September 10, 2012

It's hot, but that doesn't stop the knitting

Los Angeles used to get cool at night. No matter how hot it got during the day, the nights were always cool and crisp.

This weather forecast tells a lie:


YES, it really is that hot during the day, but I have yet to see anything with a 6 in front of it for a low. Those lows are a cruel lie. The coolest temperature recorded in my neighborhood this month was 74, just before dawn a few days ago.

Where did my Los Angeles go? I want my chilly September evenings back!

Nonetheless, I knit onward and upward. Turn up your A/C, friends, because you're still getting hand-knit gifts from the person who takes pictures of her TV weather forecast. Nothing weird at all about that.

Corey, modeling her summertime arm warmers:



These armwarmers were knit using Rowan All Seasons Cotton yarn in a variegated pink colorway. I used a size 8 needle, tight knitters can I get a what what! I don't remember how many stitches I cast on. Just start with a swatch and it will work out.



Once you have the piece long as you like it, seam up the long sides, leaving a little opening for a thumb. SO EASY.


For a little decoration (and to keep the piece polished at the top) I started with a few rows of seed stitch. I love the look of seed stitch finishing anything, a scarf, a hat or a mitten.

I have several armwarmer orders on my to-knit Christmas list, along with a couple of slouchy hats. My personal Christmas wish is that it gets COLD this winter and I get a chance to wear some of the hand-knit goodness stockpiled in my closet.

What's on your holiday knitting to-do list?

And where are you hiding the weather machine that makes the cool nights?

Posted by laurie at 9:01 AM

July 17, 2011


My handbag has become the holder of hats, it seems that every day I'm knitting another hipster hat. It's the perfect little project to take along with you wherever you go, it requires almost no counting or fussing and since you knit a lot of stockinette for a long time without decreasing it's great TV knitting for when you're summer hibernating. And by "you" I mean "me."

This is all the exact same colorway of Noro Taiyo but I sort of re-jiggered the colorways to suit me. I didn't like the lime greean and black in the middle of the other colors so I started cutting it out of the skein and after a while I had a big ball of yarn for a black/white/green hat. Noro is still my favorite yarn of all time, I like the crazy color surprises. And now that I've been knitting for a while I'm not at all weirded out by cutting up a skein or two of yarn and making my own color combinations.

Most of my hats are little gifts, I know quite a few hipster hat wearin' individuals.


Posted by laurie at 4:58 PM

June 7, 2011

The sweater pattern is ready!

In case you are just joining our story in progress, a while back I saw a beautiful summer sweater in the display window of an upscale Los Angeles boutique. I loved it. I wondered aloud in an asking way if any knitters here had seen a pattern that looked exactly like the boutique sweater. Many awesome people responded and if you go back and look at the original post here and follow-up here you can find links to many free patterns online.

But none of the free patterns were exactly, totally 100% the same style sweater and I'm not the sort of knitter who can just wake up one morning and whip up a sweater by scratch or re-do a whole pattern on the fly and then Lisa in North Hollywood emailed her friend Vera in Los Angeles and Vera looked at the sweater and offered to make a pattern for one. And she did, in like three days! Crazy! You can see her sweater on her blog and purchase the pattern there as well. It's only $5.50 for the pattern to make this beautiful summer knit, I'm in AWE. I love it when people have mad talent and create beautiful things which I can then use to make my own beautiful creation. This is how I feel about chocolate, and wine, and food, and yarn, and movies, and this pattern. Very happy!

I got my yarn yesterday and started swatching. I started with a size 10.5 needle (that's at the bottom half of the swatch) and moved up to a size 11 needle, which created some crazy tension. Usually I'm a very even knitter (this is one of the advantages of being a tight knitter, even, perfect stitches) but on the larger needle I was careening out of control. I haven't decided which one to go with, I held both against my wrist and I think the fabric created by the smaller needle may actually work better.


Does cotton block well? I never knit with cotton. Hard to say. This yarn is 50% viscose, 50% cotton. It's a little shiny but for $22 it was a steal. My first real, adult-sized human sweater is now under construction. Happy summer knitting!

Posted by laurie at 1:08 PM

June 5, 2011

Easy slouchy hand-knit hipster hat (free pattern!)

I love knitting hats and I make a lot of them, mostly for family members and friends who live in colder climates. But there is one style of hat that is everywhere right now, even in summertime Los Angeles: the slouchy hipster hat. It's longer and a little looser that a traditional knit hat and you don't turn up the brim. Bright colors and textured cotton-blend yarn give this hat a relaxed Venice Beach look.

Here is my vintage bear modeling the hat:
(That's just a placeholder pic until I get some good pictures of my nephew Brett in his hipster hat.)

Free Pattern: Easy slouchy hand-knit hipster hat

Skill level: Beginner/Intermediate

• Heavy worsted-weight yarn, approx 220 yeards. I used one ball of Noro Taiyo color #6
• Gauge: 4.5 stitches/inch
• Needles: 16" Circular and double-pointed needles (DPNs) of same size. I used size 9 needle, but you may need to go down to a size 8. I tend to knit a little tighter than most knitters. Knit a swatch if you're in doubt.
• Other: Stitch markers, one large-eye yarn needle, scissors.

Things you may find useful when knitting this hat:
• The easy roll-brim hat pattern, the basis of all my hat recipes
Working with circular needles
• A little diatribe on decreasing stitches
• My regular ribbed-brim hat recipe

General hat tip: I have learned from knitting approximately one gagillion hats that for most adults you can estimate a good fitting hat at 18" of finished fabric. This particular hat is a bit slouchy, measuring in around 20" in finished diameter. If you want a closer-fitting cap (like a beanie) check back in a few days, I've made a few of those, too and will post the pattern shortly.


Cast on 88 stitches. Join for knitting in the round, making sure your stitches are not twisted. You can place a marker if you like, but the world will not stop spinning on its axis if you don't have a marker. I never use one until I'm ready to start decreasing.

Knit in (Knit 1, Purl 1) ribbing for 1 1/2" or so.

Switch to stockinette, which means you knit every stitch in the round.

Knit in stockinette until the hat measures 9" or 9 1/2" from the cast on edge.

Begin decreasing:
- Place a marker to denote the beginning of the round, if you haven't already been using a marker.
- (Knit 9, Knit 2 together)* across the round. End with 80 stitches.

***TIP*** After every decrease place a marker. Use different colored markers from the one you use to signify the end of a round. This little trick will save you so much time and brainpower when decreasing for a hat. Now every time you work a decrease row, you know to knit together the two stitches just before the markers.

- Knit one round.

- (Knit 8, K2tog) across round. End with 72 stitches.

- Knit one round.

- (Knit 7, K2tog) across round. End with 64 stitches.

- Knit one round.

- (Knit 6, K2tog) across round. End with 56 stitches.

- Knit one round. This is also where I switched to double-pointed needles (DPNs).

- (Knit 5, K2tog) across round. End with 48 stitches.
- (Knit 4, K2tog) across round. End with 40 stitches.
- (Knit 3, K2tog) across round. End with 32 stitches.
- (Knit 2, K2tog) across round. End with 24 stitches.
- (Knit 1, K2tog) across round. End with 16 stitches.

Cut the yarn tail, leaving about 10 inches of yarn. Thread the yarn through a large-eye needle and pull it through all the remaining stitches on your needles. I do this twice because I am a little OCD. Weave in all ends. And you have a hat!

Markers after every decrease, plus a different marker to denote the beginning of a round.

Yes, it's a loooong hat.

My self-portrait picture-taking skills have seriously devolved.

Posted by laurie at 11:59 AM

May 30, 2011

The Knitting Hive Mind has spoken

Thank you so much to everyone who helped me search out patterns for the boutique sweater I went nutso over. Thanks for the yarn suggestions, too, and pattern ideas. Honestly, why doesn't a knitter become our president? I believe the attention to detail and the snap-to-itness of a knitter are what we need in this world!


Reader Lisa G. saw the entry about the sweater and contacted her friend Vera who makes custom patterns. Vera came over, saw the sweater, and offered to make a pattern based on the sweater and offer it for just $5.50 ... AND she'll be done writing the pattern in about a week so that gives us all time to find yarn and fidget in happiness. Here is what Vera said yesterday:

I can write this up as a pattern, top down construction, no seams, knit in sleeves (not raglan, but set-in). I would make it 16 sts/4" in a DK weight yarn to make it loose gauged like the sample in the picture.

It would take me about one week to write the pattern and knit up a prototype.

I will be working on these sizes for the pattern: 32 (36, 40, 44, 48, 52) inches. I am size 44" chest, and as I am writing up the pattern, I am working a sample sweater for myself.

Here are some of my observations/changes to the sweater in the photo. I am working the pattern so that you can just crochet a simple slip stitch around the neckline or for those who cannot crochet, knit a small ribbing around the neckline. That can be done either as a rolled rib (stockinette stitch) or K1/P1.

I am not going to make drop shoulders but there is shoulder shaping with set-in sleeves. Otherwise, the shoulder part will droop down your arms.

Since I am doing the pattern in top-down, seamless construction, there will be NO sewing involved at all! :) I will give extensive instructions for those who have never knit a sweater like that before.

The sweater will have waist shaping, but for those who want the sweater to go straight down, you just omit the shaping part.

Because it is top-down construction, you decide on the length as you try on the sweater while working it.

If any of you have access to ravelry (knit and crochet community on line, free to join - I equate it to facebook for knitters/ crocheters), my user name is: sunfunliving and I have a group on ravelry where I will post photos of the progress.

Vera and Lisa, knitters saving the day! Aaaaand then I corresponded with reader Connie who offered to do a yarn swap with me and after yesterday something crazy good happened and I felt like all the irritation and weirdness I have been feeling about the internet was washed away and replaced my happiness and love and a renewed vigor to lock Al Gore in a naked bearhug and thank him for inventing this place.

Wait, was that an overshare?

- - - UPDATE!!! (Monday 5/31 at 11:15 a.m.) - - -
I just got an email from Vera with a pic of the work-in-progress. Cannot explain my awe at how someone has the amazing skill to design a sweater from a picture, and also wow she's fast! Check it out:


- - - (now back to the rest of the entry) - - -

So I am on fire with this sweater and started swatching last night in some cotton I had in my stash. It's worsted weight and not at all right for this sweater but when you are lit up with the flame of swatching nothing can stop you:

Worsted weight cotton/poly blend yarn on size 13 needles.

Not airy enough, but still, swatching! Also I know the needle looks like it says size 11 in the picture but it's size 13. The paint of the "3" is worn off.

Here is what I learned from working up this too-large weight yarn on not-large-enough size 13 needles: While the end result is too dense for the sweater, I was able to knit it up while I chatted on the phone with my mom for less than a half hour and based that, this whole sweater is going to be a very quick knit.

It took about 25 minutes to get a good five inches of fabric. Can I get a what what for a fast summer knit? Hello!

I am so excited about making my first sweater. Well, first sweater that is not for a baby or a dog. Yay! Are you planning to knit this, too, so I can ask you questions and see your results which will surely be finished seventeen weeks before mine? I'm all for knit-along though let's be honest, I suck at organizing things that don't involve food, so let's just do this: I'm going to make this sweater. From some yarn and Vera's pattern. I am also in the last bit of finishing up my book so even though this is a fast-looking knit I may or may not finish this sweater by the time the world ends. If you want to knit a similar sweater but not the exact duplicate, check out the links provided by the Superfriends of Knitting in the comments of yesterday's post. Maybe one will be right for you. And though we may not all be knitting the same exact sweater at the same exact time, it will be this loosely joined collective of Boho Boutique Sweater knitters. Yay!

Also I realize this particular style is not everyone's fashion cup of tea (I know somewhere out there a woman is saying, "This is what you crazy California people think is fashion? Really?") so I hope you find a summer sweater out there somewhere that sets you on fire the way this one did for me.

If you did like that style you may be pleased to know that while I was there on the sidewalk taking pictures of the store's display window I figured I should snap a few photos of the other cute sweater in the window. Obviously a handknit as well, this one is even more summery, with a cute tank top underneath. I don't really do sleeveless but if I did this would be next on my list:


I love the breezy California style! And I love the internet. I should have known all it would take was some knitting and some knitters to get me back into the groove. I can't thank you enough for that. Thank you to everyone who chatted with me yesterday both here and on Twitter. When I get to thank Al in my special way you all will be the first to know.

Posted by laurie at 8:11 AM

May 29, 2011

Knitting Minds Activate! Form of Boutique Sweater!

You GUYS. It's finally happened. This is the moment I have been waiting for since 2005! I finally found the one adult-sized sweater that has gripped me in its yarny vice and made me absolutely crazy to knit it.


Late last week when I passed the window display of a little boutique on the boulevard I saw this sweater and stopped right in my tracks. The shop wasn't open so I took a bunch of photos through the glass, I'm sure passers by thought I was casing the joint. This being Los Angeles though no one stopped me, hooray! And I felt very lucky to pass by this store just moments after they closed since I have been in this shop before and they only carry three sizes (small, extra-small, and make-you-want-to-cry small) and they only have one price range (Kardashian Engagement Ring). I actually love this store and plan to shop there all the time when I am much too rich and much too thin but until then I can thank them for finally showing me the one handknit sweater I must make myself or the world will stop spinning on its axis.

And I know that you all are collectively the smartest (and best looking!) knitting hive mind on the planet so can you help me find a pattern for this sweater? Have you seen anything like this? It looks like a worsted weight or just slightly thinner cotton yarn knit on large needles in plain stockinette. The cuffs and bottom are a simple 1 x 1 rib. The neck is a V-neck with what looks like a pick-up-and-knit finished neckline (yes, I know this is not a technically perfect description.) I took a ton of pictures so here we go:


How the sleeves are connected.

Basic plain old seams. (Oh, edited to add that apparently I was trying to be polite to the sweater's feelings and did not mention it before but yes, those seams are mad sloppy. And you do not want to know how much this sweater costs with those seams!)

Simple 1x1 ribbing on the hem and cuffs.

Neckline. Like I said, casing the joint.

UPDATED to add this super-close-up of the hem:
You all have the most amazing eye, how did you immediately know it was two strands of yarn held together?? I didn't even notice until you pointed it out! I am officially in awe. Carry on.

I want this sweater! It's perfect loosey goosey stockinette that is well within my happiness zone and it's beautifully chic without trying too hard. You know, casual without being dumpy and still fashionable without being Real Housewifey. Ya'll, fashion is so complex. The mannequin display has the sweater over a gorgeous red sleeveless dress and I love it, this sweater would be a nice change from covering my arms with a shrug or jacket. Plus I could wear almost year-round here in Los Angeles weather since it's knit so loose and mesh-like. Wouldn't this be cute with a tank top and jeans? Or over a very thin turtleneck t-shirt in the winter?

So I am sending this out in the knitting universe as the equivalent to putting it on the side of a milk carton. Help, please! Have you seen this pattern? Do you know where I can find a pattern to make a sweater just like this? Have you made a sweater like this? When we find the pattern want to make this sweater along with me? It could be a perfect summer knit!!

Posted by laurie at 12:04 PM

April 18, 2011

Free Book Monday: "Knitting Plus" by Lisa Shroyer

To start this week off right, today I'll be giving away one free copy of Knitting Plus: Mastering Fit + Plus-Size Style + 15 Projects by Lisa Shroyer. Thanks to the always charming Jaime Guthals at Interweave for sending me this copy to give to one lucky reader.


From the publisher's description: "Knitting Plus is the must-have manual for plus-sized sweater construction and knitwear design. With this helpful guide, you’ll learn how to design wearable, tailor-made sweaters. Explore basic pullover and cardigan sweater construction styles from raglans and set-in sleeves to drop shoulders, seamless yokes, and dolmans. Knitting Plus explains each specific sweater element and then offers key tips for plus-sized knitting. Included throughout are simple versions of each construction type as easy-to-reference templates so you can quickly adapt and alter each sweater for a custom fit. Each pattern offers a broad range of sizes and instructions for bust sizes from about 44 to 56 inches. Packed with design information and ready-to- knit patterns, Knitting Plus is your go-to technique and design reference for customizing patterns to fit all sizes."

Plus-sized knitting books are surprisingly rare in the knit book world. I looked through this one and it features a nice mix of simple patterns and more complicated lace and cable patterns. The Fair Isle sweater alone is a work of art. Instead of banding the pattern horizontally the designer (Nancy Shroyer) created vertical bands and it's one of the most flattering sweaters in this style I've seen:


To enter to win this book, simply leave a comment on today's entry by clicking the comment link below. You don't have to compose a manifesto, it's ok to just write "book entry."

Picky Stuff: You must leave a valid email address to be eligible. If you prefer that your email address is mysterious and hidden, you need to enter some website address in the "URL" field just below the email address field. For example, you can just cut/paste and it is magic. Technology!

Good luck!

- - -

Updated 4/19/2011: Congrats to reader Marjorie for winning this great book!

Posted by laurie at 10:33 AM

September 13, 2010

It's not a waste of time if you knit while watching the TV...

I loved all our chatting about TV last week, apparently I am not the only one who thinks TV time is productive, useful and necessary if you are knitting as you watch.

Right now I am knitting all my Christmas gifts, which is why I haven't posted many pictures of my knitting lately. Don't want to ruin that Noro surprise headed your way if you know me in person! This is the first year I've actually had the time (time! again! we're on a theme here) to knit present for everyone. I'm using the beautiful yarn I already have in my stash and some Noro on got on super sale. I hope I'm capturing a little of each person in their gift. I made a list (of course) and tried to think of a special item for each person, something they might actually use and enjoy. The list is long but luckily I have two happy hands, enough delicious yarn to last me through the apocalypse and all that TV that isn't going to watch itself.

In addition to my Christmas knitting, I've also been making hats by request from my mom and dad. My little brother Eric snagged the first hat I made (originally intended for Dad but it was a little too big for him, and Eric has quite a handsome big noggin.)

Here he is, it's a simple ribbed hat in Noro Taiyo, by far one of the softest Noro yarns I have ever used:



That hat was meant to have a flipped-up brim but he likes wearing it as a beanie. And I'm almost done with Dad's hat, when I complete it I'll post the final hat recipe. I kind of made it up as I went along and I'm very happy with the outcome. But knitting it twice will help make sure I didn't write down anything in error, then I'll share it with you. It's very simple, no frills, just a basic ribbed fisherman's style hat.

Here's Dad's hat, almost ready to decrease for the top:

One thing I have always loved about my dad is that he likes colorful things, he requested a bright, colorific hat and this yarn certainly delivers. I love it! I love all the colors and the softness of it. The label says it's 40% cotton, 30% silk, 15% wool and 15% nylon. Aside from the bad knot I had to fish out and correct, I love this yarn.

My mom wants a hat in navy blue and lime green stripes, two colors I don't have in my stash! I love Southwest Trading Company's "Karaoke" yarn, and they have a great navy blue but no lime green. So I still don't have any navy or lime yarn. Any ideas? I prefer something I can knit on size 7 or 8 needles.

For my Christmas knitting I'm making a few felted bags, an item for a certain dog who will go unnamed, fingerless gloves (but the real kind with finger openings and a thumb gusset), many hats and of course some scarves. Nothing better than a scarf for some fine TV knitting. Are you into holiday knitting this year? Hey, Christmas is only 102 days away! So what are you making?

Did I scare you with the Christmas Countdown? Mwahahahah! (behold my evil laugh.)

We're all about the scary at Chez Furball these days...

Frankie watches Jaws.

Bob is scared of Jaws.

Posted by laurie at 11:23 AM

August 24, 2010

Crimes Against Yarn



The dire anguish of encountering the badly knotted Noro.

Posted by laurie at 12:47 PM

July 19, 2010

Hand knit gloves, perfect in July

They're all done!


My completed hand knit gloves. These were knitted using Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn in color 256 on size US 3 needles. For the pattern, I went with the glove recipe in The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges. I can't recommend this book highly enough. You can use the pattern to create a custom item that fits you and works with your yarn.

Not easy to take a picture of your own hands, you know.

The second glove knitted up faster since I knew what I was doing but the first one wasn't terribly difficult or anything, just a little time-consuming. These gloves only used a portion of my skein of sock yarn, I still have enough left for at least one more glove, two if they're fingerless. Of course my poor skein of yarn is in three pieces now since I dug around inside it for hours one day trying to match the colorway of glove #2 to the exact colorway of glove #1. The gloves aren't perfectly matchy-matchy but it's Noro, it's going to be a little slubby and uneven and I got the colors close enough for my liking. I just didn't want my gloves looking like they'd been knit from different skeins of yarn. Also, I may be slightly crazy that way.

There are a few mistakes and my stitches are a little tight but I think my gloves sort of perfectly capture the state of mind I was in when I started the project. I'm also ridiculously proud of my handiwork here. Handiwork! If you had told me five or six years ago that one day I would be knitting my own gloves on tiny little toothpick needles with tiny skinny little sock yarn I would have laughed at you and asked what you were drinking. And, based on where I was in my life five years ago, I would have asked to share whatever you were drinking. Not only was I uninterested in small, time-consuming projects, I was completely unable to read a pattern back then.

These gloves were not the most complicated thing I have ever knitted (that honor goes to my entrelac scarf, maybe, or the red baby sweater, only because those crazy Debbie Bliss instructions are impossible to decipher.) But I think this is the project I am most proud of by a long shot. Sock knitting didn't take with me and while I love my hats and scarves and weird inventions, I think gloves are by far one of the most fun things I've ever made (I also loved making mittens, but I think I'll wear gloves more often.) Of course it's July in the Valley so what do I know. At this rate I may have to move to the north pole.

Here are some outtakes from the bigtime glove fashion shoot:




My next projects are all hats. A hat for my dad (at his request, very exciting) and a hat for my mom. She already picked out some yarn from my stash but then mentioned she also wants a hat in navy blue and lime green stripes, so I might make her two hats. Hats for all!

Happy summer knitting ... crank up the A/C!

Posted by laurie at 10:40 AM

July 15, 2010

Summer knitting, had me a blast

We were lucky this year and it spoiled me, all those weeks of thick marine layer covering the coastline and inland until noon or longer kept the temperatures moderate and even chilly in the morning, just the way I like it. Now we've gone from June Gloom to July Fry in a span of two days. The hotter it gets the more I want to sit inside with winter movies and snowy documentaries and the Cooking Channel. Is the Cooking Channel new or have I only discovered it through the magic of unemployment? They show old episodes of Julia Child's The French Chef and one of my favorite cooking shows, Two Fat Ladies. I first saw the Two Fat Ladies on BBC a decade or so ago when I was traveling, probably to someplace cold. I don't understand a good portion of what they say and they make things I would never eat but it's strangely compelling.

The second knitted glove is coming along quickly by my standards, a testament to how much I loathe the slimy heat:


That's the only upside of summer. The outdoor oven air pushes you indoors near the pretty yarn and anyway the TV isn't going to watch itself you know.

- - -

Last night I was flipping through the recent cb2 catalog and several items caught my eye.

A knitted pouf:


Another color:


And some felted knit baskets:


Another view:


The pouf was going for $79 and the largest felt basket for $29. The pouf would last about ten minutes here in Chez Fursalot before being engulfed in cat hair and snagged by a passing cat talon but it's cute nonetheless. The baskets are a good idea for a future project. Looks like they would be easy enough to make and I do have the world's reigning supply of Patons Up Country in my closet. And there is a lot of summertime ahead, hot days stretching out full of knitting and air conditioning.

- - -

Today's three happy things:
1) Cucumber and avocado salad with cracked pepper, salt and balsamic.
2) Finding an SD memory card I was sure I had lost.
3) Julia Child's memoir My Life in France, which I'm reading and loving. I share her deep love of butter.

Posted by laurie at 11:39 AM

June 30, 2010

The Lone Glove Ranger


Well, it's been completed. My masterpiece, my moment of yarn greatness. I can say in all honesty with a totally impartial opinion that this glove is the finest thing ever created by humankind:

(Action shot with the iphone camera!)

And here it is at rest on the keyboard where sonnets will be written extolling its beauty:


Yes, I finally completed one whole hand knit glove with real fingers! One. One glove.

Soon I will cast on for the second glove, since July in Southern California is such great handknit wool glove weather. And I am casting on with this schizophrenic mess:


You may be thinking to yourself, "Self, wasn't that once a pretty, well-adjusted skein of Noro Kureyon sock yarn? What the hell happened to that poor skein of yarn?"

And all I can say is that some people might be just a teetiny bit on the obsessive side and these alleged "some people" dug all the way through the skein of yarn until "they" discovered what appeared to be a similar colorway to glove #1 and thus made a yarn ball out of that part exclusively, so that glove #2 might have some hope of semi-matching glove #1. "Some people" ... crazy much?

Don't answer that.

One of the questions I've been getting asked about this glove is how to manage it with no ladders. Ladders are those telltale areas on handknit items knit on double-pointed needles where you can see almost a ridge of wider stitches where the DPNs were during construction. For me, there are two ways I avoid this and stay always ladder free:

1) I am a freakishly tight knitter anyway, but I always pull that first stitch on the DPN very tight
2) And most importantly, I move my stitches around the DPNs. A LOT.

What do I mean by moving the stitches around? Let's say you have an item knit in the round and you have four double-pointed needles. Each needle has twelve stitches on it. I would knit it that way for a few rounds then on the next round knit 12 off needle 1, and knit two off the next needle so I now have fourteen on needle #1. The next needle now has ten stitches. Knit those ten plus two off the third needle. And so on. I do this constantly in my projects (hats, especially) so the stitches don't have time to ladder. I did it on these gloves and have ladder-free handwarming.

Now, I'm no expert in knitting but I do love when I have a tip I can pass along. The only other special knittip I can offer up if you're making gloves is a little sneaky secret I learned back when I was making my first pair of mittens. This is a trick I have since used countless times -- I did it on all the baby sweaters and baby shoes I made, I did it with socks, and now I applied it liberally to my gloves.

Here it is:
When a pattern tells you to pick up and knit one stitch (or two) to cover a gap -- say, the gap between fingers-- in my world that one or two stitches would only cover a tiny bit of the gap and would leave a gigantor gaping hole. I can't have a gaping hole! So I pick up as many stitches as necessary to cover the whole open edge and on the next round I knit two together until I have my proper stitch count required by the pattern.

That trick works on necklines, armholes, even entrelac if you've had something go amiss on a square. For these gloves these was a GIANT edge of almost 3/4" long along the thumb gusset where the pattern wanted you to cast on one stitch to fill the gap. One stitch in sock yarn does not fill a 3/4" gap. Instead of doing that I picked up eight stitches and made a perfect closure, then on the next two rounds decreased evenly around so it was a gentle decrease and all was well.

No big gaping holes.

I'm so happy with my one glove! I can't believe I actually created that with my own hands and just some string and sticks. I love knitting. I love the whole process of just figuring it out as you go along, I love yarn that changes colors, I love those tiny toothpick double-pointed-needles. I even love digging throughthe skein like a mental patient and finding the beginning of the orange-purple-green colorway. I love that if you mess up on a project (which I did, several times) you get your ol' brain working and try to figure out how to fix it and in the end you make something that's like wearable art. On one hand.

Now I just gotta cast on for that second glove...

Posted by laurie at 12:47 PM

June 28, 2010

It's happy up here on glove mountain

Sometimes I look at this hand-knit glove I'm making and I just can't believe I am the one knitting it! For one thing, it's redonkulously pretty. And the fingers look like they're all in the right areas. And I even must have measured correctly because a few times I've shoved my hand up parts of it and it fits.


I'm using the build-your-own-pattern method from The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges and my yarn is some delicious Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn in color S256 Lot A.

There was a moment of panic when a stealth criminal made a quick drive by and stole the glove. All I caught was this blurry shot on my iphone as proof:


But aside from some spit residue and a slight tussle to remove the glove from the perpetrator's mouth, all is well.

I should be finished with it today! It's so exciting. I was bragging about this to my Dad who said, "Is that your tribute to Michael Jackson or are you planning to make two of 'em?" But non-knitters don't understand. Successfully finishing one is an accomplishment all its own. I think the statute of limitations on finishing the second glove (or sock, or sleeve) is at least a year. Or two. It varies from yarn to yarn.

I can't believe I have almost made a whole glove. With just a little puppy spit on the edges. Life is good.


Posted by laurie at 7:48 AM

June 14, 2010


Sometimes when I don't feel like paying close attention to detailed knitting and I don't have an easy project lying nearby (my gloves are lovely but certainly do require me to pay attention) I like to pick up some pretty yarn and swatch. Or I'll make a center-pull ball, which is a very zen activity once you get the hang of it. (I keep meaning to post a little picture tutorial on making a center pull ball but I need to recruit a friend to either model or take the pictures since I don't have four hands.)

Recently I picked up some Noro Kocharon from my stash and started making a center-pull ball. The good: this yarn is DELICIOUS, buttery soft and so silky. The bad: There was a knot midway through the skein attaching two completely different colors which makes me crazy. All three skeins have had a knot! It's annoying in a cheap yarn but downright irritating in an expensive yarn. There was no way to smooth out the colorways (usually if they're close enough and if there's enough wool content I'll try a felted join and it works fine.) This time I snipped out the knot and got one larger yarn ball and one smaller ball which I used for swatching:

(Oh, I put a full skein in the back there because I thought it was pretty.)

When I'm trying to decide which needle size works best sometimes I do a single long block of stockinette separated by ridges of garter stitch. The first block (in red) was knit on size 10.5 needles, then I did a block in size 10 and then the top block, still attached to the needles, is worked on a size 9 needle:


After I bind off, I'll safety pin a little note to the swatch reminding what needles I used and all that. I think I want to make a sweater out of this yarn, I love it, its so beautiful. I've been looking for a sweater that I could use with this yarn but I specifically wanted a certain style and I wanted the stripes to go vertically, not horizontally on the body, and then I found Imogen by Perl Grey. I already bought the pattern. I'm excited about making a whole sweater for myself! And I think these crazy colors will make a perfect cardigan for me. It's kind of exciting to work on your first adult sweater! If you call swatching working that is...

Posted by laurie at 9:00 AM

June 4, 2010

All is well in Gloveville today


I really appreciated everyone's pattern feedback on my glove situation the other day. I think things are going to be fine with glove-opolos and the gusset is not as dire as we may have thought. For one thing, I am a fairly slow and plodding knitter so I was only a few rounds in. And with the General Innernet Consensus saying the pattern is really asking for me to knit two rounds then increase on round number three, I got out a pen and paper and got to work trying to figure it all out which involved colorful sharpies. I'm one of those people who need visual aids. I count on my fingers sometimes, too, which I am sure is awe-inspiring to other grownups.

I just needed to throw in a couple more increase rounds and then my row count and gusset stitch count were back on track.

What I think is funny here is how committed I am to not ripping out my stitches. These may be the tiniest stitches I have ever knit in my life. In the case that I was unable to make the increases go right, I was fully prepared to bind off and felt this sucker into a camera sleeve. Now you know the real reason why I love to knit with wool -- feltability in case of emergency!

And I am always surprised to find out how many folks hate double-pointed needles. I understand it, mind you, even though I don't personally have deep-vein-dpn-aversion I know one knitter friend who hates the mere sight of them. I think she visibly shudders when I whip out my tiny needles of doom. But still I forget what a thing this can be for some folks, that is until I write about a project using DPNs and I get a lot of links and emails with links to tutorials on the Magic Loop and magic this or that or special tiny gnomes or patterns for the same thing I'm making knit flat.

Speaking of knitting flat items... I had purchased these Noro books a while back specifically to make the gloves I saw inside:



Those gloves looked great! But when I read the pattern (and all the glove patterns inside) more carefully I realized they were knit flat and seamed at the end. Seamed. All ten fingers. I don't want seamed fingers, I wanted to knit in the round! With the little short toothpick-looking DPNs I'd purchased special.

So I admit it, I kind of like knitting with DPNs. It's sort of primitive and nutty. Everyone just finds what works for them in knitting, it's all good. I think I like the mechanics of it, how you get a rounded tubelike item out of a bunch of toothpicks. Then again, I secretly enjoy PowerPoint, too. There's something very satisfying about taking a tool most people hate and making a presentation so beautiful that people weep in appreciation. OK, not that anyone has ever actually been brought to tears with my mad PowerPoint skills but I have had fancypants executives specifically ask for me on their presentations, which in Corporatespeak is kind of the same thing.

The first project I ever made on DPNs (not PowerPoint, hah) was my Kitty Pi, and I think the sense of accomplishment I got from making that on my own was so overwhelming that it colored my DPN experience. In fact, that kitty pi may have even been the first real pattern I ever followed. Ah, the things we do for our felines.

The real author of this site, sitting at her keyboard.

Posted by laurie at 4:30 AM

May 25, 2010

Circular needles, cat help and gloves and questions, oh my.

First a question from a reader... then I have a question for you!

Please share your tips on knitting hats and circular needles. I just made my first hat and stumbled through but could use some common sense tips!


Hi Jessica! I love knitting on circular needles, and even though I have been knitting for several years now I still get excited about the magical way you can create perfect stockinette just knitting the knit stitch in the round. I love it and I hope I can spread that love to you like bronchitis, or innernet crabs. Once you catch it you're a goner. Hats are some of my favorite projects because they're fast and round. And on Saturday I met a lovely woman named Judy who had made not one but two of my knitted cat tunnel patterns!! It is the ultimate knitting-in-the-round gigantaproject. I would try to explain the zen surrender to stockinette to non-knitters and they would glaze over in pain.

The trickiest part about getting used to circular needles seems to be casting on and joining the circle. I wrote a post a long while about about knitting in the round (you can read it here.) I hope it helps. And in full disclosure I will tell you I often cast on in the round and mess up and have to undo it and cast on again. No one has arrested me yet for bad beginnings to good hats!

My newest project is done in the round but not on circulars, it's knitting on teetiny little double-pointed needles like toothpicks. SKEERY. I cast on four times before I got it all joined and untwisted and so on. I am making my very first pair of hand-knit-to-size gloves and I'm using the build-your-own-pattern method from The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns: Basic Designs in Multiple Sizes & Gauges (a million thanks to every reader who recommended this book to me, I love it.) Also I feel so advanced using such a complicated-looking pattern! Even though it isn't really complicated it still took me about an hour to cast on and join properly and even then I didn't knit the first round in knit-1-purl-1 ribbing because I was so happy to have finally joined these tiny stitches that I knit a round plain. But I don't think you can tell, and I'll just do the same on the next glove.



At the rate I am knitting these I will have a pair of completed gloves in 2019. Hope it's cold that winter.

First I started with a swatch. I cast on 50 stitches are started knitting in stockinette on straight needles (I'm using a size 3 because it alleviates my SupaTight™ Knitting if I go up a needle size or two.) I knit for a few inches, then cast off. I should have knit the edges in garter so it didn't roll as much but I didn't, so there you have it. After pinning it carefully down I measured to see how many stitches to the inch I was getting:



Seven stitches to the inch. I also measured the width of my swatch to double check and I got just around seven inches of fabric which is right on with casting on 50 stitches (7 stitches to the inch x 7 inches = 49 stitches.)

I had a lot of help measuring:


Bob inspects my mathyness.

The yarn is so beautiful, it's Noro Kureyon sock yarn. I've never knit with yarn this tiny, it has a slight thick/thin thing happening and in some places it's as thin as sewing thread! I know some of you sock knitters are all about the tiny thread-yarn but it's taking me a while to get used to it. I have fat hands. That's my story and I am sticking with it.

I do have a question though:

When the pattern says, "Increase gusset stitches in this manner every 3 rounds..." do you knit two rounds then increase on the third round?

Or do you knit three rounds and increase on the next round?

I have been doing it the latter way, knitting three rounds then increasing, then knitting three more. There's no place in the pattern where it tells you how many rounds/rows you knit all total (it just gives total stitch counts in places.) I'll admit right now that even if I am wrong I am not ripping it out ... these are some teetiny little stitches! But I wanted to ask what you think the pattern means so that in the future I do it correctly. If there is a future, what with the tinyness and all.

But for all my trepidation at making a project on something smaller than a size 11 needle, I've made a little progress. Now I'm at the thumb gusset. The Manager Of Glove Readiness is still overseeing the project:


So much help. So few thumbs. Less need for gussets is my guess.

Posted by laurie at 7:10 AM

May 18, 2010

The Frilly Hat from Baby Beanies

Several months ago my childhood friend Chris emailed to ask if I would make a hat for a four-year-old girl undergoing chemo. And Chris is one of my longest and truest friends so of course I said yes. I'm not sure if the result will please the little recipient but I love it, and I tried to knit it all in love, with happy wishes and good vibes stuck between the stitches.

It's the "frilly hat" pattern from the delightful book Baby Beanies: Happy Hats to Knit for Little Heads. As soon as I held that book in my hands I knew it would bring funky perfect new hats into the world. The patterns are clear, concise and well-written. They're easily scalable especially if you're not new to hats (I may want a ruffled hat myself soon.) And Lord I do love hats.


I still have to sew the button on for her.



I love this hat, knit all in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino with a hatband of Noro Blossom. Even if it is too small, the little girl can use it to dress her dolls and bears and stuffed animals. I put a lot of good feelings into it, I sure hope the yarn translates!

And if you''re free on Saturday:

May 22 at 2 p.m.
San Juan Capistrano Regional Library
31495 El Camino Real
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

We're going to have a great day in a beautiful city!

So, I'll read a bit out loud (that seems to work better than reading silently to ourselves, heh) and then you can ask any old question you want and I'll answer and blather onward and upward and will sign books. Oh, and bring your knitting! I'll bring mine. It's about half a centimeter in and took me three hours.

See you Saturday!

Posted by laurie at 5:44 AM

May 11, 2010

The Crochet Dude is redefining the word "tool" as it applies to men. And women.

Over the weekend I braved the Valley sidestreet mayhem to visit the Michael's in the Burbank Empire Center (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Shopper.) My best friend Drew has created something so astonishing and cool that I had to see it with my own eyes:


It's a whole line of Crochet Dude tools, kits and bags:



I stood there trying not to get all misty-eyed like a crazypants (hey, I'm a little emotional these days, give me a break) and also trying to move people out of the way so I could take a picture thank you verymuch. I got a chuckle out of this one:


Drew has a giant blue hook.

You can read about Drew's whole line of crochet kits, bags, hooks and tools on his blog at He also lists all the stores where you can find his line of products.


After ogling the display I got into my car and we were on the phone and I was so excited and also, nuts, because in nine months Drew has brought to life an entire line of product and it was Mother's Day and I know his mom was watching, I believe the Universe works that way. And I needed to see it myself with my own eyes. I needed proof that in nine months' time one person can dream it and work on it and create it and not be some Buddha in the mountain in flowing robes but is a real person with two cats, one of which is even more "fluffy" than my Bob, and he can be a real person who scoops poop and worries if this is a good haircut and how will it all work out? And he mops and makes dinner (OK, yeah, way better dinners than I make but whatevs) but he is real and true and against all odds success finds him. And he rises to meet it. He inspires me. He keeps me sane and he lifts me up when I need it.

I don't relate so well to starlets and celebutantes and men in guru shirts who have the time to go to yoga retreats and meditate on a mountain. Drew and I grew up in very similar situations and neither of us have strayed far from our true selves. And his success gives me joy and hope and true belief in the possibility that there may actually be another possibility.

For those of you who have been reading between the not-terribly-subtle lines lately, you know I'm in a space. (For those of you who just occasionally skim, feel free to skip the next 120 words.) It's not about the details of whatever is going on with me, it's the general stuff we all deal with and I've been thinking maybe all we need is an attitude adjustment, a little more focus on what we have instead of what we could lose. Maybe it's the way you tell the story, maybe it's the way you choose to see the events or maybe it's your heart showing you something's gotta give. (Good movie by the way, total writer porn, who doesn't want to be Diane Keaton writing in that office and dabbling with Keanu? Come on.) So you take a chance or get pushed into one or maybe you just know a time is coming when you get to decide how to look at the facts. Frame them this way, you got heartache and depression. Frame 'em another way you got freedom and possibility. It's all in how you decide to look at it.

I do believe God dreams things bigger for us than we even know how to imagine. I know it because I saw my dear friend Drew Emborsky's name and face on an entire line of craft products in the busiest Michael's in all of Los Angeles, California. I am so happy for you, Drew! And I am grateful to you, for giving me hope and proving anything is possible.

Plus, I will be teasing you about your giant blue hook for years to come. Talk about divine inspiration.

Posted by laurie at 6:44 AM

April 9, 2010

Sewing impossible-to-remove buttons and other stuff likely to win me another not-Pulitzer

I love buttons! I have a collection of buttons. One of the concerns people have with baby stuff is of course the keen ability small children have to remove and swallow everything like the little Hoovers they are. My cat Bob is permanently in this baby state, his first response to any new object is to see if he can eat it. My brothers were remarkable at swallowing Legos, coins and Barbie shoes. It's a talent that's admirable, really.

