Friday, December 29, 2006

Music to Knit By

Last night one of my favorite musicians, Bryan Bowers, played a concert at the public library. He played some of his new songs and some older ones, including one of my favorites, "Life is Hard but It's Hardest When You're Dumb," also known as "The Dumb Song."

I took my knitting along and knit a little before the show and during intermission.

I have been knitting as much as usual recently, just not finishing. However, I did finish an Angel Pearls Beaded Scarf from Sivia Harding. The yarn is a stray skein from my stash: Lamb's Pride fingering weight in a color called Aran on US5 needles. The 6/0 beads, also from stash, are a color called "oil slick matte." Can't have too many scarves, right?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

What To Do With Wine Corks

Don't ask me how, but I have a lot of corks. It seems wasteful to just throw them out. Some years ago, I saw a wreath like this, and the answer became obvious: Make a wreath.

The base is a straw wreath from a craft store. Put some fishing line around the wreath as a hanger before you put the corks in. Stick a round toothpick in the base of a cork (not as easy as you might think; use a hammer and nail to make the hole before you try to put the toothpick in) and the other end of the toothpick into the straw. I prefer to have the red end of the corks showing for red-wine corks. Make a gazillion of these and stick them into the wreath in a pattern that you like.

Then, drink more wine so you can make another one.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Mike, the neighbors, the neighbors' relatives and Dan the Tree Guy successfully removed the tree from over the Hut, thanks to people with the right equipment and the right experience. The weather was cold but dry. The descriptions below do not adequately reflect the amount of thinking and what-if-ing and problem-solving that went into this process.

First, they decided where to make the cut on the smaller section over the back of the Hut and where to tie off the remainder so that nothing would crash down or ricochet.

This is what the break in the tree over the roof looked like.

Then they figured out how to push out the rest of the tree so it would swing out faster than it would fall down so that it wouldn't smash the porch.

The tree missed the porch with a foot or two to spare!

Even though the roof appears to be intact, some of the cedar shingles are damaged, so a large tarp is secured over the roof until the roofer can do his thing. Dan the Tree Guy will probably come back and take away the tree when he has time. At this point, the tree is not endangering anything so it can sit where it is.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Weather Records

You might have heard about the wind storm that punched the Northwest Thursday night. This followed a month of near-record rain in November. The wind and soggy ground meant that a lot of trees and power lines were damaged or fell over.

Tacoma report: We didn't lose power or cable TV or Internet access — one of the new neighborhoods able to say that. Our big fir tree in the front yard lost some limbs but we had no damage. That fir tree is going to become firewood this summer.

Cabin report: Our cabin, known as the Hut, near Tahuya was a different story. Lost power, but we expect that. We we didn't expect was that a tree fell uphill and over the cabin. Amazingly and to our great benefit, the tree broke apart on the hillside as it fell and only a segment of the tree fell across the cabin, not through it.

Some cedar shakes across the top of the roof were damaged and the wood stove chimney was knocked sideways. Fortunately, a neighbor who lives in the community full time and who was home and has a key to the Hut checked for damage. Nothing. No leaks. No holes in the roof. Lots of limbs are scattered all over the property and beyond but no Hut parts are scattered across the landscape. The bit that sticks out of the back of the hut, which we call the annex, holds the water heater — no damage. The front porch that overlooks Hood Canal — no damage. The power line from the transformer to the masthead — no damage.

Removing the tree carries some risk. It has to be done so that pieces of it don't fall on the Hut. The neighbor — a true neighbor in all of the best senses — has arranged for roofing materials, a roofer and a good tree guy. Then we'll call a chimney guy. Given all of the damage that others have suffered, we're pretty darned lucky.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wonderful Art

My friend Valerio, who lives in Bologna, Italy, sent a Christmas card featuring the artwork of his mother, Daniela Ferri. Daniela is a painter and sculptor. Her Web site shows only a small sample of her wonderful work.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tandoor Knitting

This is the start of a vest for Mike. The yarn is Knit One, Crochet Too Paint Box in a color called Tandoor. The pictures give it a pink cast, which really isn't there. We're enjoying the traditional wet, gray days of winter in the Pacific Northwest, with little good light to for photos (at least for my photos). The yarn really is shades of brown, dark orange and red, just like chicken from a tandoor oven.

