Lace, #@*%!

Lace knitting is not something that comes easily to me. I have done a couple of cardigans in lace that came out OK, but I’ve yet to finish one shawl. Shawls have been all the rage in the knitting community for some time and I think this fashion trend started due to the plethora of incredibly beautiful (and expensive) hand-dyed yarns. So many knitters had single skeins of these yarns sitting in their stash and soon patterns for gorgeous shawls needing just that much yardage were everywhere.

I just ripped out a poor attempt based on Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Pi Shawl. This is a clever shawl pattern with mathematical logic and shawl lace knitting really doesn’t get much easier than this. Even so, I struggled to stay interested in the project; it just looked like a big brown lump of – well – something one might step in out in the field. Maybe a better choice of yarn would have made all the difference.

I have picked up another lace shawl project that’s been languishing as a UFO for quite a while, Icarus, and this time it seems to be clicking.  The yarn is Malabrigo, dyed a beautiful tonal color called “marine” and I can’t wait to finish it and wear it. Yes, I’m making mistakes as I go along that I have to go back and correct but it’s getting easier. Lace knitting requires constant vigilance, which means for me, a distraction-free environment, never working on it when tired, and no working on it while chatting at my craft group (or anywhere else).

Good online tutorials abound and Ravelry has many groups devoted to the subject of lace. At Knitter’s Review, you’ll find tutorials and links to all things lace: books, yarns and patterns.

Great info on proper cursing with symbols:


off the needles – Napkin Rings

I was hoping this project, bamboo napkin rings, would be perfect for quick and easy sellable items for the upcoming Mother’s Day sale at Clay Space. Maybe I don’t run in the right circles since I don’t know anyone who uses napkin rings anymore. I like the bamboo yarn for these and the reverse linen stitch which gives them a nice texture with just a little sheen.  Martha’s site has many cute ideas for making them and encourages their use so I know many people out there must enjoy them.

I thought about slippers, but who wants to buy wool slippers in May? Then I thought about trying some knitting with fine gauge wire to make beautiful delicate jewelry. I even have a book that tells me exactly how to do it, Wired Beautiful. This book is filled with wonderful projects and clear step-by-step photos. Maybe other good ideas for projects will come to me in time.

Weekend in the Garden

What a great weekend we had for time in the garden. My first task was to put up another chicken fence. The girls have had the run of that area and I know from experience that they will eat just about anything they can. We use a combination of cattle panels from our local farm supply and inexpensive bird netting. Then, I topped it off with some bird “scare” tape.

These type of panels are relatively inexpensive, are easy to cut into shorter sections, or even bend for some great effects. This is my new rounded gate.

As usual, I’m later than most at getting in my peas, but I prepared my bed and planted a variety new to me called Sugar Sprint. I also starting digging out one of my raised beds for the potatoes. It’s a good idea to rotate beds for potatoes to avoid the various issues that potatoes are known to have. Every gardener has their own tried and true methods for growing potatoes–the raised beds have been working for me. I dig them out deeply, at least a foot deep.

I’ve been planting only German Butterball potatoes for the last few years and my yields have varied. Basically, when I pay more attention to them by hilling them up properly and watering sufficiently, I get better yields. Potato salad, roasted potatoes, scalloped potatoes–you name it–this variety has been good every way I’ve prepared it. This spring, I’m also planting the classic, Yukon Gold. My chitted potatoes will probably go in the ground in a week or two. There’s a common belief in the gardening world that planting potatoes around St. Paddy’s Day, or even earlier, is a good time no matter where you live.

Helpful Knitting Tools

Although I hardly ever knit domestic items, lately I’m drawn to them. There are so many great patterns for pillows, hand towels, spa sets, curtains, felted containers, napkin rings and the list goes on. One book that inpires me to knit homey items is Mason-Dixon Knitting. This is the first project I’ve made from it— Absorba, the great Bathmat—and I think it looks nice. I did use 3 strands held together which makes a very spongy, absorbant bathmat.

I also have been enjoying my latest knitting tool called a Huglight. It was mentioned by another knitter so I had to try it out. There are those times when I want to knit in the car at night and I’ve tried all sorts of lights without success. I know many knitters don’t need to see their knitting while knitting, but I’m not there yet.

