Get Your Festive On!

Chicago wears the holidays well. All around town, decorations are up for all to enjoy. From the enormous tree at Daley Plaza:

















To the windows at Cartier and Tiffany’s:

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To the planting beds along Michigan Avenue, otherwise known as the Magnificent Mile, where shopping is the main activity. This year’s displays seem more naturalistic than usual, and less glitzy. Perhaps a reflection of the mood in a city that has its share of troubles.

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And then there’s the more spiritual, less materialistic vision of the holidays…
















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I hope you enjoy these glimpses of my beautiful city!

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving wherever and whenever you celebrate.

Although this was a difficult year for many reasons, it’s good to remember that I also have much to be thankful for. Especially my blog readers (all three of you!). You are so appreciated.

Knowing that you have little free time, I’m honored that you choose to spend some of it with me.

Never Too Late To Have a Happy Childhood

When my sisters and I were little, we amused ourselves in what would today be considered extremely low-tech ways. Of course, those were the days when the mothers in our suburban neighborhood, fed up with the usual sibling rivalry and incessant bickering, would yell, “Go outside and PLAY!” and that’s what we did.

Kickball, and spy games, jump rope, and jacks. Yes, even jacks. Hand-to-eye coordination, people!!

But on rainy afternoons, stuck indoors and bored with Monopoly and Scrabble, we’d often entertain each other by making chin faces.

Don’t know what that is?

Well, the other night while in a silly mood, I resurrected this childhood diversion and persuaded my very game husband to play along.













Now do you remember? With black eyeliner pen and a red lipstick as my only tools, I gave us both an extra face:













Lying on the living room sofa with our faces upside down, our normally pedestrian conversation was suddenly hilarious. Or at least, it looked hilarious.













But I’m pretty sure the cat thought we were weird.


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.

Signs of Spring

There are some things even the latest downpours have not been able to wash away.

Between storms this past week, I’ve been outside trying to capture the brave little spots of color around the garden.

Although I have not been successful at capturing on film any of the rainbows I’ve seen (why do I always seem to be driving when they appear?), the flowers are bright enough and hold still long enough for me to snap them.

I adore these crocuses that pop up along the front walk. They have a sprightly delicacy that never fails to captivate me. Whenever I see them, I envision a scoop-necked cardigan knit in narrow stripes with these three colors, or perhaps stripes of violet and cream piped with the golden yellow.

And these; that divine egg yolk yellow paired with rich violet is beyond gorgeous.

Brave New Knits Signing Today

Just a reminder that this afternoon from 2 – 4 o’clock I will be visiting Purls of Joy (429 Healdsburg Ave.  Phone #: 707-433-4569 ) in Healdsburg, CA, where I will be signing copies of Brave New Knits.

Come on over if you’re in the area – I’ll  have the trunk show of knitted samples for oohing and ahhing, and the lovely staff at Purls of Joy will be on hand to help you choose the perfect yarn for your own BNK project!

Your Exit Here

Congratulations to Kelly-Ann, who won the final pattern collection from the current issue of Knitcircus online magazine!

The above shot was taken in late January, when I was in NY attending VK Live among other things … late afternoon at a subway stop in Queens, snow on the tracks, whipped by the wind into a vortex of icy crystals that frosted your face as you stepped out onto the platform. You know what I’m talking about.

And our little impromptu road trip when we got stranded in NY over the holidays because of Snowmageddon, and wound up driving a rental car down to Dulles airport in the DC area in order to get to our next destination. Really made me envy people who live so close to their families that they have to travel only a few blocks to celebrate the big holidays together.

Traffic photos thrill me… there’s something both comforting and desolate about driving along the highway as the sun goes down and the lights come on, when the road is full of cars and all those cars are full of people, too, having their own private conversations, listening to their own music or talk radio … the shared experience of being in the same place at the same time as all those other drivers, yet each driver in his or her own little world.

My, aren’t we in a philosophical mood today.

Valentine’s Day: And In The End…

… the love you take is equal to the love you make*.


Happy Valentine’s Day to those who celebrate it.

Shadow and I wish you a happy day, full of yarn and chocolate.

*The Beatles

Knitcircus Giveaway, Part II

Contest winners/commenters are: Kirsi for a one-year subscription to Knitcircus magazine, and Barbara for a pattern collection from the current issue. I have already forwarded your emails to Jaala Spiro, the Knitcircus editor. Thanks for entering!

To keep the fun going a bit longer, there is one more pattern collection from the current issue of Knitcircus to give away to a random commenter who gets in touch between now and midnight PST on Saturday, February 12th. This could be your lucky day!

In addition to a maah-velous review of Brave New Knits, this issue is chockful of great articles, interviews, and beautiful patterns, one of which is modelled in the cover photo above.