Pattern? We don't need no stinkin' pattern. I'm sort of making it up as I go, using Ann Budd's "The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns" as a guide (very handy, indeed, as is the companion book on sweaters). The ribbing is knit one, purl one and the body is knit seven, purl one. I even had to do math — which is not my best party trick — to figure out how to line things up so a purl is in the center and everything is neatly symmetrical.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Knit Sighting

So I was in a Thai restaurant in Seattle yesterday, finishing up my massaman curry, minding my own business. As I was leaving, I noticed that the woman behind me was wearing a beautiful white shawl. It was a square folded into a triangle, but I could see a plain center, a lace border and a lace edging. It looked like mohair. I told her that I admired her shawl and asked if she had knit it. With a distinct Russian accent, she told me that she had not knit the shawl but that it was from Russia, that it is mohair and that it is very warm. She let me touch the shawl, and it felt very much like a mohair shawl I bought from a Russian woman in Vilnius.

For someone whose eyesight is not always so great, I am quite proud of myself for spotting this knitted work of art.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Doily or Snowflake?

Think of doilies as snowflakes — no two are alike. This one, called Medallion, is from "Handmade Lace and Patterns" by Annette Feldman. The book credits D.M.C. Corporation for the pattern. Vintage pattern and vintage thread. I used J. & P. Coates Big Ball Best Six Cord, size 30, with US1 needles. The diameter is 11 inches. Looks like a snowflake to me.

My stash of vintage crochet thread includes some J. & P. Coats Big Ball and Clark's Big Ball. So who was Coats, who was Clark and how did they becomes Coats and Clark? In retrospect, the joining may have been inevitable.

According to Wikipedia and the Coats and Clark Web site, James and Patrick Clark had a loom equipment and silk business. When Napoleon blockaded Great Britain in 1806, silk was no longer available to weavers who had begun reproducing the rare Kashmir shawls of India. Patrick Clark developed a method of twisting cotton yarns together to produce a thread that could replace silk in the looms and replace linen and silk threads for hand sewing.

The Clarks opened the first factory for making cotton sewing thread in Paisley, Scotland, in 1812. A few years later, James Coats opened another cotton thread mill.

In 1830, James and Peter Coats purchased their father's mill. As the company expanded, it moved much of its production to America. Another member of the family, Andrew Coats, was sent to the U.S. to manage the business.

George and William Clark, grandsons of James Clark, opened a cotton thread mill in Newark, New Jersey. Five years later, the Coats family began manufacturing thread in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, selling under the name Spool Cotton Company.

In 1952, J. & P. Coats and the Clark Thread Co. merged to become Coats & Clark Inc.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Icarus II and a Mystery

Another Icarus shawl from the summer 2006 Interweave Knits. The yarn is dark, dark blue sport-weight wool. It feels like superwash wool.

What it is beyond that is a mystery because it came on a cone from a thrift store. The cone itself says Mondial Brescia-Italia, which means the cone, if not the yarn, is from Italy. A label on the cone says "Made in U.K. Distributed in the USA by Aurora." Under that label is another, mostly obscured, label in Italian; the bits I can see say "Lane (wools) [illegible] Decati Rocche" and some more words obscured by the Aurora label. Both labels indicate dye lot 55. The major inconsistency is where the wool was made — Italy or U.K.?

I knit this on US6 needles and did one less repeat of the top part than the pattern calls for. Because this wool was so dark, I decided it needed more than one bead on the points, so I made an "icicle" of clear, sparkly beads. I weighed out the beads in advance and decided they would not be too heavy.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving in Tacoma was wet, wet, wet. But we still had a good time. Our friend Debbie shared the day with us. Debbie is a brand-new knitter (you will assimilate, resistance is futile). These slippers are her very first FO (finished object). Pretty cool, huh?