When I was a little girl I learned from a master seamstress how to properly sew a button and it was one of the best life lessons I ever received. I can affix fasteners that can only be removed with a seamripper, pointy detail scissors and an investment of time ... and sometimes even then they stay hanging on for dear life. As Mr. T would say, I pity the fool who needs to switch out the buttons on something I made! Because Mr. T is all about the details.

First, you must use the correct thread. I prefer Coates & Clark "Dual Duty" thread. It's the right thickness to be doubled, and that's the second step to a bulletproof button: double the thread and knot it. Do not sew the button on with a single strand of thread. Pull your thread through the eye of the needle bring the tails together and make a knot.

(Imagine that I was not currently killing all technology and had an illustrative image here of a needle and thread.)

Once you're threaded up and ready to sew, begin by attaching the thread to the fabric with a knot -- yes, you already have a knot at the end of your thread tails, but now you knot onto the fabric. Do this by making a single stitch where the button will go and as you pull the loop of thread through the fabric, dip your needle inside the loop and pull tight. It's a slipknot, really. At this point you can snip any little ends hanging off the knotted tail. I do this on the right side of the fabric where the button will go and the button hides your knot.

Then sew on the button. Simple, no? Knot, tie off and snip the thread. I hide my knots underneath the button (again, on the right side of the fabric). Try to keep the stitches neat and even so it's not too noticeable on the other side of the fabric.

Here is the super secret: Repeat that entire process. At the end you have sewn a button with thread twice, using two separate sets of thread. Even if one round of thread and knots becomes unhinged, the other is a backup. For buttons with four holes this means you do one diagonal with one set of thread, knot, tie off, snip. Do the other diagonal with a new set of thread. (You can kind of see that in the close-up below ... one diagonal has thread on the bottom, the other has all the thread on top. They are from separate sewing. Yes, it takes more time. But your notions will stay on forever.) (Also this is an image I took months ago with my old camera, hence the poor quality.)


Your buttons will withstand a hurricane, a tornado and a two-year-old.

- - -

And now, let's end the week with some Frankie belly, courtesy of my iphone (which is the only appliance I still have under warranty):


Fuzzy love.

Posted by laurie at 7:27 AM

March 30, 2010

Garter stitch cardigan and baby booties

This is a project I started late last year and finished late last year and just sat around procrastinating sending it to the intended mom & baby duo because the sweater didn't turn out how I pictured it. I procrastinated so long I feared that the child this sweater was intended to clothe was going to be having children of her own before long, so I sent it off with a note to Courtney that it wasn't quite what I had in mind... but the shoes were cute!

Here's the sweater:



It looks better in the picture than in person, but it was just a bit rustic for my liking. I think it was the combo of this yarn and this pattern. I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (actually that may not be the right pink, but it was all I could find on amazon) and I knitted it using a pattern for a baby garter stitch cardigan from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies. I didn't struggle with this pattern at all, either I have gotten better at this or the pattern was better, but I knitted it fairly quickly. I think this cardigan turned out a bit plain, though, and the yarn ply (which I learned about with my first baby cashmerino sweater) knits up a bit wonky in garter stitch. I'm not sure how to explain it, except to say it didn't give the result I'd hoped for.

The shoes, however, are SO CUTE!! Much like Ysolda's Tiny shoes, they are little Mary Jane style booties but these are done entirely in garter. I got the pattern free online here. These were a quick knit, suitable for beginners and intermediate beginners. I tend to "make one" by knitting through the front and back so I had to watch my stitch counting, but listen, there are a bazillion ways to "make one" and if you just do what works for you and do it consistently I think you'll be OK.


I'm very happy with the shoes, so cute!

And the sweater still fit a little and Courtney is on the east coast so who knows, maybe a garter stitch sweater is what her adorable baby needed. And if all else fails, her daughter can use those shoes to play dress up with a teddy bear. I'm all about the shoes, as usual.


Posted by laurie at 7:41 AM

February 11, 2010

My new favorite knitted scarf, and perhaps I can use it as a self-muzzling device.

First, this has nothing to do with my scarf, aside from the notion that a long scarf might be a useful tool for shutting my mouth:

I was chatting with a coworker yesterday, we'll call her Jane, and she and I were in the ladies room in front of the mirror where the sinks are. And of course when you're staring into a big huge mirror you check out your lipstick and so on. She turned her cheek a bit and looked at a small red bump and said she had a blemish that she was a little worried about.

"I'm not sure what it is," said Jane, "but I don't remember touching it or anything and yet it's red and kind of dry. It's unusual. I don't know if I should get it checked out."

"Well it's probably not the flesh eating bacteria," I assured her.

Jane just looked at me for a bit, not saying anything. Then: "Um, I hadn't really considered that option."

"Oh! I had a pimple once and I went to my doctor and I was sure I had pre-flesh-eating-disease and so he looked at it and said it was just a zit and then he wrote me a prescription." I said. Then I smiled, to be more reassuring in nature.

"I see," said Jane. "And what did your doctor write you a prescription for...?"

"He asked me where I got the idea that it was a flesh-eating acne situation and I told him I'd read it on Web M.D. and then he wrote me a prescription for no more Web M.D.," I said. "Now that I come to think of it, I guess that is an embarrassing story."

"Actually," said Jane, "I was thinking more along the lines that I should get this spot checked out for melanoma or something like that."

"Oh!" I said. "Melanoma! That makes so much more sense than flash-eating bacteria!"

And then we walked out of the ladies room and later I realized I was maybe not as reassuring as I had hoped unless my goal had been to reassure Jane she was not the crazy lady in the department because that position had already been filled by Yours Truly.

- - -

So, sometimes the easiest things are the best, like not assuming your zit is flesh-eating disease, or like making quick scarves using plain old garter stitch and a bunch of orphaned skeins of yarn. Look at that smooth transition from one subject to another! Ah, the literary masters will weep at my prowess.

On Sunday I pulled out a plastic bin of yarn that I'd been keeping around forever. Most of it was stuff I'd bought back when I first started knitting and was yarn-crazy. Back then I was constantly buying one or two little skeins of yarn with no project in mind and after a while I had all this yarn and not enough of any one flavor to make even a hat! A lot of it has since gone out of style, mostly eyelash or fuzzy novelty yarns, but there was some good stuff in there, too, like a beautiful hand-dyed wool from a reader friend and a lovely soft cotton yarn. Luckily my tastes seem to run toward pink, red, orange and more pink so all the colors looked great together in the bin.


I've been wanting to knit a scarf lengthwise for a long time and recently my friend Work Jennifer completed a beautiful scarf knit lengthwise on long circular needles and it inspired me. So I got out my tub o' yarn and cast on about 250 stitches (it's a REALLY LONG scarf!) on size 11 needles. I think they are a 32" long set of circular needles. And I just knit garter stitch (knit stitch) on every row and the fun was trying out all the different yarns and stranding a few together and mixing in the colors and textures. I tried this once before on The World's Ugliest Scarf, and now I wish I would have knit that monstrosity lengthwise because I bet it would have been beautiful!

I love mixing yarns and coming up with crazy yarn combinations and it worked perfectly in this scarf:



This scarf might be my favorite thing I have knit yet! It was super simple, knit every stitch and at the end of each row just leave a long piece of yarn to make a fringe.

I love really long scarves, which I guess seems odd for someone so short. But to me there is nothing finer than a crazyass oversized scarf. Maybe it's because I wear mostly basic, unfussy clothes and a big, wild scarf just makes me feel festive. Anyway, my good friend Work Jennifer helped me with my photos and she was trying to find some way to illustrate how ridiculously long this thing is:




She is so damn cute. I love that we've become friends. Having someone at work you can chitchat with and share your knitting zeal with at work makes every day so much better! She and Corey both oooohed and ahhhed over my now favorite scarf ever, even though it is long enough to use as a fluffy burqa.

And it only took me an evening and a half to make this big ol' multicolored scarf! After knitting every project recently on size 3, 4 and 5 needles, it was really fun to whip up something fast on size 11s. I also had SO MUCH help while knitting my scarf:

Action shot!

Bob searching for the wooden needles hidden in the bin. He's like a heat-seeking missile when it comes to wooden knitting needles.

So that's my scarf and my flesh-eating zit story of the day. The moral here is don't overdose on Web M.D. OR throw away those half-skeins of novelty yarn. Just like the moral in a regular fairy tale.

- - -
Edited to add: One of my favorite knitters on the planet Wendy Johnson is giving away five copies of my book today at Bob is currently gathering up his secret stock of hair barrettes, bottle tops and twist ties and saving them for lovely Lucy, who might one day be my cat-in-law....

Posted by laurie at 9:34 AM

January 7, 2010

The Dog Sweater

A few months ago I spent weeks furiously knitting on what I thought was likely the goofiest and awesomest thing I had ever made, this dog sweater:

That's the Dogasaurus Rex sweater from Patons "Another Dog's Life" pattern booklet.

The sweater was a gift for my parents' cute Pembroke Corgi. His name is Chivas, like the Scotch. (This apple did not fall far from the tree as you can see.) They knew I was making the dog some sort of garment but not the Dogasoaurus Rex! I asked my dad to measure the dog and I followed the pattern exactly and I carefully knitted and stitched and pieced and so on down to the stegasaurus spikes:

Lots of Lion Brand Wool-Ease in different colors.

But either my knitting was way off or my Dad measured a Rhino because the sweater most decidedly did not fit, which broke my heart because I SLAVED over that thing. I still can't believe I made it, it was big enough for me to wear! And I guess when they first put it on him he was not a willing participant, and did not enjoy being draped in five hundred yards of stockinette:


I was embarrassed and sad at my knitmess.

Feeling like a big old failure, I told my mom to send the stupid sweater back to me and I would find someone with a horse who wanted a handknit dinosaur turtleneck. But my mom never sent it back. This is because she is a magical person who can fix pretty much anything in the garment department. She taught me how to sew when I was very little and throughout my life she had to hem or alter pretty much everything I bought because I am ridiculously short and I would get frustrated that nothing fit off the rack. However, since this was a knitted item, it never occurred to me she could fix it with her mad sewing skills. I figured she was using it as a grill cover or something.


Without telling me, she went to Wal-Mart and found yarn in a matching color and bought herself some yarn needles and my mom, who has never knitted that I know of, somehow someway FIXED the dog sweater and surprised me with it:

You can see the little pin tucks right over the tail end. She fixed it! It's a Christmas Miracle!

Action shot!

Grrrr, I am a fierce warrior Dino-Dog!

So that is the tale of the knitting agony of defeat followed by the sewing triumph of will which is my mom. Even her fur-covered children are so short they have to get their clothes hemmed!

Some things just never change.

- - -
Thanks so much for the nice words! Have a great weekend!

Posted by laurie at 10:18 AM

November 20, 2009

Knitted Entrelac tutorial: step-by-step with pictures

I've become addicted to entrelac! I love it. The most important thing I can tell you about entrelac is that the first time you make this pattern you must take a leap of faith. Follow the pattern even though it appears you're doing it all wrong. Most patterns make sense almost as soon as you start them but this one may take a while -- hang in there, it's worth it!

For the purpose of this tutorial, I am knitting a scarf using the BEST free entrelac pattern online, written by Allison LoCicero. You can find the free pattern here, and it's one of the few rare patterns I've ever found online that has not a single error. If you have the book Scarf Style and you've wanted to try the Lady Eleanor stole, this tutorial will work exactly the same. The Lady Eleanor pattern is almost identical to the scarf, except it's much larger in scale and is worked over 10 stitches in a section instead of eight.

Let's get some basic terms out of the way:

RS - Right side. This is the stockinette side.
WS - Wrong Side. This is the reverse stockinette side.
section - each chunk of the pattern, for example one square is a section, and one triangle is a single section.
tier - A tier is a group of sections (triangles and squares or some combo) that go all the way across the scarf.
slip - move one needle to the other needle without knitting or purling it.
ssk - slip as if to knit, slip the next stitch as if to knit, then knit them together. For videos of this decrease, check out
kfb - knit into the front of the stitch but don't drop the stitch off the left needle. Now knit it again through the back loop. This makes two stitches from one.
m1 - Make one, another type of increase. The best way to explain this is for you to watch the video on this page at -- by the way, I use the version she calls "M1R (Make One Right) or M1B (Make One Back)." It is not the easiest stitch to work but makes a tight, neat little increase with a barely-visible hole.
pick up stitches - Knitty has a picture tutorial on picking up stitches. I talked a little about picking up stitches in this entry, but most of entrelace is picking up stitches, so try it a few times and before you know it you'll be doing it like an expert.

turn - The one term I had to get used to was this little tiny tricky word: turn. Turn? Turn what? Well, TURN simply means "turn the work." If you're holding the needles like this:

And the pattern says to turn, you turn it over so now you're holding the needles like this:

It's that easy. Yes, the yarn tail is now connected to the left needle. Yes you begin working in that position. Yes, it will really work. (Note: I know many folks have written to me to tell me I should learn to knit backwards so I'm not doing any turning but I like turning the work. This tutorial follows the pattern exactly, which includes turning the work back and forth.)

The pattern talks about base triangles, left side triangles and middle squares. Here is a visual illustration of where those bits are in the finished piece:


- - - -

I'm not going to break down the pattern word for word, only illustrate the parts that confused me when I first tried it. This is not a tutorial on techniques (like picking up stitches), so you will need to practice those on your own. If you get stuck and one of the pictures or the words make no sense, just look at the work in your hands and try doing the next logical thing and you'll know before long if it worked or not. Look for whatever seems to be the next stitch to knit. Or, look for a finished adjacent edge to start picking up stitches.

Once you knit a few tiers of the pattern it will start to make sense but until then you have to loosen up and just trust that what seems like a mad mess in the beginning will eventually come together.

Here goes!

- - -


Cast on:


Then the pattern says, "*Row 1: (RS) k1, turn
Row 2: and all WS rows: purl all sts in that section"

What it means: You are making the base triangles, which means you begin with one triangle. And every triangle begins with one stitch. Knit one stitch and now that "section" is just one stitch long:


Now purl the one stitch you just knit. Turn the work -- that means flip it over again. Purl that one stitch:


Now just follow the pattern exactly as written. Turn again. Slip a stitch (on a knit side, I always slip a stitch as if to knit. That means place the tip of the right needle into the stitch as if you were about to knit it, but don't knit it, just slide it onto the needle.) And then knit the next stitch and then turn.

You'll be working each step as it comes, stitch by stitch:


Until you finish working all the instructions in the section and you will have one completed section, a base triangle:


Now you repeat the instructions as written, starting again with a single stitch and knitting into it to begin another section:


Work the section until you have two triangles completed:


Repeat until you finish the third triangle, it will look like this:


My cast on edge is a bit tight so it really curls inward, but even if you cast on loosely it will do this to some degree. Congratulations, you have just completed the base triangles!

- - - - - - - - - -

(Left side triangle, two squares, right side triangle)

This tier begins much like your first base triangle, making something out of pretty much nothing! You begin by knitting one stitch. Turn. Then kfb. You just carefully follow the pattern's instructions on this triangle and before you know it your piece will look like this:


That's three base triangles with one left-side triangle.

Now comes the part that really stumped me the first time I made entrelac:

(middle squares) Row 1: (WS), With wrong side facing, pick up and purl 8 sts along selvedge edge of next triangle. Sl last st picked up onto left needle and p2tog, turn.

Don't get stuck on the term "selvedge edge." It's just a finished edge. In this pattern you do a lot of slipping of stitches, all those slipped stitches make for a great finished edge, easy to see where to pick up stitches. In this pattern you sometimes have to look for the most logical next place to pick up stitches. At this point, you will be picking up stitches here:



Posted by laurie at 3:03 PM

November 12, 2009

Love in the Time of Crochet

I wanted to write a book called, "Love in the Time of Crochet" except that I am not in love (well not with anyone who is aware of my existence, yet ... looking at you, Al Gore) and there is the small issue that I can't crochet. I can chain like nobody's business, though. I could chain around the world.

I just thought you should know.

Coffee and fashion this morning on my desk. The fall preview magazine for Bloomies had a great selection of this season's hot little knit, the infinity scarf:




Knitting one of these seems like an easypeasy project, use some big long circular needles, cast on a bazillion stitches and knit away. Maybe I'll put one on my to-do list, that would be good TV knitting. Of course if I get really lazy I could just take one of my long simple scarves and seam the ends together and voila, a circle! Infinity plus seam.

Speaking of long simple scarves, I unpacked a box last weekend and found the kitchen magnets, my 2005 tax receipts and my big green Noro garter stitch scarf:


After I did my first entrelac scarf I thought I might undo this scarf and use the yarn for another entrelac project but while this scarf was languishing in a box I decided to make an entrelac scarf using totally different Noro that I bought over the summer before I moved and realized that I have more yarn than I can feasibly use in my lifetime. I forgot how pretty it is, I love the green.

Let's hope it gets cold soon so I can wear one of my eleventynine hundred scarves. One neck, so little time!

Posted by laurie at 10:27 AM

October 30, 2009

Shake shake shake your little red handknit Mary Jane booties!

We're only now getting around to having the baby shower for the coworker that I made my first-ever sweater for. I already blabbered on and on about the sweater here, but to go with it I also made the cutest knitted shoes EVER! If I do say so myself.

I did however neglect to block them, so I stuffed them with tissue paper instead. Ah, it happens.



I am IN LOVE with this pattern, it's the Tiny Shoes pattern from Ysolda. When I ordered it the charge to my paypal account was $3.40 (that's the conversion from the British pound) and it is SO worth it! This is another very well-written pattern, easy to follow for those at the advanced beginner or intermediate skill level. I don't want to discourage anyone from knitting anything they want but for me personally I wouldn't have felt able to knit these when I was a beginner. Everyone is different, though. They're just the cutest things ever. I keep looking at these tiny little red Mary Janes and wondering how I can manipulate the pattern to fit me!

These are another pair of booties knit in the round, this time using size 4 double-pointed needles and the little bit of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino I had left over from the sweater. The buttons are the same little ladybugs I used on the matching cardigan. I followed the pattern exactly and the first shoe took me a little over two hours to make, the second shoe went faster. The pattern uses the kitchener stitch to bind off, which I had never done before and I followed the video on and it was pretty darn easy. Isn't the best invention ever? If I need to see how to do a stitch or if I forgot something I just pop over there and watch a video tutorial.

I found a free pattern online for another baby Mary Jane but it's in garter stitch and I wanted these to match the stockinette of the cardigan so I picked the Tiny Shoes pattern instead. Here is a link to the free pattern -- I may try it anyway, just for fun.

Blocking would have made a big difference in the final look of these little shoelets ... but I packed them when I moved and it was an hour long marathon last night to find them so I could wrap them up and give them away. I was just happy to find them. Here is the finished set:


I'm so happy with my baby gifts! I hope the recipients are happy as well.

Posted by laurie at 10:01 AM

September 1, 2009

Little baby toes go inside this little square baby booty...


Making baby booties is so much fun! They're small and funny looking and there are a bazillion and one patterns to pick. This first set of little tiny hand-knit booties are meant to match the Five Hour Baby Sweater I made in Patons Decor yarn, color "First Spring Ombre." (Ombre is not a word I use. Ever. I have never actually said Ombre, unless you count the Spanish hombre, which I say often in traffic but usually only followed by the words pinche and cabron. I love cussing in traffic in Spanish!)

This pattern is from the book Knitting for Baby: 30 Heirloom Projects with Complete How-to-Knit Instructions by Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas. I LOVE Melanie Falick's books (Weekend Knitting is by far one of my top 5 favorite knitting books of all time) and I honestly think if you were a VERY beginner knitter, you could pick up this baby knitting book and teach yourself how to knit anything by simply knitting all the patterns in order. They are that good.

Each pattern is written in a narrative style so this book is easy to understand for ultra-beginners and it really explains the ins and outs of techniques so well. The patterns are very cute, too. For more advanced knitters it may be annoying to have to read the narrative to get to the instructions but I think it depends on the knitter. Personally, I like narrative patterns but I'm also averse to acronyms and abbreviations in general (hey, you work in the finance industry long enough and you begin to loathe and despise acronyms. Seriously.)

Finished set. Shoes perhaps bigger than sweater, ah well.

Got this cute giftbox at Target.

These are the "Stay On Baby Booties" pattern knit on size 7 double-pointed needles (normal tension knitters would use a size 5 or 6 needle, I'm guessing) and I made only one minor modification to the pattern. I don't know if it was the yarn gauge or just me, but I thought 20 rows was too much for knitting the body -- it was coming out too tall for a baby foot! So I only knit 17 rows (ending on a purl row) and they turned out great. They are very square which makes me laugh every time I look at them. They required no blocking since the garter stitch knits up will on its own and each shoelet has an i-cord tie threaded through the top. They do seem that they'd stay put as the pattern says ... even on fat little baby toes.

This was the first time I had ever made i-cord! It's not hard or anything but I'd just never had a need to make it before. I love learning new little tricks and techniques in knitting. I especially love learning them on small little items like baby clothes or scarves or hats. These were easy to knit and took me about an hour and a half each, but I am a fairly slow knitter, your mileage may vary.

- - -


Here is the skyline today, smoky and ashy on the drive into work. It looks like nighttime but it was actually around 7:30 in the morning! There's a hurricane brewing down in Baja so maybe it will bring us some much-needed humidity. I have lived here for almost 15 years and I don't think I remember it ever raining in August or September but it sure would be nice right about now.

Also, hello September!

Posted by laurie at 1:17 PM

August 27, 2009

Turning a corner

Sobakowa: Not interested in all the knitting.
(Also: Every time I see her in this pose, I think of a band we used to LOVE in college called "Government Cheese." They had a song called "Grandma Drives The Bus" and when I see the Sobakowa on her little cardboard boat I sing "Grandma drives the bus..." to her. This sidebar will make sense to the two other people on earth reading this who lived in Murfreesboro, TN in the 1990s. Long live the 'boro.)

- - -

I'm not sure when or how but I feel like I turned a corner with my knitting and I've gone from being a beginner to a real knitter. Notice I didn't say I'm a real good knitter, but I do feel confident to knit just about anything even if I do complain about the lack of real words in some patterns.

I've made scarves and hats and mittens and socks and bags and more scarves and hats and I think that recently, when I dug into entrelac, something just clicked. I didn't care if I did it wrong, I just wanted to try it (for lifelong perfectionists such as myself, this is a sea change.) There's a big misconception that perfectionism makes you an overachiever but it can have the inverse opposite effect, paralyzing you and keeping you mired in inertia. It's such a relief to let go and just be willing to mess up and learn as you go.

I'm still a little intimidated by big huge charts but I don't feel like I can't do it. That's a change, too. I really like making sweaters, maybe I'll make one for myself. First maybe I'll make one for my dad, for my mom, for their dog... sweaters are completely addictive! Socks were OK, everyone said once you got into sock knitting it would grip you like caffeine-laced crack but it didn't really take with me. I did LOVE knitting all these baby booties to match my sweaters, though. All booties. Booty!

But I prefer mittens and gloves to socks, maybe next I'll make real gloves with fingers. I have a whole list now of things I want to knit! I'll never be the best or the fastest or the most experienced knitter and yet I just don't care, being superlative isn't why I do this. I do it because it's so relaxing and fun and sometimes challenging, because I love yarn and I love the feel of needles in my hands and I like all the little accessories, like stitch markers and that awesome "click" sound you get from ticking off another row on the counter.

It's just the activity of it that makes me happy. That's enough for me. It's not about being perfect, it's about pleasure.

Sobakowa is (of course) always perfect.

Posted by laurie at 10:11 AM

August 25, 2009

Don't fall over or anything, but Co-worker Baby Sweater #2 ... is finished! Finito! Exclamation point!

If you need any proof at all that I have been gripped by The Knitting Fever here it is, yet another finished baby sweater:

Finished sweater avec morning tea. Also, that little pile on the double-pointed needles is the beginning of a baby booty.


I knitted this whole sweater while I was procrastinating on seaming the little red one. For this sweater, I took my friend Ellen's advice and used a free pattern found online called the Five-Hour Baby Sweater. This pattern is really well-written and I think it explains how to knit the sweater very clearly. There are a few minor errors in the pattern, but I don't mind errors -- even in knitting books -- because we're all just people, and people make typos. What drives me crazy is a pattern that is written in such abbreviated shorthand that it becomes unfathomable and you have to consult experts, books, online help guides and the Magic 8 ball just to knit a row. Writing is writing is writing, folks, make it readable. (Or, in patternspeak: (Wrt)* to end. BO readable.) (Hah.)

Now I am stepping off my soapbox and my high, high horse. Ahem.

So this is a great pattern. Compared to my first hand-knit garment, the little red sweater I knitted for Coworker #1 Also Expecting Girl Child, this was a breeze! It took me longer than five hours to make this sweater but I'm a pretty slow knitter. That's fine by me, I don't plan to compete in the speed knitting Olympics any day soon. Knitting is my relaxing, happy thing and not a competition so I just go at my own pace.

Picking out the yarn was a little challenging but in the end I couldn't be happier with the result. You see, the coworker who is having this baby doesn't want all traditional girly colors like pink and more pink so after standing in the baby yarn aisle at Michaels until it was almost closing time, I finally decided on Patons Decor in the variegated color "First Spring Ombre." Now I know you wouldn't at first glance pick Patons Decor for a baby sweater but the colors were perfect for the mom-to-be and after touching all the yarn at the store, including the baby yarn, I decided this was plenty soft for a little jacket. Plus, it's machine washable and dryable. I wasn't sure what the results would be and I had my doubts but I bought two skeins and started casting on that evening. Leap of faith, etc.

Midway through the second sleeve.

This sweater used only one skein of yarn and knitted up quickly. I worked the body on very long size 7 needles -- vintage aluminum Boye needles in a minty green that I got from a coworker back when I first started knitting. She had bought a pile of knitting supplies in the 1960s and had stopped knitting for decades and one day she dug them out of her attic and surprised me with them and I love them.

The yarn came together so much better than I would have expected and the finished sweater is adorably old-fashioned-looking. I love the colors and the way it stripes irregularly. I found some little buttons for it (I love buttons, the money I can spend on buttons is just silly) but this pattern does not have buttonholes, so first I sewed on tiny snaps then added the buttons on top. Voila!

When I get a chance to write it up I'll share my secret for sewing on buttons and fasteners that will withstand total nuclear annihilation. Trust me when I tell you I can sew a button that would take heavy artillery to remove.

If you decide to knit this pattern you may want to read here what the author says about the sleeve instructions. Also, on the second page of the PDF pattern on row 28: the stitch count given at the end of the row is 150, but I think it should be 152. And on row 30, the final stitch count should be 160 (if you increase one stitch before and after each marker and there are four markers, your stitches increase by a total of eight ... yes?). The rest of the math worked out exactly so I was happy.

I also made the sleeves a bit differently, for one thing I didn't use stitch holders. I used double-pointed needles to hold my stitches so I could easily knit them off later. I waited to seam the sleeves until both were knitted to be sure each sleeve was the same length. And I didn't understand how anyone could stitch up the seams and start knitting with the same ball of yarn because you'd be sewing with half a big ol' skein threaded through the needle, so I broke the yarn and sewed up each sleeve and then re-attached the yarn to knit the body and front. Maybe I did it some weird way but it all worked out great in the end.

This was such a fantastic pattern because I found it easy to follow and well-written, meaning I didn't have to consult six books and a mystic oracle to figure out the pattern. It knits up very quickly even if you're a slowpoke like me and I love the way the yoke has little ridges of stitching detail. Plus, I'm still happily surprised that this yarn worked so perfectly for the pattern. I have a full skein left and I'm using it to make matching booties. BOOTY. Best word in babywear, by far!

It's so tiny!

Posted by laurie at 9:09 AM

August 24, 2009

Little red hand-knit sweater ... all finished!

It's completed! My very first sweater. I'm ridiculously proud of it.


Without a model to pose it looks kind of boring. But it's really cute in person. The couple who are receiving this little sweater to don't have animals so I can't even threaten to model it on a cat.

For this project I used three skeins of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino Yarn, in color Red #700 and I followed the pattern exactly with two minor changes: I knit the seed stitch using a size 3 needle and the stockinette using a size 4 (I have learned to always go up a needle size with my SupaTight knitting madness.) (Although honestly, if I had knit this whole sweater with one size needle all over it would have saved a lot of blocking after the fact.)

And the other change I made was that I picked up a few extra stitches on the neckband and then on the next row knitted the extras together to keep the stitch count but prevent any gaps in the fabric. I love picking up stitches. It's like voodoo magic, making stitches where none existed!


The pattern is the seed-stitch cardigan from Debbie Bliss Baby Knits for Beginners. The buttons are the cutest things EVER, little painted red ladybugs that match the red yarn perfectly. I found the buttons at JoAnn's fabric store.


The finished sweater is so sweet (if I do say so myself) and I am really happy with how soft and pretty the yarn is. I know I complained loudly and with great vigor about the pattern being hard to read but I don't know how much is the pattern and how much is my inexperience with sweater patterns so I'll leave it at that. I will say I took a leap of faith with ol' Debbie Bliss and I used her instructions for seaming that are illustrated at the beginning of the book (I wish she'd mentioned in the pattern which kind of seam to use, but I did eventually figure it out) and when I seamed the shoulders and I was shocked (shocked! I tell you!) at how perfectly they came together:

Seams coming together.

The completed seam on the wrong side.


The sewing part didn't even phase me when Corey picked out this pattern. My little brain just assumed sewing was sewing. I have been hand-sewing since I was a child -- I can't remember a time when I didn't know how to hand sew. I grew up making my own doll clothes and later doing all the laundry mending and alterations by hand and I feel 100% confident that I could hand sew you a wedding dress tomorrow and you wouldn't know if it was sewn on a machine or by hand. So I felt pretty full of myself when it came to seaming.

Uh, yeah, so anyway.

Seaming on a hand-knit item and seaming on fabric are two very different skillsets. I kept trying to sew like you would with fabric, right sides together, inside out and I kept messing up. I had my doubts about sewing up anything with the right sides facing me but once I got past myself and followed the directions, lo and behold it worked! I had to take out the seams and re-do them several times but I think I finally got the hang of it. I am so much slower at seaming than I would have imagined! It took me several hours to do it all perfectly, but hopefully I will get faster in time.

Side seam, not bad for a first-timer.

Of all the patterns in the world, this was probably a much harder pattern to pick as a first sweater but it was good experience for me. I'm glad I started with this one. I got to experiment with picking up neckband stitches, knitting buttonholes and sweater construction but all on a very tiny scale. And I have just enough yarn left over to make some little baby booties, which I already started, I just need to buy some extra ladybug buttons for the booties. I think I'll say booty one more time for good measure. Booty.

So there it is my first sweater, knitted, seamed, blocked and finished. Now the baby just needs to show up.

Frankie helped by holding down the pattern.

Posted by laurie at 9:41 AM

August 13, 2009

Thursday knitting day

A little sleeve on the bus ride home yesterday.

I'm almost finished knitting all the pieces of my red baby sweater, I have about an inch more to do on the final sleeve and then it's just all the finishing and so on. For this, my very first sweater, I obviously need a little help and hand-holding on the seaming technique and how to do all this and the book I am using, Debbie Bliss Baby Knits for Beginners (FOR BEGINNERS) gives the following help and detail on this important matter:

Join shoulders.

Yeah, that's it. That's the whole instruction. Awesome! Luckily I have two things on my side. First, my background is in sewing so I don't feel overly nervous about seaming from a garment-construction point of view and second ... today is Knit Secretly In The Conference Room Day and the guy who leads our group is an amazing knitter who has already made this sweater and he said he'd help me with all this finishing business. Thank goodness. Reading this pattern is like trying to decipher Cyrillic with one eye shut while on a bender.

And tonight after work all the folks who Knit Secretly In The Conference Room On Thursdays are going to walk down to a nearby restaurant for dinner and hanging out which normally would make me nervous (actually, I would usually just decline the invitation) but Corey and Work-Jennifer are going and I really am trying to make more of an effort not to become a complete antisocial hermit living in a cave.

So that's my Thursday. Somewhere in between I will complete a 92-page branding document, drink peppermint tea and annoy my coworkers. There you have it. Thursday.

Posted by laurie at 10:02 AM

August 7, 2009

My first sweater, my first freak out.

It took me less time to knit the entire back piece of the baby sweater than it took to figure out what the pattern wanted me to do for the last two rows. I had to read, re-read, scrutinize, guess, prognosticate, channel. Still I was clueless. I know that I am a real picky pattern reader and also that I am not some great advanced knitter, but seriously people. One or two basic connecting words could do a whole lot to make most patterns go from Sanskrit to readable. Help a knitter out will you. Embrace the preposition!

Anyway, I was on the bus and I was at the very end of knitting the back piece and all I had to do was finish the last two rows and I pored over the instructions as if they would somehow rearrange into real words that made sense to me, which they did not, and I felt my frustration growing higher. I was on the crappy bus with minimal air conditioning and it was lurching and belching its way up the freeway and I couldn't call anyone to ask for help and finally, as I was about to devolve into frustration and give up, I had a little talk with myself which ended with, "Screw it! Do the best you can and move on!"

So I did. I followed the pattern to the best of my ability and moved on to the next piece. Take that, inner perfectionist! If I knitted the last rows of the back section all wrong I will figure it out during seaming and you know what? If I have to unravel and re-knit a couple of rows the earth will still keep spinning on its axis. It's not nuclear disarmament, it's a baby sweater.


This pattern is the seed-stitch cardigan from Debbie Bliss Baby Knits for Beginners. (If these are the beginning patterns I must belong with the remedial patterns book.) (Hopefully the more I get used to reading patterns I'll get better at decoding it all.) The yarn recommended for this project is just scrumptious, though, soft and rich and supple, it's Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino Yarn, I'm using color Red #700. I am knitting it with needles a size larger than recommended -- though I could have gone up one more size and my stitches would probably sit better. Yesterday at lunchtime Corey and I went to the cafeteria and knitted and when I told her the pattern called for a size 2 needle, she said, "Oh man, if you had tried to knit with a size 2, all you'd have would be a tight little knot!" and we laughed. I am a SupaTight Knitter. I can make impermeable barriers of stockinette.

See how my stitches look like herringbone instead of perfect stockinette Vs? I think it's either because I purl less tightly than I knit or because I should be up one needle size. But I don't mind it. I doubt the Knitting Police will come to my house and repossess my stash. In case you have not noticed, I am henceforth renouncing my ridiculous perfectionism. I'm over it. Mostly.

Edited to add: I'm getting a lot of emails from readers suggesting it could be the yarn ply making that stitch look the way it does. I love blame, so I am all about it. Let's blame the yarn! Here is the link to Knitty's yarn ply story. Thanks to reader Megan for the link! And Beth! And Kristen and everyone who emailed!

The needles I'm using are Crystal Palace bamboo straight needles that I bought here. These are by far my favorite brand of needles and they aren't any more expensive than the Clover needles I see in local shops. I happened on my first pair of these needles a few years back in a local yarn shop that has since closed and I can't seem to find this brand anywhere but online. But they are worth the shipping, in my opinion, smooth and warm and I love the way they feel in my hands. I mostly love the old-fashioned perfect ball at the end of each needle. Little things like that make me happy. I think these are the smallest size needles I have ever knit with, sizes 3 and 4! Insane.

I finished the back piece (or I think I did, time will tell) and I'm about halfway through the left front side. Loving the seed stitch border, so cute! My plan for the weekend is to summer hibernate (did you know there was a word for summer hibernating? Thank you to the reader who emailed me -- it's "estivate." Seriously!) and I hope I'll be able to knit all weekend and finish it or at least get most of the pieces done. I'm still on my kick of watching movies set in cold, snowy places as part of my hibernating. Last weekend I watched Snow Walker and it was pretty good. This weekend it's either Dr. Zhivago or The Cutting Edge ... thank goodness there is no Rorschach test based on your movie choices.

I am thrilled that it's Friday. Thrilled, I tell you. Like exhaling, that's what it feels like. Long week. Five days of one thing for two of another, how's that?

Bob smiles! He likes weekends, too.

- - -

Edited to add: Thanks to all the kind souls emailing me to help with the pattern... Ellen was patient enough to go over it with me line by line and it turns out I had done it correctly but I still think it's funkadelic. Anyway. I'm moving on... moving on to sleeves....
Thanks Ellen!

Posted by laurie at 8:24 AM

August 6, 2009

Entrelac scarf completed!


At last, at last, a finished project. And it's so beautiful I keep looking at it and asking myself, "Did I knit that? ME?" All I want to do is stay home and watch documentaries on the History Channel and knit entrelac in Noro. That sounds like a dream job. Throw in an occasional visit from the UPS man and there's my fantasy life.

For this scarf I used the free entrelac pattern available online here. I'm very thick-headed when it comes to reading patterns and I think that Allison Lo Cicero, the woman who wrote this, is brilliant at writing patterns! It's very clear for such a complicated concept. You do have to take a leap of faith when you start the first time because it may not make sense for a while (What? I'm knitting one stitch and then turning the work around and knitting that one stitch from the other direction? Are you nuts?) but it works. My scarf was knit using Noro Silk Garden yarn in color 241 and I used a size 9 needle because I have learned that I just need to go up a needle size for pretty much every pattern. The pattern calls for a size 8, and my friend Corey is knitting this same scarf now using a size 7 and yet she and I are getting the same gauge. Funny.

I also want to point out that if you don't want to knit a scarf that costs eleventy hundred dollars I have seen some entrelac scarves knit from the beautiful and affordable Patons Soy Wool Stripes, which is softer than Noro in my opinion and also self-stripes. I might make my next entrelac with the "Natural Garden" color. Or I might unravel this scarf which I never finished because I caught the entrelac bug and knit with that. So many choices, so little time spent alone with my yarn.

The finished scarf is puffy and textured, which I love. I know some people would prefer this pattern blocked into submission so that it lies flat and even but I prefer the rope-like woven quality. I did block it lightly, I pinned it into place on some fluffy, clean towels that I layered on the little mini-sofa in my home office. The ends were really the only pieces that needed much help, and before bed last night I lightly sprayed the edges of the scarf with water, shaped it with my fingers, pinned a few spots, covered it with a clean sheet and let it dry overnight:

That's a miniature sofa which folds out into a twin-sized bed, it was the only thing I bought myself with the money from my first advance. The rest went to pay off my divorce lawyer. Fitting, no? Anyway, I usually keep the minisofa covered with a tapestry or slipcover that I can throw in the wash each week, since my cats loooove this sitting spot. That pink monstrosity of a tapestry is from Target. I like it. It was on clearance for something like $4. Wonder why.

The back of the scarf looks like this:


As I was knitting this scarf I couldn't help myself and I would take it out and show it to everyone who walked past my office. And I heard more than one comment from folks about the back of the piece, which struck me as odd. It almost sounded like criticism -- which I don't take well, because I'm five -- and besides I think the back looks like madras fabric or something. Then one of my friends said (almost in defense of the scarf) that one could line the back of it with fabric and this appealed to me, I like the idea of lining the scarf with some beautiful jewel-toned velvet or something. I haven't tried that before and I love to sew, so why not? Maybe I will do it at some point, but I don't mind the way it looks without a lining. Anyway, I can't be bothered to stop my knitting projects right now and do some sewing for goodness sakes, I have The Fever! The knitting fever!

All in all, this is the most beautiful thing I think I have ever created. I love it! I can't believe I figured it out all on my own, I sort of feel like I grew brain cells from doing it. I'm not someone who is comfortable bragging on herself but I tell you what, if I could have called a meeting with the mayor -- nay, the Governator! -- nay, the President! I would have done so just to brag on my own bad self for knitting up some entrelac. Really now. I'm cookoo for cocolacs.

Here is my friend Cindi modeling the scarf. If I had a figure like Cindi's, I would just walk around naked all day. I wouldn't even bother with clothes, except maybe an entrelac scarf.

And here is my gorgeous friend Corey, who I love for defending the back of this scarf... she said, "Lining it? Oh no way! I want people to know I made this sucker!"

So there it is, an actual finished project that I even blocked and forced friends to model for me. And I can't wait to start another one in a different color. It's so addictive!

Posted by laurie at 8:21 AM

July 31, 2009

The obsession returns from time to time. It's my time.

My artsy fartsy morning desk picture.

Then I got hungry.
(The scarf is actually rolled up on the left into a fat knitting sausage but you can't tell from the picture.)

Sometimes I put down the needles and don't knit again for months. Maybe I'm doing other things, like reading or working or obsessively cleaning the house (depends on my stress level, I suppose.) Then there was that whole two-month addiction to online Boggle. Like everything with me, the desire to knit comes and goes in waves and right now I'm in a tsunami. I wish I could be knitting all the time! Even in my sleep! I'm quite a slow knitter and even by my standards this entrelac scarf has taken me a long time to get through yet I still love love love it and can't wait to finish it and do more.

Last night I even made a list of all the projects I want to make right now while I am gripped with The Madness. I'm pulling all my knitting books off the bookshelf in the office and dragging them to bed with me, to read and fantasize about and I'm staring at the yarn in my stash wondering what I will use for each project. I'm glad that my knitting obsession waxes and wanes because when it starts up again it's all fresh and new once more and everything that bored me three months ago looks enticing and fun.

