Never Too Much Shawl

I’m loving this shawl so much I just had to share a couple more photos:

Let’s take a closer look at that, shall we? Kieran Foley’s Emily Dickinson shawl pattern was a great starting point, but I had fun putting my own spin on it.

Kim’s gorgeous Whisper Lace Merino from Woolen Rabbit doesn’t hurt either! I have a pretty dove gray dress for which I’ve looked everywhere to find a suitable wrap – and now I have one. 

Color Me Pink and Green

I make a lot of bouquets out of whatever is blooming in my garden, and love having fresh flowers in the house as well as outside my windows. During the spring and summer months there are lots of possibilities, sometimes a seemingly infinite variety of options to combine. Friends of mine, aware of my flower obsession, have enabled me with gifts of vases and other vessels to contain these bouquets.

While I don’t pretend to have any special skill in flower arranging, every bouquet is a soul-satisfying opportunity to play with color and texture – and these are driving forces in my life. From my 20 years as an interior designer to my current and equally long-standing passion for knitting and beautiful fibers, the visual feasts of my garden and my yarn stash are what make me so happy to jump out of bed in the morning.

This particular arrangement includes pink calla lilies, astilbe, and pink yarrow, a single fat magenta rose paired with a cluster of equally intense geraniums, and leaves that range from chartreuse to bottle green. It’s a decidedly Lilly Pulitzeresque color combination, but one that works in both flower combinations AND yarn:

For all that I love color, it’s surprising that I do virtually no Fair Isle or other colorwork in  my knitting. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to, but that I am still so enamored of the textural possibilities in cables and lace. While I sometimes play with color combinations such as those above, time and again when choosing a new project, I return to my purist roots and gravitate toward the solid and semi-solid colors in my yarn stash. They work especially well with the textural stitches I enjoy building into the projects I design.

Emily Dickinson’s Little Sister

While back in New York last week, in between my other activities I managed to complete the Emily Dickinson shawl. I made one particularly obvious mod, though, that makes me feel I must call this “Emily Dickinson’s Little Sister.” For starters, she is full of holes instead of beads.

I used Woolen Rabbit Whisper Lace merino yarn in the color “Chocolate Chambord,” which is really the color of roasted eggplant – the bruised purples and browns are enhanced by little skips of the most wonderful pale lilac. I used only about 1/4 of the 1700 yard skein, making this a very economical project. Placing beads only at the edge of the sawtooth border (where I quickly realized they would not be sparkly enough to show up), I worked simple yarnover/k2tog lace every fifth row or so.

The long edge of the shawl, blocked out, is 50″, and each of the two short sides is 30,” making this a wonderful neck wrap or shoulder warmer.

It’s good to be home! It feels as if I’ve missed the last of spring, and now we are already in the throes of summer.

Twist superlatives

Now that I’ve finished admiring my own handiwork in the latest issue of Twist, I’ve gone back through the rest of the patterns and decided that this issue is the best one ever! When I can’t make up my mind about which project to download first, and when there are fewer designs I probably won’t want to make than there are designs I definitely, absolutely must queue up immediately, that ratio suggests **winner** to me, big-time. At the moment, these are my top three:

I love all the shawls and wraps in this issue, but the Abrazo shawlette by Susanna IC really captured my heart; I picture wearing it all summer either draped lightly over my shoulders or wearing it twisted as a wrap in my hair. Love the beading, love the open fabric, love the deep lace border. Any number of skeins in my stash of Sundara laceweight yarn would be well-suited to this project, as would the Woollen Rabbit laceweight, the Fearless Fibers laceweight….. maybe I’ll just have to make more than one version of it!

Poplar & Elm by Carol Sunday is a masterpiece of lace, feminine shaping, and stylishness. I love everything about it, and have a few different yarn options that would be lovely for it.

When I first saw the fabulous Timpani by Connie Chang Chinchio, I thought immediately of my stash of Elspeth Lavold’s Silky Wool, and of wearing it in the fall here in California, where that fiber blend is perfect for the climate. I just love the crisp military styling of this jacket, and although I might have to do a bit of regauging to accommodate the yarn weight (although knitting it on slightly smaller than recommended needles would give the fabric more stability), it would be worth the effort to have such a snappy garment hanging in my closet.

So, no shortage of possibilities in this issue. Paging through the options makes me appreciate all the more the good company in which I find myself. Comments on Ravelry regarding my Passiflora tunic have been interesting and enlightening. Some readers don’t like the thought of their bras showing through a garment and will consider omitting the side lace panels as a result. Some don’t think the A-line shaping flatters their figure type, and are likely to add waist shaping to their version of the design. Since I modify nearly every project I knit that has been created by other designers, I can hardly protest when others see fit to alter mine – in fact, it’s this kind of dialogue, this realization of knitting’s infinite possibilities, that makes the craft so intellectually challenging, creative, and fulfilling.

Counting the Days

Counting the days until I can knit again, that is. But to tide me over until then, I’ve been admiring the stash enhancements I found at Stitches West at the end of February. Pigeonroof Studios figured large in my acquisitions; the color “Vitals” in particular lured me into Krista’s booth – it’s a saturated, dramatic red with subtle deeper flecks that add mystery. I scored 4 skeins of it in DK weight (enough for a sweater!) and one in a heavy laceweight that contains sufficient baby alpaca and cashmere to bring me practically to tears at its softness.

On my photography day, this cyclamen happened to be in full bloom in a nearby pot. Its rich rosy color reminded me every so slightly of “Vitals,” although with the sun shining through the petals it has a pinker glow.