She also is a great baker. Her pumpkin cake is extremely yummy.

We had other visitors for Thanksgiving, but not for turkey. The juncos, bushtits, finches and chickadees celebrated Thanksgiving with sunflower seeds and suet. We also had a rare visit from a woodpecker — either hairy or downy, but I can't tell which is which unless they are together and I can see which is bigger (hairy). I think this one is downy. You can't see his red spot in the picture but it's there.

Did I mention that it has been raining? And raining. And raining. All November. It has been one of the rainiest Novembers on record. We have had light rain, medium rain, heavy rain and even a little sleet, hail and ice.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Another Doily

I was so pleased with my green variegated doily, I decided to try a purple one with some vintage Royal Society Cordichet, size 30, thread on US0 needles. This size 30 thread felt thinner than Cebelia size 30, for some reason. This is project #12 in Lavori Artistici #11. And how cool is this system to block a doily? Thanks, Pat S. — you're a genius!

I think that variegated thread can work well on a doily, with the right colors and the right pattern. On colors, I think thread with various shades of the same color works well; I'm not sure thread with many color would work. On pattern, I think a pattern with a lot of solids shows off the colors well.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Doily Education

I learned a thing or three on this doily, which is item #38 in Lavori Artistici #11.

  • Check how much thread you have. This is a vintage Clark's Big Ball thread from a thrift store. It has 250 yards. This is a 100-round doily. I was able to finish 76 rounds, which seemed to be a logical stopping point. Had I been paying attention, I would have selected a smaller doily.
  • Experiment with needle size. Normally on size 30 thread, I use size 0US needles. This time I used a size 1US. I like it.
  • Variegated yarn can work on a doily, at least in my opinion. I think the solid areas help, and I like that the pattern creates a wave effect.
  • When a pattern says to work a knit and a purl in a double yarn over, do so. Don't substitute a knit and knit through the back loop. K-P twists the thread in the double yarn over. K-Ktbl does not and looks funny.
  • Remember the ILF (it looks funny) rule. If it looks funny while you are knitting, stop. It won't look better if you continue.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Silk and Ivory

Last May, when I was in the Richmond, Virginia, area, I visited Holly Spring Homespun in Powhatan. I was taken with the shop's Silk and Ivory, 50 percent silk and 50 percent merino yarn. This color is Spring Meadow. I wish you could feel how soft and silky this scarf is.

The pattern is the Knotted Openwork Scarf by Wannietta Prescord, on the Canadian Knitwear Designers & Artisans Web site. This is a great pattern to use for a small amount of yarn (this skein was 200 yards), especially to show off color.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Grand Champion

How many times is one person likely to win Grand Champion at the Western Washington Fair? Maybe not so many. So I framed my ribbons: first place, best in class and Grand Champion. Several people have asked if I am going to frame the Grand Champion shawl. No, I'm going to wear it.

So far, I have not been able to take a good photograph of the shawl. It's mostly black, and I'm having difficulty finding the right spot with the right background and the right light. The photos here are inadequate. They don't really show the colors properly. You can see the red but you really can't see the purple. You'll have to trust me that the shawl is lovely and fun to wear.

In case you are wondering, the shawl is Triangles Within Triangles from Heartstrings Fiber Arts and the yarn is from Heritage Yarns, one strand of Days of Wine and Roses and one strand of black.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Ready for fall

This vest is a first place, blue ribbon winner from the 2006 Western Washington Fair, a gift for my husband and model. It's made from Cascade 220. One of my husband's colleagues once complimented him because his sweaters and vests fit. Well, duh. One of the beauties of hand-knit items is that they can be custom fit. A bespoke vest. I'm not making him wear the blue ribbon, but I thought about it. This is the cable pattern:

On an unrelated topic, the Yarn Shoppe in Boise was collecting candy corn hats for distribution to Boise children and sold small kits to make a preemie-sized hat. I plan to give it to a colleague who is a great fan of candy corn, although I think my Bennie Bear looks quite dashing. Bennie has a zipper because he is a jewelry store gift-delivery mascot; the gift giver places the precious gift in Bennie's tummy for delivery to the deserving recipient (that would be me) .