We've even started a little knitting and crochet group here at work! Yes, that's right, people at Big Corporation, Inc. secretly emerge from their cubicles and offices with furtively concealed yarn and needles and all converge in a conference room and laugh and chat and knit and crochet on Thursdays. And it is SO FUN. The leader of the group is a guy and a banker, so already you know we're in a parallel universe where fun can occur at work, gasp. True.

Last week in our group I showed Corey how to cast on and make the base triangles and the first two tiers of the entrelac scarf and she kept saying, "Is this right? I think I twisted it, it looks all wrong..." and "But how does this work?" and I had to reassure her that if you just follow the pattern it will actually come together and make magic. And she got very excited when it all clicked into place. Entrelac is unlike anything else I have ever knitted in that you really do have to take a little leap of faith when starting ... it makes no sense at first but you just dive in and follow the pattern and it works. Eventually you get the hang of it, but those first few rows are tricky.

Yesterday was fun because I got to teach a coworker to cast on and I felt very nervous about teaching someone something but very excited because she got it. Then later I helped another coworker fix a few stitches that had been purled instead of knitted. I can't believe I know enough of anything about knitting to be able to help someone else but I even surprised myself. I guess I know a few things. Most of the time I focus on how much I don't know and discount what I do know (not just in knitting).

And the next project I'm knitting when my scarf is completed is an actual garment. Corey and I are planning to knit it at the same time so we can help each other and I am very excited, it's a gift for my co-worker who is having a baby in September. Then we have another co-worker who is having a baby in November so if all goes well with Thing #1 maybe we'll move on and knit a Thing #2. Corey picked the pattern and I've already picked out yarn and buttons and it's all very exciting. Knit, knit, knit! When the fever strikes it's so good.

Posted by laurie at 9:24 AM

July 20, 2009

Hibernating for summer

Most people hibernate in winter, but winter in Los Angeles is normally mild and happy and you can walk outdoors without fear of sunstroke. So I hibernate in summer. It's disgusting outside. Indoors it's cool and if you pull the shades down and don't venture out you can pretend you're in snowy Iceland during winter and your only task is to knit and pet the cats.

Actually, I think I knit more in the summertime than I do in the winter. My current hibernation knitting project is an entrelac scarf:

Noro silk garden color 241.

I had never attempted entrelac before Saturday and I'm pretty sure this is the most complicated thing I have yet to attempt (which isn't saying much, it's not really that complicated). The pattern I am using is a free PDF from the web, you can get it here. The pattern itself is really well-written, considering what a hard time I have reading patterns, although I was sure for the first hour that I was doing it all wrong. I figured if I messed up I'd just unravel it and start again. The stitches themselves are easy and if you've ever knit a pair of socks, entrelac will seem familiar to you (mostly short rows, and the same types of decreases, like slip-slip-knit). The only tricky part is figuring out at first where you're supposed to be picking up stitches and which needle you're supposed to be using (by the way, as far as I can tell most of the time you're picking up stitches using the needle in your right hand.) And sometimes you have to knit or purl a stitch even though the live stitch (with the yarn attached to it) is on the left needle.

Sometimes it's helpful to just dive in and figure it out as you go along, which is what I did on this scarf and it worked out just fine. I tried reading all the websites with entrelac tutorials but none of them were dumbed down enough for me, so I just plowed onward and with some trial and error it worked out. The most important skill necessary for me for this project is the ability to pull out stitches without having to unravel the whole piece. But after I had completed about four inches I finally started to get it (I am a slow learner) and now it's pretty easy, I even worked a few rows on the bus this morning. I'm feeling rather impressed with myself!


Oh, and it's Monday. Welcome to the week.

Posted by laurie at 9:45 AM

July 13, 2009

Still Life With Hat on Bus

I saw this woman get on the bus and she was wearing the coolest knitted hat:


That was the best shot I could get without looking like a creepy stalker. I hate my stupid camera, blurry blurry and it totally ruins my psycho paparazzi shots of hats and moving cars and so on. This is the best I could get in closeup:


Looks like a self-striping yarn knitted in maybe a knit-3-purl-1 ribbed pattern? The ribbed pattern was continued all the way through the decreases. And it wasn't a form-fitting hat, more like a beret. I think I could find a way to change up the chunky beret pattern, except it wouldn't be chunky, and it would be ribbed.

I smell a project coming on.... although why anyone is wearing a knitted hat in Los Angeles in July is a mystery unto itself.

Posted by laurie at 8:07 AM

March 3, 2009

My hands are officially warmed.

Really, the hardest thing about making armwarmers is the part where you try to take a picture of your own arm to show off your HANDiwork:

Hello! Weird stilted pose taken with other arm, upside down. Also known as "Still life with stilted arm."

I am officially totally and completely addicted to making handwarmer-armwarmer thingies. This is the natural evolution of the scarf! It's one little rectangle seamed up with a hole left in the side for your thumb to poke through.


I made these gorgeous multicolored long-length armwarmers while I was traveling (nothing is better than spending hours uninterrupted just knitting ... nowhere to be, no phone calls to make, no internet, no mail, no to-do list ... just you trapped on an airplane, knitting and listening to your ipod. That is my idea of heaven.)

I used two skeins of Noro Silk Garden in color #13 (pinks, greys and browns with purple, too) and I made two sets of armwarmers from all that yarn. You can very easily make one single set of long armwarmers from just one skein but I used two skeins because I wanted my long armwarmers to be the exact same striping pattern. I can be picky that way. With Noro, I find sometimes it's easier to knit from two skeins so you can start each project (like two identical armwarmers) on the same color.

These were knit on size 7 needles. For finishing, I didn't use any fancy shmancy knitting technique for the seam, I just sewed up the sides and tied the yarn off and then weaved the ends in.

Long-ish armwarmers in 2x2 ribbing

1 skein Noro Silk Garden Lite
1 set size 7 straight needles
One large-eye yarn needle for seaming

Cast on 40 stitches loosely. If you need to, cast on using a size 8 needle to get a loose cast-on edge.

Work in a knit 2, purl 2 ribbing for the entire piece. My armwarmers are about 12 inches long. Cast off, leaving a long yarn tail (you can use it for seaming.)

Thread yarn through a large-eye yarn needle and sew up the sides lengthwise, leaving a 1.5 inch opening for the thumb (or less if you want.)

I used the leftover yarn in each skein to create another set, a shorter set of handwarmers that are brown with pink and purple on the edges. And I tried two different versions of ribbing, my long armwarmers are a smaller rib and the handwarmers are a wider rib. I like them both!

The handwarmers are shorter in length and I left a smaller hole for the thumb, since these are the ones I plan to use for making a thumb gusset. For now, though, these are just simple as pie! I didn't measure the gauge because I think ribbing is hard to measure correctly. My hands are pretty big and my friend Corey has super-small hands, and these fit us both because ribbing is so giving, so I think you'll be fine knitting these without a gauge to go by.


The one on the left is the handwarmer before being sewn up, the one on the right is already seamed together.

Handwarmers in 4x4 ribbing

1 skein Noro Silk Garden Lite
1 set size 7 straight needles
One large-eye yarn needle for seaming

Cast on 40 stitches loosely. If you need to, cast on using a size 8 needle to get a loose cast-on edge.

Work in a knit 4, purl 4 ribbing for the entire piece. My handwarmers are about 8 inches long. Cast off, leaving a long yarn tail (you can use it for seaming.)

Thread yarn through a large-eye yarn needle and sew up the sides lengthwise, leaving a 1.5 inch opening for the thumb (or less if you want.)

Voila! Wear and be warmed.

Posted by laurie at 7:52 AM

February 16, 2009

Warm hands, happy campers.

My friend Corey and I have become obsessed with knitting handwarmers. The office we work in seems to be cooled to the temperature of the Arctic tundra, and we both like quick little accessory projects (I cannot tell you how much fun it is to have a coworker who knits, too) and after some trial and error we both decided a handwarmer is THE BEST project.

Honestly, it could not be easier. She had on her latest greatest invention recently:


That's some super-cute Lion Brand sock yarn. Isn't it awesome? She said she cast on about 42 stitches on a size 4 or 4.5 needle (but she said they're a little to big and she would cast on less stitches next time, maybe 38.) And you just knit in garter stitch as long as you like, and when you're done fold them over and stitch up the long sides making a tube. Be sure to leave a little opening for your thumb.

I made a really cute pair out of Rowan cotton, but I left them in my car so I didn't take a picture of them. But they're cute. Now I'm trying to find a way to make my own pattern for the same basic thing plus a thumb gusset. It can't be that hard, I'm going to work on some ideas this weekend.

The best part about these is they are so easy! Just knit a rectangle and fold it in half and sew up the long edge, leaving a gap for the thumb. It's like a scarf for the hands!


Posted by laurie at 7:41 AM

October 23, 2008

My Misti Alpaca scarf, rescued. Plus: Win this yarn or these needles!

Finally I sat down in a quiet place to fix my Misti Alpaca scarf, and I tried weaving in a piece of yarn or loading the stitches on a smaller needle -- really, I did -- but in the end I gave up. This morning on the bus I slowly ripped out the part that I didn't like and it ended up being the perfect thing to do because the yarn is kind of grabby and what with my SupaTight™ knitting, my stitches keep their definition so it all worked out just perfect. I put my stitches back on a needle and away I knitted.


The middle portion used to be cables, now it's Magic Scarf plus a border of seed stitch which I like much much better:


I didn't want an entirely seed stitch scarf because I am easily distracted and seed stitch everywhere might make me reach for some self-striping yarn or some other diversionary project. This compromise is perfect -- I got my big wide seed stitch border and in the center pretty blocks of stockinette and reverse stockinette in 6-stitch blocks. For a full explanation of how to make this "magic" pattern, read here.

Do you think this yarn is just the smooshiest prettiest most luxurious yarn ever? IT IS. How about my needles? Are they the loveliest? THEY ARE. And you can enter to win this yarn or these knitting needles right here!

First... From In these days of cutting back and deprivation, why not treat yourself to the softest yarn, Misti Alpaca chunky? It's like butter! Win 3 skeins of cream colored yarn, enough to make a hat and scarf set. It goes with everything!

One winner will receive three skeins of Misti Alpaca chunky yarn from in the lovely winter white cream color. If you can't wait, click here to see the whole selection of colors. Enter to win right here.


Five lucky duck winners will get a set of Knit Picks Harmony Wood straight knitting needles! These are the same needles I'm using for my Misti Alpaca scarf and they are smooth and glossy, warm to the touch and look beautiful. You can see the entire line of Harmony Wood needles here on the Knit Picks website.

Enter to win the drawing here (it's all the same drawing -- there will be six winners, one getting the yarn and five getting knitting needles.) I will pick a winner on Monday night so you have all weekend to enter. One entry per email address. Good luck to all!!


Posted by laurie at 9:36 AM

October 17, 2008

Help for the hatless, and other Q & As


I love you. I mean you -- the people who emailed me to tell me that my main man Dallas Raines was a Jeopardy question!

Reader Misty writes:

Your beloved Mr. Raines was a Jeopardy clue recently! Just click on this link and scroll down to Double Jeopardy round, under "Nominative Determinism" ...

I feel that my mission here on earth is complete, as people across the country were able to shout "Dallas Raines!!" at their TV set during Jeopardy thanks to me and my love of The Tan One. The Universe may want other people to solve world peace or eliminate visible panty lines or restore confidence in our government, but apparently all I had to do was be slightly enamored of the weather guy. Mission accomplished, Universe!


Also, Dear Fall ... it's me Margaret. I mean me, Laurie. Hi! Are you planning to come to Los Angeles this year? Just checking. Thanks.

- - - -

So I did manage to get Frankie off the treadmill yesterday and into the kitchen with the lure of canned food. She loves me but she loves smelly food from a can a whole lot more. Thanks for all the nice notes about personal safety and wow, there sure are a lot of you out there who have had similar experiences like my Thursday creepies! Guess I am not the only woman out there who has had to tune into her instincts. I thought reader Cathryn said it so well:

There have been times my instincts have pinged at me, and I listened. Good thing. It feels like a fingernail pinging a Waterford goblet.


- - -

A few folks have asked how I am coming on my Misti Alpaca scarf -- I will have you know that I have made exactly 0.0000% progress on ripping out the offensive portion. I need some quiet time alone with the yarn and I haven't had that yet. So for my commute-time project this week I switched to another half-completed scarf I've been meaning to finish up for approximately 1,000 years and I should be done with that messy stripey thing by my bus ride home tonight. It's also got alpaca in it and wow, it sheds. But it's so soft!

Anyway, I plan to revisit my Misti Alpaca scarf over the weekend, and next week I will not only be giving away a few sets of those beautiful Knit Picks Harmony wood needles but Allison at will be gifting one lucky reader three fluffy skeins of Misti Alpaca for their very own winter yummy project! Stay tuned. Freebies are good.

- - -

Reader Hailey wrote:

Please, Ms. CrazyAuntPurl, help me! I'm knitting my first hat, and have run into a bit of a pickle. I'm not using a pattern, you see, and I can't find one that matches my yarn. I'm using some Blue Sky Alpaca Dyed Cotton, and my gauge is around 4 stitches per inch. I don't know what to use for the decreasing! Your Roll Brim Hat recipe is quite helpful, but I don't know what to do. Can you help me?

I'm going to have to make some assumptions here, since you didn't mention how big your head is! Let's say you are knitting this for an adult with an average-sized head. I like to guesstimate about 20 or 21 inches in circumference for a regular noggin, let's use 20 inches for this example.

If you gauge is 4 stitches per inch, then you multiply 4 (stitches per inch) by 20 inches (circumference of hat) to get a cast on amount of 80 stitches.

(stitches per inch) X (size of head in inches) = (number of cast-on-stitches.)

If you had a different gauge or circumference measurement and ended up with an odd number for your cast-on amount, just round down to the nearest even number of stitches and cast on that amount. Decreasing works much better on an even number of stitches.

OK, so let's knit.

Cast on your 80 stitches. Knit in the round for about six or maybe seven inches, depending on how long you like your hats to be. Then you would begin decreasing. I wrote a very lengthy soliloquy on decreasing and you can read that here. It explains the reasoning (weird and strange as it may be) behind selecting your decrease number. But the simple answer is you have two options for decreasing on this hat.

Decrease Option 1:
On the first decrease row, decrease every 14 stitches on the first row.

Knit 14, knit two together. Continue for the entire first round.
On the next round, knit 13, knit 2 together. Repeat to end of round.
On the next round, knit 12, knit 2 together. Repeat to end of round.

And on and on.

OR!! Decrease Option 2:
You could decrease every eight stitches, if you want a faster decrease. I do this when I realize, whoopsy, I just knit seven inches of hat and need to decrease rightnow.

So you would knit 8, knit 2 together. Repeat to end of row.
Then knit 7, knit 2 together, repeat to end of row, and on and on.

But how the heck do you know what number to pick?
The math behind all of this decreasing stuff is very simple. Even a mathaphobe like myself can do it.

You need to find ONE number that divides into your cast on amount evenly with no wonky percentages left over. Because how can you decrease 6.7845673635809 stitches per row?

The formula is:
CastOnNumber ÷ SomeNumber(SN) = an even amount
SomeNumber(SN) - 2 = Your Decrease Amount

In the first example for your hat, here is my math:
80 ÷ 16 = 5 (5 is a solid number, that's good.)
Then 16 - 2 = 14. The number 14 is your decrease amount.

Knit 14, knit 2 together, knit 14, knit 2 together for the whole round.

In the second decrease example here is the math:
80 ÷ 10 = 8 (good, 8 is also a solid number).
Then 10 - 2 = 8.
So 8 becomes your first decrease amount.

Knit 8, knit 2 together, knit 8, knit 2 together for the whole round.

That's the math, yo. Now my brain hurts. Good luck and enjoy your roll-brim hat!

- - -

And finally, a photo of my little brother. You KNOW he is up to no good! Somewhere out there a shoe has just been chewed upon with great vigor...

What are YOU looking at?

Posted by laurie at 9:57 AM

October 9, 2008

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.

So I started knitpurling along on my quest for perfect seed stitch on my Misti Alpaca scarf. THIS YARN IS SO SOFT I WANT TO EAT IT. And you can see here my mad scribbling trying to come up with a cable pattern that I would like and work on my stitches with my big ol' seed stitch border:


The pattern, whatever it was going to be, had to be simple enough that I could divert brain energy away from counting and pattern-remembering. I do believe I have mentioned before that I am not a multi-tasker, I am not someone who can focus really well on more than one task at a time. (I read a study recently that said no one really multi-tasks, they just stop doing one thing and start doing another. I believe this is true because can I tell you how many times I have been on the phone with someone and you can sense the exact moment they begin to "multitask" and start reading their email? You know it's happened because they've essentially dropped out of the conversation. I am guilty of this, too, but anyway. Science, etc.)

Most of my knitting time is on the bus commute to and from work. That is also my foreign-language learnin' time (right now I'm learning French and thus far I can say with great enthusiasm, "I want some beer or some wine now please!" so I think I am practically fluent.) The Pimsleur language stuff on my iPod is very repetitious, so I can knit while listening to it, I just can't knit anything complicated. I figured a nice cable pattern would do the trick because I'm all wonky and I don't care if my cable turns perfectly every ten rows, if it twists just when I remember to do it that is fine by me.

Seed stitch seemed to be looking good so I was going to continue that up the middle between the cables and on the side so it didn't roll. Except I didn't plan very well what it would look like and it's just funky. I wish I would have done a reverse stockinette inside, between my two cables (I also wish I would have increased four stitches instead of just two before my cable rows started, since it's pulling in more than I anticipated.)

This is the mess, avec yogurt and tea:

By the way, see those amazing beautiful knitting needles? Those are the KnitPicks Harmony Wood straight needles, and I LOVE them. Stay tuned, next week I'm doing a give-away of five sets of these beauties!

Maybe I am lazy or maybe I am just ... uh, tres lazee, but I LOATHE unraveling my knitting. This is why so many of my swatches turn into scarves. I'm thinking I might try that technique I have heard fancypants real knitting people do where you take a long straight needle and place it through the stitches right around the area of the scarf you want to unravel down to (Lordy that sentence made no sense at all, even to me.) I want to rip the stitches out just in the cabled area and re-work them without re-knitting all the seed stitch at the border, so I might try it. If you have ever tried that technique let me know if you have any tips I should be aware of beforehand or if you have soothing suggestions for accompanying chocolate to go along with that pile of unravely un-fun.

Bob avec tour eiffel. He likes to unravel yarn and eat it, too.

Posted by laurie at 8:46 AM

October 8, 2008

Crochet for dudes!

Congratulations to Drew on his very un-granny-square new book, The Crochet Dude's Designs for Guys: 30 Projects Men Will Love.


You can visit him in person and get a copy of his book on November 1, 2008 (a Saturday) at the lovely Yarntopia in Katy, Texas. They might ply you with wine. I just feel like I should tell ya'll. I was at Yarntopia about this time last year Sheryl and Amy are awesome and will maybe even have those INCREDIBLE Chick-Fil-A little biscuit bite-size sandwiches and let you drink champagne from the bottle. Or maybe that is only if you are introverted and trying to hide in the bathroom. ANYWAY on Saturday the first at 2 p.m. Drew will be signing books and doing some teaching of the fancier crochet techniques from the patterns. He's also going to be giving away a gift basket with some yarny goodies.

I'm so proud for Drew and happy for him, he's a talented guy and a kind soul and above all a beloved friend. He also will let you hide in the bathroom with a bottle of champagne if you really, really need to.

p.s. Not that there is anything wrong with the granny square.
p.p.s. Yes, we'll do a drawing for the book one day, but it isn't out yet! You can pre-order his book right here.

Posted by laurie at 8:40 AM

September 22, 2008

Fall has fallen!

It's officially Autumn, and Halloween is a month and a week or so away. If you're looking for a fast little orange Halloweenish project, how about the Reversible Knit Halloweenie Beanie!



The original pattern is right here, including instructions on making the curlicue stem. Go forth and pumpkinate!

Posted by laurie at 9:32 AM

September 12, 2008

Semi-wool socks: My first!

What was in the bag? Mystery solved!

I'm not sure I would have ever of my own volition picked up some yarn and needles and started knitting socks. But Lark Books is coming out with a sock-only book next year and they asked me to contribute a little blurb about knitting my first pair of socks. Which meant I had to learn how to actually knit a pair of socks!

My first socks are a worsted wool pair of foot-warming stripedness (so useful in the Valley!) I used a yarn called Classic Worsted Tapestry by Universal Yarn, Inc., purchased at A Mano Yarn shop when I was there using my giftcard on my birthday. I thought it was very reasonably priced at around six bucks a skein, and they say it takes one skein per sock (but I have A LOT of yarn left over!) I've seen some sock yarns that are $20 a skein, and this one knit up just as pretty as anything twice its price!

I'll save most of my commentary for the sock book, but I will say that knitting those mittens a while back certainly made me more confident to pick up stitches, which seems to be one of the main troubling spots in something sock-like. I also used an AWESOME pattern, "Beginner Socks" by Knitting Pure & Simple, a pattern also purchased the same day at A Mano thanks to the wise advice of store co-owner Annette (thank you!!). I'm very critical of most patterns because I think a lot of the ones I've read are almost deliberately obtuse, using shorthand when real words would help. This pattern was very clear and easy to follow, down to how many stitches you should have on each needle. It is kind of rare for me to be loving a pattern (I'm a tough crowd over here in Gone With The Pattern land) so it was a happy day to find a GREAT pattern like this one, it is really well done, and perfect for beginners. Here is a list of where you can buy the pattern. I plan to buy as many different patterns as I can find by Knitting Pure & Simple, the way the writer explains things makes perfect sense to me.

When I bought my first sock pattern Annette helped me figure out the right yarn to use with it, this is why it's so nice having access to local yarn shops and their expertise. I can't tell you how many times I've bought yarn for a project but don't have a pattern or the other way around, a pattern and no yarn and then the project just stalls forever. Having all the supplies together at one time was a good start.

Frankie likes yarn.

There was only one area where I got momentarily stumped when making these socks. With knitting I always find it's easier to go ahead and try the stitch or decrease or whatever and see if you can muddle through instead of freezing with self-induced Stitch Fear Paralysis. So when I got to SSK (slip one as if to knit, slip one as if to purl, then place the tip of the left needle into the fronts of these stitches and knit them) I had a little trouble envisioning how this would happen. So I tried it -- no problem slipping the stitches, it was the knit I was worried over -- and yet I couldn't figure out how to knit them together. Turns out that I was trying to knit them with the left needle instead of doing the knit portion with the right-hand needle, a feat only accomplished after visiting my favorite knitting website, I LOVE THAT WEBSITE. If you ever can't figure out a stitch, just go there and watch the videos, it's amazing. I wish the woman (or women? not sure) who run that site would get a million-dollar award, they have helped me so many times and I love those videos. This KnittingHelp page is where I figured out my SSK decrease, on that page it is called "SSK Improved."

In the end, socks are like all knitting -- what you make of it. I know some people are religious about socks and that is lovely, I am religious about champagne and good cheese and also potatoes. Well, food in general. I will definitely make socks again, though I think hats are still my favorite portable piece (turning the heel of that first sock while on the crosstown bus was a BIG mistake) and I liked how quickly this particular pattern knit up, worsted weight = fast! It's always important, too, to take the extra time in the very beginning and knit a gauge swatch (I personally like swatching but I am demented, or so I am told) and as I am always hopeful and optimistic with my first cast-on stitch, I usually try knitting my gauge swatch in the recommended needle size. It never works out for me, of course, but I still hope.

Bus knitting.

This pattern called for five stitches to the inch and on the recommended size 6 needle I was getting six stitches to the inch. Up to a size 7 needle and I was getting 5.5 stitches per inch. At first I was dismayed (slightly) that I had to go up two full needle sizes to get my gauge right (from a six to an eight! no way!), but then I remembered I had two sets of size eight double-pointed needles in my knitting needle stash and it ended up great for me to be a SupaTight Knitter, since I could knit both socks at roughly the same pace, casting on the cuff for one and then knitting it to the heel turn (all easy enough since there was no counting) and then pausing. Then I cast on for sock two and knit the cuff and was able to compare my socks next to each other for a very close match in size. I know there is a fancypants way of doing this on one circular needle and so on but this pattern specifies how many stitches per needle using regular double-pointed needles and it's pretty step-by-step, something I liked and anyway, I already had all those size eight double-points. I don't think I'd ever used them before!

This yarn was beyond pretty -- I used color 7020. I'd make these again, no doubt. It took me a few days to make them both, because I am slow and I wasn't really able to knit the more complicated heel stuff while on the bus.

Don't know what my next project will be, I wish the weather would turn cold soon, a good chilly 70 degree day is what I need to feel inspired!

Bob -- not impressed.

Posted by laurie at 9:51 AM

August 21, 2008

Fall is coming and apparently it gives you great handwarmers and terrible posture

A few days ago I got a mailer from my local Bloomingdales ("The Mothership") featuring all their new DKNY stuff for fall. This little get-up caught my attention:

(Click all images below for a gigantor version)

What caught my eye isn't the fetching stance of the obviously sun-blinded-model, but what appeared to be charcoal-grey handwarmers... nice!

Then I saw this picture:

OH MY GOD THAT POOR GIRL HAS TO WEAR ARM WARMERS BECAUSE SHE HAS THE ARMS OF A MONSTER. Also, I love how in this picture the perspective is so that her handbag is actually large enough to contain her entire body if only she would hunch down a little more. But anyway, arm-warmers! Knits for fall!

And then the poor girl got mugged by a very large woolen scarf:

Oh, I love fashion. I like anything that makes pretty girls slump over and get monster claw hands and wear handknits. Also I think I will probably try making me some armwarmers like that for winter, assuming it ever will be winter again.

It will be winter again one day, won't it?

Posted by laurie at 8:26 AM

August 12, 2008

Little bits of knit

My September 2008 issue of Vanity Fair arrived, Carla Bruni is the cover model and there's an interesting story on her inside, you know a woman who'd posed nude and dated rockstars would never be accepted (or even considered) as First Lady here. Some of the pictures made me miss Paris.


If you subscribe there's also the Fashion Rocks extra:


On the very last page of that supplement there's agreat photo of a girl in mid-jump wearing these fabulous heels and what appear to be hand-knit tights and an amazing knit dress:

(click this image for a VERY big close-up)

I think that is a gorgeous dress! The details say this is a Rodarte dress and tights and there are a few other Rodarte pieces sprinkled throughout the Fashion Rocks pages. The label's website is one of those clunky flash things meant to be cool but just kind of hard to navigate -- but if you click on "photos" on the left, then click on "looks" you can hunt around to find that great knit dress and some other fabulous knit pieces, they're so beautiful! Like artwork. (There is also a good image gallery of the ready-to-wear collection here on This whole look reminds me of that great '80s punk stuff but really glamorous and pretty, a contradiction in terms I know. Their knit jackets are a loose, open weave with wild combinations of yarns (love that) and none of the shapes look too hard to make so you might get some inspiration there, too. (Also I remember Annie had a pattern for handknit tights in her Romantic Hand Knits book, nothing fishnetty, but still.)

- - -

Frankie thinks she's ready for Vanity Fair!

Posted by laurie at 8:43 AM

August 5, 2008

Finishing up loose ends

Over the weekend I unearthed some of my unfinished projects, I don't feel any great rush to finish any of them since we still have at least three more months of hot summer left, but maybe I will need to run off to Greenland sometime soon and then I would have use for a nice scarf. Because of course I don't already have any scarves at all. (ahem)


"Mistake" Rib Stitch Scarf
• Cast on stitches in multiples of four, plus three extra stitches. For this scarf, I cast on 31 stitches using Noro Blossom, a yarn which I love so of course it's been discontinued.

• Knit two, purl two all the way across the row. Purl the last stitch of each row. Another variation of this pattern found here.

I like this pattern, it's perfect for this yarn. Also goes well with morning tea!

Posted by laurie at 8:30 AM

July 1, 2008

Mitten Thumb Pattern Decoded!

I have mittens!!

These are the Super Mittens from the book Weekend Knitting. These mittens are knit with Paton's Rumor yarn in Duberry Heather (code name for "pink") and I needed one and a half skeins of yarn to complete two mittens. I used size 10.5 double-pointed needles and then at the very end of the mitten, when decreasing, I switched to smaller size 9 double-pointed needles. Same when decreasing the thumb. It made a nice smooth decrease.

These mittens probably took me about three or more hours for each one, but I am a slow knitter. Also, when making the gusset and starting the thumb stitches be sure you are in a place you can sit still and do it all at one time with no interruptions.

It's not super comfortable to cast on and knit that first row in the round but it gets easier as you have more fabric on the needles. If you can stand the awkwardness for a few rows it does get better! Ah, there are so many things in life that get better after some initial awkwardness....

Let's get to the thumb!

Super Mittens from the book Weekend Knitting

Even if you aren't making mittens from that specific pattern, hopefully this little explanation will help with thumbing. (Thumbing is totally legal in knitting!) So, when you get to making the thumb here is what you will have:


A mitten body and a hole where the thumb should go and a bunch of stitches on a stitch holder. Since I made this pattern in the next-to-largest size, I have 11 thumb stitches sitting on a stitch holder.

But the truth is, this method works no matter how many stitches your pattern uses. You're going to have some amount of stitches set aside to make a thumb. Those stitches will either be on a stitch holder or knit onto some scrap yarn, and you have this gaping hole. You need to find a way to connect all the stitches, make a few stitches to cover up the hole and knit in the round. That is your mission, should you choose to accept it!

Step one: Carefully slide half your stitches onto a double-pointed needle, then slide the other half onto another DPN. (See, I can use abbreviations, too!)

Since I have an uneven number of stitches, I put six stitches on one needle and five on the other.


Step two: Now you have the stitches on needles but there's no way to knit them unless you have some yarn! Adding yarn like this isn't really that hard. Just take the tail end of your yarn and drop it down into the hole that's about to become a thumb. I pulled enough yarn down inside the mitten so I could hold it pretty firmly in my left hand as I knit my first stitch. If you're worried about your first stitch being loose, you can always come back on the next round and tighten it up good. You will not go to mitten jail if your stitches aren't perfect!


Step three: Now start knitting. I have my mitten body on the right and my mitten thumb stitches on the left like so:

With a third double-pointed needle, insert the tip of the new needle into the first stitch between the mitten body and the thumb and begin knitting.

Just knit it right up! Knit all the stitches (I had 11 stitches to knit up.)


But see how I still have this big hole where the thumb joins the mitten:


Step four: Pick up stitches
This is the goofy fun part -- you're going to make stitches where none exist!! They call this "picking up stitches" or sometimes it's called "pick up and knit." I consulted my knitting guru, Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook, for a full explanation. The author says that pick up stitches and pick up and knit both mean the same thing. But of course in knitting, as in life, ask four people and they'll all be experts with four different answers.

So all I can tell you is that for this thumb, you just make some loops where none existed and then on the next round you knit them as normal ol' stitches.

To begin, put a needle under a stitch on that open edge, wrapping yarn around the tip of the needle and drawing it through to make a loop on the needle (which you will then knit next time around). There is a great photo illustration at and a video of this technique at And if the pictures and my yammering and the video still aren't enough, just try it yourself. I always learn best by doing it myself, anyway.

Ok, back to the pattern. It calls for three stitches to be picked up in this whole long area:


But I picked up five stitches. If I only made three stitches for this wide of an area there would be holes and my mittens are not meant to be holy! I will be picking up 5 stitches and then on the next round I'll do a fancypants "knit two stitches together" stealth move ... twice. That will decrease me back to the required number of stitches so I don't have a fat thumb on my mitten.

That means: My pattern wants me to have 14 stitches to knit in the round for my thumb to be a good size.

I have 11 stitches on the stitch holder (and now on my double-pointed needles).

I have to pick up three stitches in the gap area, 11 + 3 = 14 total stitches.

But three stitches isn't enough to cover a whole big long gap! So I am picking up five stitches. 11 + 5 = too many! So I will fix it on the next round by decreasing two times. All is well in mittenworld.

So to pick up stitches, take an empty double-pointed needle and stick it under a stitch on that open edge, wrap the yarn around the tip of the needle pretty much like you would if knitting, and pull it though. Your goal is to get a loop on a DPN just like it was a normal old stitch:


By the way it is really challenging to take pictures of yourself knitting. I am just saying.


Do this until you have five loops on your needle:


YOU DID IT!!!!! Pat yourself on the back! Place a marker on your thumb stitches to designate that you, rockstar thumb knitter, are beginning to knit in rounds for the big thumb finale. I always place my marker between two stitches so it doesn't fall off:


Step five: Knit in the round
Now remember, on this very first round as you make your thumb, you will need to:

1) Tighten up your very first stitch (where you added the yarn at the start of this novel.) Just check it out so nothing weird is going on there, and ..

2) On the stitches we picked up don't forget to knit two together (twice!) so you decrease those five stitches down to three stitches. It keeps your stitch count right but prevents any icky holes.

Knit until your thumb measures the desired length. I definitely think it's a good idea to switch to smaller size double-pointed needles when decreasing at the tips of both the mitten body and the thumb, just like the pattern says. I switched to size 9 double-pointed needles on my decrease rows and my decreases are nice and round and pretty. Switching to a smaller needle makes your stitches smaller and more compact and the tips of the thumb and mitten taper real nice.

Step six: Wear mittens in middle of summer, making people think you are crazy. Dream of frosty, cold places to go on vacation and wear your fabulous hand-knit mittens.

Posted by laurie at 8:03 AM

June 23, 2008

When it is 113 degrees outside you need... a hand-knit mitten!

On Saturday it was too hot to leave the safety of the air-conditioned house. It was just disgusting outside. I love the Valley but this is the time of year I wonder why I don't live in Iceland. Anyway, I got up freakishly early to do laundry and clean house before it got up in the hundreds and by 10 a.m. I was done working on my list of house chores. I could have moved on to another pile of work (I have lists of to-dos that would make your toes curl) and I knew I should turn on the computer and try to get caught up (seeing as I am always about two weeks behind in life) but it was Saturday and the cats were so cute and I was so tired of working and ... it was REALLY hot. So I did something I never do -- I pulled the blinds down and cranked up the air conditioning and decided to have a completely lazy day.

I never have lazy days. I LOVE lazy days!!

For Christmas this past year I bought myself the biggest dorkiest gift ever -- the full season DVD set of The Pretender. I never watched that show when it was on TV but last year I found it through iTunes and got hooked. But iTunes only has the first season so come holiday time I went full-hog and bought the whole set.

Since December of 2007 I have only made it through Season One and the first episode of Season Two (I don't have a lot of free time, see: "crazy person.") On Saturday I pulled out the DVDs and put on Season Two and then I decided I would accompany it with a big glass of iced tea and some knitting. Yes, knitting! I do have three big scarves that are thisclose to finished and I could've finish them up. OR! Or I could start a whole new project, which seemed way more fun on a lazy day.

A few years back I wanted to make the Super Mittens pattern from the book Weekend Knitting. I never made them, though, just reading through the pattern was so intimidating I didn't want to start it! I think that I was afraid of making a mistake or getting stuck. And I find some patterns are so hard to read, I know now that pattern shorthand is always part of the knitting business but sometimes I think patterns use shorthand to an extreme when a few actual words thrown in could save a lot of confusion.

Anyway, I pulled that mitten pattern out on Saturday morning, dug up the recommended needle sizes and my notions kit and then I decided on some yarn from my stash. I like Paton's Rumor yarn, especially that pink color ("Duberry Heather") and I'd been making a scarf with it so I guestimated it would fit the gauge of the mitten pattern. I made no gauge swatch because I am a lazy and bad knitter, the kind your mother warned you about. I just cast on and started working away. At first I cast on and divided the stitches on three needles:


But it got awkward real quicklike so I switched to four needles:


Much better! Plus I got so much help while knitting:


I just sat there happy as a cat myself, knitting and watching TV and trying to keep the Bob from eating my needles. The regular cuff part was a breeze, just knit in the round for a while. Then you get to the gusset for the thumb:


It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought. You just place some markers and do little increases here and there to make it wider in one spot. I made the decision early on in the morning that this piece of knitting would be fun, not work, and if I screwed it up so what. It's just yarn. The world would keep spinning on its axis.

I managed to make the whole mitten to the top except the thumb and I was so pleased with myself. Then I got to the thumb instructions and it was like reading Greek! I couldn't understand a damn word of it. I got kind of mad, I admit it, because I just could not figure it out. I said some curse words. I declared that the lazy day of happiness had ended and thumb doom had descended. Then I got over it and called it a day.

On Sunday, Faith came by and I made her read the pattern for starting the thumb and she agreed it made no sense whatsoever. So we got in her air-conditioned car and went to A Mano Yarn Shop. I had a gift certificate for that shop and heck, it was my birthday after all and I needed 1) thumb help and 2) some double-pointed needles to replace the ones that an unnamed cat ("Bob") dug out of my bag and chewed up. That counts as necessary in my book.

And I am so happy we went to A Mano! It's one of those great yarn shops that has friendly, laid-back people that love helping you out with projects (they also have gorgeous yarn there!) And how can you not love a shop where co-owner Annette brings her puppy:


And co-owner Shannita was there, too, here she and Faith are visiting and check out the yarn wall:


But I am 100% crazy happy grateful for lovely Kim, who is a master knitter and just as nice and calm as can be and patiently showed me how to de-code the thumb portion of the pattern. She showed me how to pick up stitches and where to join and she was awesome, thank you Kim!!

Kim rocks.

I did it, I finished my very first mitten ever:

I swear I was happier with that damn mitten than if I'd made cold fusion. Nothing says "summer in Los Angeles" like a hand-knit mitten. If you come to Los Angeles this summer and want to do some yarn shopping I cannot recommend A Mano Yarn Center highly enough! They know good yarn. And thumbs.

This was the first time I'd really wanted to knit (and enjoyed it) in a while. I am not very good at being competitive with yarn. I know that many people take knitting very seriously and have goals and expectations and want to be The. Best. Knitter. Ever.

But me? Not so much. Honestly I took up knitting to keep my hands busy so I would not drunk dial a certain ex-husband. To me, knitting is a craft. It's a hobby. An activity. It is not fun for me when people get weird and competitive and try to put it on a schedule and judge you -- that is when it turns into a job and frankly I have enough jobs to keep me busy. I am just ornery, too, so if something starts to feel like work or pressure I will refuse to do it (since I already have work and pressure.)

When I started knitting a few years back, I had no goals. I could have cared less if I ever made anything functional or fancy or good. And sometimes I USE INEXPENSIVE YARN. Sure, I like big fancypants expensive yarn, too, but I'm an equal-opportunity yarn hoarder. But after a while all the enjoyment slowly got sucked out of knitting for me. It started to feel like an expectation and a job. Then a few days ago I found reader Sarah's Knitting Resolutions, which had me laughing out loud. And you know what? I remembered I used to really enjoy knitting, back before I felt all pressured to be competitive or right or good at it. And I do like knitting -- MY way.

I'm not fast at it, I'm not good at it and I make things that often don't work at all and that is completely 100% OK with me. I just knit for enjoyment and truth is I'm not ever going to be competitive. I hate reading patterns and I often get stressed out with knitting (I cussed over that thumb like you would not believe.) I can't count half the time and can't even remember to use the stitch counter. But I DON'T CARE! I just like doing it. I am not trying to be like any other great, famous, rockin' knitters. I have friends who astonish me with their precision and speed and ingenuity and I love them for it and at the same time I'm just happy to make a garter scarf. I am not trying to be anything knitty. I just want to hold some pretty yarn.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.



Posted by laurie at 10:17 AM

May 29, 2008

Funky Cold Medina

What I would like to speak to you about is my left leg which is at this moment bearing the brunt of my knitting "creativity."

Last year, you may not recall, I decided I would start a small, portable project that was not a sock or glove and I would take this project with me on the book tour and knit in my "downtime." Hah! Downtime!

Also, hah! Me knitting without a pattern again!

I do not know why I am compelled to dream up my own stuff instead of following a pattern like a normal human but anyway, that's probably on the same node of my DNA as "won't follow a recipe" and "invents new drinks when fresh limes are in season."

Knitting probably is supposed to be more functional and lovely than goofy or ironic but I have yet to receive that memo, because I thought the project I was called by the Knitting Gods to resurrect was THE LEG WARMER:


I thought it would be funny. Notice how my selection of self-striping yarn only increases the elephantlike nature of my gigantor-calves. Lovely!

The yarn is one of my favorites -- Patons SWS, a mix of soy and wool. And this variety stripes in a leg-widening way that accentuates my shortness of stature and wideness of ... stature.

I'm thinking I might try felting this warmer of legness and turn it into a wine cozy. I'm not sure my wine needs to be cozy, but I do know my leg needs to be un-warmed, that is certain!