More luscious fiber from Pigeonroof:

Having visited Habu Textiles in New York City last summer, I was eager to see what treasures their booth at Stitches might have, and was definitely not disappointed. Habu’s colors and textures are so modern and unusual that I don’t like to rely on my computer monitor for accuracy. Being able to touch the yarns (made with fiber blends that include stainless steel and paper – not your everyday yarns by any means) and compare the colors was wonderful, and I stocked up while I had the chance.

Finally, today is my nephew’s twelfth birthday. He wants to be a chef, which impresses the hell out of me because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was twelve. There are those who would maintain that I STILL don’t know what I want to do when I grow up! Tempering his experiments in the kitchen, however, is a competing passion for skate-boarding. Happy birthday, Moses!


Here’s a peek at a couple of things I’ve been working on this month that are not yet for public consumption.’s Lana Pura is 100% Tasmanian Wool, and has a delicious springy softness. I bought a couple of bags after Bonne Marie mentioned it in her blog, and have not been disappointed. It knits up nicely on US size 5 needles, or doubled on US size 8s. It’s available in a lovely range of colors, but I gravitated toward the natural ones; upon close inspection, each skein has delicate, tweedy color variations that are not evident from a casual glance.

Working with Sundara’s yarns is always a pleasure, and her Aran Silky Merino is one of my perennial favorites. Although I tend to gravitate toward her clear, brighter palette, this moody and dramatic crushed merlot shade:

inexplicably called out to me. I had to buy a couple of skeins even without a specific project in mind. She does such dark, complex shades particularly well. The woman is a yarn-dying zen master (mistress…). When I first opened the package containing this yarn, I literally gasped because it was so beautiful, full of depth and the subtle sheen of the silk fiber. Now, after much thought, I have designed a specific project (two, to be precise) for this yarn and am hard at work. More later.

A Whole Lotta Knittin’ Goin’ On

Despite an annoying lack of cooperation from my cranky, stiff, crampy, in-need-of-R-and-R fingers, there are a few projects in the works – more than I usually work on simultaneously given my inborn tendency, supposedly the fatal flaw of all Geminis, to get quickly bored and just cavalierly toss the incomplete projects into the “mañana” pile, never to be seen again not always to finish what I start. This scarf is nearly done – just half of the second ruffled edge remains, and then off it goes to my friend Diane in Washington in time for the holidays. This yarn, Classic Elite’s Cashsoft Baby DK, is absolute heaven to work with – soft, soft, soft. And the color, palest celadon, is gorgeous – much more calm and subtle than those I normally choose, making this project a restful and enjoyable departure.

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Yes, I succumbed to Lemming Syndrome, and am knitting myself a February Lady Sweater along with every other knitter on the planet! I finally decided that since the rest of the knitting world seems to have made this baby, there must be a good reason for its enduring popularity. Sure enough, it is quick (for anybody without my hand and finger issues, that is), has an easy-to-memorize lace pattern, and when working with the right yarn, it feels so good to see it taking shape exactly according to plan. Fleece Artist’s hand-dyed, 100% merino Organic Wool is a joy to knit with; squishy and blissfully soft. And you know me – the brighter the color, the happier I am; it’s the magpie in me for sure. This deep, juicy berry shade caught my attention at Santa Barbara’s darling shop Loop and Leaf, so much so that two skeins leapt into my tote bag and demanded to come home with me.  

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I knew as soon as I saw it that it was destined to be my February Lady Sweater.

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I’m still getting comfortable with the new knitting machine, and this cardigan is my first experiment. It is double-breasted and will have elbow-length sleeves, as well as a drapey, swirly collar, and possibly pockets once I figure out the best kind to use. The back, fronts, and sleeves knit up breathtakingly fast – within three days, I was done. Stockinette goes pretty quickly anyway, but this was unlike anything I’ve evern seen. That yarn went through the carriage like the proverbial hot knife through buttah, and before I knew it even the back was done, shaping, decreases, and all. Amazing! 

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Set-in sleeve shaping: easy-peasy!

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Nifty technique for turned hem: slows me down a tidge, but the end result is so worth it.

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So yes, a whole lotta knittin’ goin’ on, just in case you suspected otherwise!

A Final Flourish of Figs

This year’s fig harvest has been outstanding. I think this year’s harvest is the largest we’ve ever had, and the tree has been productive for a longer period than in earlier years. This, even though our single dwarf fig tree shows no signs of dramatic growth that might account for its prolific output. The tree is still pumping them out, and I’ve been fortunate to beat the local squirrel population to most of them. These small triumphs over our ever-growing furry rodent population are as satisfying as they are silly.

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 Having made two different batches of fig jam (one with vanilla bean, one with pears), and the requisite variety of fig tarts, figs with cheese, and even a surprisingly easy dinner of chicken stuffed with chopped figs and goat cheese (from Marie Simmons’ highly recommended and absolutely lovely book Fig Heaven), my imagination is flagging. Deborah Madison to the rescue! Her book Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from Farmers Markets gets top marks for using farmers market produce in new and delicious ways. A couple of her fig recipes captured my fancy:

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And then, with flights of fig fancy filling my fervid imagination (not to mention, apparently, a profound fascination with the letter “F”), I found my figgiest hand-dyed yarns for a fig-inspired still life. This period of not being able to knit (during my recovery from hand surgery a month ago) must be getting to me.

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Any excuse to play with yarn, right?  The brown on top of the pile is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Heavyweight in Meet Brown, Joe. On the left, the indigo lace weight is Nature’s Palette Silk/Wool in Lupine, and the heavier variegated on the bottom right of the photo is from Fleece Artist, Blue Face Leicester DK in a riot of gorgeous violets the exact name of which I can’t remember. If yarn was edible, I’d have these for dessert with a dollop of creme fraiche.

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