Downton Abbey, Revisionist Version

I’ve already let it be known that I loved, loved, LOVED Downton Abbey, and now I stand corrected on an earlier assumption.

According to one of my commenters (thank you, Rhian!), U.S. viewers of Downton Abbey did, in fact, get all but a few “judiciously” cut minutes of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classics. Although our four episodes comprised a total of 6 hours of commercial-free viewing, the UK version ran 7 hours but did include commercial interruptions.

I’ll take the commercial-free version any day, thank you.

Those Edwardian ladies certainly loved their lavender!

An reviewer, in reference to the Downton Abbey “unabridged” DVD, does mention that she saw the series both in the UK and in the US, and found that the US version contained some choppy scene shifts and changes in the order of character appearances that were, to her, a bit jarring.

From this article, kindly forwarded by the above-mentioned Rhian,, it seems clear that PBS director Rebecca Eaton did snip a few minutes here and there to make sure Downton Abbey fit into PBS’ intended 90-minute episode schedule.

There is, however, none of what has been called the “dumbing down” of the series for the American viewing audience. Evidently, our famously short attention spans are not so short, after all.

More lavender! Lovely on Lady Cora, no?

Personally, I was mesmerized by every second of the series, and had no difficulty following along with the intricacies of the “entail” and other British-isms. Now, all those forks and spoons at the dinner table – that’s an entirely different matter.

Downton Abbey, My Latest TV Crush

Did anybody else out there adore this show as much as I did? And was anybody else equally annoyed to discover that we poor Americans viewed the lamentably abridged version of the series, which cut a full hour (by my calculations) of the delicious goings-on in the Crawley family and among their servants? I assume it had something to do with what PBS was willing to pay for, but still – I felt gypped.

With a full-blown case of the flu that has left me a shivering, sniffling wreck this week – fever and all – I’d gladly park myself on the sofa with a mug of hot tea and the unabridged version of Downton Abbey, if only I could figure out where to view it. I just may have to buy the DVD, unless there are any other suggestions?

Isn’t this hat absolutely to die for? Wonder how much it weighs?  And how many endangered species donated their feathers to embellish it? Not to mention, how on earth did Lady Cora pass through doorways wearing it? Sideways, perhaps. I’ll tell you, sometimes it’s a burden looking back on fashion through the lens of modern times.

I looked hard for signs of knitting in the series, but didn’t see anything that convinced me the Edwardian era was as knit-happy as our own. Although some of the ladies sported what appeared to be woven shawls over their airy silk gowns, I didn’t see any of the exquisite knitted lace I expected. However, it is possible that Lady Violet is wearing knitted wrist warmers over her gloves in the photo below – what do you think?

Of course, it seemed that most of the episodes took place during spring, summer, and fall, so perhaps the Crawleys didn’t feel the need for woolens (though my heart skipped a beat when Lady Mary joined Evelyn Napier and poor cardiac-challenged Kamel Pamuk on the hunt – I thought for sure someone would sport a snug argyle vest under his hunting jacket, or at the very least a pair of finely worked socks. But no such luck.).

Can’t wait for the second season… and perhaps those Brits will let us have the entire episodes this time!!

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!

Knitgrrl Rides Again

Shannon Okey, otherwise known as Knitgrrl, is probably a genius. Anybody doubting the veracity of that statement should take a look at her new book, The Knitgrrl Guide To Professional Knitwear Design. Here it is:


When it showed up in my mailbox a few days ago, I stayed up til 2 AM devouring every page. And since that first read-through, I’ve skimmed it at least half a dozen times more. 

Although I am one of the “industry professionals” whose interview is included among the 30 in her Guide, I learned so much from the rest of them, not to mention Shannon’s own chapters that are chock-full of valuable insights. Wow! I’m impressed.

A few of the designers featured in my book Brave New Knits are also among the interviewees in Shannon’s book, but the great thing is that they all have had such amazing career trajectories that there is virtually no duplication of information!

The Sandwich Generation

That’s what they call those of us with both elderly parents and children of our own; from our caught-in-the-middle perspective, the Sandwich Generation can be a challenging place.

Silence on this end for way too long, due to a family emergency. One of my parents has been in the hospital for two full weeks with a variety of serious ailments that started with a bad fall. I won’t go into all the details, because that’s not what this blog is about.

I’ll simply say this to anyone reading this entry: if you have children or other loved ones, please plan for your old age. Have a back-up plan should your health begin to fail. Be honest enough with yourself to accept that your needs may change as you age, and that you may have limitations you never expected. If your greatest wish is to die at home, be sure you choose a home that is safe and appropriate for you to remain in until the end of your days. Then, if there is a medical crisis it won’t send your entire family into a tailspin trying to make decisions on your behalf and fix the mess you made.  And that’s all I’m going to say.