- - -

One Legwarmer, if you have a leg to warm:

Cast on 72 stitches of Patons SWS using a size 10 (16") circular needle. Join stitches to knit in the round. Kind of like making a hat!

Work in Knit two, purl two ribbing for about 2.5 inches of length to create a top cuff. Switch to stockinette (that's knitting every stitch since you are working in the round.)

Work in stockinette in the round for as long as you can stand it. I worked for 13.5 inches.

Finish off with another 2.5" of knit two, purl two ribbing for the other end's cuff.

If you have skinnier legs than me this sucker will fall off in about two seconds flat. Whoops! But then again, yay you and your skinny legs. The end!

Posted by laurie at 9:21 AM

March 14, 2008

Hand knit Beret modification for smaller needle sizes!

The easy big old chunky handknit beret pattern is great for a fast knit with big ol' huge needles. I am usually able to get a beret finished in just a few hours using that pattern (my favorite yarn for that pattern is a tie between the JoAnn's Sensations yarn in Licorice and the Lion Brand wool ease chunky in heathered grey, which turned out so nice and I wore it all over Rome.)

But a lot of folks emailed or commented to see if there was a modification of this pattern to use smaller needles (and less chunky yarn) -- apparently not everyone loves using size 13 double-pointed needles! Go figure!

Awesome reader Alicia offered to try out the beret using a very easy-to-find (and super-soft!) yarn, Patons Rumor. I am forever indebted to Alicia, not just for the modification but also for taking such awesome pictures!

Here is Alicia's beret pattern:

Alicia says, "I'm in love with this hat. It turned out great! I cast on 66 stitches on #9 circulars and worked in 1x1 rib for one and a half inches, then increased by k1, kfb, then switched over to #11 circular needles for the rest of the hat."


• Cast on 66 stitches using a size 9 (16") circular needle
• Work in Knit-1-Purl-1 ribbing all the way across each row until the brim measues about 1.5 inches
• Increase stitches for the body of hat by knitting one stitch, then knit into the front and back of the next stitch. Repeat all the way across the row. (You will end up with 99 stitches.)
• Switch to size 11 (16" circular) needles

[Read the original pattern for more explanation.]

Alicia wrote, "I was worried that the giant change in needle size would make the hat turn out all wonky, but it actually made it just the perfect slouchiness! I started the decreases at about 6" into the hat, and began with k13, k2tog (you have one extra stitch on the last set, but I just chalked it up to imperfection and said "SCREW IT!" you just have to knit one more regular stitch on that set every time. but it works out just fine.)"

[Note from Laurie here: You could also knit 9, knit 2 together all the way across the row to decrease.
• Then knit one plain row, no decreasing.
• Then knit 8, knit 2 together all the way across.
• Knit one row with no decreasing.
• Knit 7, knit 2 together... and so on!

I got this by finding the shoe number of 99 stitches... it's 11. Then 11 minus 2 (one pair of shoes!) leaves 9 stitches. But Alicia's pattern proves there are no real mistakes in fun knitting, especially when you say, screw it! It's yarn ya'll!]

Back to Alicia now...

"In between the decrease rows I knitted one regular round, until about the sevens....when I started to think that this hat might very well be the cause of my early demise, so I started to decrease on every row after that."

"I ended up with either 14 or 7 stitches to choose from at the very end and I went with the 7, probably should have chosen 14, it would have been more flat on the top. But I love it anyway! I will wear it in sickness and in health.....the sickness comes in when I am wearing it in our 110 degree weather this summer!"

Here are pictures of Alicia in her Patons Rumor hand knit beret:



And with adorable kiddo Judah:

Thank you so much, Alicia, your beret looks amazing and so do you!

And thank you to every single person who has offered up knitting tips and advice and modifications. I never really think of myself as a particularly great knitter -- I just like knitting -- and it always surprises me and makes me happy that people find these wordy recipes appealing and usable. I post them up because I figure there have to be other folks out there who also want to try the occasional easy and lazy and quick (and free!) pattern. It's gravy on top when they work out, and this one was gravy. Thank you!!

And she even included a cute pic of her puppies:

Perfect way to end the week. Thank you!

Posted by laurie at 10:39 AM

February 25, 2008

Looking beret good...

That title sounded much funnier in my head.

Anyway, as you may have noticed I completed another hand-knit beret, this time using the Lion Brand Wool Ease chunky yarn in heathered grey. It's perfect, the weight of this yarn worked great on my hat, and I love a grey hat (conceals cat hair a wee bit better than solid black!)

Several weeks ago I made a black beret out of Thick 'n Quick but the gauge of the yarn is way huger (yep, that is a technical term) and it ended up making a rather large hat. The chunky wool-ease is perfect for this pattern, and I only used about three-quarters of the skein, so this hat ended up costing me a whopping three bucks.

I love that.


A few weeks ago I saw a girl wearing a knitted hat in a style I hadn't seen before, kind of like a toboggan-style hat but it was long almost like a stocking cap. So if I ever manage to break free of the beret, I may try to mimic what I saw. It looked like her hat was made of a much skinner yarn (again with the technical terms!) and so it might take me longer to make, which would be a good thing, actually. I could use a commuter project that is all knit-in-the-round goodness that lasts and lasts...

Is it wrong that my knitting is largely based on what I can do while on the bus? Wait -- don't answer that.

Question: Have any of ya'll made the beret and is it going okay? I have been more worried about that one project! My way of knitting is so tight and I have been concerned that the pattern won't fit anyone who knits just normal. Let me know! I'd love to hear if anyone has had beret good beret success.

Posted by laurie at 8:48 AM

February 1, 2008

Beret update

1) I measured and I am getting three stitches to the inch on the regular stockinette portion using the Lion Brand Landscapes yarn version of this beret.


2) It is actually cold enough in the fine city of angels to wear all my hats at one time! If it is cold enough for condensation to make ice, it is cold enough for a hand-knit item or four:

Poor traffic monkey is cold.

3) Also, a kind commenter pointed out that I used the wrong words to describe the type of stitch increase I used, which I am sure is 100% true as I am not a professional, cannot seem to follow a pattern and often knit under the influence. However, in my defense I included links to a video that showed how to do it, explained in text how I made this terribly misunderstood and misnamed stitch, and really now that I think about it I am not sure how else you say "make one extra stitch by knitting into the front and back of a stitch" when you want to you know... make one extra stitch by knitting through the front of it and the back of it. Maybe you call it "make magic with whoopee stitch love." I do not know! I think I am going to stop knitting altogether and take up badminton and really mess with people.

Actually, on a side note, I once knew a guy who told me he had been completely scarred by the game of badminton. He was a super-smart engineering geek guy, very cute, and he told me how he took badminton as his health requirement in college because of all the sports it seemed the easiest. You see why we were friends (also, I took roller skating for my requirement, this girl knows how to keep her GPA in Type A territory.) Anyway, come to find out the guy who was teaching my friend's badminton class actually wrote the book on badminton. No, really -- he wrote the official rule book and was apparently a complete badminton purist and enforcer. My poor friend almost ruined his GPA over... badminton. He was angry about it even ten years later.

Maybe I won't take up badminton after all. Maybe I'll take up making magic with stitch whoopee love.

- - -

Comments are closed, have a great weekend.

Posted by laurie at 8:30 AM

January 31, 2008

Super-simple fast and easy chunky hand-knit beret!

Hello, hand-knit beret!

My muy adorable sister-in-law Kelli models this chunky hand-knit beret.

This hand-knit beret used two skeins of Lion Brand Landscapes yarn in the "Rose Garden" color #540-271.

I have been beret-crazy for weeks now, I even knitted so much I had a knit-related injury and got what appears to be a blister. (!!!) But I am loving my hand-knit berets, they're fast and super-simple to make and this pattern seems to work with a wide variety of yarns, which is my favorite kind of pattern. I even took my bag o' berets with me on my trip to Florida so my cute family could model them.

Berets seem sultry and dark and full of espionage. Now, I am realistic. I am a round-faced blonde from Texas, so I am pretty sure a simple hand-knit beret won't make me sultry, glamorous or intense. I am kind of resigned to being "cute" and "perky." (Cute, perky people generally detest both words, just FYI. We are all about the dark, intense and sultry.) But I decided that I could make a beret, too, and wear it and pretend to be intense.

For the record, this might have been one of those projects I should have just searched for a pattern to use (because I'm sure there is one somewhere in my desired level of easiness) and it would have spared me this:


Ah, the love of the prototype.


One of the reasons I love knitting with 100% wool is because even though my prototype beret turned out as a big fat mushroom pope's hat, I can just felt it and make it into a lovely little bowl. Not that I need a felted wool bowl, but felting is fun and I'm sure I'll find a use for it. This is perhaps the main reason I prefer knitting to cooking -- when you spend hours working on a hand-knit hat and it turns into a mushroom, you can make a nice bowl or handbag out of it. If you spend hours cooking a meal and you end up with compost, you end up with a hungry, hateful mean cook.

Making a prototype taught me a few things -- for one thing, I needed to make the ribbing using a smaller needle than the body of the hat. The body needed to be much longer to get it to drape like I wanted. Also, the poufy and freakish quality of the decreases could probably be eliminated by adding a simple plain knit row in between each decrease row. And you know what, I was right!

Here is Kelli in Beret #2, A Perfect Hat:

I used my stash of Paton's Up Country, a discontinued yarn, in silver-grey for both the prototype and the first finished grey beret.

I am sharing this hat recipe because it's so fun, easy and addictive to make. I cannot stop making berets! I have, in fact, gone beret-crazy. It's taking me about two hours for each hat and ya'll, I am a tragically slow knitter. Although I am making great effort to be a less SupaTight Knitter, I am still apparently working out my issues on the yarn so my gauge is probably slightly more cramped than yours. You may want to adjust your needle size to accommodate your own style of knitting (specifically, you may want to use a size 10 or 10.5 needle on the ribbing). Here is my pattern though, exactly as I knit it:

Super Easy & Fast Hand-Knit Chunky Beret Recipe

Yarn: Any bulky yarn -- I have used this same pattern with good results on one skein of Patons Up Country, two skeins Lion Brand Landscapes, one and a half skeins of the JoAnn's store brand yarn "Sensations Licorice," and Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick 'n Quick (it would work better with one skein of Lion Brand Wool-Ease chunky, though. Thick 'n Quick is made a really thick hat that was a little too big. Doh.) Each hat takes about 110 yards of yarn depending on how long you make the body of the beret.

Needles -- Part of the reason this hat knits up so fast is that you make it on big needles! You will need:
16" size 11 circular needle
16" size 13 circular needle
Double-pointed needles in size 13

**** GAUGE *** I am getting three stitches to the inch in the knitted stockinette portion of the hat. I really strongly suggest you use a size 10 needle for the ribbing and a size 11 for the body if you're a more relaxed knitter. Clearly I am not a professional. This would explain the "free" portion of my patterns.

Other Stuff: Stitch markers, and a large-eye yarn needle (or crochet hook) for weaving in the ends when you're done.

Things you may want to read before making this hat:

• The easy roll-brim hat pattern, the basis of all my hat recipes
Working with circular needles
• Learn about increasing stitches by knitting into the front and back of a stitch (with a video demonstration!)
• A little diatribe on decreasing stitches
• My regular ribbed-brim hat recipe

To begin: Cast on 52 stitches using the size 11 needle. Place a marker and join your stitches into a round.

Note: To get a nicer-looking join, I have been casting on 53 stitches and then when I am ready to join stitches, I slip the 53rd stitch over to the left-hand needle and join by knitting the first two stitches on the left needle together. I'm not explaining it well, but sometimes in knitting I think you have to try something yourself before it makes any sense. Try it and see if it improves the look of your join as well.

Make the ribbed brim: Knit 1, Purl 1 all the way around for about five rows. I am knitting about an inch or an inch and a half of ribbing on my hats.

Increase for beret-like poufiness: When you have a wide enough ribbed brim for your liking, begin making the increase row. Still using the size 11 needle, increase in the following way all the way around the hat:

Knit one, make one all the way across the row. This means you knit one stitch, then "make one" by knitting into the front and back of the next stitch. Knitting into the front (and don't drop the yarn off the left needle yet!) then knitting into the back of the stitch (then drop the yarn off the left needle) makes two stitches out of one single stitch. [Learn more about increasing stitches by knitting into the front and back of a stitch here.] I like this increase because it's easy and on this hat the increases line up just right with the purl stitches in your ribbed brim and it all looks good.

You will have 78 stitches at the end of the row.

*** Update*** I guess I didn't explain this very well. Here is an update:

Begin the increase row.

Stitch #1: You knit the stitch. Just knit it like normal.

Stitch #2: You knit into the front of it. Then instead of dropping it off the left needle, you leave it on the left needle and now knit it again through the back loop. Yes, the back loop of the exact same stitch you just knit into. Now you finally drop it off the left needle. In this way you have made two stitches where before there was only one.

Next stitch: You simply knit it.

The stitch after that: You do the increasing thing again, making an extra stitch where before there was only one.

Therefore, you increase on every OTHER stitch. That creates 26 brand-new stitches. 52 + 26 = 78 total stitches.

Make the body of the beret: Now, switch to your size 13 circular needle. It's easy to switch -- just start knitting with your size-13 (16" inch long) circular needle. The rest of the hat is done in plain ol' stockinette, so in the round that means you knit every stitch. Knit until the stockinette body of the hat measures about 4 1/2 inches tall. When the body of the hat is about 4 1/2 to 5 inches tall....

Begin decreases as follows:

• Knit 11, knit two stitches together. Do this all the way across the row.

Note: I always place a marker right after my "K2tog" because after that I never even have to count to know I am decreasing in the right place. With a marker you just always know to knit the two stitches together right before each stitch marker. I also use different markers from the one which designates the end of the row (where you initially joined up the stitches.) That way I know what is marking decreases is different from what is designating the end of the row.

• Knit one row with no decreasing.

• Knit ten, knit 2 together. Repeat all the way across the row.

• Knit one row with no decreasing.

• Knit nine, knit two together. Repeat all the way across the row.

• Knit one row with no decreasing.

• Knit eight, knit 2 together. Repeat all the way across the row.

• Knit one row with no decreasing.

• Knit seven, knit two together...

And so on. Switch to your double-pointed needles when the circular needle gets awkward. Knit until you only have a few stitches on your needles (I am a dork and I usually knit down to the bitter end, but with this hat it's best to end the hat when you're down to about 12 stitches so you don't get a weird pointy bit.) Cut the yarn and leave a long yarn tail.

Finishing touches: Using your large-eye yarn needle, thread the yarn tail through it and then bring the yarn all the way through the stitches to close the beret. I usually do this twice because I am paranoid. Then finish it with a knot (ha! Yes there are knots in knitting!) and weave in the ends.

- - - - -


That's Rebecca in the same beret knit with one and a half skeins of the JoAnn's "Sensations" brand yarn called "Licorice" in the color #2347. I LOVE this yarn!! It's 100% wool and it's a thick-thin nubby twisted yarn in funky color combinations. I liked the way the inside-out reverse stockinette side of this hat looked, so I just made sure to weave in my ends carefully so that you could wear it inside-out and it looks great:

Rebecca even liked this beret enough to keep it! That made me SO HAPPY! I love it when I can give away my hand-knits to happy homes.


I like using fancy schmancy expensive yarn like anyone, but sometimes I am not looking to make a $300 hat, you know? So this little beret I've been making looks just great in inexpensive yarn and I'm sure that it will look great in a big Noro, too. But before I get to a Noro version, I had to finish the all-black beret in plain ol' Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick 'n Quick yarn. I think it's actually too thick and bulky but it sure made a warm beret, which I need in ...uh, sunny Los Angeles. Because the yarn is so fat, the beret is a little too big. I should have cast on less stitches, for sure.

Rebecca models the big black beret.

Guy thinks he can make it work Rasta-style.

Then the whole family got into it... as you can see they enjoyed modeling girlyman hats:

Aw, aren't they rasta-cute?

Brett takes the beret to new heights.

- - -

Hope ya'll like the pattern.
And long live the sultry intense beret!

Posted by laurie at 8:34 AM

January 17, 2008

Mistake Rib: What a difference a gauge makes!

Although I have seen lots of folks online making pretty little "Mistake Rib" scarves, for some reason I thought this stitch was a much harder combination and would require me to count, which is not something I can do once 1) wine and 2) TV come into the equation.

However, this stitch is easy-peasy! I was poking through one of my books that has stitch patterns featured in blocks (I like finding patterns that work well in blanket squares and using them as scarves) and when I read the stitch repeat it sounded too good to be true. You just cast on stitches and do the simplest ever knit/purl rib repeat, like so:

"Mistake" Rib Stitch Scarf

• Cast on stitches in multiples of four, plus three extra stitches

For example, I cast on 27 stitches -- that's 24 stitches (24 is a multiple of four) plus three extra stitches. You could cast on 15 stitches, or 23 stitches, or 31 stitches. It just has to be some number which is a multiple of 4, plus 3 extra stitches.

• Knit two, purl two all the way across the row. You'll have one leftover stitch at the end of each row -- just purl it!

Seriously, that is the whole stitch pattern. I am not even lying to you.


It's so easy I can even do this when I am on the bus, half-asleep, pre-caffeine and listening to an audiobook (I have found that if it isn't a freakishly simple stitch I'm knitting, I'll lose my place when an audiobook really sucks me in!) (Later for kicks, I may try to walk and chew gum at the same time. Film footage at eleven.)

But for knitting that is so easy, it sure makes a pretty and complex-looking pattern:

Notice the quality difference of this image as opposed to the other two where I am just starting the knitting. Those were taken with my old camera which died soon afterwards. Death of camera was totally not connected to scarf in any way. This shot was a close-up taken with new camera.

I started out knitting it on a size 10 1/2 needle, I have no idea why. I think it was the first set of needles I grabbed one morning as I was running out the door and by the time I got on the bus and realized they were too small, I was already... you know. On the bus. So I cast on anyway and started knitting. By the time I got a few rows in I knew I needed to go WAY up on my needle size or else this scarf would be so dense it could stand on its own. That night after work I knitted the same amount of stitches on a larger size 15 needle. It's the exact same yarn, exact same stitch count and pattern, just a different gauge:


Much nicer on a bigger needle. The pattern is airier and the scarf actually drapes (as opposed to being an impenetrable wall of yarn.)

This yarn I am using is Moda Dea "Tweedle Dee" in the color "Blue Heather." I love the color, which sort of shades in and out from light to dark. It's a soft, lofty blend of acrylic, mohair and wool and I used two full skeins for a nice, full scarf that loops once around and still has good length. The best thing about this yarn is that it's not scratchy at all (sometimes pure 100% wool scarves, which I LOVE, make me itch) and it's pretty affordable yarn, about $7 USD per skein. Two skeins of it gave me a scarf this long:



Loving the mistake rib!

Posted by laurie at 6:52 AM

October 5, 2007

Reversible Knit Halloweenie Beanie



This pattern was created primarily because I thought it was funny. I know the world is full of knitters who inspire, or make lovely works of art, or create functional and useful items. I myself make stuff up because I think it is funny and has the potential to make me laugh while stuck in traffic, which is exactly how the Halloweenie Beanie got started.

Originally, I had planned to make a beanie from a pattern that my good friend Allison had written for Mission Falls Wool. But then I figured since I was using orange yarn, wouldn't it be just hee-larious to make a pumpkin hat? And try to figure out how to make a stem while we're at it? So she allowed me to modify it to be more pumpkin-like and share it with ya'll. Thanks, Allison!

Reversible Knit Halloweenie Beanie Recipe

Yarn: Mission Falls. I am using this amazing, soft superwash wool in orange and for the pumpkin's stem, I used a small amount of Lion Brand wool-ease in a pretty heathered green color. I had the green left over from a scarf I made a hundred years ago. This pattern took a little more than one skein of orange, and a very small amount of green.

I had only knit with Mission Falls wool once before and now I'm hooked -- it's soft and so pretty.

Needles: With my SupaTight Knitting Superpowers, I went up a recommended needle size and used a size 9 circular needle (16" circular) for most of the hat and switched to size 9 double-pointed needles when needed during decreasing. Normal knitters will want to use size 8 needles or else this hat will be way too big. For the pumpkin stem you'll need a set of size 10 or 10.5 straight needles.

My gauge: I'm getting 4 stitches to the inch on the beanie. The stem's gauge isn't crucial. It's ... a stem. You know. Organic and shiite.

Other tools: Stitch marker, crochet hook and large eye needle to finish and weave in ends. Cat helper, sense of humor and wine recommended but not necessary.

Things you may find useful when knitting this hat:
• The easy roll-brim hat pattern, the basis of all my hat recipes
Working with circular needles
• A little diatribe on decreasing stitches
• My regular ribbed-brim hat recipe

For the beanie:

1. On circular needles, cast on 88 stitches in orange yarn and join to knit in the round. Place stitch marker at start of round.

2. Knit 4, Purl 4 all the way around to create a ribbed edge. I did this for a little over an inch, or about five rows.

3. For the body, the hat is basically stockinette with a single rib every eight stitches. So you will Knit 7, Purl 1 all the way around for the entire body for until hat measures 6" from base, including rib.

4. The reason this hat is reversible is because when you begin decreasing, rather than knitting two stitches together (as I have in all my other hats) here I decided to Purl two stitches together, which creates a decrease ridge that perfectly lines up with the purl ridges on the reverse stockinette side of the hat:

You can also add a pompom if the curly stem is a tad much for you.

5. Start decreasing by knitting six stitches, purling two stiches together and repeat all the way around the row.

6. For all the remaining rows, you'll knit until you see that purl stitch coming -- you'll see it -- and then purl together the plain stitch before it plus the lone purl stitch, it looks like this:



Or if that's too confusing, just follow this:
Knit 6, P2 together
Knit 5, P2 together
Knit 4, P2 together
Knit 3, P2 together
Knit 2, P2 together

But I found this to be the easiest hat to decrease of all the hats I've made -- you don't need to count to know when to decrease, just look for that purl ridge in your stockinette and you're ready to decrease. Decreasing purlwise (fancypants way of saying "purl two together") is just as easy as decreasing the regular way and prepares you for the pumpkin's stem, which has a lot of freaking purling.

7. Switch to double points when there are too few stitches to fit around the circular needle.

8. Thread large eye needle through stitches and remove from needles. Stitch down through top of hat to secure and keep from unraveling. Finish and weave in ends.

Create the pumpkin's curlicue stem

1) Cast on 18 stitches -- I used a size 10.5 straight needle, you may want to use a size 10. CAST ON LOOSELY. SERIOUSLY.

2) Knit into the front, back and front again of each stitch before dropping it off the left needle. Read this entry for more detail on knitting into the front and back of a stitch. Just keep in mind that for this project, you knit each stitch three times -- once in front, once through the back loop, and finally through the front again. That's why it's muy importante to cast on loosely.

3) Bind off all stiches purlwise. That just means you bring your yarn to the front, purl the first stitch, purl the next stitch, then pass the first stitch over the second like a regular bind off. I find that binding off purlwise is a lot more time-consuming, but it's necessary for this project.

And voila! You have a stem!

This is an easy way to create a knitted curlicue, and I had plenty of help as you can see here:

People, do not make fun of my pajama pants. I have been sick and my fashion sense has been eclipsed by my snot problem. Sexy, eh?



I promise I won't look so waxy and dead when I meet you next week.
Really. Honest. WOULD THE UNDEAD LIE???

Happy Halloweenie Beanie!

Posted by laurie at 6:29 AM

October 2, 2007

Fair Isle For Fall (pom-poms for the lucky.)

Ah, October. The time of the year when the air is crisp and fall arrives and we all want to be bundled up in sweaters and cute winter clothes that hide all manner of sins including 42,000 calories in wine ... oh except, yeah, it's still over ninety degrees. Nevermind.

Allison called me from Old Navy last week to inform me that every scarf on display in the store was either covered in pom poms or knitted in Fair Isle or both. She knows I am weirdly fascinated by trends in retail, I just love knowing what people are marketing from season to season. It's one of my little oddities.

So while I was at the mall returning something this past weekend, I made a stop at Old Navy to take a look myself and yes ... it is a pompom, Fair Isle world in retail scarfage this year:

And some place, somewhere, it is cold enough to wear a real scarf...

Lately I've been thinking of trying my hand at some intarsia, but Fair Isle looks so pretty and cheerful and frankly perhaps more do-able, as I have no problem stranding yarn (I don't think I have the dexterity to hold the yarn in different hands. Because ... you know... which hand holds the wineglass?)

About a week ago I got a book in the mail called Inspired Fair Isle Knits: 20 Creative Designs Inspired by the Elements so I pulled it out to check out the patterns inside and found this one that I just love:


Isn't it the cutest kid sweater ever? There are also two great "I am an ADD-knitter and need small projects" patterns in the book, one is a pillow and one features a scarf in pretty reds and oranges, my favorite combo:


I liked that the charts in this book are big enough that you don't have to enlarge them a bazillion times on the photocopier at work (because that's always awkward when your boss walks by, "Hi! Don't mind me! Just photocopying for knitting!") The patterns seem pretty straightforward and cover a pretty big range of skillsets, and best of all the author promises that each pattern is made using no more than two colors of yarn in any row. Since the book isn't intended only to teach Fair Isle as a technique, there isn't any super-detailed instruction on holding the yarn, pictures of stranding and so on (although truth be told I might be the only person who needs that level of detail.) And of course while the authoress herself doesn't mention it, pompoms do go great with Fair Isle! And you know I love me some pompoms.

Since this was a review copy, I'm giving it away to the first person who actually really wants a FAIR ISLE book... and posts in the comments. Good luck!

Posted by laurie at 6:40 AM

August 8, 2007

Knitting vicariously through books...

One of my favorite dorky activities is living vicariously through knitting books. They're kind of like porn. And in the summer when it's so hot and I'm so currently obsessed with home improvement, I have not been a very productive knitter (I did swatch that awesome Ozark Handspun yarn, it's so FURRY. I wonder if I will wear that scarf and be mistaken for wearing a furry animal around my neck?) but I still love looking through knitting books, flipping through their glossy gorgeous pages and making plans for winter nights and hot adult beverages.

My two current favorite books just came out in the past few weeks:


That's Annie Modesitt's Romantic Hand Knits there on the left and the Yarn Girls' Guide To Knits For All Seasons on the right.

First up: Annie Modesitt's Romantic Hand Knits

This is hands-down by far my most favorite of all Annie's books. IT IS GORGEOUS! I love the knitted silk stockings and the tips on embroidery (everyone I know is taking up embroidery ... I learned as a little girl, but I definitely need a refresher course) and Annie's trademark fitted styles are photographed throughout the whole book in lush, amazing images.

Annie always shapes her garments to fit women with curves. I know that there are three women in my Stitch 'n Bitch group who could pull this dress off and look super hot:

Sara, Cory and Denise... I am talking to YOU.

And this little sweater is the perfect shape for my shape:

Annie is also an expert hatmaker and this book has tips on making hats, along with crochet tips and those amazing silk hand-knit stockings. It's a beautiful, amazing book. I love it!

Next: The Yarn Girls' Guide To Knits For All Seasons
The Yarn Girls' books are some of my favorite knitting books. I know that if I ever attempt to make my very first sweater, it will be a Yarn Girls' sweater. Their explanations are clear and make sense to even a math-challenged individual such as myself, and they make knitting seem completely do-able and relaxing.

This in fact is the very sweater I would knit first time out of the barn:

And I am definitely making this shawl, I love it and it's my favorite stitch combo of knits and yarnovers:

I love the super-cute guy sweaters in this book, too. You'll have to excuse my awful picture-taking but I was a little sleep-deprived and hadn't yet been fully caffeinated when I took these images, but both books are full of cuteness. I love knitting books the way some folks like coffee table art books. They're the perfect combination of craft and ... yarn porn. hee.

And because I got these books as review copies, I thought I would share the love and give them both to the first person who posts that they really, really REALLY want these awesome books. Happy Wednesday! EDITED TO ADD: Jules was first! Yay for free books!

Posted by laurie at 11:06 AM

July 9, 2007

Knitting-related insanity: The good, the bad and the downright devious!

I have not done any knitting at all since last Monday when the San Fernando Valley stopped being habitable and fit for humans and instead turned into the deathly cauldron of hotness. It's not right. Why do I live here? Why didn't I move to MooseJaw Canada back when I was half-crazy and drunk in my divorcing insomnia and thought that was a viable option? I mean aside from the fact that I love the Valley and seem to be trapped in an abusive relationship with it, why do I stay?

So once again I am just going to talk about knitting but not actually do any any!

First, the good:
Have ya'll seen these amazing "knitted" cupcakes?


This lady not only shows off her amazing sugary goodness and artistic prowess with the marzipan, she also gives a fine tutorial on how to make your own!

- - -

Next, the bad:
I am just doing something truly evil here because you shouldn't string folks along ... don't you hate it when someone says, "I have a secret..." and then they keep you in the dark? I do! But anyway, do as I say, not as I do!

Anyway! There is a goofy knitting-related contest a' brewing here in my head. I hope you have air conditioning and a cat, that is all I have to say about that. Or a picture of a cat. Or a dog you can pretend is a cat. This will all make sense in a few weeks, when I unveil what is sure to be The Most Ridiculous Contest I Have Ever Done. Also, the only contest I have done thus far but you know ... Contests! Fun! Dorky! And HCI is kicking in for prizes so it's not like all you're winning is a zucchini from my garden. BUT IF YOU DID WANT A ZUCCHINI I CAN ACCOMMODATE THAT REQUEST.

- - -

Finally, the downright devious...
Speaking of contests, author Karin Slaughter is having a well and truly twisted contest on her website right now... and I was going to put the serial-murdering knitted items right here but instead, ya'll just see for your ownselves. She is offering the patterns free as a PDF download (free patterns!) and if you complete a project and send in a picture by August 20, you could win some knitting awesomeness in the prizes. (For those who don't knit, check out her SIT contest... the woman is a bit of a marketing mastermind. Also, she kills people in her books which I informed her via email is a strategy I am planning to work into my next novel... Drunk, On Vacation and Burying The Bodies....)

So that's it for Monday stuff. Hope your day is full of contests and cupcakes and cats and zucchini. And if you feel like sharing cupcakes, feel free to stop by my office around noontime, thanks! But don't bother bringing any zucchini. REALLY.

Posted by laurie at 9:28 AM

July 3, 2007

In which I interview someone I like and force her to talk about cat hair.

It is SO HOT here in Southern California, where our relative air temperature is approximately the same as the fiery surface of the blistering sun. I left for work yesterday and I had a garden. I returned home and I had crackled leaves and dry fuel for a wildfire of dessicated zucchini leaves. So, you know, this is the perfect time to talk about knitting! With YARN! Because no one should go outdoors. You all should just stay right inside with a cold drink (where I am from that is "colddrank" thanks) and crank up the air conditioning and knit your little hands off.

I am not myself actually doing any knitting, I am just talking about doing knitting. I am not crazy, ya'll. It's going to be 106 degrees at my house today!

So, knitting women with four cats (or you know, more cats than people) are a unique sorority, an ELITE squadron if you will of cool (oh, to be cool) yarn-hoarding awesomeness. This club includes one Sandi Wiseheart, former managing editor of Interweave Knits magazine. I love Interweave Knits so I was excited to talk to her because I hoped some of her expertise would sink into my brain like osmosis. Turns out my brain doesn't believe in osmosis!

Recently Sandi and the Interweave folks launched a new knitting website called, and yesterday she and I chitchatted about cats, summer knitting, and FREE PATTERNS. Because I am all about the freeness, folks. The free and the cool.


Me: Sandi, ok, you have four cats... I have four cats. So, from one cat-herding knitter to another I have GOT TO KNOW ... how do you keep your cats from gnawing on your needles? Bob has half-chewed almost everything he could get his grimy paws on. He will even dig needles right out of my knitting bag! The cat cannot remember his own tail is attached to his butt yet he can find knitting needles buried under four inches of purse contents!

Sandi: HRH Zoe, my 4-yr-old princess, adores size 10 bamboo dpns. I have two entire sets of those with teeth marks on them to prove her undying love. Dusty, her zen master brother, prefers my Denises. I have two chewed-to-pieces blue cables that need replacing to prove HIS undying love. Sparrow, their singing drama king bro, prefers my toes. Amber, the fifteen-year-old autistic (really) queen of the household, prefers to be alone and hiss at her potty box.

The person I really need to hide my needles from is my husband. He's a knitter, too, and I finally had to buy him his own darn sock needles so he would leave mine alone. (Love only goes so far. I also made him buy his own stash and keep it in a separate drawer. "Keep yer mitts off of the cashmere, darlin'.")

- - - -

Me: Do you sometimes hold up a fabuloso piece of knitting from your bag and you're showing it off to someone, thinking you're all badass and knitter-cool and then you suddenly notice that half the project is covered in cat hair? And then you kind of try to pretend it's mohair or something but the project is worsted weight cotton...? Or does that only happen to me?

Sandi: Why try to hide the fact that you are sensible enough to let cats rule your life? Cat hair is the ultimate in fashion accessories. As a life-long fiber fanatic, I admire the way cat hair, when blended artfully into a hand-knitted piece, and perhaps treated with just a frisson of cat spit, adds texture, sheen, and attitude to my creations. Nothing says "Yes, I Am A Knitter....And You Are...?" quite like four different colors of cat hair intertwined with one's hand-dyed merino.

- - -

Me: Heh. You're funny! Ok, so I have a lot of friends who are avid crocheters... and I know you crochet, too. I'm learning to crochet this year, it's on my Birthday Resolutions list which I studiously kept from prying eyes. In case I don't accomplish one thing on it. Anyway, do you think you might sneak some crochet into your knitting daily website?

Sandi: [insert evil laugh here] There's "some crochet" already in there. We snuck several crochet patterns into the library when no one was looking, mostly because we only have the one database right now, and we wanted the crocheters to be able to find their patterns just as easily as the knitters. Wouldn't want anyone to feel left out! However, it's Knitting Daily, not Knitting-Crocheting-And-BasketWeaving Daily, so when we talk about crochet on KD, it'll be from a knitter's perspective--what to do (besides snarl and growl) when a knitting pattern calls for a crocheted edging, how to pick up stitches with a crochet hook, alternatives for crocheted bits in a pattern, that sort of thing. Interweave isn't neglecting the crocheters--far from it. They're going to have their own community based out of the Interweave Crochet website and Kim Werker's CrochetMe projects. The crocheters rock, so they deserve to have a home of their own online. They shouldn't have to just borrow space in the back of the knitters' house.

And I am still contributing to Interweave Crochet magazine on a regular basis, because I do love crochet....staff projects, designs, columns, all the usual wacky Sandi-With-A-Hook stuff.

- - -

Me: (finally letting my true colors show) Let's talk free patterns.

Sandi: Oooooh, yes, let's. Free stuff rocks!

Me: Do folks have to buy anything or subscribe to any Interweave magazines to be able to access the free pattern library?

Sandi: I am putting my left hand on one of EZ's books as I raise my right hand and swear to you: Free is free....or it wouldn't be free, would it? No purchase necessary, do not have to be present to download, all that jazz. We do ask that you sign up to be a member of Knitting Daily in order to download the free patterns, but you do not have to buy anything or even know where your credit card is.

- - -

Me: How often will your free pattern library be updated and will it have items that some people, I am not saying any names or anything, can knit... i.e. scarf patterns or hat patterns?

Sandi: The library is being updated at least once a week. Really! Depending on what our staff resources are that week, we may add just one or two patterns, or we may add a dozen or so if someone brings us grande lattes and brownies. Right now, I've got a stack of patterns on my desk just waiting to become Knitting Daily Free Patterns when they grow up. A big stack! But it takes quite a bit of time to prepare the files and upload them, so: Patience, my kittens....patience.

As for patterns that, um, Some People Not Naming Names, can knit...about a quarter of our current patterns are rated as Easy or Beginner. Hats, scarves, bags, mother-in-law just learned to knit so I have her to answer to if all I put in there is lace knitting on size 0000 needles or entire dresses knit out of
short rows and sock yarn. Call me motivated.

- -

Me: Do you think that intarsia is a plot by the government to make me go insane?

Sandi: Not just you, girlfriend. Several years back, the government transmitted a radio message into my brain convincing me to design and knit an intarsia Dalmation Puppy hat, sweater, and booties set for my little nephew. In chenille yarn. I woke up weeping for months afterwards, screaming "Twist the colors! Twist to avoid holes! Twiiiiiiist!" I think the darn project is still in my UFO closet, as a warning to me should I ever start thinking that maybe intarsia wouldn't be so bad after all...

- - -

Me: Now, on to more important world political and social issues. DO YOU THINK I SHOULD GET BANGS? And also, how the heck do you keep up your knitting prowess in the dead heat of summertime? Do you have certain projects you are more drawn to when it is eleventy eight million degrees outside?

Sandi: Wow. Deeply intense questions. I'll do my best to sound intelligent, witty, and wise.

On Bangs: Honestly? I am anti-bangs, in your case. I mean, what if you wanted to learn to archly lift one eyebrow, a la Mr. Spock? Bangs might obscure the effect, and thus hide your superpowers. Bangs Bad. (Of course, I am coming from a life-long anti-bang perspective. I once tried bangs, in college. I ended up looking like I had parentheses on either side of my forehead. Thus: Bangs Bad.)

On Summer Knitting: On those rare occasions when I am allowed by my cat masters to have knitting in my lap, rather than a cat in my lap, I knit with yarns like hemp, cotton, and silk. However, since I make my living knitting, and since knitting for magazines means that you are knitting things for the Winter issue in June, I'm just resigned to having a sweaty lap. OK. That sounded odd, so let's all just politely pretend that I didn't really say something that odd, that I said something much more witty instead. (Go ahead. Imagine me saying something witty. I'll wait.)

Sidebar ... This summer, I gave myself my very first Knitting Blister. I was knitting with cotton yarn (for my Tomato sweater), and using Addi Turbos, and it was eighty billion degrees, and I was trying to make a I did not realize until the next day that I had a blister on my right hand where I was rubbing against both the yarn and the needles. I decided to put down my knitting for a bit, since the last thing I needed right then was a knitter's version of Quest For Fire with metal needles and yarn and sparks flying and stuff. After all, the cashmere was less than five feet away...

- - -

Me: Sandi, I'm glad we met and got a chance to talk about cat hair and freebies and bangs. One last question for you... if we were doing this in person, what would your beverage of choice be?

Sandi: Given that it is currently ninety billion degrees here, and given that I have to write a week's worth of articles all today....the tallest, frostiest lemonade ever. (If I didn't have to write, then it would be a giant margarita. But I gotta talk coherently about bust darts, so no margaritas allowed until after the dart action.)


Well, there you have it. My rusty newspaper reporter skills put to muy excellente use! I think I should go into business for myself, interviewing dignitaries and world political leaders about cat hair, beverage selection and of course... SHOULD I GET BANGS. That my friends is the age-old question that is a true divider, not a uniter.

Have a happy, hot and dessicated Tuesday!

Posted by laurie at 9:40 AM

June 26, 2007

Oh, Knitting. There you are!

Sometimes I wish I were a really good knitter. I also wish I were a great athlete, a gourmet cook and could play the whole song "Me and Bobby McGee" on the guitar when sadly I cannot strum a single chord. I do not believe anyone needs any clarification in the "great athlete" or "gourmet" categories. My accomplishments in almost failing volleyball and successfully serving tater tots at dinner parties speak for themselves, thank you. Oh, also I'd like to be a great singer so I practice a lot at home but my audience is TOTALLY UNAPPRECIATIVE.


But anyway, I like knitting so I keep doing it even though I'll probably never be really GREAT at it. I think that's okay. I'm like Glen Bateman, a character from Stephen King's big ol' diseasy epic "The Stand." He loves to sit and paint watercolor portraits even though he is admittedly terrible at painting. He just enjoys the activity, finds it relaxing.

Also on a completely rhetorical note, is it wrong to take life advice from a fictional character in a horror novel?

Summer is historically (by that I mean since about 2005) a slow time for me and knitting. We just do not spend a lot of time together, since it's five hundred degrees each day and there is no moisture in the air and I feel like if I rub the sticks and string too tightly together I might get a spark.

But I started knitting anyway, doing a little bit of catch-up on a project that I started I KID YOU NOT in the year 2005. Yes. That is correct.

It is a cable-knit scarf from this book:


And this is the pattern I'm using:


And this is what it looks like so far, after sitting inside a Ziploc on and off for many years and finally being pulled out again to keep me busy during "Confessions of a Matchmaker," a television show which I find endlessly awesome. Meet my first ever cabled scarf:

Those brown things at the top are little pieces of yarn I use to separate out the cable areas. I cannot memorize a pattern to save my soul, the end.

It actually surprises me that I was able to produce something this pretty from my own fingers. Now of course, I only have produced eight inches of it in a two year period but hey, pretty is pretty! Even if it is pretty slow going!

This picture makes it look bigger than it is.