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Back from Boise

A week of lace knitting. With a group of talented knitters who will share their successes, knitting questions, tips and tricks. Does it get any better? That's what Myrna Stahman's lace knitting retreat is all about.

Although we were physically in Boise, we took a world tour of lace knitting:
  • Donna Druchunas, author of the wonderful book "Arctic Lace," described her research into the Oomingmak lace knitting of native Alaskans and how she translated native designs and symbols into her own lace patterns.
  • René Wells, a brilliant teacher, taught us Japanese knitting techniques and how to read Japanese patterns even if you can't read a word of Japanese. Some of the stitches are lovely, but the bobbles — no, I don't think so.
  • Myrna took us on a knitting tour of Shetland and Orkney, and showed us the stunningly beautiful knitting she acquired.
  • Myrna gave us a brief tour of Albania through the socks she purchased on her visit to that country.
  • I showed the shawls I purchased in Lithuania and the gloves from Latvia, along with the Turkish slippers from my friend Ferdane.
Retreat highlights are the show-and-share times when each knitter shares her work. Below are just a few of the items knitters brought with them.

A few of Myrna's Shetland treasures:

Iloise and Pat model Judy W.'s knitting; the designs are by Sivia Harding:

LeAnn is one of the most prolific knitters and has a great ability to match color and pattern:

Sherie made a luscious alpaca shawl from a doily pattern:

Judy G.'s marvelous doilies:

Did I sign up for next year? Yes, yes, yes!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Boise Bound

Myrna Stahman's lace knitting retreat is Boise has become an annual favorite. It's a whole week of lace knitting education and fun with a wonderful group of creative knitters. Many of the participants are also the teachers, which makes for a great atmosphere. One highlight is the ability to admire the lovely work participants have done.

How intensive is the knitting? This intensive: I'm taking two suitcases: a big duffel with knitting supplies and a smaller backpack with a week's worth of clothes.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Peacock Feathers

I started Peacock Feathers as a travel project for this past summer's visits to Riga, Vilnius and Prague. I did not count on 90+ degree temperatures, which made working with Misti alpaca, even laceweight alpaca, less than ideal. Probably working with any alpaca would have been uncomfortable. Our hotels had air conditioning, but not the bone-chilling, icicle-forming air conditioning that Americans are used to. Knitting in outdoor cafes while enjoying a fine Latvian, Lithuanian or Czech beer, respectively, wasn't much of an option either; it was still to hot to knit with alpaca. I made a little progress while traveling but not much. I finished it back home.

It's knit on US4 needles. I used two full skeins plus about 20 yards of a third skein.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

How swift is this?

I finally purchased a yarn swift, the exceedingly clever Mama Bear from the Oregon Woodworker. It's perfect for my needs and it packs up for neat storage. If you ever played with Tinker Toys, you'll know just how this works. The pieces:

The set-up:

Friday, September 22, 2006

Beginning knitters

Two women I know recently started knitting. One is my friend and work colleague Debbie. The other is my cousin Sarah. Both are intelligent, talented, vivacious electrical engineers. Coincidence? I think not. It will be interesting to watch them learn to knit.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I have knit the Fiber Trends Landscape Scarf more than any other pattern. I like everything about it.
  • I like being able to make it in any yarn — especially variegated, handpainted and multicolored yarn — for any season, in any size.
  • I like that it doesn't take much yarn. Most of the Landscapes below used between 200 and 350 yards.
  • I like the way it fits. It doesn't bunch up on the back of the neck.
  • I like the way the selection of yarn and adornments can make a dress-up scarf, a work scarf or a casual scarf.
  • I like that you can tie the ties in front, fasten them with a pin or just let them hang.
  • I like being able to adapt the stitches used. I usually alternate between garter and stockinette in the sections; the original is garter, moss, stockinette, seed and reverse stockinette.
  • I like the variations: I have made it with and without picots, with beads along the edges, with beads on the points, with tassles on the points and with tassels and beads.
  • I like that it's easy enough to be good travel knitting or when you need a project that doesn't take a lifetime to finish.
A few examples from the past two or three years include:

Vintage Villawool Tivoli, cotton-linen-viscose, about sport weight.

Socks that Rock lightweight, color Carbon Dating, with picots. I love this yarn .

Willow Creeek Farm in Roy Washington, Lincoln wool, worsted weight, with tassles wrapped with wire and with a leaf-shaped bead, thanks to the helpful folks at the Bead Factory in Tacoma. Selecting beads can be as mesmerizing and selecting yarn.

And, finally, a laceweight merino-tencel blend from Spor Farm in The Dalles, Oregon. Perfect for summer.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


This is doily number 7 in "Lavori artistici a calza 11," knit in Cebelia 30 on US0 needles. The book is in Italian but the charts are very clear and a little online research can decode most of the symbols. The objet d'art next to the doily is a painted glass piece that our friend Daniela from Romania gave us last year. (Sorry about the flash; without the flash the color of doily faded from the light sage it is supposed to be to gray.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Not Our Cat

This is Coco. Or Cocoa. Or Koko. She is not our cat so we don't know how she spells her name. She lives next door but she visits regularly, mostly to roll around on the concrete patio and collect dust, leaves and twigs in her fur.

Some people think they should have an emergency backup cat. We are Coco's emergency backup people. (We'll call her Coco just to pick one.)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Do the Puyallup

The Western Washington Fair in Puyallup was good to me this year – Grand Champion! Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!

The pattern is the Heartstrings (Jackie E-S) Triangles within Triangles shawl. I knit it on US6 needles with Heritage Yarns tencel: one strand of a color called Days of Wine and Roses (black, purple, red) and one strand of solid black. I did extra repeats to make the shawl bigger. I estimate that I used about 1,100 yards of each color.

But wait! There's more! I won a blue ribbon for a vest for my husband. It's made with Cascade 220. The cable is 16.8 in Harmony Volume 5, "220 Aran Stitches and Patterns."

I also won two more ribbons: a second place for a doily and a third place for a scarf. The doily is Christine Duchrow 87-3, found in the third volume of the Lacis collection of Duchrow patterns. What's interesting about this doily is that is has a cable in it! A cable! Thanks to the talented René for charting this doily. I knit it with Cebelia size 30 on US0 needles.

The scarf, if you could actually see it, is Fiddlesticks Knitting's Rippling Waters Scarf knit in Habu tsumugi silk.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Finally! Some knitting!

It has taken some time to find the right time and light and location to take some pictures of recent finished objects. One is the Icarus shawl from the summer 2006 Interweave Knits. The yarn is 2/18 New Zealand wool in a color called Santorini, knit on US4 needles. I finished the points with small clear beads to add a little sparkle and to keep the points pointed.

This picture doesn't really show off the shawl but I like the way it looks in front the the Dale Chihuly glass at the University of Puget Sound.

This is the Kaleidoscope doily from the Coats Patons (Canada) publication "Dazzling Doilies." Kaleidoscope also appears in Coasts & Clark's Book No. 111, "Priscilla Doilies to Crochet, Knit and Tat," published in 1959 by Coats & Clark, New York. Knit on US0 needle with Cebelia size 30, sage green, 12+ inches across.

One of the pleasures of Labor Day weekend is tomatoes from the garden. The little gold Sunspot tomatoes are the best for eating just like candy.