Here are some other tools that are handy for socks: sock blockers and sock keepers.

Organize and Conquer

What in the world did knitters do to organize everything in the days before Ravelry? There are over a million members now, yet every once in a while I meet someone who has never heard of it. Jess and Casey, thank you so much!

Because there is so much to learn about Ravelry, I’ve been approaching it gradually–adding projects first, then stash, and now, I’m adding my library of knitting books and magazines. I’m learning that the more I put in, the more I can get out of it. I just love all the built-in tables that make linking projects to the yarn used and the pattern used super easy. You can even indicate that the yarn used for a project is in your stash and once the project is completed, you see the remaining yarn amount in your stash. The pattern table is easy to search by yarn weight or by amount of yarn needed or any number of variables.

Other features to love include a project queue and favorites so that while browsing you can easily come back to that pattern later. I organized my queue, which was getting out of hand, by creating categories and then adding tags. Did you know that once your knitting books and magazines are added, you can then easily add the patterns you want to knit from it to your queue? No more going back and rifling through all your magazines and books to find that pattern you intended to knit!

Recently, I added a non-electronic approach which was inspired by the contagious zeal of that organization diva, Kelley Petkun, on one of her early podcasts. I recommend those podcasts highly when you need some get up and go energy. I needed a way that I could easily see all my UFOs–no, I won’t say how many–and everything needed is together in one place to just grab and go!

I ordered these great little vinyl carrying bags and if they were just a bit bigger, I could zip them. I like that I can fit one in my handbag or knitting bag. The pattern, yarn and needles are already in the bag. If the pattern is in one of my books, I make a copy for the bag.

Sock Stories

I admit that I’m not in love with socks. Yes, I have made several pairs and I enjoy wearing them and giving them away. I also went to Sock Summit and plan to attend this year, but for me, it’s more about the friendship and the marketplace.

There can be long stretches between sock projects while I’m working on more interesting projects. That is why I always end up sprawled on the floor consulting sock books and YouTube for instructions (yet again!) for some of the more unusual cast-ons and bind-offs. That’s why I’m thrilled to get 2 pairs of socks off the needles today: Bavarian Cable by Wendy Johnson and Simple Stripes Fair Isle Socks by Kathleen Taylor. I’m on a roll!

With the Bavarian Cable socks, I used a different bind-off for each sock. The one on the left was bound off quite a while ago and I don”t remember which bind off I used. Honestly! Isn’t that what my Ravelry project page is for? Well, I’m pretty sure it was the Russian bind off. I used Jeni’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off (JSSBO) for the second one on the right and then took the opportunity to compare the results. Interesting.

I stretched them to see if I could detect a difference in stretch capacity and, honestly, I couldn’t.

Off the feet, I definitely prefer the look of JSSBO, but once stretched out, I think the Russian has a neater look. For a nice comparison of stretchy bind-offs, check out this comparison by Stitch Diva.

The other pair, Simply Stripes Fair Isle, was fun to knit and I just love the way the patterns look against the black background.

But, gee minetti, there I was again getting hung up on the Kitchener stitch even though I’ve done it a number of times. It’s hard to explain why techniques can be easy one time and so elusive the next. In this case, maybe it was the combination of black yarn, tension and late evenings. Today, the lord (Lord Kitchener, that is) was a kind master.

Jumping into the Cloud

Hello World! I begin with a wonderful trip to a new yarn store  (that is, new for me!) in Portland on Hawthorne, called Happy Knits.

It’s a nice, open store with a wonderful selection of yarns I don’t see in my LYS, namely the Madelinetosh line. The staff was very helpful and hip. When I didn’t know the yardage on a project in my Ravelry queue, they pointed me to the computer that was for customer use so that I could easily get into my Ravelry account. Cool!

I know this yarn brand has been all the rage in the knitting world for some time, but this was the first time I’ve really looked at it and bought it. The skein is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light with 440 yards – enough for a small shawl. The colorway, Golden Hickory, was just too beautiful! I wish I were better at taking great photos with my camera, but here goes.