Had I known then what I know now -- which is that I am a scary tight knitter and my stitches are very small -- I would have gone way up on the needle size or the weight of the yarn. But when I decided to make this scarf way back when I was in the midst of a Very Serious Budget Crisis, and I found a couple of skeins of this white Caron yarn in the discount bin once at JoAnn's Fabrics and it fit the bill (hah! fit the bill!) and it's really lovely, soft yarn even if it is on the smaller side of the scale. (It's been discontinued, i think, and I don't have the ball band to remember what it's called but it has angora in it.) I'm going to make little pom-poms for the edges when it's all done, which at the rate I am going will be some time in the year 2027. I hope I still have a neck then to keep warm!


Posted by laurie at 10:36 AM

May 24, 2007

Thursday Knitting or "Yes I am making another hat." Plus other items of equally great interest.

Hat #349,843:


It's my current obsession Patons SWS in "Natural Earth" and I'm making a ribbed-brim hat. I cast on 72 stitches on a size 10 Addi and started with knit four, purl four all the way around for the ribbing. For the body I switched to size 10.5 bamboo needles (I don't think I have a 10.5 addi ... or if I do it is hiding...) and started the stockinette body. I only got one row of that done, but not bad progress for bus knitting.

Such pretty yarn! This is the roll-brim version in progress.

And this is a finished roll-brim hat made from the same yarn:

Hello bathroom mirror. In this picture it is 5:30 a.m. and yet still someone almost walked in on me photographing myself in the ladies room at work while wearing normal boring work clothes + one wool hat, in MAY. There are many things about all of that which are wrong to Very Conservative Workplace, Inc., and would make people wonder if I were drinking something a bit stronger than coffee.

Alas, I am not.

I pretended to be looking for something in my purse. Then I washed my hands. I felt suspiciously like a ladies room interloper ... maybe it was the hat.

Oh, also I am not going to Stitch 'n Bitch tonight, sadly. I got in to work and realized that I have Monday off for Memorial Day. Yay me! Then I realized the project that is due for Monday is now due... tomorrow. Boo hiss. So I will be working late and trying to catch up. The good news is that the late bus is always in the worst of the worst traffic so I will probably finish my ribby-brim hat on the way home. That is good news, right?

No, wait, don't answer that.

Why is that guy so happy about $3.59 a gallon?


So over the weekend I was riding in the passenger seat of Faith's car and saw this guy driving and I rolled down my window and I tried so hard to tell him he had something stuck to his window:


"Hey, guy! You have something stuck on your car!" I was even waving my arms and gesturing but he never saw me. I just thought this was the FUNNIEST THING EVER. I cracked myself right up. I am sometimes about ten years old. Oh! I also love to drive by any place that has a funny statue -- you know, like western wear stores that have a big horse statue on top of their sign -- and I like to roll down the window and yell, "Don't jump! Don't jump!"

My ex-husband never thought this was funny.

I believe that is a VERY telling sign. In the future, I think I need to take all my dates past the BBQ place on Ventura in the West Valley, the one that has a big cow on top of the sign, and holler at it not to jump. If the date thinks this is funny, he gets another chance.

What...? It sounded like a good idea....

Posted by laurie at 7:46 AM

May 23, 2007

Stitch 'n Pitch


Knitters are the most unique people on earth ... who else could invent something as nutty-fun as "Stitch 'n Pitch" combining baseball, knitting and Dodger Dogs? Oh! And do not forget the ten-dollar beer! Do not spill even a drop... a single ounce of that small plastic cup cost you a buck and a half!

I almost backed out of going last night to the Los Angeles Stitch 'n Pitch event because I wanted to go home and go directly to bed. I'm a weenie, and not just of the Dodger Dog variety (by the way, two days in a row using the word weenie! hee!) but I'd already bought the ticket and I have to admit my curiosity got the best of me. I'm so glad I went! I started fading on about the fourth inning, but it was well worth it. Check out the crowd:


Oh yeah. There is this one other teetiny thing I may have forgot to mention, which is that I am rather deathly afraid of heights. Just a little bit. So when I saw where we were going in the stadium I tried to call in sick again, but Faith was having none of it. It is good to have friends who don't let you back out of stuff. Except when you are in peril of dying from altitude sickness.

You see, Dodger Stadium is climbed in three steps. First there is base camp at the foot of the mountain, Mt. Dodgerest. And that is where in the past I always lived, at Base Camp, also known as "I will pay extra for seats where gravity is still an active force on my body."

If you are a more adventurous climber, you make the trek halfway up the mountain, a route first made by Edmund Hillary during the Great Dodger Dog Exploration of 19somethingorother. There is mustard and relish awaiting you. This area allows for proper altitude acclimatization in order to prevent altitude sickness. You can also get ten dollar beer here.

Faith poses for crazy camera crew during exploration of Dodger Dog Camp at Mt. Dodgerest. I am merely acclimating her to vacationing with me wherein I will take 3,000 pictures per day.

Finally, if you are brave and have a sherpa, or are a KNITTER, apparently, you make the final ascent to the summit. Heavy climbing equipment is recommended, but alas they do not sell hard liquor at Mt. Dodgerest. You have to rely on the ten dollar beer to keep you from hurling as you attempt to scale the treacherous stairs and avoid spillage. Once at the top people will take your picture to remind you that you survived the arduous journey:


I really tried hard to say hey and be sociable and I drank many (4) cups of coffee beforehand so I would be alert and not schlumpysniffly, but I have to tell you I was not prepared for the perilous altitude. I do not know if you are afraid of heights. If you are not, then I salute you and your badassery. I myself am a complete land-loving mudfoot. I plan to lobby the Stitch 'n Pitch folks next year to get us closer to the earth's crust, where I hear they even have a thing called "oxygen."

Aside from my constant fear that I would at any moment tumble off into space, I had a remarkable fine time and met new friends:
Laura, left, and Debbie and Jerry say hey!

Face-hugged old friends:
Me and Gwen drank beer(s), plural.

Captured the parents-to-be, Sara and Richard:

This was the first time I'd been to a Dodgers game in YEARS, it was really fun. I love to go to baseball games (I can't stand to watch it on TV, or any sport for that matter... except soccer, which always makes me think of being in some pub somewhere and seeing folks go ape over a goal) but baseball games just have such a good feeling about them, maybe it's the beer or maybe it's the hotdogs, maybe it's the cute guys in tight pants. Who knows! But it was made all the more entertaining by hundreds of folks knitting in the stands.

I love knitters. Ya'll are buckwild crazy.


Posted by laurie at 9:53 AM

May 10, 2007

Thursdays are for very tightly held knitting...

I finished up the knitting portion of both the easy felted bracelet bags I'm making: a red one (two strands of Patons Classic Wool in red plus one strand of some shiny Patons) and one bag out of Patons Soy Wool Stripes (yarn pics here).

I intended to photograph both bags before stitching up the sides and felting them, so I said to the cats:

"Ok, get off the bed now, I'm going to take pictures of some knitting and I don't need you cats up here helping. Oh, man, I better do some lint rolling before I sit the knitting on this bed!"

What the cats heard:

"Ok, blah blah bed now, I'm going to take pictures of blah blah knitting and blah blahcats. Oh, cats, blah blah roll blah blah sit blah on the knitting blah!"




So, anyway, I'll take pictures some other day when the feline assistants are off shedding on the sofa or thowing up on something expensive in the other room.

While I was finishing up the knitting portion of these two bags, I was reminded once again what a psychotically insanely pathologically TIGHT knitter I am. Faith was gracious enough to do most of the knitting on the bracelet bag made of Patons SWS, and as I began to do the finishing (knitting the final decreases and tab) I immediately noticed her gauge was far more airy and light than mine ever is. I struggled to hold the yarn super lightly in my hands, with lots of looseness, and still I ended up with one stitch to every two of hers.

And since I was knitting on the bus, each time we hit a bump my "loosely held" stitches jumped off the needles, so I had many swearing events, once even prompting the entire five rows of passengers ahead of me to turn and stare at me ("Hi! Just knitting here! Got to the infamous shit stitch, you know that one, right? Right? Don't mind me!") So not only is my tension wonky on this bag but there are also some precariously knitted areas. Hopefully it won't matter after it's felted.

When we were at brunch a few weeks back one of the girls made a joke that she'd work up a pattern for me -- all on Size Giant needles so folks would know it's a Laurie-approved-pattern. I know I get teased for using larger needles but the truth is my gauge is always two needle sizes away from the recommended gauge (at least). What other knitters get on a size 8 needle, I get on a size 10.5 or 11. I think this is one of the reasons sometimes folks find my roll-brim hat pattern still a bit too large, and I need to update it to talk about my clearly Freudian usage of yarn in dealing with my personal challenges. Hello, crazy, we would like our gauge back now please!

Even though I was having knitting issues, I still loved that stripey soft lopi-esque Patons SWS, so I dug around in my stash and found that one ball of SWS I had purchased back in December when I was pre-shopping for my upcoming three-month shopping moratorium. (The secret to success is to always, always pre-shop.) This ball of yarn is in a colorway called "Natural Geranium" and it is SO BEAUTIFUL. I clipped my 40% off coupon for Michael's so that on Saturday I can stock up on more, I love it. Right now I'm making the aforementioned simple roll-brim hat:


Yes, Doctor, we have seen her cramped little stitches! Give her wine, STAT!

That is 72 stitches cast on using a size 10.5 needle and featuring one knitter with a clearly snug grip on those baby bamboos. After the hat is done, I'd like to make a matching scarf in this same yarn but can't decide between a magic scarf, or maybe a simple 3x3 rib, or something new. I like modified seed stitch (using two knits and two purls instead of 1x1) but I haven't decided yet. I do think I want to trim the scarf, whatever it ends up being, with three or four small pompoms. This yarn is lofty enough to make even the most exacting pompom enthusiast very, very happy.

And that is why I knit really. For the happy and for the pompoms.


Posted by laurie at 9:56 AM

February 13, 2007

Luckily my knitting fingers were unharmed.

No injury is really tragic enough to keep me from my addiction. I admit it: Hello, my name is Laurie and I am a Noro Addict. (Reader Sue F. calls it the "Norovirus" which, also, is coincidentally a real virus and I am sort of sad that it doesn't cause one to spew forth Noro Kureyon from all orifices.)

I have some Noro Blossom that I procured a while back from Allison at SuperCrafty. It's a gorgeous purple-fuchsia-red colorway which I can't actually share with you since Bob ate the labels off every single skein. I knit up a little swatch of the Blossom and it's so beautiful and nubby and unique-looking! I counted my stitches per inch like a good little knitter, then cast on for a simple easy Roll-Brim hat.

Now, at some point when I have this alleged "free time" people are always speaking of, I will go back and add notations to all my patterns to remind ya'll I am a FREAKISHLY tight knitter and so you need to do a swatch to check your gauge or go up a needle size on all my patterns. I also wanted this hat to be not-super-snug so as to avoid telltale hat hair.

Yarn: Noro Blossom (1 full skein + a tiny bit of a second skein) Needles: Size 10.5 circular needle, later size 10.5 double-pointed needles Cast on: 66 stitches Other: Stitch markers, cats, sense of humor, wine, spackle

You may be saying, "Uh, who uses spackle in their knitting?"

That answer would be "me."

I knitted the full body of this hat while watching the Grammy Awards (love you, garter stitch in the round!!) and then last night I got home and decided to finish it off with my dpns and decreases and wine and so on.


Where were my double-pointed dpns of death in size 10.5?
Where they perhaps... sadly languishing in a corner all alone because they had been gnawed to a bamboo pulp by one Bob T. Cat?


Usually I keep all my needles in a patented Bob-proof Needle Protection Device ("ziploc bag") but a few months ago I was making a hat and had stuffed the near-completed object into my knitting bag where under cover of darkness, Bob snuck up on them and dug them out in the middle of the night and proceeded to leave big, deep chew marks all over their bamboo surfaces. And because I am right smack in the middle of my no-shopping-for-three-months resolution, I decided to first try to repair my needles before running off to the store for more.

Luckily, I am a rather industrious gal who is often puttering around the house doing such things as replacing hinges, fixing stuck windows and spackling like nobody's business. Home improvement is just like crafting, you merely get your supplies in a different store. And sometimes you can get a trained specialist to come and repair what you "fixed."

So, with some wood filler and a little sandpaper I decided to give knitting needle repair a go.



In all honesty, I was surprised it worked! Now, I won't be running around spackling all my bamboo needles or anything, but in a pinch this did the job. I had to keep rubbing them with wax paper from time to time to keep them smooth, but whatever. I can go shopping again on April 1st and until then these will do just fine.


Probably the most helpful tip I have learned when it comes to hat knitting is to place markers after each decrease. Then you can stop counting and just remember to knit the two stitches together that come right before the markers. I use a different color marker to designate the beginning of a round, and then I can knit on the bus in the early morning with no coffee and still not mess up!

Traffic was so heavy this morning that I managed to knit up and finish the rest of my hat by the time I got into work. I just held it in my hands right there on the bus and thought how much I love, love, love making hats. There's nothing finer in the world than a simple, beautiful hand-knit hat.

Then I went into the Top Secret Picture Taking Spot and made faces in my hat:



And even though he is a fiesty needle-eating monster, I have to say Bob has an appreciation of knitting that makes all his yarn-eating and needle-gnawing transgressions fade under weight of his unbearable cuteness:



Posted by laurie at 9:42 AM

February 6, 2007

Letting my knitter freak flag fly...

So, finally, FINALLY, I finished my mismatched crazy green scarf. You can read about the beginning of this yarny wonder right here.

Since my little Roy has gotten so skinny in his old age he gets cold easily and to keep warm, he prefers to be held all the time. Sometimes I zip him up in my hoodie and just carry him around. I'm pretty sure this will not be information I give immediately to the next potentially dateable man I meet, but at least I don't have a possum in my bra. So when it came time to take the picture I had a little furry addition:

Roy gets his snuggle on.

He's the gangsta of love.

Finishing up this scarf reminded me of the HUGE KNITTING EPIPHANY I had while making this (very heavy and thick ... and did I mention HEAVY?) piece of work.

It was about a month ago, and Drew and I were on the phone chitchatting as we tend to do on Saturday mornings. I was telling him I had to go soon, take a shower and get ready for Saturday Stitch 'n Bitch and he asked me what project I was going to take.

"The mismatched green scarf," I said.

"How's that one going?" he asked.

"Oh!" I said, excited. "It's so weird and nutty, I love it!"

And then I told him how I was at our knitting group the night I started this weird wacky scarf and one of our knitters said, "You're so adventurous to make something mixing yarns like that." And I was stunned, because me? I am just picking two balls of yarn, or three, and stranding them together and if it sucks oh well. Science experiment! Scarf! And the pretty gal telling me I was "adventurous" was sitting right there, knitting up a sweater! A whole sweater!(!!!) In light of that I didn't think I was so adventurous. But who am I to argue with someone's praise. I pretended I was adventurous. I maybe was full of myself.

So I was telling this to Drew, because I just love the way all our brains are so different and what seems risky to one is another's piece of cake, and how knitting is as much about the personality and desire of the knitter as it is a craft.

And Drew, my Drewguru, said, "I was at dinner one night with one of the industry folks at TNNA, and we were talking about different kinds of knitters. And how some people can be basic knitters -- like you, making mostly scarves and occassionally hats -- but they stick to these basic items, and they can become quite advanced basic knitters."

I let it sink in.

"I AM AN ADVANCED BASIC KNITTER!!!" I was sort of excited, Good Lord I love to classify things, including myself. "I KNIT THE BASICS!" Ya'll. It was 8 a.m. I was not even drinking.

And the thing is, I do sometimes look at knitting websites and see the beautiful and complex garments made by knitters and I have, on occassion, felt like I was a small daft child on the short bus to garter stitch. Like it is a competition or something, I should be doing better! Making more intricate things! Covering my house in sweaters!

The truth is, knitting is as personal as the knitter. No two people are alike, so no two people knit the same.

I myself love knitting because it is a stress reliever, keeps my hands busy so I don't miss smoking, and it gives me a safe (scarf) place to play with my favorite things: color, texture, and scale. When I used to paint, I did everything that same way. I was a pretty awful painter but I just liked doing it. I liked making huge canvases, weird textures with gesso, mixing two paints or techniques to see what would happen.

So I make scarves that are ten feet long, or have six-inch wide pom poms on the end, or use eleventy two green yarns mixed together.

It's a personal thing, an intimate connection between your personality, your day-to-day life, and your hands. Truth is, I like to just wing it. I love yarn and I love needles, so I relax by making it up as I go, enjoying the feel of the fabric and the strange shapes it sometimes takes. I look to knitting as my safe relaxing place. I used to feel apologetic about all this, like I wasn't properly challenging my skills. Now I know it's just the way my brain works. There is no right or wrong here, and that is such a comforting idea!

Conversely, some knitters relax by giving themselves fully over to the challenge of building a garment, or steeking, or constructing a fine and delicate glove so intricate you'd just stare at it in complete awe. The challenge of a new technique, a more complicated and technical pattern, the scale of a sweater or a carefully constructed lace shawl makes many knitters feel centered, relaxed, happy. It's like active meditation, isn't it? I feel that way about a lot of things -- the more involved I can get in the process, the challenge, the better I feel. (I am like that with Photoshop. The more complex the better! Bring it on! Zen, baby!)

But I am not that way with knitting. I knit because I can't afford therapy and my job is challenging, my commute is challenging, my city sometimes makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and eat my own hand. So I need my knitting to untangle my inside chaos and nuttiness. I get my artistic challenge on each day at work with Photoshop and billboards and ad campaigns. Ergo, it is perfectly fine to not need a challenging sweater. (It is also perfectly fine to need that challenging sweater! Knitting is not the object, it is the person behind the object.) (See? Epiphany!)

We all knit at our own speed, at our own level of therapeutic crazy, and my crazy is obviously in need of pom poms. I like the oddness of my creations, the imbalance, the perfectly weird end product of my needles.

Something about this whole train of thought made me exhale with relief. I can become a subject matter expert at my one thing, goofy basics. It frees me up to more thoroughly enjoy your sweater, or your complex lace, and rather than feel we're in a race to HAVE ALL THE FINISHED OBJECTS EVER, I can admire you for the way your brain works, so different from mine. Win-win.

And this epiphany was not even fueled by wine!

Did I really stick my be-hind out that far?
Ah, I am so very professional.

So ugly, but it's mama loves it.
Perfect for a vacation to some place COLD!

Posted by laurie at 8:53 AM

January 5, 2007

Flower Pom Pom

One of the questions I've gotten a lot about my first roll-brim hat was how to make the pompom on top:

Yarn: Lana Grossa Colore Print in color #004, 100% virgin wool, so soft!
Pattern: Try the easy roll-brim hat pattern

Making this flower pompom is really easy! It's made just like an old-school regular pompom, but you don't cut the ends.

I first learned how to make pompoms when I was in the 5th grade and was OBSESSED with roller skating. The roller skating rink in our town sold pink and green pompoms with bells for $12 a pair. I coveted a set of bell pompoms, you put them on the toe laces of your skates. We couldn't affors that astronomical price of course (TWELVE WHOLE DOLLARS) and neither could a lot of my friends, so we made our own.

We didn't have a pompom maker like you can buy in the stores now (in fact, until I started knitting I didn't know there was such a thing!) and while I definitely use my store-bought pompom maker now for traditional toppers, this flower pom-pom only needs yarn and a "guide" made from one of the following: a knitting stitch ruler thingy OR a sturdy postcard OR a piece of cardboard approximately 6 inches long and 3 1/2 inches tall.

This works best with bulkier yarns. I am using my stitch ruler/needle size guide I picked up at Michael's when I first learned to knit.

Yarn, pompom "guide" plus scissors and scrap yarn to tie the middle.

Step One: Wrap a whole bunch of yarn around the guide. Try to make it so that the yarn is mostly in an even layer (not wrapped in a bulge all in one place).

Step Two: Once you have a good amount of yarn wrapped, carefully slide the yarn off the guide. Pinch it in the middle.

Step three: Use a small piece of yarn to tie the whole bunch in the center.

Step four: Fluff into a rounded shape! Voila!

Happy Friday! It's windy here, so make sure your flower pompom is securely fastened to your hat. It's been so windy that every leaf and piece of yard debris in a one mile radius has somehow ended up on my back patio. We have wind that has actually closed roads here. California, I tell you what. Crazy!

Posted by laurie at 9:15 AM

January 3, 2007

And now we talk about knitting: Mismatched Scarf progress

There's going to be more knitting for me in 2007, at least for a few months! I was absurdly busy on a big project last year for most of the fall and I didn't have a lot of time for knitting. My favorite time to knit is when I'm on the bus, and I ended up driving to work too often, my hours were a little ... long. Of course, with traffic I could probably knit in the Jeep if only it weren't a stick shift. Reminds me of a REALLY FUNNY (read: bad) joke I heard:

A blonde was driving her car when a police officer pulled up alongside her. He noticed the blonde was knitting while she was driving. He turned on his lights, and gestured at her to pull the car over, but she didn't understand him. So, she rolled down her window to hear him better.

"PULL OVER!" said the policeman.

"NO," replied the blonde. "CARDIGAN!"

Heh. I never said my sense of humor was refined or anything.

Scarf Stuff
So, anyway, what I am saying here in a rather wordy and comma splicey way is that I missed my knitting! After my big working project wrapped up, I still had the free-floating anxiety you get from stressing out over a thing for so long. (This used to happen to me every year after final exams, too.) So one night I just went though my yarn bins when I couldn't sleep, and rounded up all the like-colored orphan yarns in shandes of green or oatmeal or off-white. I started knitting it at the holiday Stitch 'n Bitch party:


This is a 2x2 rib stitch using 36 cast-on stitches with lots of mixing going on. I'm about 1/3 of the way finished so far, and this thing is wacky! I love it.
Click on the image below for a much BIGGER view:

Here is a close-up of some of my mismatched yarn stripes and color combinations:

All Those Bleeping Ends
When I mentioned I was making this potpourri-leftover-yarn scarf, Joyce (better known on these innernets as Mpratmom) asked me the following question:

I am knitting a scarf in my head of all the leftover pieces that will blend together nicely, but I cannot figure out the ideal way to keep all those end pieces from the joins from eventually working their way out and giving the finished scarf an overall ratty look. How do you keep the ends tucked into the scarf, especially if there are going to be a lot of joins from using many leftover pieces?

Okay, I don't have a picture here of what I'm about to explain because I don't have eight hands (unfortunately! think of all the simul-knitting-writing-eating-channel surfing I could do!) but you'll have to trust me, if I can do this little maneuver, anyone can do it. I am not so coordinated as it turns out. Guess my 8th grade gym teacher was right and I will never be a pro volleyball player. Yeah, I'll cry my eyes out later... after I finish this row...

So! After about row three of this scarf I had a really ugly bunch of ends hanging off the sides. Not good! I wove those in as soon as I changed colors, because I can be neurotic that way, and I realized it would take me FOREVER to weave in all the ends this scarf would have! So I started knitting them in as I went along. For example, when you cut one yarn and add another, use the cut yarn tail to cross over the stitches as you knit, locking them in.

Try it on a practice swatch to see what I mean... you take the cut yarn tail and basically let your stitches "weave" it in by just moving the cut end crosswise over your working yarn. On a scarf as crazy and nubby as this one, no one can tell where the ends were woven in. And since I do it as I go, there are no strays at the end of the day poking out! I was rather pleased with myself for seeing how well this worked. Who cares about volleyball! I am a scarf knitter! I'm sure it burns way more calories anyway.

Hope that helps, Joyce!

Yarn Stuff
One of the things I loved about making this scarf was that I discoved two new Patons yarns that I LOVE.

I got really mad at Patons a few years ago for discontinuing their fabulous 100% wool UpCountry yarn. It was affordable and gorgeous and soft and lopi and I loved it. The Patons folks seemed to be discontinuing a lot of their plainer, basic yarns and going wild with the frou-frou fun fur crazy wacky novelty yarns. It made me so mad! I mean I like a wacky yarn choice as much as anyone, but we still need some affordable basics out here!

Well, anyway, right before my big January 1, 2007 No More Spending thing kicked in, I made a quick trip to Michael's for a few things and spotted this Paton's alpaca-blend yarn called "Rumor" for $5:


GORGEOUS! You can see this skein is still attached to my needles up there in the progress picture of my scarf, I can't stop knitting with this silky, pretty yarn.

And it is soft as a dream to knit with, acrylic with 15% alpaca, and it's super snuggly and comes in great colors. I knitted one row in green on my mismatched scarf and immediately went back to the store for a big pile of this in a soft heathered pinkish red color. I think I'll make a matching hat and scarf combo out of the pink. (YES. I realize that stockpiling against the idea of not-spending for three months is rather counter-intuitive but hey. I do the best I can.)

Also on my pre-shopping foray to Michael's, I found a ball of Patons Shetland Chunky Tweed in a dark forest green which doesn't look very soft but it is! Knits up so touchable and nubby, I just love it. Way to go Patons, with the new alpaca blend, your new (beautiful) soy-wool stripes yarn, and all your Classic Wool, I feel like you're back on track and providing excellent yarn at decent low prices. Love, The Consumer. P.S. I wouldn't be mad at you for bringing back the Up Country, though! I'm just saying is all.

The cats are not as excited about the new Patons yarn selection.

Posted by laurie at 11:39 AM

Mismatched Green Stripey Scarf: Finished!

Progress page:

There's going to be more knitting for me in 2007, at least for a few months! I was absurdly busy on a big project last year for most of the fall and I didn't have a lot of time for knitting. My favorite time to knit is when I'm on the bus, and I ended up driving to work during most of the fall, my hours were a little ... long. The commuter buses only run until 6 p.m., so there you have it. Of course, with traffic... I could knit in the Jeep if only it weren't a stick shift. Reminds me of a REALLY FUNNY (read: bad) joke I heard:

A blonde was driving her car when a police officer pulled up alongside her. He noticed the blonde was knitting while she was driving. He turned on his lights, and gestered at her, but she didn't understand him. So, she rolled down her window to hear him better.

"PULL OVER!" said the policeman.

"NO," replied the blonde. "CARDIGAN!"

Heh. I never said my sense of humor was refined or anything.

So, anyway, what I am saying here in a rather wordy and comma splicey way is that I missed my knitting! After my big working project wrapped up, I still had the free-floating anxiety you get from stressing out over a thing for so long. (This used to happen to me every year after final exams, too.) So one night I just went though my yarn bins when I couldn't sleep, and rounded up all the like-colored orphan yarns in shandes of green or oatmeal or off-white.

It was a load of yarn! I forgot to take a picture of all the skeins, but I will before I finish this sucker. I'm only about halfway done and already it has about fourteen different yarns in it!

Some were skeins I had picked up in grab bags, or were sent to me in de-stashing generosity, or I had bought just one or two skeins of something on sale and of course never had enough later for a full project. These are all different weights and fibers and textures.

I put all the yarn in one of those giant ziploc bags that holds massive amounts of fiber, I AM SO HAPPY THEY INVENTED THE BIG ZIPLOCS, and I started knitting. At first I just picked blindly, using whatever yarn came from the bag. You can see the very beginning rows of my scarf here, I was knitting it at the holiday Stitch 'n Bitch party:


This is a 2x2 rib stitch, I just casted on 36 stitches (I like wide, hugely long scarves) (I am a freak of scarf nature) and I started alternating whenever I got bored: some fuzzy, mixing two yarns here, two there, carry one yarn but drop another, oh! Mohair! I really love to mix yarns together. This is why I adore knitting scarves, they can be funky and weird and off-kilter, and I can try new combinations of colors or textures.

And I can work on this one at home while watching teevee. It's mindless -- knit two purl two -- and if I get bored I just pick a new color or add a new yarn. I get bored pretty easily, so usually I have several projects going at once. This one is fun, though, I can switch up the yarn at any time!

I'm about 1/3 of the way finished so far, click on the image for a much BIGGER view:

Here is a close-up of some of my mismatched yarn stripes and color combinations:


One of the things I loved about making this scarf was that I discoved two new Patons yarns that I LOVE. I got really mad at Patons a few years ago for discontinuing their fabulous 100% wool UpCountry yarn. It was affordable and gorgeous and soft and lopi and I loved it. The Patons folks seemed to be discontinuing a lot of their plainer, basic yarns and going wild with the frou-frou fun fur crazy wacky novelty yarns. It made me so mad! I mean I like a wacky yarn choice as much as anyone, but we still need some affordable basics out here!

Well, anyway, right before my big January 1 No More Spending thing kicked in, I made a quick trip to Michael's for a few things and spotted this Paton's alpaca-blend yarn called "Rumor" for $5:



And it is soft as a dream to knit with, mostly acrylic with 15% alpaca, and it's super snuggly and comes in great colors. I knitted one row in green on my mismatched scarf and immediately went back to the store for a big pile of this in pinky-red for a matching hat and scarf combo.

I also found a ball of green Patons Shetland Chunky Tweed in a dark forest green which doesn't look very soft but it is! Knits up so touchable and nubby, I just love it. Way to go Patons, with the new alpaca blend, your new (beautiful) soy-wool stripes yarn, and Classic Wool, I feel like you're back on track and providing excellent yarn at lower prices. Love, The Consumer.

The cats are not as excited about the new Patons yarn selection.

Posted by laurie at 11:16 AM

December 27, 2006

Knitters get the shout out!

Hey! Very exciting news! Go over and visit LAist today and check out the crazy cat lady Top Ten list of local yarn shops. I could only talk about places I myself have shopped, so be sure to add your twelve cents on our other fabulous LA yarn haunts. And even if you aren't local, show them some comment love for recognizing The Power Of The Knitters. I figure next year Time magazine's person of the year will be You: The Knitter. We're the only ones who make a damn bit of sense anyway.

Posted by laurie at 9:21 AM

December 7, 2006

The REAL Knit 'n Crossbones T-shirt!

Thank you so much to the kind folks who pointed out that teevee "annexed" fellow knitter Leah's cool T-shirt design for that Knit Or Go Home T-shirt featured on Gilmore Girls last week. Stupid teevee!! And this very talented Leah has also created a sewing version of the T-shirt that is freakin' adorable! I hope it's OK I am using screencaptures of her website here but ya'll, really, this is the cuteness:


And you can buy this real bonafide knitting swag at Magpie or the Crafster shop. No, I don't know any of these people, and also I can't get the crafster website through the firewall at work (ya'll must be crafting porn, that's my guess) (joking!!) but I do love me a crafty girl, and hope ya'll rush out and buy some of her t-shirts. That sewing one might end up in the Christmas stocking of a few of my oh-sew-crafty (HAR HAR) friends! My knitting friends get a cat, of course. Whoops, did I say that out loud?

Is it Friday yet?

Posted by laurie at 9:11 AM

December 5, 2006

What Would Brenda Leigh Johnson knit?

In another fine attempt to ensure I never find a boyfriend, here I am taking yet even more pictures of my television set because my favorite fictional best friends are taking up knitting, just like me!

In a blink-and-you-missed-it moment on the special 2-hour episode of The Closer last night, Brenda is off on a four-month paid administrative lead because of what happened on the season finale with the FBI-protected witness, Lt. Provenza and Detective Hot Sanchez. And Brenda is obviously not loving being off work, and has taken up some activities, one of which appears to be knitting!

Brenda reaching for a blanket, you see her knit stash.

Fritz holding Brenda's knitting on the sofa.

I am a big fat nerd, ya'll.

So, okay, I feel there is a line somewhere about ladies with cats and television shows they talk about as if these were real people and also that time I tried to convince someone I wanted to marry my Dyson, but whatever. Brenda Leigh Johnson, my favorite television person (sorry, Lorelai) knits! Or tried to, once.

Now if only Detective Hot Sanchez would give me a call so I could demonstrate my deep appreciation for television law enforcement. Ya'll know.

Posted by laurie at 1:08 PM

November 30, 2006

Knit or Go Home

As promised, screencaps of the shirt Lorelai was wearing on Gilmore Girls this week, and also hey can I ask ya'll a question? At what point do you go from just regular old crazybones to real bonafide weirdo? Is it when you take pictures of your TV and tell people? or when you start living your life based upon what a fictional TV person might do? Or when you think, Lord, I cannot believe it is gale force winds outside and I have to drive in to work and it is COLD at 4:30 a.m., and why WHY don't I live in Stars Hollow?

Just curious.




Found some search results for this T-shirt on cafepress here. Also, for the eleventy two people who have asked me will I please shut up and knit something already ... or have I just kicked knitting aside like a redheaded stepchild? Well! Yes I am working on some knitting. I am knitting ... stuff. It's a single project, really, sort of an ordeal if you ask me. Much like the Mystery Knitted Cat Thing, which will be revealed just any day now. If you believe that, also, I have a cat I'd like to sell you ... real rare. Has all its original claws!

If I don't die of a heart attack from all the stress of the past few weeks (I woke up three days in the past two weeks thinking I was having a heart attack, turned out I had a cat on my chest BUT STILL) then, anyway, I will show you my knitting and stuff and I'm sure you will be... ah. Whelmed. Appropriately whelmed. I am maybe not the best knitter on the planet but I am certainly... unique. heh.

Knit or go home!!!

Posted by laurie at 9:48 AM

November 29, 2006

Hey, it's perfectly normal to take pictures of your own television set

Ya'll suppose I just aged myself, what with calling it the "television set" and all?

Anyway, hi! Stars Hollow had a knitathon last night on Gilmore Girls! It is my secret deep-dark fantasy that someone there at the Gilmore Girls Snappy Dialogue Shop reads this here online diary and understands my bizarro WWLGD fixation, and simply added knitting into the show for the sheer enjoyment of the fans and, also, GLORIFICATION of the knitting.

I am maybe delusional, but whatever.

So, Stars Hollow had a knitathon, and here is Lorelai preparing by doing some intensive training at her house:


Here is the town square on the day of the knitathon:

Taylor looks like a mound of Lion Brand boucle threw up on him, in a good way:

All the town regulars plus Christopher gathered around for the event:

Last picture below, of Lorelai and Suki knitting. And because I really am THAT big of a dork, I used the Tivo 5-second rewind feature about eleventeen times to see that they were indeed doing the knit stitch, so they are either amazing method actors or actually knit in real life. That Tivo 5-second rewind thing has spoiled me rotton by the way. I find myself trying to do it with all sorts of things, like the car radio, my CD player, my ipod and occassionally my own mouth. Never works.


So now when I have a dilemma and I am asking myself, What Would Lorelai Gilmore Do? I know the answer. She's probably knit something, then have a slice of pizza. No wonder I love that show.

Posted by laurie at 10:22 AM

October 12, 2006

Crazy Aunt Knitting Spot

Whoops! I almost forgot to post my own little corner of stockinette in the round. Which, by the way, is what I do because I am so incapable of watching teevee while knitting something hard like cables or any item requiring counting. Also, I know this will come as a surprise, but sometimes there is wine involved which further decreases my knitting IQ (while, conversely, increasing my delusions of knitting grandeur. Also known as "I don't need no stinking pattern! I'll just make one on my own!")


Notice all the knitting helpers I have! They are my backup fiber, in case I run out of cat-hair-covered yarn, I can just go straight for the cat hair. Kind of like fun fur, only cheaper.



- - - - -

A few Knitting Spot updates, too, that I left out of the gallery:

Ruth sent me links to her pictures on flickr which try as I might I could not figure out how to save (read: steal) for this here website but they're very cool and they have fancy roll-over notes:
Ruth's knitting Spot and Ruth's other knitting spot

And Samantha wrote to me a few weeks ago and said, "I didn't even know that my favorite cafe had a MySpace page until I Googled it to find images for you. Scroll down and you'll see the beautiful garden area (that's in the back) and the cool, artsy area inside with the leather couches and rotating art displays. The best drink on the menu? The venti soy (hot or iced!) Mexican Mocha -- mmm, cinnamon. Hugs to you & the Insane Cat Posse."

Well, Samantha, I wasn't able to post the pictures because one of the cats, I will not say WHICH ONE, was maybe hogging the MySpace and so I couldn't borrow (read: steal) the pics like I wanted. Cats these days. What can you do?

And I do thank you folks who have been sending in notes here and there with knitting spots... I will put together a new gallery in a few months, once my brain has recovered from the first one and I conveniently forget about the evil internet coding and so on and think, "Oh, that was so much fun! Let's do pictures again!"

Luckily, my brain is small that way, and forgets things once enough time has passed. For example, I have no idea what I had for dinner last night. I might have had something really healthy and good for me and full of...uh. Nutrients? Or maybe it was a bag of microwave popcorn, half a chocolate bar and seven-eighths of a bottle of pinot.

Your guess is as good as mine!

Posted by laurie at 10:56 AM

October 5, 2006

Seeing Spots! Knitting Spots, that is.

Thanks ya'll for sharing your knitting spots with me, I had a good ol' time checking out everyone's sofas and decor, I love it!

This took me FOREVER AND THREE DAYS to create this gallery, and I think I finally finished some time in the wee small hours between cabernet and tumpover, so please be kind to me if there are a bunch of mistakes. I hope you enjoy -- I'll post my spot tomorrow(ish) and also try to correct some of the 657.5 omissions and mistakes I probably made. Also, you will notice that my comments became very cheesy and lame midway through. I'm sorry, I was losing IQ points with the horrible internet code stuff. Also, please be patient as there are eleventeen hundred thumbnails and no matter how small I made them, they just load slow. Whoops! That's why I'm just blathering away right here in the text part. Blather, blather. So ya'll will be occupied during the excruciating waiting period. Hi! What are ya'll making for dinner? I'm having microwave popcorn... again. Yup. Chitchat.

So, click on any thumbnail to start the gallery. There is some script in there that made my browser freak out but it's not a virus, I promise, it's just the code that makes the forward and next buttons work on the pictures. Magic! Gnomey!

Thanks for showing me your knitting spots ... this is a Nosy McButtinsky's dream come true!

- - - - - - - - -

Ally-knitting-spot   Amanda-knitting-spot   Bridget-KnittingSpot   Cursingmama-knitting-spot   

Emilie-knittingspot1   Emilie-knittingspot2   Emilie-knittingspot3   Jeanette-knittingspot   

Marti-knitting-spot   abbenormal-knitting-spot   alpacaaddict-knitspot1   alpacaaddict-knitspot2   

amandag-knitting-spot   annep-knittingspot   baxterknits-knit-spot   baxterwatch-knitspot   

bea-knitting-spot   bethc-knitting-spot   bigballofyarn-knit-spot   black-dog-knits-spot   

blathermagather-knitspot   blueswine-puppy   blueswine-spot   brandilion1   

brandilion2   camilla-cat-snuggle   camilla-cats   camilla-sofa   

camilla-sofa-closeup   camilla-sofa-orchid   carrie-knittin-chair   catmum-knitting-spot   

catmum-knitting-view   christine-knitting-spot   countess-shell-fireplace   countess-shell-hidey_hole   

countess-shell-loveseat   countess-shell-sofa   craftpirate-knitting-spot   ddrbroderick-knit-view   

ddrbroderick-knitspot   documaven-knitspot-luke   documaven-knitspotview   dorothee-knittingspot_details   

dorothee_knitting_spot   duckknits-knitting-spot1   duckknits-knitting-spot2   dusa-knitspot   

ebinla-knit-spot   ebinla-knit-wip   elabeth-knitting-spot   ellen-knitspot1   

ellen-knitspot2   ellenbloom-living-room   ellenbloom-snb   ellenbloom-yarn-stash   

fireflyknit-knitting-spot   floofle-knitspot   fuzzarelly-knitting-spot   greatbasin-knitspot   

haphazardknitter-inspot   haphazardknitter-outspot   imarried-knitspot   janna-knitting-spot   

jeninnyspot   juneadelle-knitting-spot   kate-bracelet   kate-kitty-like-roy   

kate-knitting-spot   kimct-knitting-spot   kirbanita-chair-with-sam   kirbanita-knitting-chair   

kis4krista-knitting-spot   kitknits-knittingspot   knit-at-night-spot   knitorious-knittingspot   

knits-and-pieces-knittingspot   knitsandgrits-knitspot   knitstory-knitting-spot   knitten-kittens-knitting-spot   

knittincoop-knitting-pond   knittingdogsandparrot-knitspot   knittinghere-knitting-spot   knittingwannabe-spot1   

knittingwannabe-tv   knittingwannabe-view   lani-Jasmine-and-Onyx   lani-KittyTV   

   littletribespot   lizr-knitspot1   lizr-knitspot2   

   magniferous-knitting-spot   maplecorners-simba-rex   marysvirginwool-knitspot   

   mivox-knitting-spot   mlqknits-knitting-spot   monicapdx-knitspot   

   mymerinomantra-knitting-spot   nan-knittingspot   nannyshanny-knitspot   

   needlesnhooks-knitspot2   ontheneedles-knittinspot   paknitwit-spot   

   peeve-knitspot   phoenix4-KnittingSpot1   phoenix4-KnittingSpot2   

   psychomom-knitspot2   quellesurprise-knit-spot   rancidraves-knitting-spot   

   reddirtknit-kitty   reddirtknit-kitty2   renalcelllive-knitspot   

   robinv-knitspot   robyn-knitting-spot   roggey-knitting-spot   

   roseredshoes-Sunday-spot   roseredshoes-knittingspot1   runswithknittingspot   

   shannon-knit-spot   showmeyourknits-knit-spot   shrinkingknitter-spot   

   stashaholic-clancy-helping   stashaholic-design-studio   stashaholic-design-studio2   

   stashaholic-stash-pile   stitchnsue-knitting-spot1   stitchnsue-knitting-spot2   

   stumblingoverchaos-knitspot   tellen-knitting-spot   theknitfarm-knit-spot2   

   tiaknits-spot   tikimama-knitting-spot   tikimama-knitting-view   

   trixie-chair2   trixie-view1   wendyknits-knitting-spot   

   wordsmythe1   wordsmythe2   zipper-knitspot1   

   zipper-knitspot3   zipper-knitspot4   

Posted by laurie at 3:24 PM

September 5, 2006

Knit Fix to the rescue!


