had more progress to show, but I also worked on a couple of secret projects for which I was under deadline. And unbelievably, I met those deadlines. Don’t ask me how.

Close-up of my little yarnover modification:

The best part of being home, however, was definitely seeing these two smiling faces again:

I’m Ba-a-ack…!

So you’ve probably noticed that I have finally resurfaced after a couple of weeks of radio silence (just what IS radio silence, anyway? I’ve always wondered…). Was off traveling to see my aged and not-terribly-healthy parents, and to take them to visit my daughter at college. She (my darling daughter, that is) was performing in a modern dance program – a timely occasion that proved sufficient enticement for my parents to make the four-hour car trip with me from NY to PA to see her.

With a double major in Business and French, I’m not sure how my daughter is finding the time to minor in Modern Dance, but she loves it and has come to regard the classes as nothing less than her guaranteed hours of exercise every week. The performance was wonderful; it was a choreographer’s showcase with about two dozen short dances created by a group of former students and professional choreographers.

Got to spend one day in NYC, where I met my publicist for Brave New Knits and a yarn shop owner – Pearl Chin of Knitty City – who would like to host a signing/trunk show when the book is released this fall. She is so nice, and I am really excited about spending more time in her wonderful shop!

When I returned to California, it was to this:

and this border of lavender and poppies along the driveway:

And the first of the roses; the Joseph’s Coat are always the first to bloom:

And the irises, which have really taken off this year. They are everywhere!

Faint Heart Never Won Fair Maid

… sounds like a newspaper headline ripped from the seventeenth century, doesn’t it? Thank you for that romantic declaration, Mr. Shakespeare. My own DH, never faint of heart, surprised me with an addition to my transferware pitcher collection for Valentine’s Day.  It was a most unexpected and welcome surprise, since I’ve been on a shopping diet since the New Year. But it wouldn’t be polite to complain when somebody else buys me something I just happen to be thrilled about.

This particular specimen is enormous, standing a full 12″ tall, and the mark on the bottom reads, “Manufactured for Davenport Bro.” with a New York City address. I’ll have to do some research to find out where it was actually made. I imagine a pitcher of this size was originally part of a set with a wash basin. Frankly, we suffer from a bad case of wretched excess bit of clutter in this house, so the pitcher alone is more than enough for me!

It is so good to be home from my travels. I spent most of last week in NY, where I had the unaccustomed pleasure (and much-needed workout) of shoveling my parents out of their house in the aftermath of the snowstorm that shrouded the East Coast on Wednesday and Thursday. Where they live, an hour or so up-county from NYC, it looked like this most of those two days:

I definitely got my exercise shoveling the walk and driveway multiple times over the two-day period. It was really kind of a masochistic good samaritan treat for me, since I rarely get to see snow at home. Of course, the persistent runny nose that comes with hard labor out of doors was not as enthusiastically received.

Call me a sissy if you will, but I was glad to get back to my temperate California climate late last night, even though the airline did not manage to get my suitcase onto my connecting flight (despite the full hour layover between them!). One thing I noticed about the east coast in the middle of winter is how dry the air gets. My hair was a standing nest of static electricity. Every time I put on my coat or pulled a sweater over my head, my hair would stand on end as if I’d stuck my finger into the proverbial electric socket. Patting it down with damp hands became a weird short-term grooming ritual.

On Friday, I drove on to Pennsylvania to visit my daughter at college. She needed a little spoiling from her old ma, so in addition to dinner out in a real restaurant (as opposed to cafeteria food which, while perfectly adequate in its own right, suffers at this time of year from a distinct lack of variety), I presented her with the afore-mentioned hand-knit Valentine’s Day gift:

The School Spirit Mittens. If your school colors have to be navy and orange, this navy-heavy proportion makes it less of an awful combination. I wound up nixing the embroidered orange heart idea on the palm of each hand, and it’s a good thing I did. She likes them just as they are. The project was a great stash-buster, using a fraction (roughly 125 yards) of my last skein of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Twisted, in the color “In the Navy,” and a few yards of Noro’s Cash Iroha in color #116 (vibrant orange) for the single crochet trim. The vintage orange buttons were a find at Article Pract, one of my favorite LYS in the Bay area.

Travelocity in the City

Much as I enjoy an opportunity to travel, by the last day or two of any trip I am itching to get back home. And in my travels, I’ve never found a place I’d rather stay forever (except maybe Paris). The last week was a travel bonanza; a quick visit to my parents, leaving them with a freezer full of quart containers of split pea soup with ham (a winter lunch favorite); a work trip to New York City, and a weekend in rural (VERY rural!) Pennsylvania for Family Weekend at my daughter’s university.


This is the athletic center, home to an Olympic sized pool and a fitness center that would make any gym rat exceedingly jealous. There is also an indoor-track (those long, cold Pennsylvania winters must have had something do to with that) and basketball court, as well as other training facilities for the athletic teams.

The highlight was seeing my DD so settled and happy in her new home-away-from-home. She is intellectually engaged – hallelujah! – making friends, and getting involved in several campus activities. The weekend was so different from that of a month ago, when we moved her into her freshman dorm. Just one month later, she is the campus expert, showing us around the athletic center, taking us to brunch at one of her favorite campus spots, taking us to an a cappella concert one night and an on-campus ballet performance in the university’s gorgeous performing arts center the next night. We treated her to dinners off-campus – although the cafeteria food is surprisingly varied, fresh, and good.


Only one event that weekend left a bad taste in my mouth – and this one had nothing to do with the cafeteria food. On Saturday morning, we went to what was billed as a Parents’ Organization Leadership Breakfast, at which the university president delivered a short talk. And then – I felt so naïve not to have seen this coming! – the Parents’ Organization president got up to speak, and hit us up for donations to the university.


Let me remind you that everyone in that room was the parent of a freshman. So for the next four years, we will be writing checks that represent a substantial portion of our incomes to the university for the privilege of having our children spend what amounts to seven short months a year in the temple of learning. Yes, this is a private university – so you can guess what those tuition checks look like. So how rude and inappropriate was it for these people to request additional donations? I was first just taken aback, but once I’d had time to think about it I became, shall we say, incensed. To put it mildly. I know universities all over the country have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and that their endowments have taken a serious hit. But this was barely one month into our childrens’ first year of college!