In a week or so, I hope to be back to regular posts.

All Keyed Up

Have you ever done something so completely hare-brained that after the fact you can’t quite believe you actually did it? I’m still shaking my head over what happened at my house last night.

My husband and I were all dressed up and ready to head into the city for an event that we were really excited about. As avid back-yard gardeners ourselves, we follow the news about sustainable agriculture and were ready to celebrate the achievements of the NRDC Growing Green award recipients.

EEEeeeerrrhhhhh…!!! (That’s the sound of brakes being slammed on, in case you couldn’t tell from my phoneticization) Not so fast.

Carrying a tiny evening purse with space for little more than my lipstick and Blackberry (Oh, OK, and a couple of tissues – never leave home without ’em), I’d mentioned in passing to my husband that I would not be bringing my keys with me. He was driving us into the city in his car, so he had to bring his set anyway.  He went out by the front door, and I went out by the back door so I could grab the recyclables on my way out. As I pulled the door shut behind me, I heard a faint voice call out something that sounded vaguely like, “Don’t lock the door…..!”

Too late.

As I rounded the corner of the house into the driveway, my husband appeared with a look of total panic on his face. “You’ve got your keys, right?”

Uh, no. Actually, I don’t. We already covered this, no?

Thinking his keys were in his coat pocket, my husband had pulled the front door shut behind him (it locks automatically). A quick search of his pockets for the key ring soon revealed his mistake. As the early evening air grew distinctly chillier, and ominous rain clouds piled up in the distance, and the sun began to set, we pondered our options. A quick call to a neighbor confirmed my suspicion that although we had talked about exchanging keys for just such an emergency, we had never, in fact, completed the thought into action. And the local police don’t make house calls unless there’s an actual problem; say, if somebody other than ourselves was trying to break into our house, for example. We then wasted a good ten minutes surveying the garden and arguing about where we should have hidden a key that would not be obvious to a would-be burglar.

All I can say is, thank god mobile phones still work when you are locked out of your own house and feeling like a complete ninny. I called a locksmith who promised to get to our house as quickly as the rush hour traffic would allow. Then we pulled two lawn chairs into the driveway where the last rays of sun were warmest, and sat down in our dress-up clothes to await his arrival. Tick-tick-tick. When I think about how much knitting I could have completed while we were sitting there, I could cry. But if my keys didn’t fit into that tiny little evening bag, not even my smallest one-skein shawl project would have made the cut.

The awards ceremony started at 6:30 and by the time we got the locksmith on the phone, it was nearly 6:00. At three in the morning, the drive from our home into the city takes about 20 minutes, but during rush hour it can take an hour. When the locksmith finally did appear, he came supplied with a sophisticated set of lock-picking tools. I was most impressed – haven’t seen such equipment since that movie The Italian Job with Charlize Theron and that cutie pie Marky-Mark (Oh, yeah, he’s plain old Mark Wahlberg now). Unfortunately, this locksmith was no Marky-Mark, in that our locks proved un-pick-able. Who knew? Meanwhile, time’s a-wasting.

His next suggestion was to drill out the lock, and by that point we were not standing on ceremony. He could have suggested dynamiting the door and I probably would have agreed. Did I mention that my sister is the event planner for NRDC, and that this was the first event in San Francisco we were able to attend in all the years she has been with that estimable organization? No? Well, maybe that helps to explain why we were so anxious to get going. No dynamite proved necessary, but Mr. Locksmith still had a heckuva time drilling out the lock on our door. These locks were reassuringly, impenetrably solid, except when we needed them to give way! Another fifteen minutes ticked by with excruciating slowness, magnified dramatically by the whine of the drill as it failed, repeatedly, to incapacitate the door lock.

Finally, at about a quarter to seven, we were in!! Once the locksmith was paid and on his way to the next bone-headed home-owner lock-out emergency, we high-tailed it into the city for what was left of the evening. Turns out we were not the only guests to appear fashionably late, and we actually made it in time for the awards ceremony. It was sad that we missed the cocktail meet-and-greet hour (I seem to appreciate awards ceremonies better – especially ones featuring a comedian, like this one – when I’ve had time for a glass or two of wine ahead of time), but we still got to visit with my sister and meet some of her colleagues. In the end, a good time was had by all. It’s just, well, our back door knob looks a little funny with a hole drilled through the middle of it. Good thing we’ve still got that dead-bolt above it.

And yes, just to be on the safe side (better late than never, I always say), I crammed my keys into that teeny purse of mine. Because, well, you never know.