Now can ya'll think of anyone on this planet more well-suited to an entire book about FIXING horrific, tragic and sometimes alarmingly knuckleheaded MISTAKES than yours truly? Be honest now. Ya'll aren’t going to hurt my feelings.

Well, as it turns out Lisa Kartus has explained all sorts of knitting mistakes and how to fix them in her new book out from Interweave Press called Knit Fix. Hello, publishing world. Meet your target audience: me.

Lisa is taking her knit-fixing show on the road, and today she’s helping me with some of my more wine-induced knitting errors. Welcome Lisa!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Q& A with Lisa! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Crazy Aunt Question: One of my very first knitting projects was this green ribbed scarf in Lion Brand wool-ease. Now from far away it doesn’t look too scary:


But up close it’s a big ol’ pile of beginner knitter mistakes.

Issue #1: I may have been possibly caught up in one of the very first episodes of LOST and possibly there was cabernet involved, but for whatever reason I thought it would be A REALLY GREAT IDEA to just join the yarn right in the middle of a row:


Is there any way to fix this error? I hate to go back and rip out eleventeen feet of scarfage.

Lisa The Knit Maven:

But Crazy Aunt Purl, this could be a whole new design element: yarn tails pretending to be Bob’s tail decorating both sides of your scarf.

Both sides – that’s the problem with joining yarn in the middle of a row on a scarf, both sides are open to the public.

All right, say you want to be conservative and hide that join. Go find some matching sewing thread and a sewing needle. Make a few (2? 3?) TINY stitches in the knot at the join. Then pull the thread snug to flatten the knot and weave needle and thread back and forth through two or three inches of ribbing. Pull at the rib to make sure you haven’t scrunched it up. Knitting stretches, you know. Tie a little tiny knot with it in your knitting. Cut the thread close to the knot very carefully – please, please don’t accidentally cut your knitting. Because that’s a whole other mess entirely.

About the Bob tail? Do the same thing, just put those tiny stitches into the yarn tail, then use the thread to weave in the tail.

And next time, join at the side, OK? Or put lots of Bob tails everywhere in the scarf.

Crazy Asks: And furthermore on the green ribby scarf of despair, I discovered my cat Bob had ... I don’t know. Made sweet love to it or something. And now I have these occasional big stretched-out stitches:


Lisa Answers:
Does Bob get blamed for everything? Poor baby. Well, to get him off the hook (no crochet pun intended; well, maybe...) pull the edge of your scarf longways. Now crossways. Pat Bob, tell him you understand that finding new uses for knitting is a requirement of felinehood, but if he does it again, you’ll clip his claws. Which he detests, if he’s anything like my felines. Then pull the scarf lengthwise and crosswise again. Repeat. See if those stretched-out stitches don’t crawl back into shape. If not, guess what? Take out that matching thread, thread that sewing needle and tack the suckers down with those tiny stitches that you’ve gotten really good at.

Q: Since we’re on the "blaming cats for knitting mistakes" train of thought, do you have any ideas for how to repair a beloved knitting needle that was gnawed to within an inch of it’s poor, Lantern Moon life?


I’m hoping the needle was gnawed only at the blunt end. If so, get out your sandpaper, girl. Use the heavy grit paper to start on that needle, then medium, then finish with the fine grit. That should smooth out the teeth marks enough to use it again. Put some sort of finish on the end of the needle, like clear nail polish. If those teeth marks are all along the length of the needle, you’re stuck. If you sand down the marks, you’ll change the size of the needle. But it’s a moot point until the other needle shows up, no?

Crazy Aunt Cat Blamer: Thanks for all the help with my green ribby scarf, Lisa! I started that thing back over a YEAR ago and I never finished it… partially because I am missing the other needle (Bob has hidden it in his lair somewhere) and partially because I didn’t think my mistakes could be fixed. Now if I can find my needle, I’ll be well on my way!

Finally, I have one issue that crops up time and time again in my knitting. I love to knit in the round, LOVE IT! But I never seem to make a pretty or well-constructed join. I do the normal thing, just knitting into the first cast-on loop when I’m ready to join a round. But it always ends up looking kind of wonky.

For example, one of my favorite hats, a pink roll-brim hat:
Yarn: Lana Grossa Colore Print in color #004, 100% virgin wool, so soft!
Pattern: Try the easy roll-brim hat pattern

And the join:

Love the hat. Love the fact that the messy join hides in the curled brim. However, that join’s a problem whenever you work in the round. One of the fun things about writing Knit Fix was that I got to knit mistakes ON PURPOSE. See page 58 for the official photo of your icky join.

Next time, after you’ve joined in the round, work one row. Before beginning the second row, switch the end stitches – first stitch on left needle becomes first on right needle and vice versa. Then knit the next row in pattern. Switching those two stitches pulls together that open join. For a nice illustration (thanks to those wonders in the art department at Interweave Press), see page 59 of Knit Fix.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Thanks, Lisa! - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I do appreciate the help fixin' my knittin' and of course, full understanding that just about every knitting problem or mistake here at Chez Pass The Buck is blamed entirely on one Bob T. Cat.

If ya'll need a Knit Fix, just send your knitting problems to Lisa! Visit Lisa’s new web site,, for her weekly Knit Fix picked from your submissions. Each week she selects one knitting problem and a picture of the unhappy result, and posts it with a solution on her web site. Send your submission to her email address: Starting this month, she’ll also broadcast and discuss this weekly knit fix on the popular podcast, Cast-On: A Podcast for Knitters, hosted by Brenda Dayne.

Now where is my green sewing thread? Anyone...? Bob...?

Posted by laurie at 12:59 AM

August 28, 2006

I Knit, Therefore I Am (buying a bunch of plastic containers to organize my yarn habit)

Who throws herself into a frenzy of decluttering and organization by going to Target and purchasing one bajillion clear plastic containers to hold her perfect, lovely, smellorific yarn?

A knitter, of course.

And who can sit in a house with dishes that need washing and a pile of laundry and a carpet that is desperately trying to grow hairball hands which will dial CPS (Carpet Protective Services) so someone will vaccuum its neglected surface and rather than attend to these dire issues, who will carefully and methodically scrutinize balls of yarn into piles for HOURS? Who will ask the immortal questions: Should I put this wool into ziploc baggies before storing it in the plastic tubs? Should all orange yarns go into one bin, even though some are tragically tacky? Should all art yarns live together or just blue yarns? Can one truly knit anything with this discontinued Patons Up Country seeing as once a knitted item is complete THERE WILL BE A SHORTAGE OF YARN?

Who does that?

Only a yarn-hoarding crazy knitter, of course. That's who.


Posted by laurie at 9:22 AM

August 16, 2006

Calling all designers!

I got an email last week ("Hello world, I am at least one week behind on email, at most just 10-12 months behind. Don't mind me. Love, Crazy Lady.") Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes. The email:

Dear Laurie,

I have a great opportunity for your readers and anyone else you know who designs knitting/crochet patterns. I am helping Accord Publishing gather designs for their Knitting Pattern-a-Day and Crochet Pattern-a-Day calendars.

Please include the following information in your blog if you feel like it. It would be a great help to me!

Bella Web Design, Inc. and Accord Publishing are looking for new and creative designers to contribute to the 2008 Knitting Pattern-a-Day and Crochet Calendar-a-Day publications. We are looking for 320 submissions by January 1, 2007. If you are interested, please go to and submit your design and at least one image. (If you can't take a picture of it, you can send the item to Accord Publishing and they will take one for you).

Each submission will receive a free copy of the calendar you submitted a design for. You can submit as many designs as you want. This is a great way to get your designs in a publication that is read worldwide and get some recognition for your talents.

Any questions can be emailed to or or you can call Desiree Scales at 888-716-9524 for more information.

I know that a lot of ya'll have designed all kinds of yarn-based items that are yarnalicious and yarntastic and need to be published! I believe you should take over the world, one pattern at a time.

You may ask where I will be as you conquer the world with your yarnifigance. Well, glad you asked! I shall be your yarnaudience, your fun(fur)peanut gallery. And this peanut gallery will come stocked with a full bar and lots of snacks. And probably some cat hair, if we're being yarntruthful here.

Vintage 'Sobakowa Inspects Yarn' image courtest of Her Mighty Dictator Graphics, Inc.

Posted by laurie at 9:04 AM

August 10, 2006

Knit handbags at Target

One of these days I am so going to get hauled off to Target Jail for taking pictures inside the store. Of course that will give me something to bond over with my neighbors. Hah... I said bond! I'm already thinking like a criminal.

Does your Target have this display of cute knitted purses? I saw them over the weekend at the store on Sepulveda, just north of Burbank Blvd. in Sherman Oaks.


They're cute, sure, but mostly I was frothing because this is good news for knitters if Target is out there carrying knit handbags! Maybe this is a sign of good things to come, folks demanding all sorts of knit items. More demand means more knitting. (Ok, yes, I am not totally braindead and I do realize these bags were machine knit, most likely, but still! Let a girl dream!)

These are lined, which I'm guessing helps keep their shape. And they aren't pricey -- $14.99 each.





Doesn't that last bag look just like the one Elisha Cuthbert is wearing in her delightful Go Fug Yourself pic?

Posted by laurie at 12:37 PM

July 17, 2006

Obsessed, all over again. I feel so brand new.

This is a photo of The Great Sobakowa taken about a month ago. She still looks the same. This picture is here in place of the pictures I took to accompany this column, yet in my fog and stupor of pre-caffienation this morning, I left my camera conveniently sitting on the table. At home. Nice.

Perhaps the best thing about my long break from knitting was that the very moment I picked up the needles and yarn yesterday, I fell in love with it all over again. The calm feeling you get from watching your project grow, the magic way yarn and sticks turn into fabric, the endless possibility.

I haven't knitted seriously in months (HA HAH HA!! I'm sorry, did I use the word "serious" and "knitting" in a sentence? Because I am such a serious knitter! Let me tell you about this complex garter stitch scarf I made once... really. It was so serious!) Anyway, I haven't knitted on a project in about five months.

Partially, I was busy with work and doing more driving (less time on the bus means less knitting time), and partly I think it just got so damn hot that I was uninspired. Or maybe this is the way it goes with crafting in general? You fall in love with it and obsess over every fiber and pattern and book, then one day you don't knit. And one day turns into a week and before long it's three or five months.

Yesterday it was eleventeen hundred degrees outside, so I cranked up the A/C and cleaned the living room and as I was dusting the bookcase which contains a fair amount of my stash, I saw the two beautiful skeins of Noro transitions that Linda at Yarnzilla had sent me. Transitions is one of my all-time favorite yarns, it appeals to my knitting attention deficit disorder on both a visual and tactile level: you see, in the world of Knitting ADD, you can't get bored with a project when the yarn changes colors sporadically. I have tested this theory out on myself. But Transitions changes fibers, too, and it's a truly beautiful yarn, a piece of art in itself. Last year I made a scarf out of one skein I'd purchased locally, and I wore that scarf all winter, it was definitely a favorite.

I placed the two Yarnzilla skeins of Noro on my coffee table as inspiration. But the knitting bug had bitten, again, and so while I was deciding what fabulous project to make with the Noro (read: scarf) (ya'll, consider the source, ok?) I delved into Stash City Annex and came out with several skeins of wool in different colors and a half-assed twelve rows of unfinished Kitty Pi I had started back in, oh, November? No, no, it was last October, because Annie was here and she showed me how to wrap and turn a stitch, and as I looked at the pile of yarn aspiring to be a cat bed, a mere twelve rows of knitting which had sat alone in a Ziploc baggie for months on end, I smiled because I remembered how much fun I had that evening, Annie and me having a beer, side-by-side on my sofa, the Knitting Goddess herself showing me a cool stitch technique! She was here visiting the week of my wedding anniversary, and she managed not to flee me and my craziness. This Kitty Pi had a history, ya'll.

And of course then there are the poor, pi-less cats here at Chez Poopsalot. My herd of felines has loved their first pi nearly to death, so I dug out my knitting instructions (Wendy, you are a genius) and got to work on the very serious business of garter stitching under the influence. The cats snuggled on the sofa, and I did have to adjust the temperature downward a notch on the A/C, twice, but it felt so good and comforting and happy to be sitting on the sofa, surrounded by yarn and pattern notes and watching a Tivo'd episode of "Mysteries From The Deep."

There's nothing like the feeling of safety and calm and happiness I get from such a simple thing, knitting in the round, feeling the yarn in my hands, occassionally sneaking a peek at my manicured hands with a smug redneck smile.

God, I love to knit. I do I do I do.

Posted by laurie at 12:20 PM

June 27, 2006

Increasing: Knit into the front and back of a stitch

Since posting the felted bracelet bag pattern, I've gotten a few questions about increasing stitches. (Decreasing is pretty easy ... in that pattern, you simply knit two stitches together as one each time there is a decrease.)

Obviously, learning to increase and decrease the amount of stitches on your needles is an excellent skill to have in your knitting bag o' tricks. The ability to increase (or decrease) stitches gets you out of the square/rectangle world and into the... sloping square/rectangle world. Also known as "the triangle."

Increasing is just what it sounds like -- making more stitches on the needle. Let's say you have four stitches and you want to eventually have eight. You'll need to "increase" your knitting by adding four new stitches.

There are lots of ways to increase. To make new stitches on the felted bracelet bag, I used the technique of knitting into the front and back of a stitch to increase.

It is exactly what it sounds like... you knit into the front leg of a stitch just like normal, except you don't drop the stitch off the left needle when you're done. Nope. You work the stitch again, this time knitting into the back leg of the stitch, then finally drop it off the left needle. Voila! You have two stitches where before ... there was only one. If only making a boyfriend were this easy. Love by osmosis.

I tried to take pictures of this increasing business. But do ya'll have any idea how hard it is to use both hands while knitting and simultaneously taking pictures of yourself? It is hard. It is, in fact, impossible.

So I coerced Faith into letting me film her... except we maybe kept giggling and messing up.

This first clip is the one that was easiest to follow:

Then, of course, there is the outtake:

Posted by laurie at 9:45 AM

May 30, 2006

Knitting on the (long) edge

Now that I am only struggling with two cats twice a day (progress, people!) I think it is high time I resume knitting. I have all these mismatched skeins of yarn, some were gifts, some were half-off specials, none are enough for one continuous project of a single type of yarn. So I thought I'd make a gypsy scarf with all these yarns mixed up, knit lengthwise on a very long circular needle.

The only long circular needle I have is a size 13, so I'll be using it with all the yarn, some of which is thicker, some almost sock weight. Is there such a thing as sock weight yarn? I do not knit socks, but it's the skinny yarn.

Anyway! I want a scarf that's pretty long, maybe... what? Five feet or so? Five and a half feet? For something like this, how many stitches would you suggest casting on? I'd definitely prefer to err on the long side rather than go shorter. Suggestions?

Pinche driver taking photos at a red light!

Posted by laurie at 9:09 AM

May 16, 2006

Sexy Little Knits

Click image for a bigger view:

I got a copy of this book from the publisher, because I believe after reading my essay, "Will my house look bigger if my butt gets smaller?" they decided this glossy, lovely knitting book would be exactly the motivation I need to:
A) Go on a diet
B) Cry and
C) Drink wine and eat taquitos while flipping through said glossy book, because by now ya'll know my favorite O'Haraism, "I Will Think About My Diet Tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day."

The truth is, a lot of folks still think of knitting (and crocheting) as old granny crafts. Not that there is anything wrong with grannycrafting, mind you (so please back away from the hate mail button!) but truth is, yarn has come a long way, baby. My granny's crocheted toilet paper cozies -- a hoopskirt for a faux-barbie, OH YES SHE DID -- were no doubt the very pinnacle of cool back in the day, but now you can crochet or knit a sushi cozy for your TP. THAT IS PROGRESS, PEOPLE. I would venture to say that knitting is like the snowboarding of the craft world. Rockstar! And also, crazy!

I have seen some of the most amazing creations at Stitch 'n Bitch, and I still can't believe you can hold two sticks and some string in your hands and make anything from clothes to purses to legwarmers to chicken viking hats. Truly, what with all the mathiness of knitting and the expensiveness of the good yarn and the sheer variety of people who do it, knitting is really an art form. Plus, you can watch TV while you do it!

Knitting books are like crack for me, I love to sit on the floor at the bookstore and flip through all the glossy pages of inspiration, and I have far too many knitting books for one who has smoked the scarf pipe and apparently can make nothing more time-consuming than a hat. Yet, still, I persist with my love of knitting books because they are inspiring and, well, kind of like porn. Of the knitterly variety.

Which brings me back to the original topic (ya'll! stay awake! I'm getting to the point!) Sexy Little Knits is a new book by swimwear designer Ashley Paige, and it will immediately disarm you of your grannycrafting stigma. The patterns inside are indeed sexy, and a few fall into just plain hootchie and I mean that as a compliment. If I had a body like any of the models in this book, I would just walk around buck naked and that is no lie.

Of course, I do not have a model-bod, and I will not be making any of the flirty little bikinis or short-shorts or rompers a'la Rollergirl, because I have a little too much juicy booty for this book, and the booty needs perhaps a tad more than four inches of mohair to keep it under control. It's not just the posterior I'm having to keep mind of, I was looking at the bandeau top bikini and thinking, "Nice headband!" Let it be known that the girls and I will be firmly encased in uplifting lycra this summer, preferably in something underwire. Ya'll know.


But all my friends are about as skinny as poles and the bandeau and the halter-tie bikini patterns would be perfect for any one of them. (Lucky little brats.) Even though I personally can't wear one, I do love the idea of a knitted or crocheted bikini, they are so cute and retro. I did fall in love with the idea of knitting my own bathrobe, one of the patterns featured in this book, and I read through the directions which were (surprisingly) easy enough for even a remedial knitter such as myself to follow.


I like the way the designer breaks up the knitting directions under headings and the layout of the book is very easy to follow, with plenty of slick photos of each piece modeled by impossibly leggy chicks.


The halter dress was really cute and the mesh nightie was too much, I loved it, although I would make it shorter rather than longer and also, I would have all my cellulite sucked out surgically and also, I would need to be liquored up. But the very idea that someone is out there providing easy-to-read patterns of hoochie little knits makes me happier. And once I actually put down the taquitos and lose a pound or forty, I might even make me a little hippie halter top. To wear under my bathrobe.

Click for bigger pics.

Sexy Little Knits : Chic Designs to Knit and Crochet (Paperback)
by Ashley Paige
Paperback, 128 pages
Potter Craft Books

Posted by laurie at 9:18 AM

May 4, 2006

The Paris Scarf

... which has nothing at all to do with Paris! I bought the yarn for this project before I went on vacation back in March, and although I had high hopes for churning out a pretty little skinny scarf on the plane, I knit nary a stitch.

However, while I was in le city of le fashion, I noticed that European women were wearing really wide, long scarves all around town. I particularly liked the deconstructed, messy scarves with knots and weird fringe and tangles, as I am a person who often finds herself drawn to knots and tangles. So, when I finally got around to casting on for this scarf, I made it fairly wide and used bigger needles because I am le cheapskate, and didn't want to buy eleventeen skeins of this stuff.

Yarn: Modea Dea's "curious" in the Black Cherry color

This is a curious yarn indeed, a very lightweight ribbon with these wonky pieces of, uh, embellishment sewn on every few inches. It takes a little while to get into the knitting groove with this yarn, because the funky things catch on the stitches from time to time. But it knits up all crazy and muppet-like. (There I go using fancy knitting terminology. Such as "muppet-like" and "funky things.")

Here's what I did:
• Cast on 30 stitches, using a size 15 needle.
• Knit through about three skeins, leaving a little yarn left on the third skein
• Bind off
• Oh! When you're knitting and joining a new ball of yarn, don't bother knitting the ends in. Just tie a knot, leaving about five inches of yarn tail, and knit on.
• And, if you're crazy like me, when the scarf is all done, cut about ten random size pieces of the leftover yarn to tie in random areas, in a "I've been drinking and thought funky schizo fringe would be cool" kind of way.


Click the image below for a much larger view:

However, and perhaps it is my state of mind or just the pure fact that I do love a unique and unusual accessory, upon completion I have decided this scrappy, funky scarf just isn't ... funky enough. As is my way. Bring on the funk! So, I picked up one skein of Mode Dea "gleam" in a matching-ish color (Rubelite). This yarn is a compilation of mohair and nylon and ribbon and sparkle and all kinds of stuff. It's surprisingly soft and fits the funkified bill.

Moda Dea "gleam" in Rubelite

I spread the completed scarf out on the guest bed last night and stared at it for a while, glass of wine in hand, cat hair damn near everywhere. Maybe that was an overshare. It's been that kind of week.

I think that I'm going to use a large-eye yarn needle, and thread up with the "gleam" yarn, and start weaving it in and out of my stitches from one end to the other (longways, from top of scarf to bottom of scarf.) Perhaps then my scarf will reach its pinnacle of funk, or fugly, depending on your point of view.

I planned to do this weaving and funkifying at Stitch 'n Bitch tonight and take a poll on how many people think said scarf is just butt-ugly versus how many people think funky is the new pretty. But instead, I will be at Sherman Oaks Vet tonight with one Sobatater, who is all the sudden sick because Lord knows we can't have a day and a half here at Chez Financial Ruin without somebody getting their heart broken or someone sneezing up a snotball.

Luckily, this scarf is so "funky" it will hide snotballs quite well, thankyouverymuch.

Posted by laurie at 8:45 AM

April 6, 2006

The Brangelina Hat: Thick 'n Quick to knit!


I knitted a prototype of this hat first (using grey yarn, you'll see some of the 'how-to' pics are from the prototype) and I discovered along the way that when using a super chunky yarn like this, you don't want to do quick decreases or you get weird puffy areas on the top. (I am not a fan of weird puffy areas.) (heh) So, this pattern decreases over a big area. Much of the crown is gently shaped, and even with this very thick yarn it lies fairly flat to the head ... no puffing. Because puffy head was not the goal, folks!

The skyline shot, with stuffed model:

Me in my Brangelina wide-ribbed brim knitted hat:


The Brangelina Wide Ribbed Brim Knitted Hat Recipe

Materials needed:

• One skein Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick 'n Quick in black ($5.99/Michael's)
Note: I managed to get by on one skein ... just barely. I think I had about four feet of yarn left over. So buy two skeins if you can, just for piece of mind!
• Size 10 circular knitting needles, 16" length
• Size 11 circular knitting needles, 16" length
• Size 11 double-pointed needles of death (not that scary)
• Maybe some Friends re-runs to offset bad Brangelina karma
• wine (optional)
• cat helper (optional)

Things you may find useful when knitting this hat:
• The easy roll-brim hat pattern, the basis of all my hat recipes
Working with circular needles
• A little diatribe on decreasing stitches
• Where I got the idea for this hat
• My regular ribbed-brim hat recipe

Step 1: Using the smaller (size 10) needle, cast on 64 stitches.

Using a smaller needle on the ribbed area keeps the ribbing from poufing out and makes the final hat look more finished. Also -- remember that in circular knitting, you cast on exactly the same way as in straight knitting. It's easy! You can do it. I use the long-tail cast on method which Annie describes here, but use any method you are comfortable with... it's a hat, not world peace. Mistakes are no biggie!

Step 2: Place a stitch marker on the right needle. Look at your stitches: all the knotty parts are smoothly pointing in the smae direction and nothing is twisting around the loopy part of your circular needle.

Step 3: Join the stitches into a circular tube of knitting happiness by knitting into the stitch on the left needle (your very first cast-on stitch). This starts your first row of ribbing!

Step 4: Make the big ribbed hat brim:
Knit four stitches, purl four stitches all the way across the round (rows are called "rounds" in circular knitting. They're still rows. But I'm going with the lingo, yo yo.)

And that's it!

It's easy. Knit 4, purl 4 all the way around and round until you have knitted up approximately 4 1/2" of ribbing. (That's obviosly more ribbing than gets turned-up for a brim on this hat, but I like to have more ribbing than I need so if I adjust the brim while I'm wearing it, I don't get a piece of stockinette sticking out.) (I'm crazy that way.)

Measure the ribbing by lying the hat on a flat surface, smoothing it with your hand and checking it on a ruler. This portion took me approximately one and a half hours to knit, but I was knitting on the bus and I am a slow knitter. Your mileage may vary.

Step 5: Switch to your larger circular needle (size 11) for the stockinette body.

Switching needles isn't as hard as it sounds. You have completed your last ribbing row. This part of the hat -- where the ribbing meets the road -- will not be visible when you wear the hat, because the brim turns up about three inches into the ribbing, so don't worry if your knitting gets a little weird on this one row.

So -- first, knit ONE stitch on this row with your size 10 needle just like normal to "seal" the stitch marker in (I hate having a dangling stitch marker hanging off the end of that small size 10 needle as I'm swapping to size 11s.) (Trust me, this will make sense when you do it.)

Next, using your bigger size 11 needle, begin knitting the remaining stitches off the left-hand size 10 (smaller) needle like so:



Step 6: Now everything is on the bigger needles. Knit every single stitch on every row until you have three inches of stockinette. Isn't knitting in the round awesome!! Perfect stockinette from the knit stitch! I love it!

Step 7: Decrease stitches!
Once you have three inches of stockinette, begin decreasing. On my prototype, I only decreased over six rows of knitting. It made a poufy decrease because the yarn is so bulky. And ya'll know by now how I feel about poufy knitting -- not loving it! I adjusted the decreases on this recipe so we decrease over a much larger space, and there is less poufy.

So, once you have 3 inches of stockinette, start your first decrease row: Knit 14 stitches. Then knit two together. Continue this (Knit 14, knit 2 together) all the way across the round. You will end with 60 stitches.

TIP: Definitely put a stitch marker right after your knit-two-together decrease. This helps because we're going to decrease on every single row for the next 13 rows, and if you place a marker after each decrease, you'll always know when you're supposed to be knitting two stitches together -- knit the two stitches before each marker together.


Next row: Knit 13, knit 2 together all across the round. You will have 56 stitches on your needles when you finish the round.

Step 8: Switch to Double-Pointed Needles
Right about here you will want to switch to double-pointed needles. It's not that hard, if a goofball such as myself can figure it out, so can you! You use the dpns (lingo, yo) in place of a circular needle because that loopy plastic part of a circular needle will be too long once you have fewer stitches. You can also do crazy stuff with two circular needles, but this is the way I do it. Makes me feel like an extreme knitter with all those sticks!

Using one double-pointed needle, knit the stitches off your left (circular) needle in the same exact way you did it when swapping out the size-10/size-11 needle after your ribbed brim. Same! Easy!


Knit about 1/3 of the stitches onto the double-pointed needle (keep up with your decreases!) I never worry if I have the stitches in exact even numbers on each needle, because I am a lazy and freewheelin' knitter. I am the knitter your mama warned you about. Luckily, this weird "guestimate" trick works wonders, preventing any weird gaps when using dpns, because I always have to scoot stitches from one needle to the next to get my "knit two together" to work out.

Just knit all your stitches onto three or four double-pointed needles. Then, with the free dpn, begin knitting as if you were straight knitting. Cool, huh? Every time you free up a needle, use that as your new right-hand needle.

You can do this. Here are some images of my progress getting the stitches onto dpns, click for bigger images:

And so, you are on the dpns, and you just decrease on:
Knit 12, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 52 stitches.
Knit 11, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 48 stitches.
Knit 10, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 44 stitches.
Knit 9, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 40 stitches.
Knit 8, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 36 stitches.
Knit 7, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 32 stitches.
Knit 6, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 28 stitches.
Knit 5, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 24 stitches.
Knit 4, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 20 stitches.
Knit 3, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 16 stitches.
Knit 2, knit 2 together all the way. You end with 12 stitches.

Step 9: Finish up!
Cut the yarn tail, leaving about 10 inches of yarn. Thread the yarn through a large-eye needle and pull it through all the remaining stitches on your needles like this:

(OK, in the interest of full disclosure, you'll see that picture above is on grey yarn, which was the prototype hat. Yes. Well on the final, Real Brangelina, I forgot my large-eye yarn needle, and had to improvise with a ... uh... large-eye yarn paperclip. I do not recommend this mad MacGyverism if you can avoid it, since it was a snagalicious mess. But whatever. It worked!)


I sometimes run the needle through the stitches twice because I am a paranoid neurotic knitter. Draw the top closed, bring the yarn to the wrong side of the hat, turn your hat inside-out and weave in your ends. I sometimes tie a knot, too, because see "paranoid neurotic."

Step 10: Wear hat, pose everywhere for paparazzi. Brad optional!


Posted by laurie at 9:55 AM

March 22, 2006

Easy Knitted Felted Bracelet Bag!



The inspiration: I wanted a little teensy handbag to take out at night ... just enough room for my ID, lipstick, small compact, money and keys. This bag needed to be something cute and decorative that could stay on my bod as the night and cocktails wore on, since I tend to be BOTH extremely paranoid about losing my handbag and also extremely ditzy and forgetful that I even own a handbag.

Enter the bracelet bag, a perfect solution!

Time needed: Less than two hours to knit! I created this whole bag on the fly while sitting on my sofa and watching JAWS on TV. By the time Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider were paddling back to Amity Island, I was done with all the knitting, including sewing the sides up.


• 1/2 a skein any chunky 100% wool yarn (no superwash wool!) that can be felted ... clearly, I used my beloved Patons Up Country.

• 1/2 skein any eyelash, ribbon or glittery yarn to jazz up the bag (optional) (yeah, I said "jazz up" ... so. you got a problem with jazzing up?) ... I used Crystal Palace Stardust Fizz.

• Size 13 knitting needles

• Large-eye yarn needle

• Regular sewing needle and thread

• Two bracelets, the bangle kind. I wouldn't use elastic bracelets because they might stretch out or break. I used two mismatched bangles, one in silver and one in silver and black.

The hard part of this recipe -- which isn't very hard AT ALL, mind you -- comes in the first few rows. Basically you start at one end of the bag, making the tabs that will eventually fold over your bracelets. Then you increase stitches to make a triangle that leads to your plain rectangle, then you knit the rectangle, and start decreasing on the other end (decreasing is so easy, you just knit two stitches together.)



The Recipe:
If you are using a sparkle or eyelash yarn for jazzing up purposes, hold the wool and the fancy yarn together and knit with them like they are one yarn. One yarn, one world baby.

Cast on 4 stitches.
Row 1: Knit 4.
Row 2: Purl 4.
Row 3: Knit 4.
Row 4: Purl 4.

Now we start increasing stitches on each row to get to the desired width of the bag.

For this pattern, I increased by doing a "Make 1 increase" which is actually pretty simple. Every time you see "M1" or "make 1" in the pattern, you just knit the next stitch, but don't pull it off the left needle to finish it. Instead, go back to the same stitch on the left needle, and now knit into it through the back loop. That just means you stick your knitting needle into the back leg of the stitch instead of the front leg, knit it and pull it off the needle. You now have two stitches that came from one! I am maybe crazy at work this week and was remiss and did not take pictures of increasing. But I'm sure ya'll can do it, because Lord knows if I can do it, so can you! [Here are some pictures I found on the innernets, though.]

This increase can make a little hole. But I'm using bulky yarn and felting it anyway, there will be no holes after it's all shrunken and felty.

Row 5: Knit 1, Make 1 by knitting in the front and back of next stitch, Make 1 again on the next stitch, Knit 1 (You now have 6 stitches.)

Row 6: Purl 6

Row 7: Knit 2, Make 1, Make 1, knit 2 (you now have 8 stitches)

Row 8: Purl 8

Row 9: Knit 2, Make 1, knit 2, make 1, knit 2 (10 stitches)

Row 10:Purl 10

Row 11: Knit 1, Make 1, Knit 2, Make 1, Make 1 again, knit 2, Make 1, knit 1 (14 stitches)

Row 12: Purl 14

Row 13: Knit 2, Make 1, Knit 2, Make 1, Knit 2, Make 1, Knit 2, Make 1, Knit 2 (You have 18 stitches -- and you are done increasing!!!)

Row 14: Purl 18

This is what your bag looks like so far:

Now you have made it through the only hard part of this bag! For the next 12 to 14 inches of knitting (depending on how deep/long you want your handbag to be) simply knit in plain stockinette stitch. That's where you knit one row, and purl the next row. Your bag will begin to curl up and look like a weird banana.

Knit until your bag measures your desired body length -- I knitted 12 inches -- and then make sure you end by finishing up a PURL row.

Now you are ready to knit a row, and it becomes your first DECREASE row. We'll go back to basic numbering because you only need to knit 14 more rows to finish this whole bag!

You have 18 stitches. I am putting the decreases in parentheses, i have no idea why but it made more sense to my crazy mind.

Row 1: Knit 2, (knit 2 together), knit 2, (knit 2 together), knit 2, (knit 2 together), knit 2, (knit 2 together), knit 2 [Now there are 14 stitches left.]

Row 2: Purl 14.

Row 3: Knit 1, (knit 2 together), knit 2, (knit 2 together), (knit 2 together again), knit 2, (knit 2 together), knit 1 [Now there are 10 stitches.]

Row 4: Purl 10.

Row 5: Knit 2, (knit 2 tog), knit 2, (knit 2 tog), knit 2 [8 stitches remain]

Row 6: Purl 8

Row 7: Knit 2, (knit 2 tog), (knit another 2 together), knit 2 [6 stitches left]

Row 8: Purl 6

Row 9: Knit 1, (knit 2 tog), (knit 2 together again), knit 1 [4 stitches, woohoo!]

Row 10: Purl 4
Row 11: Knit 4
Row 12: Purl 4
Row 13: Knit 4

Bind off.

Weave in your ends. Don't have to be to neat here -- the ends will felt in.


You have a banana!

Fold the bag in half with the tabs together at the top. It should be inside-out, with the bumpy reverse-stockinette stitch on the outside. You will now seam up the sides.


Pin the bag together at the sides. Cut a piece of the wool yarn, about 15 inches long. Thread this through your big-eye yarn needle and whipstich the sides of the bag together just like in Figure B at the top of this page. Here I made a couple of stitches with a contrasting yarn color so you could se how I sewed up the sides. You can be messy, the whole thing gets felted anyway.

braceletbag-pinned.jpg braceletbag-sewing.jpg

The bag is all pinned, sewing the sides is easy ... uh, use the same colored yarn, though. really!

When you're all done sewing the sides, turn the bag rightside out again and get ready to felt it!!

Felting This Bag
1) Place the bag inside a pillowcase and use a rubber band or hair elastic to close up the pillowcase real tight. You don't want fuzz and fluff from your bag clogging up the washer.

2) Throw the sealed pillowcase in with a load of towels or jeans. I washed this bag on permanent press -- hot wash, cold rinse. I didn't care if it shrunk down a lot. I added some Tide and let the entire wash cycle run, including the spin cycle. I'm a reckless felter, what can I say? Your mileage may vary -- so if you don't want this bag to shrink too much, start out on a cold wash cycle and check the progress about halfway through the wash.

3) That's it! I took the bag out of the washer, shaped it with my hands and let it dry on a dishtowel in the kitchen.



Add The Bracelet Handles:
When your bag is fully dry, fold the tabs down over the bracelts and sew each tab in place using regular sewing thread and a needle. Go out, drink up, enjoy!



Posted by laurie at 8:12 AM

March 15, 2006

Decreasing, or "Make this tube into a hat!"

I'm making good progress on my Brangelina Hat Prototype (you can read about the EXCELLENT literary source that spawned my interest in the Brangelina hat on this entry). I'm knitting this one as a test before creating the real hat for the official recipe. Not that this one isn't a real hat, ya'll know, just that I have little issues to work out so that a hat pattern will be easy for everyone.

One of my issues, for example, is that I am an insanely tight knitter, and I have somehow managed to turn extra-bulky chunky Up Country wool yarn into this:

Hello, my name is Laurie and I am clearly working out some "issues" when I knit.

This hat has taken me just under two hours of commute-time so far -- and I am NOT a fast knitter. Hats are great small projects for ADD-ish knitters like ... who? I forgot my train of thought...?

Ha! Just kidding. Ya'll know I never shut up.

Anyway, this hat is now at the place where it's time to begin decreasing. It's not a magic formula that gets you to The Secret Decrease Spot, usually I just put the thing on my head and see if I'm happy with it, and how much of the top of my head pokes through.



When you knit a hat starting at the brim and working upward, you're knitting the widest portion first and hopefully somewhere along in the project you'll be overwhelmed by the urge to finish said hat, and that is when you need to Decrease Stitches, making the hat get smaller and smaller until it closes up at the top.

Most people are totally OK with the idea that we'll be decreasing the amount of stitches, and each row gets smaller and the hat gets smaller, and then happiness ensues.

The problem comes when trying to figure out how the math works: "If Sally wants to knit two stitches together, and Sally has 72 stitches on her needles, how many stitches should Sally knit in the row before decreasing so that things stay tidy and Sally doesn't give up and go get drunk?"

Let us address that question, shall we?

For the purposes of this really dorky illustration, let's assume your hat is sitting on your circular needles like my Brangelina Prototype, and it's all knitted up to the point where you begin to decrease. Usually, this means you have knitted your hat brim plus about 5 inches of the body part of the hat. Because Brangelina has a big huge wide brim than turns up, I did 4 1/2 inches of ribbing, and 4 inches of stockinette. I may add an extra few rows of stockinette in before I decrease, but I'm pretty much ready to start getting rid of stitches!

Let's also assume that for this illustration you have 30 stitches total, although a normal hat is more like 60 stitches (super bulky yarn) or a million stitches (little tiny yarn) but I am lazy and did not want to draw one million dots representing knit stitches. I may be crazy, but I am not that crazy.


Step One: My Shoe Theory and what decreasing really means

I swear by my theory that if you pretend the stitches are shoes it will be a happier experience ... because shoes make life happier. Here we have 30 stitches on our needles. We are ready to begin decreasing! For my hats, I do the world's Simplest Decrease, a.k.a. "knit two stitches together as if they were one stitch" or, K2tog.

That means when you are ready to decrease, you just knit X amount of stitches in the row, then knit two stitches together (decreasing!), then knit like normal for X amount of stitches, knit two together (more decreasing, the top of the hat gets smaller, so exciting!), all the way around the row.

The mathy part is figuring out what the crazy "X number of stitches is," right?

Step Two: Oh by the way, this only works on even numbers of cast-on stitches. Whoops!
For math dummies, you really should be casting on an even number of stitches. (We'll discuss figuring out how many to cast on in another entry, called "I went to Gauge City and all I got was this stupid giant mushroom hat!")

Step Three: Pick a small-ish number that will evenly divide into your number of cast on stitches. This is called your SHOE NUMBER.
Go with me on this. I promise it makes sense at some point. You just pick a small number that will go into your cast-on number an even amount of times. This becomes the SHOE NUMBER.

For example ... 72 stitches cast on? 12 is a good shoe number!
64 stitches cast on? 8 is a good shoe number!
30 stitches cast on? 10 is a good shoe number!

Step Four: Now we decrease.

We're dividing up the stitches (shoes) into easily managed chunks. Our stitches are scary, but shoes are fun! What you need to do is divide up all the shoes into pairs, and put all your pairs of shoes in one row in your mind -- just like stitches sit on one row of knitting.

We want to decrease and have a shorter line of shoes, right? So, every 10th pair of shoes gets thrown in the closet, making the line of imaginary shoes get smaller. Or every 12th pair of shoes goes in the closet. Or every 8th pair. The magic is -- you get to decide!

Here is the super-secret decreasing formula according to crazy lady:

a. We have 30 stitches.
b. And 10 goes into 30 an even number of times with no bad percentages left on the calculator (30 divided by 10 = 3, that's good!)
c. So, 10 is our SHOE NUMBER.
d. To decrease, we subtract one pair of shoes from the lineup at regular intervals.
e. Therefore, 10 shoes - 2 shoes = 8 shoes
f. Therefore, every 8 shoes, I will get rid of one pair!!
g. Yes, this really is how my mind works. Sorry.

I will knit eight shoes like normal, knit two shoes together, keep doing this through the whole row, then somehow it will magically work out! No poor straggler shoes will be left on the needles when I use the Mighty Shoe Formula!



The Next Row: You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It
On the next row, you will scale it back by one. This means, for our example, you knit 7 stitches, then knit two together, and repeat until you reach the end of the row. If you have picked a shoe number that easily divides into your cast-on, you'll never have weird "extra" stitches and your decreases will make a pretty swirl pattern on the top of the hat. Magic! Gnomes! Shoe gnomes.


Finally: Keep getting smaller!
Keep going down in your count ... knit 6, knit two together for a whole row.

Then knit 5, knit 2 together for a row and so on.

When you get down to just a handful of stitches, cut the yarn and leave a long yarn tail. Thread the yarn tail through a big-eye needle and run the yarn through all stitches. Pull to tighten. There's a good picture of this on my roll-brim hat recipe page. Weave in your ends and you have a hat!

Finally. The end of this really schizophrenic knitting column.

The prototype should be done today, then I start working on the real recipe hat. I wanted to make one using Wool Ease chunky, but all my local craft store had was Wool Ease Thick 'n Quick. Thank goodness this is a quick knit -- it's already March, and this hat will certainly be warm!

(Sobakowa might like a warm hat)

Posted by laurie at 9:06 AM

March 10, 2006

Friday! Punctuation at the end of a crazy week.

Before we get to the part where I do the writing of whatever excruciating cuteness the cats may be perpetrating and all the general spinster tomfoolery that we do here at this website, I need to tell ya'll that it is indeed Not Raining Yet, but should be Raining Soon, and in preparation for this giant rain storm of biblical proportions which may or may not total 1/16th of an inch of actual wetness ruining the wax job on Californian cars, our local newscaster Paul Magers went buckwild crazy and Pimped His Ride, or rather, Pimped His Suit for us, the soon-to-maybe-be-wet audience:

Los Angeles: We Are Crazy. But Pimpy!

Now we bring you the diary portion of this diary. For those of you who do not knit, here's how this column will go today: a few paragraphs about Stitch 'n Bitch, a picture of my giant forehead, some status reporting on the Brangelina hat, more paragraphs that talk about blocking, and a cat picture. If this bores you to tears I can only suggest that ya'll join, because I think one of the cats is on there doing God-knows-what all day long. I suspect it's Sobakowa because on the TV news they keep saying MySpace is full of predators and she sort of fits that description to a tee!


1) Stitch 'n Bitch 'n De-Hermitization

One of the biggest changes for me this past year has been my semi-de-hermitization, brought on largely by the incredible women I have met through SnB. Instead of choosing to stay in my head and house, which I do a fair amount of anyway, I made a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Farmer's Market at The Grove for Thursday night Stitch 'n Bitch West Hollywood style.

[click for larger image]

It was a nice, small group with great conversation (per usual) lovely ladies, beer and nachos (my "get skinny before Paris" diet is going SO WELL) and yarn, yarn, yarn. Which brings me to...

2) The Brangelina Hat
I had to cast on not once, not twice, but three times to get the correct amount of stitches for the wide-rib brim on this hat, and also did I mention beer and also talking? Plus, I have apparently lost the critical brain cells that make the math portion of knitting work. However! Thanks to the Great Minds Of Stitch 'n Bitch, I cast on the correct amount and will some day in the near future have a Brangelina Hat recipe for the world, because I am a giver. Unlike that Angelina, who is... a taker. Of Husbands. I'm just saying is all.

I'm going to make this hat out of Up Country, but I will make another out of something not discontinued, I promise. Like a good solid Wool-Ease. Plus, wool-ease.. washable! Patons, not so much. Notice also why I need many wide-brim hats... to cover my GINORMOUS forehead. Hello!

3) Roll with your inner Snoop Dogg and Block it Like It's Hot!
The other night when I was blocking my coworker scarf, I already had the steamer out and cat help aplenty, so I decided to block my pebbly double moss stitch scarf (I wrote a piece about it here last week.)

Blocking was crucial on this baby to make it grow. The yarn was almost $17 a skein, a soft snuggly Blue Sky Bulky, half wool and half alpaca blend. Love it! But I only had two skeins, so the blocking process here was targeted at making the scarf grow longer and skinnier (it was maybe a tad on the wide side) and I also wanted the stitches to relax a little. (Relax -- blocking is the new prozac!)





Once again I am shocked at how yarn can grow impossibly longer with steam. My pebbly scarf was too wide by just a tad and not quite long enough for my liking, and throught he magic of blocking I managed to steam and stretch and ply it into place just so, then I pinned the whole thing to the guest bed and let it dry overnight. A quick addition of fringe while watching the early news this morning, and viola! Scarf! True love comes in many forms. Like... fringe. And ... felines. It's great that they want to help around the house, you know. But maybe they could start by pooping less, instead of helping me block scarves with their tummies. I'm just suggesting is all.


And, speaking of much-needed punctuation (which was the title of this little essay about 27 inches ago, which is FOREVER in Webpage Standard Time) I just have to say ... thank you. Sometimes there are sleepless nights (and weeks) at Chez Crazy, and when that happens, I go online and read the 5 or 15 or 235 (!!!) amazing things folks have written, confided, wished for all of us. It's a lovely and amazing gift, and I thank you. And Sobakowa thanks you. Because nothing harshes her kittycat buzz more than getting her precious feline sleep disturbed by an insomniac human. Really.

Posted by laurie at 10:03 AM

March 9, 2006

The Co-Worker Scarf Redux, plus "Block 'til you drop!"

Hello! We are knitting and blocking our way to emotional well-being here at Chez Crazy! And, really, what better way to explore the world of self-esteem and accomplishment than with sharp sticks, quality string and very VERY hot steam?


The Co-Worker Scarf, all finished

This is the revised recipe, my original attempt at making this scarf was posted here a few weeks ago. But with only two balls of yarn (and do not let me pass up the 6th grade moment to tell you these are SMALL BALLS) (heh, small balls! I know thee well!) I was afraid I'd end up with a three-inch-long scarf. Not nearly enough to keep this Stay Puft Marshmallow Girl warm on a European adventure (side note: whenever I look for hotels in foreign cities, I call certain establishments "European" hotels, meaning: "You're a' peein' down the hall in a shared bathroom..." and ya'll know. I'm spoilt. I do not pee down the hall. Say what you will.) (Nothing to do with knitting!)

Yarn: Lana Grossa Colore Print in color #005, 100% virgin wool, so soft! How is this wool? No scratchy!
Needles: Size 13 Lantern Moon ebony needles (I splurged)

Revised Pattern:

1) Cast on 16 stitches.

2) Knit three rows of garter stitch, which is when you knit every stitch (no purling.) You can knit more or less than three rows depending on how big you'd like the ends of the scarf to be.

3) On the fourth row, and every row for the rest of the scarf (until you get to the other end where you do the final 3 rows of plain knitting garter stitch to finish it off all symmetrical-like) you follow this pattern:

Knit 3 stitches.
Then, for the next 10 stitches, do this:
    Yarn over, knit two stitches together.
    Yarn over, knit 2 together.
    Yarn over, knit 2 together.
    Yarn over, knit 2 together. (see? so easy!)
    Yarn over, knit 2 together.
Then knit the final 3 stitches of the row.

Do that for every row until your scarf is as long as you want, then knit three final rows of garter stitch, bind off, do happy dance.

Remember, yarnovering is totally easy! There are probably as many ways to do a yarnover as there are to knit a stitch, but I found that if you just do Your Personal Yarnover the same way consistently in this pattern, you'll be OK. This is how I do it:




Blocking is the new Botox! Fixes wrinkles, cures everything!

This scarf is 100% wool, and I loooooooove to block wool, it makes the stitches look so pretty and it really can make a lot of fabric grow out of two puny balls of yarn. It is magic. Gnomes, probably.

When blocking scarves for fast dry-and-wear (The Great Storm of 2006 is coming this weekend! We may all die! From .... rain!) I always use the Scunci Steamer that Annie gave me as a hostess gift. Best invention ever! The steam doesn't saturate the fabric so the drying time is much faster, and the actual blocking process itself takes about five minutes. In preparation, I put a clean sheet on the twin bed in the guestroom, trying to avoid the feline helpers and I got the pincushion handy. (I use regular old straight pins from JoAnn's.)

Next, I readied the steamer and prepared for greatness.

But in knitting, like all things I guess, there is no one solution that fixes all problems. For this particular scarf, it only took a few seconds to discover that the steamer wasn't the right tool for the job. I wanted to make my scarf grow longer, while at the same time opening up the stitches on the inside. So, to get the scarf to grow both in length and width, I needed an even more powerful and remarkable tool:


To block the old-school low-tech way, just fill a cheapo spray bottle with warm tap water. Beginning at one end of the scarf, carefully pin the piece into place, stretching both in length and opening the middle stitches as you go. A twin bed is perfect for this because it's plenty long for pinning. After about ten minutes of careful pinning and riduculous amounts of cat help, I sprayed the pinned scarf with water, lightly getting the whole surface damp but nowhere near soaked. You'll be able to tell right away by touching the yarn if it's wet enough -- it becomes pliable at a certain point, and that's all you need. When I had fully pinned and sprayed, I folded the sheet back over the scarf (to prevent further feline help and speed drying time) and voila! You have blocking!





The scarf grew perfectly, and that close-up doesn't really show how well the pattern opened up in the middle, but ya'll it was like 5 a.m. when I took that picture, and I believe as a rule I should have a good amount of caffeine prior to operating heavy machinery. Really. All in all, though, an excellent blocking adventure, even with the large amount of orange furry help I received.


Posted by laurie at 10:24 AM

March 8, 2006

When in doubt, talk about knitting.

It's a little overwhelming to think of how many people have been through a bad breakup. I do appreciate every kind word, and I only hope that all of us find a new love, and that love is... MISTI ALPACA.

For those of you who do not knit, Misti Alpaca is to yarn what Marc Jacobs is to handbags: perfection. I'm not sure if alpaca is considered wool, even though I assume it comes off an animal in sheeplike-shearing fashion (one might be surprised to discover that I lived on a farm in Comfort, Texas as a child. But in my defense, we raised holsteins, OK people? Hook 'em horns does not refer to the great Alpaca population of Texas.) Where were we? Oh yes! The softness! This yarn feels so soft, not the least bit wool-scratchy and impossibly lofty. I may investigate buying a baby alpaca for my backyard. In Encino. My rationale is that if Crackhead Bob gets to build a meth lab, I should get my own backyard alpaca.

When Annie was here last year filming Knitty Gritty (which, by the way, seems to be stuck in repeats, can someone please explain why every show is a repeat? why?) she gave me her goody bag from the episode and in it was a single hank of lovely loden green Misty Alpaca. LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. Recently, I bought two skeins of this heavenly stuff in black, and I want to make a scarf -- got any ideas? I'm trying to decide... a skinny ribbed pattern? A single cable? I want something simple, but nice in black.

In other news, I am taking all my fashion knitting cues from the cover of "US Weekly" magazine:


Where others may see nothing but Brangelina, or perhaps Britney's unfortunate swimming costume, I can't keep my eyes off that fantastic ribbed-brim hat! I cast on last night for a simple ribbed-brim chunky hat of my own using my beloved Patons Up Country (another heartbreak, the day I discovered it was discontinued.) (Unlike husbands, however, when it comes to yarn we can buy as many skeins as possible and seal them away in ziploc bags until we find a use for them.)

My house is just full of all sorts of knitting-in-progress (read: scarves that need finishing.) Tonight I fully intend to turn Chez Cat Hair into Chez Keep The Cats Off The Guest Bed So I Can Block Like A Mutha, because ya'll... there is big, scary weather news forecast for Los Angeles and I will NEED those wooly handknits! This weekend, we are supposed to have the evil "rain" combined with a new thing they are calling a "cold front" and in a scary and potentially devastating turn of fate, it may allegedly drop BELOW fifty degrees during the daytime! With rain! Falling from the sky! PEOPLE MAY DIE.

How on earth will we make it to Starbucks on Saturday morning? Will there be a city-wide caffeine withdrawl? Will people loot the Beverly Center in search of skinny scarves, puffy vests and Ugg boots? Will there be shortages of knit Brangelina-style ribbed-brim hats? OH GOD. What if there are no Brangelina hats left? Will we have to resort to wearing newsboy caps from two seasons ago?


Ya'll pray for Los Angeles. Let's hope the handknits are ready in time for what may only be described as POTENTIALLY THE WORST THING TO HAPPEN TO CRAZYKIND.


Posted by laurie at 9:49 AM

February 28, 2006

I See Wet People.

While the rain has all but stopped, traffic in the city is still suffering post-traumatic driving disorder. And when you spend so much time in traffic, you maybe begin to scrutinize your knitting. And the slight "I don't love this stitch" feeling you had about your little scarf intensifies, and before long you think, "I am going to be trapped on this bus forever and I don't know what stitch I want to use and I am HUNGRY and also... eeeeew. The bus smells."

So, well into hour numero dos of my bus ride yesterday evening, I decided to test out a new stitch pattern on my other skein of this lovely Blue Sky bulky yarn (do you think I keep ripping and re-knitting because I love the yarn so much and don't want it to end? Good thing March starts tomorrow, and with a new month the yarn budget begins anew. Amen.)

But... there was just a slight hitch in my giddyup. I was not carrying my normal knitting bag full of normal knitting gear, and I had only my yarn and my one pair of needles. In possibly my proudest knitting moment to date, I channeled MacGyver and created what may be the butt ugliest stitch holder consisting of one red felt tip pen and two mismatched hair clips:

Hey. Whatever works.

The pattern I was using to knit the scarf up until then was a basic cast on eight, knit the very first and very last stitch of each row, and in between do a yarnover, knit two together. That stitch worked great on a recent scarf I made, but I think I just had a different idea for how I wanted this scarf to look, less poufy and more nubby (um, those are technical terms. Poufy and nubby.) Plus, I'm planning to wear this one in Paris (it's going to be COLD! and even if it isn't cold by European standards, I have prissy Los Angeles weather coldness standards. Ya'll know.) and I wanted a less airy fabric.

So, now I am using a modified seed stitch, a pattern Ellen showed me several months ago, and I like it because it's basically a modified Magic Scarf. I cast on ten stitches, then: knit 2, purl 2, knit 2, purl 2, knit 2.

On the next row you do the opposite: purl 2, knit 2, purl 2, knit 2, purl 2. So you have two rows of magic-scarf-ish looking stockinette chunks, or at this point it could even become a ribbed scarf. But on the next two rows, I mix it up with a: purl 2, knit 2, purl 2, knit 2, purl 2 ... and then knit 2, purl 2 blah blah blah and you get this:


I am not a fast knitter by any means, so you know traffic is bad when I get home with a scarf that's already knitted through one whole skein of yarn!


I'm really happy with it now, I think the color of the yarn looks good with the texture of the stitch. I'm thinking when it's done I'll block it like no tomorrow and then add some long fringe. Hello, my name is Laurie and I am a scarf knitter. And re-knitter. And, um, re-re-knitter!


Posted by laurie at 9:57 AM

February 24, 2006

May the circle be unbroken.

A reader recently asked for some information on knitting in the round. With all the emotional binge-purge going on around this here website, knitting in the round seems like a perfect topic to cap off a week of budgeting, reviling 80s fashion, daydreaming about music, bad poetry, technology gone wrong, then right, and generally surprising myself with what appears to be some repressed anger at a certain ex-husband. What could possibly be next besides knitting? Really!

I love knitting in the round because you can get perfect, pretty stockinette stitches with just the knit stitch. Yes, you can. I would not lie to you. And I love it because I can do it while hanging out with my friend Tivo without messing up (much). Just knit, knit, knit! Plus, the cats aren't sitting around ready to pounce on the ends of circular needles like they do with straight needles.

To knit in the round, you need to have a set of double-pointed needles OR use circular knitting needles. Circulars are the needles that look like midget knitting needles attached to each other by an umbilical cord of plastic, or sometimes the cord is metal.


With circular needles you will see two measurements on the package, one is needle size (for example, a size 10 knitting needle) and the other measurement is inches, telling you the length of the cord that connects your needles. [Correction! The measurement tells you how long the whole circular needle contraption is from tip-to-tip. Thanks Margot!]

Double-pointed needles are like mini javelins, pointed on both sides. The concept is the same for both types of needle. But ya'll. Really. If you're starting a "knit in the round" project for the first time, start with the circulars! So. much. easier.

Let's assume you're going to make a knitted Easy Roll-Brim Hat. In just... uh, 20 simple steps. Heh.

You want to start with circular needles, and you'll change to double points once the hat starts narrowing towards the finish line. You need the shortest length of plastic cord attaching the two midget needles, right? Because hats are not supposed to be 300 inches wide. A 16" needle will be perfect for casting on the brim of your hat.

Cord length is confusing and tricky sometimes, because you may have to switch to longer needles or shorter ones depending on projects you may be knitting, but there's lots of great information on the web about stuff like magic loops and probably gnomes, too. But since I'm a simple girl, with barely the basics for Remedial Knitting 101, I'm sticking with my circular needle for most of the hat and switching to duoble pointed needles (called dpns) when the hat gets smaller. I think it's good practice for using dpns, and I kind of like them, they make me feel like I'm doing Extreme Knitting.

If you use a circular needle whose cord is too long for your project, it can stretch the yarn in wonky ways.

The yarn I'm using for this little photo shoot is Cascade Yarns "Magnum" (hee... Magnum!) in color #9478, a.k.a. "Pepto." It's a super-bulky 100% Peruvian Highland wool and the fine folks at Stitch Cafe wound it up for me into the world's largest yarn cake, which I was apparently dorkified and obsessed about showing ya'll.

(click for bigger images):

The first time I knitted in the round I had all kinds of issues. So of course, this is the perfect place for a list!

1) Is casting on different?
No, not really. You cast on using one of the midgety ends of your circular (ya'll, I am so getting hate mail for using the word "midget" like eleventeen times, whoops!) and just try to be careful when casting on that you do it loosely. Loose women cast on to midget needles! Film footage at ten!



2) How do you join the yarn? What the hell is joining anyway? Where do you place a marker? Does the marker get knitted in?

Ha! My questions exactly! (No, really. These are my own questions.) I really wondered when I first started knitting in the round, does the stitch marker get knitted in? Scary!

But it's not scary really. No, the stitch marker does not get knitted in. And starting is easy. You just cast on your stitches like normal, then when you are all done casting on, you hold the needle with the very first stitch you cast on in your LEFT hand.

The needle with the very last cast-on stitch (and the yarn tail leading to your ball of yarn) goes in your RIGHT hand.

Still with me?

The plastic cord thing should be sticking out away from you, not toward your chest. Look down at all your stitches, make sure they are all nice and even with the knot part hanging down (this is what they mean when they say "make sure your stitches are not twisted). Put a stitch marker on your right-hand needle, just hanging there. It gets scooted from one needle to another on the next round. Finally, stick the right-hand needle tip into that stitch on your left hand needle and knit on. That joins the whole mess.




3) The join looks sloppy, what can I do to make it nicer?
I hope lots of ya'll post answers to this one, because I got some good advice in the past on this -- my joins always look sloppy -- but then my email crashed and everything has been erased prior to like December 21, and so, really. I know ya'll have nicer joins than me. And you want to post here and tell us all how to do it. Right? Carry on!

4) Why does it matter which way the plastic cord thing sticks out?
Glad you asked! (I'm now talking to myself, not a good sign.)
Hold the needles with the plastic cord away from you. If you hold it the other way, with the needles away from you and the cord near your boobage, you'll be knitting inside out. Which I have done many a time. Luckily, it's an easy fix on a hat ... after you knit a few rows, you turn it rightside out. It happens.

5) What do they mean when they say "do not twist your stitches"? Why is this a big deal?
Ah, that damn U.S. Department of They. Always telling us what to do. But the thing is, if your stitches are wrapping around the plastic tube all twisty, your knitted item will be twisty and you will have to rip. It's ugly. Take it from me, A Cautionary Tale.

6) Should I start with any particular brand of circular needle?
I'm about to tell ya'll something that will have me crucified in knitland, but I actually prefer my cheapy bamboo clover circs (see how we go with the knitting lingo? circs? as if I were down with the knitting YO YO) (help me) anyway! focus! I prefer the bamboo needles to the mucho expensivo Addi turbo metal ones. Why? Am I nuts? Perhaps.

You see, I knit on the bus and those Addis are so slippery! Plus, I am a very tight knitter, with my stitches way down on the tips of my needles, and with the Addis the stitches just seem to jump right off every time we hit a pot hole on the freeway. And this is Los Angeles, our entire freeway system is held together with pot holes.

So, hopefully that's just enough to get you over the scary "circular knitting sounds complicated" hump. (I said 'hump' and 'midget' and 'magnum' in this column, so right about now we send out a hearty welcome to all ya'll who are here wondering where the porn is. Hi! No porn! Hope you like yarn!) Knitting in the round is really not that complicated, because I can do it with a cat on my lap and while simultaneously drooling over Sayeed, or Jack, or Sawyer or whoever is available at the time.

Just don't drool on woool. It felts.


Posted by laurie at 8:37 AM

February 10, 2006

Knitterly niceness, if you are so inclined...

A few days ago, I posted an email from M.A. who sent me a link to a great column in the Daily News about knitting. As a follow up, M.A. forwarded me some correspondence she'd had from the Director of the Noontime Knitting Club program:

[The program] always needs yarn, but more importantly, we need needles. The kids take them home, and we have new knitters every week. We have been buying the inexpensive needles from Target, JoAnns, and Michaels. Sizes 11 and up and short in length seem to be the best ones for beginning hands.

It is a diverse group, with volunteer adults who are either helping the kids learn or helping them feel better by struggling to learn with them. It is a heart-warming experience for all of us.

We are at:
Sepulveda Middle School Magnet
15330 Plummer Street
North Hills, CA 91343

We would love any support!

Judy Plouff

I wanted to post this in case any of ya'll have extras in your needle collection, especially size 11 and up. I know firsthand that there are no bigger hearts on this planet than a bunch of knitters. Maybe it's from all that Red Heart we all have piled in our stashes!

My boss is calling. Ya'll have a great Friday!


Posted by laurie at 9:01 AM

February 6, 2006

The Co-Worker Scarf

Exhibit A: Morning Medicating Ritual

I haven't written about knitting lately because I haven't actually knitted lately. At all.

This is what my life has been like for about two weeks: blur, blur, cough. Work work cough. Listen Roy you're taking the same medicine that I am. And yet the vet charges me five times as much. Isn't that something. Cough. Blurry. Sleep. Take your vitamins. Please George Clooney come take me away. Sniffle. Rinse and repeat.

So, anyway! Very exciting. No knitting. Then last night I woke up in the middle of the night actually dreaming that I was knitting. My subconscious must have really been missing the crack cocaine known as "wool."

I'm calling this one "The Co-Worker Scarf" because my co-worker Jennifer showed me a scarf she had made using these stitches (an idea which she got from her sister-in-law) and I already know too many Jennifers so I am no longer accepting friends named Jennifer, but I do have plenty of openings for Elizabeths, Emilys and Rachels. Hi! This makes no sense as I am stoned on cough syrup! Moving on.

The Co-Worker Scarf


I am using Lana Grossa Colore Print in color #005, this is 100% virgin wool, so soft I want to hug it. (Also, totally unnecessary as it is February and OVER EIGHTY FRICKIN' DEGREES here.) My co-worker Jennifer used an off-white Red Heart acrylic and it looked fantastic using this pattern, so any yarn will do.

My needle size is 11. These are plain ol' bamboo from clover. One of my Lantern Moon size 11s has disappeared, probably gnomes. I decided to use a needle size just a teeny bit larger than you normally would for this yarn, to make the yarnovers nice and airy.



Here's what I'm doing, though I may need ya'lls opinion if you think the edges are too wide, and maybe the whole scarf is a bit too wide. It looked good on my co-worker's Red Heart, but that yarn is way smaller than this bulky wool.

1) Cast on 20 stitches.

2) Knit five rows of garter stitch, which is when you knit every stitch (no purling.) You can knit more or less than five rows depending on how big you'd like the ends of the scarf to be.

3) See how easy this is so far? We're just knitting!

4) On the sixth row, and every row for the rest of the scarf (until you get to the other end, and do the final 5 rows of plain knitting garter stitch) you follow this pattern:

Knit 5 stitches.
Then, for the next 10 stitches, do this:
    Yarn over, knit two stitches together.
    Yarn over, knit 2 together.
    Yarn over, knit 2 together.
    Yarn over, knit 2 together. (see? so easy!)
    Yarn over, knit 2 together.

Then knit the final five stitches of the row.

So. You have a scarf that looks like this:

5) And that's it. Just repeat the knit 5 / YO-knit2together for ten stitches / knit 5 pattern until you make the scarf as long as you want. Finish with the same amount of garter stitch edging you started with. Wear, be happy, smile at coworkers! (Smiling optional.)


So this is mine in bulky wool. But what do you think, are the sides (the five garter stitches on each edge) too much? Should I frog and go with three per side?

Another view. Just so you can see the lacy part in the middle.

Can't remember what the heck a yarnover is?

Yarnovering is so easy. I thought it would be really hard and I would do it all wrong, turns out that I was yarnovering a lot when I first started knitting -- only I was doing it unintentionally, and that's why my first scarf had a few holes. Whoops!

You use yarnovers to make holes in the knitted fabric, or to make drop stitches (like the drop stitch explanation here.)

Yarn Over is just what it sounds like -- you wrap the yarn over the needle. It creates a false stitch, it's just this little loop sitting on your needle. The reason you often follow a yarnover with "knit two together" is that you don't want to increase your stitches, right? Especially not in a rectangular scarf. If you just yarn-overed without knitting the next two stitches together, you'd end up with 30 stitches in this scarf.

yarnover drop stitch
(This picture is from this entry.)

Knitting two stitches together after a yarnover makes a nice little bookend to the hole created by the YO. (Also, YO YO... that's the abbreviation for yarn over. I know you figured that out, but I wanted to say yo yo! That is how I roll!) (For the love of God someone please make me stop the geeky faux-ironic ghetto slang.)

This scarf is the perfect way to get familiar with the yarn over, you do ten of them in each row! Of course every now and then you may want to check the stitches on your needle, and count that you have 20 stitches and have not accidentally increased like maybe some people we know who were stoned on cough medicine while knitting. You got to check yourself before you wreck yourself. OH MAKE THE SLANG STOP. Please.

Also, I have to leave you with probably the funniest thing I have read in a long time. Abby, of The Knitlette, told me, "I think you may be interested to learn that I have found a new knitting-related use for wine - and it is this: 'I must get drunk so that I cannot leave the house so that I cannot buy more yarn.'"

Now that is a girl after my own heart!

Posted by laurie at 11:19 AM

January 10, 2006

Ribbed -- for her pleasure!

After waxing euphoric about Patons Up Country for so long, a few folks have emailed me with something like, "Hi Aunt Purl! You forced me to buy this Patons Up County, and I forgive you for that, but what the hell do I make with just one (or two) skeins of this crap? Help me! This is your fault!"

I'm paraphrasing of course.

Well then. May I suggest a hat, madam? Here I have the ever-popular "Silver Mist" (the only color currently available on paired with a tiny bit of leftover charcoal grey from my stash. However, you could substitute any comparable yarn for a stripe -- I particularly like Lana Grossa "Caldo" in solid or prints since it knits in the same exact gauge and has the same level of softness and lopi-like structure. But a solid hat would look good too!


The Easy Roll-Brim Hat Recipe cooked up many fine fuzzy hats on the internets and if you haven't ventured into the world of hats yet, I dare you. Trust me, if I (a.k.a. "Scarf girl" a.k.a. "Garter Stitch Lover") can make a hat, so can you. Plus, it's the easiest pattern ever! In three simple steps! Then... maybe 17 more steps. But I talk a lot. Ya'll know.

However, if you're ready to move from the roll-brim hat to something a little more wintery, or masculine, may I suggest a fine and dandy Easy Ribbed-Brim Hat?

Easy Ribbed Brim Hat Recipe
(Saying "ribbed brim" so many times makes me feel all dirty inside.)

1) Read the Easy Roll-Brim Hat Recipe to figure out how many stitches to cast on.

2) INSTEAD of casting on with your normal-sized needle, cast on using a needle one or two times smaller. The thing about ribbing is that it can kind of puff out on the brim of the hat. If you use smaller needles -- just for the ribbing -- your brim will be perfect. And ribbing stretches a lot, so don't worry about it being too tight.

I should have used a size 10 needle on the ribbing, see how it puffs out a little bit?

3) So, OK, cast on. Then start your ribbing. For the hat in the photo, I am doing a wide knit 4, purl 4 ribbing. Just continue knitting in the round, doing your ribbing for a few inches. This ribbed portion will be the fold-up brim, so make it as long as you think fits the hat.

4) When you're all done with your ribbing, switch to the larger sized needle, the one you measured your gauge on. In step One. Because I know you did not skip Step One and you read the Easy Roll-Brim Hat Recipe and know all about knitting a swatch, measuring your noggin and so on. Yup.

5) Just knit in plain stockinette (all knit stitch in the round) and decrease and bind off just like your roll-brim hat. Perfecto!


I do love hats. I believe I could be happy knitting nothing but hats and scarves all my life. I know. I know ... ya'll go on and on about the joys of socks! The happiness of sweaters! But me... I'm a hat girl. Perhaps because they are quick 'n dirty. Perhaps because they hold infinite possibilities: stripes, colors, two yarns held together, then pom-poms, or earflaps or beads, oh my!

I love me a hat. Especially a ribbed hat. For my pleasure!

Posted by laurie at 10:10 AM

December 16, 2005

Blocking is the new Botox.

Finally, the last installment of The Annotated History Of One Very Orange Scarf, also known as "Obviously I Am Still Stunned By My Divorce, Avoiding The Holidays, Whacked Out On Cold Medicine And So I Fixated On This Scarf."

How are ya'll?

I went home last night with every intention of falling straight into bed and sleeping a lovely benadryl sleep. (I got a flu shot and I do believe it gave me the flu. Probably the Evian Flu.) Obviously, I had a fever or something because I went home and ... got busy blocking!

Blocking is the cosmetic surgery of handknits. It is the one technique that can make a short, stubby cheeto-scarf stretch into a long, lean lovely scarf. It smooths out the stitches and helps the fibers relax into their new positions.

My psychotic adoration of blocking is completely the responsibility of one Annie Modesitt, who showed me the magic and miracle of steam blocking. Until she came to visit a few months ago, I had only blocked a kitty pi (here) and my favorite thing ever -- a Noro Transitions scarf (here). But Annie brought her steamer to town ... and once she saw me trying to hold it hostage, she gave me one as a hostess gift! I have been hooked on steam blocking ever since. Steam blocking isn't for every fiber, but it works great on wool.

A big part of blocking is the simple shaping of an item. Annie showed me that you don't have to be afraid of your knitting -- you can tug on your stitches and guide them into shape by pulling and stretching the fabric. I guess I was afraid I'd hurt the knitting or something, but truth is ... knitting likes a little tug now and then. Knitting is maybe a little kinky that way.

There are lots of different ways to block stuff. I like the steamer because it's fast and the scarf won't take forever to dry. Oh, who am I kidding? It's a proven theory that any task is way more fun when you have nifty tools. (God experimented with this theory, too, the result was "men.") I'm definitely not a blocking expert, but so far I've had great results from a short application of steam, some gentle tugging and shaping the item with my fingers, then pinning it in shape to dry.

The steamer got filled with water and plugged in, and as it heated up I prepared The Blocking Surface (a.k.a. the twin bed in the guest room.) Folded a big clean sheet in half and set it on top of the mattress. Got out my long straight pins and tried to avoid attracting the attention of many sleeping felines. Once the scarf had been steamed and tugged on, I would shape it, pin it, and let it dry overnight.

blocking knits

A terrycloth towel provides a good backdrop for steaming, because this stuff is potent HOT and you don't want to hurt yourself.

Lay the scarf on the towel. Steam a section of it real good. Tug and shape with your hands. Repeat! I could see the wool relaxing and getting longer before my very eyes. Then I quickly pinned it out, stetching it as I went along. The whole thing took less than five minutes. Five minutes, folks!

blocking knits

blocking knits

blocking knits

After it was thoroughly pinned, I steamed the whole thing once-over for good measure. Then folded the sheet over it so no felines could intervene and body-block it. Sleep well, little scarf!


My desired results for the cheeto scarf: I definitely needed this piece to grow longer. It was stubby -- way too short for an adult! I wanted the stitches to calm down a little bit since the whole scarf was kind of jumbly and bumpy. And I wanted to make the seam of my three-needle bind off look a little flatter.

[Just an aside here. No, I have no idea how to do the Kitchener stitch. I'm a total novice on all this. I'm always surprised when I figure out how to do something, like loops or whatever, because it feels like I just climbed Mt. Everest! So! Exciting! And I figure if someone as remedial as me can figure it out, I should take pictures of it. But I have many and diverse knitting challenges ... see "I can't read a pattern" and "never knits anything but scarves and hats" and "fuzzyfeet" for more details.]

This morning my scarf was dry and shaped into perfection. You can see how this piece managed to grow long just like I wanted:

blocking knits

blocking knits

I definitely did NOT steam the loopy edges or tug on them at all, I loved their loopy, nutty fringe. But the stitches got super-blocked and stretched and the scarf is soft and long and ... still very orange. The final result is ... funky. Whether it's funky-good or funky-bad is hard to say ...

After my big evening of blocking, I melted into the sofa with my fur blankets. Here's some Franklin Delano Rosencat action for Kellie:


Have a great weekend! Ask Santa for a steamer!

Posted by laurie at 10:31 AM

December 15, 2005

The three-needle bind off will make you feel Very Very Smart. Drink up!

Flush with my knitting high, making magic loopy stitches and drop stitches and all kinds of tomfoolery, did I realize I was quickly approaching PERIL and DOOM... a.k.a. The End Of The Scarf? No! For all my earthquake preparedness and gnome theories, when it comes to knitting projects I am just living on the edge. And the edge often has pom-poms on it.

So, yesterday commenter Kim asked how I was gonna finish the other end of the scarf without the loopies pointing in the wrong direction.

I am so glad you asked that.

I had not considered that the loop stitch has to be done a certain way, directionally speaking, and that perhaps the smart thing to do when using a loop stitch as fringe would be knit two halves of a scarf from the bottom up and join in the middle.

And of course when this inneresting dilemma came up, I had already forever felted the new ball of yarn to the old one and knit several rows more of drop stitch and was thinking to myself, WELL WHAT DO YOU KNOW MAYBE I AM A REAL KNITTER AFTER ALL!

Oh yeah. I'm REAL something. That is for sure.

Instead of ripping back to the felted join, I decided ALL AT ONCE that it is far better to have a graft/seam/whatever-you-call-it at the end of a scarf than in the middle. If it's at the end and you mess up, you can always stick a brooch on it. Or a pom-pom!

I was excited to make the other set of loops for the end of my scarf, and so last night on the bus, I put the drop-stitch portion on a stitch holder and used the same size 15 bamboo needles to begin knitting loops -- using the other yarn tail from the opposite end of my skein. Some people have a candle that burns at both ends. I have a yarn skein that knits from both ends. Woohoo!

Here I have my half-scarf, on the holder, and two rows of loop fringe knitted off the tail of the new ball of yarn:
three-needle bind off

Aren't stitch holders a cool invention? The first time I saw one was at Stitch 'n Bitch, and it was in this one girl's knitting bag. I thought, "Hotdamn that's a big diaper pin! Who needs a diaper pin THAT big? Oh. OH. eeewwwwwww. But whatever. I Am Not A Judger. EEEEWWWWWW." And for the next month or so I went around thinking this girl at Stitch 'n Bitch had some wacky personal predilictions. Hey. It is Los Angeles, you know?

But I digress.

In theory, this scarf would come together just like the tunnel below the English Channel -- one team starts in France, the other in England and they meet up somewhere in the middle and join without a hitch. Except. I'm pretty sure scarf-making is not anything at all like tunnel-building. Thank goodness it's just yarn and not world peace. I'd hate to screw that one up.

Before long, the drop-stitch body of the scarf was done, I only had enough yarn left for finishing. Time to seam it up!

The Three-Needle Bind Off is one of those knitting things that sounds SCARY. But it's totally not. Some things just look so hard in a book but they really are easy as pie. And that makes a person feel Smart. And feeling Smart means I can drink wine and fool myself into thinking I have brain cells to spare.

The only thing SCARY about this technique is finding three needles of the same size. (You can use a circular needle in place of the two straight needles in the left hand if you want.) And using a bigger needle as the third dude in the menage-a-trois needle lovefest works fine, too.

The Basics:
1) End the scarf by completing a drop-stitch row. Normally, I would do a row of drop stitch, then a row of regular knitting. But because I'm about to join the body to the loopy edge, I'm just gonna omit the plain knit row.

2) On the other end are two row of knit loops on a stitch holder. Put those guys back on a knitting needle.

3) Normally, if you were going to bind off a regular old row of knitting, you'd knit the first stitch off the left needle. Then knit the second stitch. Pass first knit over second knit. Easy! Pie!

With the CRAZY THREE NEEDLE MADNESS, you do the same thing. Seriously. But you just hold the Scarf Body and Scarf Loops together in the left hand and use the third needle to knit through BOTH stitches of each left needle at the same time.

4) Then do it again to get two stitches sitting on your right-hand needle.

5) Then pass the first stitch of the right-hand needle over the second like normal binding off.


Stop your whining... it's just ten stitches on a simple scarf.

three-needle bind off

three-needle bind off

three-needle bind off

three-needle bind off

three-needle bind off

three-needle bind off

three-needle bind off

three-needle bind off

three-needle bind off

three-needle bind off

You'll see the finished thing tomorrow when I write an eleventeen thousand word essay on the joys of blocking. I swear ya'll. Get me started talking about knitting and I will never shut up.

But I can't help it! What I love about knitting is that in the course of this simple scarf I've done two crazy stitch techniques and one mysterious-sounding bind off plus I threw in a felted join, two glasses of wine and three trips on the crosstown bus. It may not be world peace or the Chunnel, but it's good enough for the Sobakowa:

soba clause

Posted by laurie at 11:44 AM

December 14, 2005

Drop-stitch and felted join and cheetos and gnomes. And Bob.

As you can tell, I sort of suck at writing headlines. My first job out of college was with the Winter Haven News Chief in Winter Haven, Florida, where I wrote scintillating copy for advertising sections. ("Will Tomato Blight Creep Into Polk County?" "Stripes Stage A Comeback for Spring" and my favorite... "What's New In Bath Fixtures For Fall" ... I was BIG TIME, people!) Anyway, my editor was a nice fellow named Joe who decided the best way for a greenhorn like me to learn the subtle art of headline-writing was to actually write headlines. So he assigned me to kickers.

Kickers aren't really stories. They're photos with a headline and one or two lines of text. I hated kickers. I hated writing kickers. I felt that it was cruel and unusual punishment.

Feedback I got from Joe during that time:

Week 1: Needs a re-write. Keep it up, you'll get better at this!

Week 2: Re-write and send back to me. Keep trying!

Week 3: Not every headline has to begin with a gerund. Re-write.

Week 4: Do not even think of asking me what a gerund is again or I will fire you. Re-write.

Week 6: JesusOnACracker Laurie this was a photo of a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a Blockbuster! There were no gnomes! Nobody thinks your gnome jokes are funny!

Week 9: Ok, OK, yes, that was a funny gnome joke. But this is a family newspaper, your dad would have a heart attack. Re-write. Tell Bruce in paste-up this joke.

Week 12: Either you have gotten better at this or I have somehow ADJUSTED and GOTTEN USED to your sense of humor. I suspect it's the latter. That is disturbing. I'm giving kickers back to Cynthia.

And so I never conquered the headline. Blame it on the gnomes.

But that is not the point of this story... as you can clearly see from my headline. Today it is all about the knitting.

As I am knitting away on this orange loopy scarf, I can think of nothing but eating Cheetos! (Thanks to commenter Jen for pointing that out yesterday. Really. Thanks. Also, did you know that if you eat Cheetos with chopsticks you can avoid tell-tale Orange Fingers? Just a tip. I'm here to help! Gnomes!)

I'm still working on the body of the scarf, which is all drop stitch. Drop stitch was very intimidating to me when I first saw it in a book. The explanations all seemed too vague... what is a yarnover? How do you know what to drop? Will it unravel? What do I do with the first and last stitches?

There are several different ways to do a yarnover or drop-stitch, but this is the one I like best, because you're real clear on when and where to yarn over and drop.

For this scarf, I cast on my ten stitches using the long-tail (or "two tail") method of casting on. That particular method makes a nice, sturdy cast on, plus it doubles as your first knit row so you can get right down to business.

Next, I knit two rows in Loop Stitch (see yesterday's post here for that one.)

On row three, I start the drop-stitch pattern.

Drop-stitch is just what it sounds like... you drop "stitches," except they aren't REAL stitches, these are just faker stitches called yarnovers. I thought yarn overing would be hard ... until I discovered I had been doing it as a beginner accidentally. Whoops! A yarnover occurs anytime you wrap the yarn around the needle without actually knitting it or purling it.

To begin, knit the first stitch of the row just like normal. Then, wrap the yarn tail around your right needle once or twice or even three times (the more wraps, the more yarn you use, right? This means the more wraps, the longer the "dropped" portion of the scarf.)

yarnover drop stitch

yarnover drop stitch

After you do the yarn-overing, knit the next stitch off the left needle like normal. Then, do your yarnovers. My row looks like this:

Knit one, 2 yarnovers
Knit one, 2 yarnovers
Knit one, 2 yarnovers
Knit one, 2 yarnovers
(you get the idea)
When you get to the last stitch of the row, knit it as usual. Boy will you have a lot of stitches now on your full needle!

yarnover drop stitch

Now comes the magic part. That's right, magic! There is so much mystical and elusive about knitting. I am still hoping fuzzyfoot gnomes will show up at my house and finish them up. So, I guess there's also lots of Hope in knitting. And as we all know, Hope keeps you alive. And probably burns calories. But Hope alone does not complete fuzzyfeet, alas.

Where were we? Oh yes... time to make the drop stitch magic!

Knit that first stitch as normal. Now you see the yarn overs sitting there on the left needle, don't you? They're the messy yarn loops on that needle sitting in between the real stitches. Just slide all that loose yarn off the left needle.

yarnover drop stitch

yarnover drop stitch

yarnover drop stitch

Yes, it will be messy.
Yes, you will survive the messy knitting.
Yes, it works out pretty good in the end.
No, I do not want to talk about my fuzzyfeet issues.

yarnover drop stitch

Tug real firmly on the drop stitches to settle them in, and then on your next row, knit each stitch like normal, this really locks in the drop-stitch portion. Voila!

Oh ... but we're not done yet. Check out the Felted Join!

My favorite yarn is 100% wool. One of the perks of using wool (or any fiber that will felt) is that you can add a new ball of yarn using the felted join.

It's just what it sounds like ... joining two balls of yarn by felting the ends of each yarn tail into one seamless yarn-glob. (Have ya'll noticed I'm really into bolding stuff today?)

The upside: No weaving in ends! Woohoo!
The downside: The join can be a wee bit stiff and bulky.

To prevent a big bulky join in my already big, bulky orange Cheeto wool, I fuzzed the ends of my two yarn tails and kind of plucked off some of the loftier strands, thinning each yarn tail down a little bit.

felted join

Next, dampen one or both ends of the yarn. I sponge mine, but you can dip the ends in water, or even spit on them. I'm too OCD-freaky to spit on the yarn, but you do what feels right. Just don't tell me. Really. I do not want to know.

felted join

Once the yarn is damp, lay one end over the other, overlapping maybe an inch or more. VIGOROUSLY rub the yarn between your hands. If you're wearing jeans, you can put the yarn tails together on your jean-covered leg and rub them together real fast. You're using the dampness and the friction to insta-felt the ends together.

felted join

felted join
I love you, felted join!

That concludes today's bandwidth-hogging extravaganza. Bob slept through the whole thing. Coincidentally -- Bob's name was supposed to be "Cheeto" (I mean, come ON! All orange cats should be named Cheeto!) but he only answered to Bob.

Posted by laurie at 10:07 AM

December 13, 2005

Loopy is the new crazy!

The muppet scarf got bound off and ends woven in and now it sits happily wrapped around a nice bottle of champagne in hopes that Karman will associate that fuzzball with bubbly drunkenness. Yum!

Obviously, upon finishing The Muppet I should have returned immediately to the still half-completed fuzzyfoot which taunts me each day with its partial existence.

Obviously, I started a whole new project.

This project has no pattern, no gift recipient in mind, and no real purpose at all ... other than the sheer joy of knitting it. I LOVE YOU, KNITTING! You make me happy. You know I'm crazy and you love me back anyway, with your 100% wool goodness, with your silly crazy stitches, with your never-ending world of possibility. I know you aren't even disappointed in me for stalling mid-fuzzyfoot. You're just happy to live in a moth-free ziploc bag and wait for me. Love you!

Yesterday morning I was running out the door to catch the bus and needed a project STAT! I reached into the stash (conveniently located right by the front door.) Two balls of Lana Grossa Caldo 100% virgin wool yarn jumped out at me -- they've been patiently waiting since March. A soft, dense lofty wool in a cheerful shade of safety orange -- well, it's deer hunting season somewhere, right?


This yarn is so bulky it's practically polar weight. Therein lies the problem -- I only have two very small balls of the Caldo, enough maybe for a hat. But a polar-weight wool hat in Los Angeles? I may be crazy, but I am not delusional (yet!) so this yarn has languished in the stash for months. Felted bag? Kitty pi stripe? Pompom trim?

For no logical reason at all, I settled in to my bus knitting groove and cast on ten stitches of Caldo with size 15 bamboo straight needles. And the only thing I wanted to do was MAKE LOOPS! Big fat fluffy loops!

I ADORE the loop stitch. I'm not sure I'd make a whole garment out of loops, but a few rows here and there are so much fun! Makes you wonder what the inventor of said stitch was drinking at the moment of divine inspiration. Whatever it was... I want some. Gimme. Now.

Making loops looks hard but it's really easy. It's not an exact science... the loops will never be EXACTLY the same length, and I think that adds to its mod, goofy charm. My loops are the beginning of a scarf because as ya'll know by now, my personal motto is "When in doubt, knit a scarf." (Far better than my old personal motto, "When in doubt, go to McDonald's.")

make knitted loops

To make a loop, knit one stitch like normal -- BUT instead of dropping the yarn off the left needle like a normal knit stitch, you leave the yarn on the left needle.

make knitted loops

make knitted loops

make knitted loops

make knitted loops

make knitted loops

make knitted loops

make knitted loops

Making loops takes more yarn than normal stitches, so I only made two rows of loops, one on each side of the scarf to give it a whacked-out fringe look.

As a scarf, this little guy was already looking pretty good to me, maker of dead muppet scarves. But the body of the scarf would have to be airy to compensate for A: the small amount of yarn I have and B: the denseness of the wool. Drop-stitch to the rescue!

Drop-stitch is another favorite stitch, because you get this lacy, airy look that knits up in crazy ways depending on your yarn. Ribbon drop-stitch looks totally different from mohair. Plus, it knits up at a pretty fast pace. So, drop stitch + bulky yarn + big needles = super turbo fast!

Progress after knitting on the bus ride home:

This is one funky scarf, the color and the thickness of the yarn make this stitch look almost like macrame, in a hippiefied 1970s kinda way. I'm not sure if I'd wear this ... but I love making it!

And because I haven't posted enough pictures yet in this one entry, here is Soba getting a little warmth from her personal heater and fur blanket, Roy The Cat:

Posted by laurie at 9:28 AM

December 7, 2005

This scarf brought to you by Fauxy, the Transvestite Muppet

On the one hand, it's ... fluffy. On the other hand, it's ... fluffy?

No, that is not my desk. Are you serious?
You thought my desk would be that clean?

So the Pep "blocco" scarf in red and black is... uh. Fluffy. I still love the way the yarn goes from red to black real quicklike, especially on big needles, and the yarn is very soft. Yet there is no escaping the obvious.

This is one ugly ass scarf.

But of course I knit onward and crazyward, even bought me another ball of yarn to finish it (50% off at the big Unwind sale!!), because Lord knows I cannot just leave well enough alone... no. I have to take well enough and make it nine feet long.

There is something very wrong with me.

Dear Karman,
If you are reading this, please stop. Also, since I know you well enough to know you are still reading this, I apologize for your scary Christmas present. I plan to make it up to you by wrapping this beast around a nice bottle of champagne.



I love to knit, even when I am doing nothing but garter stitch on a BOLD and FLAIR-FILLED project such as Ms. Muppet. People on the bus just look at me, then look at the big fluffy and look away. This scarf is the knitting version of a social disease. I love it. Karman, I hope this scarf brings you as much isolation and public scorning as it has brought me. In Los Angeles, City Of Freaks, I suspect the gift of soluitude may be the kindest gift of all ... even if it is wrapped in red and black fun fur stripes.

Posted by laurie at 10:25 AM

November 23, 2005

I think I have a special node on my DNA for "tacky"

Let's talk about knitting and pretend the emotional meltdown never happened. Hi!

Lately I am only interested in self-striping yarn. This is why I love Noro so much -- you'll be knitting along on miles of stockinette or 2 x 2 ribbing, and just when boredom is about to strike and you're tempted to cast on for yet another project, the yarn magically changes color and Hello! I'm interested again! Sad, so sad that I have the attention span of a cabbage.

On Saturday I took Drew to Unwind, my favorite local yarn shop, and the helpful staff (enablers, all of them) pointed me in the direction of this super-fuzzy yarn that makes clear hard stripes, I picked black and red.

Pics of me and Drew harrassing the nice folks at Unwind, click for full-size:

The yarn I bought: Lana Grossa "Pep Blocco" in black and red, excuse the horrible photo quality please, there was wine involved:

This fuzzy, stripey ball of fluff is going to be a boa-ish scarf for Karman, I wasn't sure if the color combo was maybe too much "I'm a pirate!" but last night Shannon assured me it's perfect for Karman. (Our favorite pirate?) It's 80% Microfiber, 20% Polyamid, 100% Tacky. Love it!

I cast on 32 stitches using big needles -- size 15. I find that when I want to do a quick knit (especially with eyelash yarns) using a big needle gives the fabric an airier, almost drop-stitch pattern. Plus, did I mention the word QUICK? These are my weirdly-shaped hand-carved Uncle Ronnie knitting needles purchased at A Major Knitwork in Reseda. They have an almost dolphin-shaped nose on them, but I love the pronounced needle tip with novelty or eyelash yarns, makes it easier to get in under the stitches.

The Uncle Ronnies pose in front of an Ikea lamp. Disregard the multiple wounds and scratches on my hands from one Roy, a cat who would rather kill you dead than take antibiotics.

The Uncle Ronnies in action -- bus knitting!

Shannon brought In-n-Out over for dinner last night, and sparkling white wine from Trader Joe's ... OK. COME ON PEOPLE. She just totally upped the bar in the Perfect Friend world, I mean cheeseburgers and fries from In-n-Out and wine? SHE IS SO SO PRETTY. Cheeseburgers! Fizzy wine! Totally not on the Dr. Weil List of Things That Make My Ass Look Smaller! I doused the fries really heavy with ketchup since that has... um, antioxidants? Or something?

Possibly the most beautiful sight on earth.

Owing to my tacky gene, I prefer cheeseburgers to all haute cuisine. Serve with champagne for that high-class TV Dinner feeling. Life gets no better than this, folks.

Plus Shan gave Roy a card and some toys, because we are all crazy cat ladies with no kids and this is what we do. I haven't yet thrown birthday parties for the cats or dressed them up in funny outfits but ya'll I am only thirty-four. There is plenty of time.

Roy with his card and toys. Sniffle snortle, plop over.

So this yarn is knitting up fuzzy and forgiving (I accidentally increased a stitch and then knit two together to recover and yet... all is well in the eyelash world) but I still can't help thinking this color combination is just a wee bit on the Bold & Tacky side. ("Do you shop at the Big & Tall Store? No! Only Bold & Tacky for me!") Maybe if I get Karman really liquored up when I give it to her she won't mind. Or it will be something we make jokes about later, "Remember that time I made you that horrible fuzzy crap scarf? The one that looked like a drag queen muppet? HAR HAR!" but no way am I stopping the knit because... look! It changes colors! Magic! Gnomes!



If you are on dial-up, I beg forgiveness.

Posted by laurie at 9:32 AM

November 14, 2005

I love my little kippers!

Real knitters call their works-in-progress "WIPs," which stands for, you know, Works In Progress.

Which may seem obvious. TO SOME.

Other knitters, the remedial kind or those who can't make it through one entire day without making up a word or two, maybe have a different acronym for their knitted projects-in-progress. KIP. For Knits In Progress. But of course some people can't leave well enough alone and maybe forget that the point of the acronymn is to shorten the long name, and instead decide the acronymn needs a nickname, and ergo ... the birth of the word Kippers. As it applies to knitted junk.

I have many kippers! Nothing finished. Just lots of irons, fires, etc. This is my dining table which is, oddly enough, never used for dining:

dining table


dining table

And even closer:

On the left corner we have a still-uncompleted fuzzyfoot, perhaps suffering performance anxiety as result of knitalong. Many fast knitters. Knitting ADD kicks in? Next to it is the wool-ease chunky ribbed scarf I decided to knit for God Only Knows Why, since ribbing is quite thick and cozy, and nobody I know lives in a place cold enough to need a scarf this heavy. Also, I maybe was drinking one night and joined yarn in the middle of a row. Whoops! If you want this delightful piece of green ribbing, it is all yours.

Moving to the middle of the table:

Ah, my lovely white cable-knit scarf, the very first thing I'm making all for me! me! me! This is from a pattern in the "Scarves!" book by Candi Jensen. I love it, but I only have one row counter and I needed it for my fuzzyfoot, so I stopped this scarf after finishing a set of repeats. Plus, cabling is kind of slow going for me, even though I LOVE it. So, this scarf may be ready for me to wear in the year 2027.

And on the other side of the table, we have:

What's that? Yes! Another kitty pi! This one in a rich chocolately brown to match my sofa. One day, little kitties. This pi will be yours!

I'm really behind on my holiday knitting list, plus I've been busy whining and contemplating my navel, and oh! DREW IS COMING TO TOWN IN THREE DAYS!!!! When life gets really busy and you have A LOT of stuff to do, you know there is only one thing that will make everything OK, and that thing is ...

... online shopping. Of course!

These are the world's teeniest circular needles EVER!! I even received them in a timely manner because they were small enough to ship in an envelope, so I had them sent to my house instead of my mailbox. And look, so cute!

Teeny Circs
Here at Chez Sherlock, nothing gets by Roy Cluesoe and his trusty friend, Bob Columbo.

They are clover brand Mini Circulars, but the product is still so new (I'm guessing?) that the packaging is in Japanese:

Teeny Circs
Nothing gets by without a taste test.

These are molded plastic, with a flexible plastic ribbon-ish piece molded between them, and they are a little awkward at first, but no more awkward than four double-pointed needles, in my opinion.

Teeny Circs
Touchdown, Bob!

I'm planning on making arm-warmers with these, and maybe (one day!) real socks! I bought these online from Halcyon Yarns, and shipping was very fast, plus they included two huge catalogs of all kinds of crazy spinning stuff and beautiful yarn and you name it. The baby circs can be located on their website, right here, just scroll to the very bottom of that page.

And Anne sent me an email letting me know the Village Knitter yarn shop and the folks in that area are doing some knitting and helping for the folks who were affected by the tornadoes recently. Let Anne know if you want to help out!

And that concludes the current list of Kippers and recent shopping purchases. The yard sale went great, I made MOOLAH!! And a very nice young couple, newlyweds, bought ALL the Christmas stuff in one big sweep and took it home, and they were so happy. She said, "I guess this was meant to be, we didn't have anything at all for Christmas!" which made me so happy, I cannot even tell you. Plus, I got to meet three new neighbors on my street, and each one had great gossip about The Crackhouse. Apparently Crackhead Bob was dragged off one night by the po-po in handcuffs. HOW DID I MISS THIS? I mean yes, I prefer firemen, but any man in uniform is still ... well. A MAN IN UNIFORM!

Posted by laurie at 8:21 AM

November 3, 2005

Can this fuzzyfoot be saved?

Dear Doogie Howser, M.D.,

I have developed an unsightly problem with my left fuzzyfoot. You see, I was really paying attention to my foot's health, and thought I was doing a good job. But then I had to get stitches -- well, more specifically I had to pick up stitches -- and the Doctor of Fuzzyfeet said there should be twelve stitches on each side. But I have... more than twelve. Lots more.


Doogie, can this fuzzyfoot be saved? Do I continue with my more-than-12 stitches? Do I rapidly decrease? Pretend that having a total of 70-something stitches is ok? Get a fuzzyfeet-ectomy? Only you, Doogie, can save me.

Your friend the math and knitting genius, if by "genius" you mean "really kind of an idiot and not in the savant way."


Posted by laurie at 10:47 AM

October 28, 2005

Fuzzy Feetalong ... film footage at eleven!

Breaking news! This just in from the Associated Press! Knitters may single-handedly solve the energy crisis of 2005-2006!

The Department Of Fossil Fuels And Stuff has just gotten word that a renegade band of knitters will be making fuzzy feet, bringing demand for winter heating fuel to an all-time low and toppling the oil industry! Tens of tens of knitters will rule the world! AND have fuzzy feet!

Just think -- you, too, can be a part of the solution.

Anmiryan of Gromit Knits has built a website for the fuzzyfeetalong and you can find it right here:

Honestly, I have no idea what you do in a knitalong. I am bad at team sports ... if I hit one of ya'll in the eye with a dpn, the phrase "I told you so" should come to mind. Also, I apologize in advance for probably mooning someone when I need to score a touchdown on heel flaps. But I am very excited to have some felted fuzzy slippers for my mom for Christmas!

My mom, on the other hand, is probably not swooning with happiness because I spent the greater part of my formative years making my parents "artsy" stuff like:

• Age 3-5: macaroni-encrusted pencil holders, macaroni collages, macaroni anything (It was the '70s, folks.)
• Age 6-7: lumpy ashtrays (for my family of nonsmokers)
• Age 8: one nature collage made of poison ivy, poison oak and sumac. Boy was that one a hit. Especially when I was lying in a calamine lotion bath all summer.
• Age 9-13: random stuff made at 4-H camp, a.k.a. "the lanyard years"
• Age 13-17: paintings of teenage angst
• Age 18-present: Things I refer to as "kitschy" to mask their awfulness

So anyway, I'm sure she is just waiting with baited breath for my newest creation which she IS OBLIGATED TO WEAR everytime she sees me until they mysteriously get eaten by giant Florida moths or swept away by a freak HMC* vortex.

[ *HMC = Homemade Crap ]

Don't be scared by the sock-like qualities of fuzzy feet. Theresa, the creator of the pattern has generously offered to answer questions when we have them and besides.... You felt this project! Felting hides all sins. Love the felting. And if that isn't enough to lure you... how 'bout a shiny button?


Posted by laurie at 9:54 AM

October 26, 2005

For this I almost went to Bloomingdales Jail.

In this time of post-war, nothing screams, "I am a big fat terrorist!" like furtively photographing the goods ... even if those goods are Betsey Johnson hats and scarves. People in black smocks will maybe come and question you, and you will have to look at them with a totally straight face and say you're taking pictures for your imaginary sister, who is in the hospital with a rare viral disorder, possibly the Yarn Flu, and nothing will make her well except a hand-knitted accessory from Bloomies. And if you sniffle a little, and look sweet and innocent, and ask where the Estee Lauder counter is, you will have fought the law BUT THE LAW WILL NOT WIN.

Now, one day when I am very, very rich (Notice! I am currently accepting applications for sugar daddies!) I imagine I will just loll around naked in a big pile of money while wearing this knitted hat:


And one would have to be of the lolling-rich persuasion, because did you notice the price tag on that little hat?


Bloomies had some cute scarves, too, by Aqua. Stripes and pom poms! I love love love scarves that end in pom poms, I think they're so cute and cheerful. I'm making a cable-knit scarf right now from the "Just Scarves" book and I'm going to trim it with tons of dorky pom poms. Of course with the cables and all, the scarf will likely be completed by June of 2007, so there's that. In the meantime, cuteness:


The next illegal pic is for Jennifer. She and I were talking recently about that little ridge of color you get on the backside of a stripe, and how we didn't remember scarves from J Crew and the Gap having "the ridge" on the back. So when I saw these fancy schmancy Bloomies scarves in stripey colors, I had to check the back:


Looks like they did not escape the ridge either.

And finally:

Posted by laurie at 10:01 AM

October 20, 2005

And on the sixth day she said, "You shall have fuzzy feet!"

As usual, I am late to the party. Very Important Research on the internets let me know that everyone and their brother and their second-cousin-twice-removed knitted up some adorable Fuzzy Feet last year (click here for free pattern). I was still crying and drinking alone on the patio of my old house and repeatedly playing that song "F*** it, I Don't Want You Back" REALLY REALLY LOUDLY this time last year, so that's my excuse.

But now I'm at the party, people! I am here and I will make my fuzzy feet rite of passage!! I brought wine!

If all goes well, my mom will be HIGH STYLIN' in her fuzzy feet for Christmas. This project looks suspiciously like sock knitting, though, so I plan to use some Patons Up Country from my (rather sizable) stash as a prototype before making the gift feet. My folks in Florida need winter knits about as much as we do here in Los Angeles... but fuzzy feet! A necessity! They can insulate and keep the bottles of Chivas from harm during hurricane season, too. (Because my parents? their hurricane kit? Is Chivas Regal. I come by it honestly, people.)

And so begins my first step (ha! STEP! get it!!) toward my holiday knitting. I'm going to pretend that all pictures of holiday hand-knits posted on this here website require a special decoder ring to view, and my friends and family do not have said decoder ring and, ergo, will be COMPLETELY SURPRISED and AWED by their SURPRISE gifts. I cannot go three months without posting about knitting, OK?

Unless of course that knitting is ... the Ugly Mystery Knitted Cat Thingamajig which I may or may not finish this lifetime. It's all knitted, now it just requires a handsaw and some seaming and some hot glue. All things normal knitters use in their handmade projects.

Oh, did I mention that fuzzy feet look like socks? I did? And did I mention socks are kind of fancy knitting? And do you know what a pain in the ass I can be about fancy knitting stuff? With the whining and the blaming and the hissing? And then... the embarrassing pleas for help? And the slurring?

It's a sad, vicious cycle. Once I break free of the long rectangle (a.k.a. "scarf") or simple circle (kitty pi, hats) I'm pretty much screaming in pain the whole way. UNTIL I figure it out, that is, which is when I go from hating the knitting to feeling like I am THE SMARTEST HUMAN BEING ON THE PLANET AND POSSIBLY MARS. That inspires me. Gives me false courage. Which lasts until I take on my next knitting project, always way above my skill level, and I repeat the cry/whine/hate-knitting/someone-helps-me/things-work-out/I-conquer the-yarn cycle.

Maybe I can convince someone to knit fuzzy feet with me? Please? Anyone? You know you want to. Seriously. And then when things go horribly awry I can blame ... maybe you. Until things go right. Which is where I win! I win!

Posted by laurie at 12:06 PM

October 15, 2005

Dear Noro, I Love You.

Today I'm going to tell ya'll all about a trip I took to the Stitch Cafe and where I met my true love, Noro Transitions, and this trip happened... exactly one week ago. I'm writing about events that happened last weekend because this weekend I'm trapped at home, cleaning like a madwoman. I'm going to have a Very Famous Visitor next week, and I want everything to be as sparkly clean and cat-hair free as possible.

Of course, if we're REALLY being honest here, the deep cleaning of Chez Cat Hair is a dire necessity. In the past two months of frantic working and late nights and long hours on Big Scary Project, my house has reverted back to its natural wild state and there are no clean forks. This is sad because I have no dishwasher. I really, really want a dishwasher. Named... Sergei. Who wears red bikini pants and brings me cocktails and does my dishes and speaks to me only in Russian.

So, where were we? Oh. Yes! Last weekend! When I actually did some fun things and totally ignored housework for yet another day. Gwen and I went to the Stitch Cafe and that is where I found MY TRUE LOVE WHO I WANT TO KISS AND HUG ALL DAY AND NIGHT, Noro Transitions:


This yarn is so beautiful, you want to make sweet love to it and call it kissy names. It's self-striping, but in that soft Noro way, and it not only changes color... it changes FIBER. From wool to camel to alpaca to angora, and I think there's some silk in there or maybe cashmere, I do not know, I only know I have once again been sucked in by the lure of Noro. After my nine-foot-long kureyon scarf (click to see it), I took a Noro breather. But now I want Eisaku Noro to adopt me. Please?

I did not intend to buy a hank of $25 yarn (!!!) from Stitch Cafe. I intended only to go there with Gwen and see the beanie from the cabled beanie pattern we got in our Stitch Cafe newsletters.


We've both come down with a burning case of Cable Fever and want to Cable All The Time, so we're making the exact same beanie out of the exact same yarn. People will probably mistake us for twins. That's what I kept telling her, anyway. Repeatedly. Because I am five.

She endured me with a smile:


The folks at Stitch Cafe were very nice and super helpful. I've only been there once or twice before, and I think this was the first time it wasn't crazy crowded, so we got to browse and smell the yarn and linger.


When I got home (this was still last weekend, mind you, when I should have been pre-cleaning the house) I couldn't put down the Noro. At $25 (!!!) a hank, I could only afford one -- enough for a scarf. Ellen recently showed us a modified seed stitch at Stitch 'n Bitch, where you knit two, purl two for two rows and then switch it up so it's like regular moss stitch, only bigger. This was perhaps divine intervention on behalf of the Stitch Gods, and the Ellen was a good teacher, and the stitch was good, and I used it for the Noro.

So I knit. And knit. And by Sunday morning I was done! Scarf! Noro! Oh so pretty. But it was a little scrunched up, since I am a crazy tight knitter. I have no idea why I knit this way. It's like I am grasping the yarn with a death grip or something. The scarf needed blocking to open up the pattern a little.

But, ah ... I haven't actually blocked anything besides the kitty pi. I intend to block a lot of things, but I never do. Also, I thought blocking might be a myth, a rumor, just a thing people say they do but don't really do ... ya'll know how I can be.

But for the Noro, I would do anything. With about 30 gazillion pins and a large sheet spread over the guest bed, I began the blocking process. And I had SO MUCH HELP.


[click for big Bob]

Blocking is NO JOKE, ya'll. It works like magic! I stretched the scarf out to its maximum possible width and length, pinned like crazy, sprayed with warm water and let dry overnight. I think it gave this piece a more professional finish, and it's the first thing I've made that looks like it came from Bloomies. The yarn is the superstar, of course. This is officially the first thing I have made just for me. I love it sooo much. I want to wear it, flaunt it. Perhaps when the weather isn't ONE HUNDRED FREAKING DEGREES, I will. Until then, I photograph it:


Fast forward to today, Saturday, and what I REALLY want to do is go back to Stitch Cafe and do whatever it takes -- sell the cats on eBay, sell plasma, beg, whatever -- and buy ALL THE NORO and come home and knit and hermitize and drink wine.


Instead I'm going to do dishes. And vaccuum. And dream that when Eisaku Noro adopts me there is a houseboy named Sergei who will become my personal man-slave and I can knit him little Noro outfits for our mutual pleasure.


Posted by laurie at 11:04 AM

October 12, 2005

Buttonhole Bag

Since this is going to be my first holiday season as A Knitter Of Unusual Shape And Size, everyone I like is getting a knitted gift. People who I do not like but am forced to pretend to like and still have to follow social conventions and provide them with gifts will be getting not handmade items. Is this punishment for them or for my loved ones? Hard to say.

For the next few months I am just going to pretend my friends and family don't read this website and I will post pictures of knitted things, maybe knitted gift things, and if you know me in real life and see something I've made that you REALLY WANT as your Christmas gift, be sure you email me and let me know.

Conversely, if you know me in real life and are on my Christmas list
and you see something on this website that you REALLY REALLY DO NOT WANT and if, in fact, you are saying, "Please Higher Power, please do not let that be for me...." then I suggest you email me that as well. You know. Just in case.

Posted by laurie at 12:02 PM

Big bootie girl: an update

Yes, as you may have noticed I finished the Ugg baby booties. There are three -- two pretty cute booties and one flat, unattractive bootie. This is the first time in my life that I have ever had a flat bootie. Usually I got waaaaaay too much going on in the bootie department.

(Oh! Thanks ya'll for the suggestions on what to do with my misshapen bootie ... I may indeed stuff that sucker with catnip and let the fashionable felines here at Chez Spinster have at it. Perfect idea! What California kitty can be without an Ugg catnip toy? Especially VALLEY Cats!)

So, after spending hours on what was supposed to be a "quick and easy" project, I now... want to keep these little Uggs. Maybe I just have an Ugg addiction. Or maybe it's true that I don't even LIKE the coworker who's knocked up, I just wanted to make this little knitted cuteness, OK? THERE. I ADMITTED IT. Anyway.

Moving on.

... or not.

You see, it's not that I want to keep them for myself, per se, more that I want them to be adored for their true CUTENESS and also HILARITY and also KNITTERLY MAD SKILLZ. Maybe I should save them for a knitter friend who gets in a family way, since I don't think a non-knitter could appreciate the amount of cussing that went into these. Peggy is engaged and soon-to-be-married, and Gwen is all serious with her boyfriend... so maybe I should pit them together in a race to become knocked up. The prize: These amazing Ugg booties!! Oh, yeah, and a baby. Of your own making.

Really Exciting Diatribe On Making These Uggs:
After my initial knit pas, I copied the pattern into a word doc and re-wrote the whole thing for my limited abilities here at La Knitterie Dumbasserie. I used Annie's tip to count the stitches and put the number at the end of each row (all that increasing and decreasing makes for tricky counting, but whatever. I had reached The Obsessed Place. Some of you may know it?)

And I discovered during bootie #1 that when doing this shaping stuff, it's easier for me to have each row written out (line by line) so I can check them off when completed. I do most of my knitting on the bus and there's no way I can remember at 6 p.m. where I left off that morning at 6 a.m. Hours have passed. Brain cells have fallen asleep. Grumpiness is all around. I need checkmarks, people. (I do have a row counter but we tend to make screeching stops on the bus, and the row counter has gone flying more than once...)

Primary knitting of all booties was completed on the bus, during traffic. Later, I sewed everything up with a glass of wine and some CSI Miami on Tivo. (I want to BE Calleigh Duquesne, by the way. When Jennifer cautioned me about my cat-lady-with-a-gun idea, I immediately said, "But Jennifer! Calliegh Duquesne loves guns!") (I maybe have a wee problem with watching too much TV.)

And, because this is the internets, the original home of the free bootie, here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure ... warning: THESE ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN. Just babies. Heh.

Before Photo: Flat bootie!!

During Photo: Bootie trouble!!
soba messed with my bootie

After Photo: Round fine-lookin' bootie beauty!!

Tania somehow managed to re-write the pattern to knit in the round, but I'm not a crazy mad knitting superstar like she is, so I did it the straight-seam way.

After all my complaining about this tricky pattern lingo, I have to say, it's BRILLIANT how the designer calculated a way to make a whole toe area out of increases and decreases! How do they do that? How do knits and purls make a whole bootie? It's magic! Gnomes!

And I definitely like the part where you knit across seven stitches, and then purl back on the same stitches, all the while decreasing and shaping, that part was so cool. I wasn't sure if you were supposed to slip stitches knitwise or purlwise (the pattern didn't say) (OF COURSE) so I just did them all purlwise.

I love the way these came out, so cute! So Ugg-like! Maybe I'll knit another bootie the wrong way, so I have a pair of flat ones and I can send those off to knocked-up coworker. Then I can send Cute Uggs to someone who would truly appreciate them. Is that mean? Evil?

So, in conclusion, bootie is in the eye of the beholder. Bootie is only skein deep. Yes, I have lost my DAMN MIND. Blame it on... Bootie and the beast?


Posted by laurie at 10:08 AM

October 8, 2005

Perhaps it is true that the only place I ever shop is Target. Perhaps.

Even though it's October here in the home of swimming pools and movie stars, it's still a hunnerdmillion degrees oustide. We had a couple of fall-ish mornings a few weeks ago before the Santa Ana winds kicked in, but lately it's been all heat all the time. I find it hard to get motivated to knit up a fabulous wool scarf when your own nose is melting off your face from the heat.

But my good friend Target? What a giver. Target gave me back the will to knit. After seeing all the cute knitted scarves and hats and all the new Fall stuff, it made me want to go home and crank up the A/C and make magic -- the keep-your-panties-on kind of magic. If you know what I mean. And I think you do. It's good to get started now on fall knitting projects because one day we'll wake up and it will be Very Suddenly Winter, which is serious business here in the Los Angeles area. We have to wrap 9-foot long skinny scarves around us all during the winter months so that our tank tops don't get cold.

The new "Knit This!" kits are in at Tar-jay.
[ Click for bigger pics ]

Convertible mittens -- I assume these are knitted
flat and then seamed because there were no dpns;
A purse and capelet. said "capelet."

Fuzzy pink slippers on the left; Baby blanket/booties kit,
and knit hat, mittens and scarf combo for only $20. Not bad!

Then in the accessories aisle, there were so many cute knitted and crocheted scarves and hats and mittens! My favorite was a long, red scarf that had loop stitch pattern at the ends, then different patterns like rib and cables separated by blocks of garter stitch. It was really cool, although I have no idea how they managed to do both rib and cables without the fabric pulling in several inches (which it didn't -- the whole thing was about the same width all the way through.)


Other scarves and hats, click for big:

The last thing I ran across was ... well, it was like Zen meets Chocolate meets Knitting. It was like ... coming home. That's right, ya'll. The circle has been completed!! I may be a child of the '80s with zero fashion sense and an inexplicable love of Whitesnake, but it appears I HAVE WON THE CULTURAL WAR, because my campaign to single-handedly bring back the short-lived legwarmers trend of 1987 HAS SUCCEEDED!!!



Fame! I'm gonna live forever! I'm gonna learn how to FLY ... HIGH... in my legwarmers... forever....

Posted by laurie at 11:30 AM

September 17, 2005

My bootie is shaped all wrong.

Is it a plot? Do they deliberately make patterns complicated so that remedial knitters like myself WILL GET MAD AND WANT TO QUIT KNITTING thereby freeing up the good yarn for those of you who have the time, patience and perhaps know-how to de-code a pattern?

First, you go read this pattern. Then come back and tell me if you, being a normal human without an advanced degree in Applied Bootie Making & Pattern Decoding, would do as I did. Or don't tell me, because maybe I am the only dumbass in the room.

I started with the "To begin..." portion and then moved right into the "Next" portion.


Because look closely. See that "next" part? It says... Rows 11-18, knit the odd rows, purl the even rows. Like it's basically saying, "I'm giving you a helpful hint here, we're doing stockinette while shaping!" And then it goes right into the new rows, rows that do not start with #19, no, no, that would be easy. Sequential numbering is too easy for people! Must make it hard! So the pattern starts back at #1! Making you (me) assume we just start knitting the next numbered row.


Because this pattern wants you to hate yourself. Those row numbers are not correct. There are not just TWO portions to this bootie of despair. No. There are THREE PORTIONS.

And here's a hint: "Next" is not a good heading for what should be called "Step 2 of 3" or "The middle" or anything besides "NEXT..."

I would like to say here, on the record, that if you write patterns and you want only smart people to use them, put a disclaimer on it, won't you? Because dumb people like knitting too. And some of us knit on the bus, where we do not have the coffee and/or wine needed (depending on time of day) to read your poorly numbered rows and say, "Oh! What Secret Pattern Code Writer REALLY wants us to do is knit rows 11-18 in stockinette, and then rows 19-31 in stockinette with shaping, then rows 32-33 in knit fuzzy yarn, and then bind off. Even though all the rows are mis-numbered from the gitgo. Cool!"

No. Instead, the pattern writer uses crazy numbering and fancy tomfoolery to keep my bootie misshapen. And I have big bootie, people.

I know that this is happening because I am a Remedial Knitter, and I'm probably being punished because I once spit into the wind, and because of that time I said that thing about the girl with cameltoe. But is it too much to ask that knitting patterns are written out in normal words? Is it?

Honestly, what purpose does it serve to write EVERYTHING in mysteriously organized shorthand that has to be meticulously de-coded? And then the shorthand keeps changing! YF means yarn over! SKP means slip-stitch-pass-slipped-stitch-over, which other patterns abbreviate as PSSO. Ya'll, I can barely remember my own phone number. How can I be expected to remember 37 different ways of saying yarn over? How?

Advanced Knitters who know the Secret DaVinci Code of Knitting Patterns are thinking I'm just lazy.

YOU'RE RIGHT. I am LAZY. And TIRED. And life is so hard, why does a knitting pattern have to be hard, too? Are we knitting in code because spies are listening in on our pattern transmissions? Are we trying to make sure the commies can't knit up some Ugg booties? Are we curing cancer here? Can't we all just get along?

Well then.

Of course I had already finished and seamed said misshapen bootie before discovering my error. And of course I'm going to plod through and make two new booties using the de-coded pattern. And at the end of this I will have one lonely, squat Ugg bootie left. Maybe I'll give it away online. Free! One bootie! For your amusement!

Because Lord knows, if there's a good place to get free bootie, it's the internets.

Posted by laurie at 10:53 AM

September 16, 2005

Shake your bootie.

Candi Jensen was on "Knitty Gritty" last season demonstrating how to make the CUTEST DAMN BABY ITEMS EVER... hand-knitted suede Ugg booties.

[ click here for the pattern ]

I know that ya'll hate Uggs and think they are the ugliest thing since shoulder pads. But I am here to tell you, I live in the Valley and I wear my Uggs (which is shorthand for "UGliest shoe on God's green earth") loud and proud. And I am not alone. The weather has been surprisingly cold here lately -- yesterday it only got up to about 80 degrees downtown! -- and this morning it was even OVERCAST (gasp! how on earth with the little Los Angelenos survive? will there be price-gouging on Starbucks and fizz-control hair gel? Will women in spaghetti-strap tank tops have to wrap 8-foot long skinny scarves around their necks? Will the world stop spinning on its axis?) but anyway, the point is that Ugg boots have been spotted already on the streets of Los Angeles.

It's the age-old question: which comes first -- the fall weather or the Ugg boots? Do people get so desperate to wear their Uggs and skinny scarves that they collectively bring on the Fall weather? Or does Fall bring out the Uggs?

We may never know the answer. It's a chicken-and-egg debate, really, best left to the great minds of paradoxical philosophy.

Me? I'm just over here contemplating your bootie. I've been, in fact, feeling on your bootie. Since that show aired, I have been dying for someone around me to get knocked up so I could make them, and finally (finally!) a girl at work fell into the family way and I started tapping that bootie.

Except ... well, I have READ and CAREFULLY FOLLOWED the pattern. And I really have enjoyed making my first bootie call. But so far my bootie looks REALLY different than the picture on the DIY website. It looks, maybe ... not so much like something that would hold a foot at all.

The Knitty Gritty version:


The Girl Who Says Porn Inappropriately Version:


Posted by laurie at 9:27 AM

September 9, 2005

Can someone call a doctor? I think I caught a nasty case of bad intarsia.

The clapotis bug was going around for a while, but it seems I have caught a case of intarsia. Bad intarsia. My Red Heart hurts from all the bad intarsia.

But first -- can I please PLEASE beg someone out there to make up a book of knitting all done in swatch format? I know some folks like to make a whole sweater from the gitgo, but I need swatches. A swatch is like ... having a TV crush. You don't have to commit a lot of time, but it's entertaining. You can love it episodically, you can be done with it in under a half hour, you can learn something new, and then you can move on.

I love me a swatch. Maybe this is because I have Adult Deficit Disorder Knitting Syndrome. I do not know. So if you could just PLEASE write a book with every stitch technique written up in swatch patterns, I would love you and feed you cake. OK?


I bought this book because all the sections (knit, purl, work with color) begin with swatches for practicing. Only ... the authors must have been tired of writing when they made it to the colorwork section.

The color section is kind of like ... "So, just add color, here's a chart, buh bye!"


Yet I started knitting the diamond intarsia pattern anyway. You knit 6 rows in stockinette and then when you get to the design, the pattern offers this stellar piece of instruction:

"Work chart in the intarsia method."


Care to... uh, you know. ELABORATE? Please?

But no, they do not care to share the secrets of intarsia with you. They don't tell you if you need to cut the yarn or make bobbins or anything from the main color, and ya'll I need details, I need really remedial details, OK? I need the kind of details a child -- a very SLOW child -- could understand.

So I wasn't sure what to do with the main color, and YES, YES I DO WANT TO WORK THE CHART IN INTARSIA METHOD, but someone please tell me what the method is? Just a hint? Pretty please?

On the facing page, the authors detail the "stranding" or Fair Isle method of colorwork, not to be confused with intarsia, so after some pondering I figure out that intarsia means "don't strand across the back." Instead, do intarsia IN THE INTARSIA METHOD. Which is still... a mystery. Like Stonehenge.

Do I use cut the main thread and re-attach on the other side? Weave the ends under the contrast color? HELP ME, CREATORS OF STONEHENGE. I want to know your mysterious ways. Send your gnomes... and please, send some decent instructions....

Time passed.

No gnomes appeared.

I decided to weave the not-in-use yarn under the in-use yarn, like I do when want to lock in the yarn tails of any project. But this created a denser intarsia design (since the white yarn was being caught under each pink stitch, on the wrong side of the work.)


Also, I don't think you're supposed to do it that way.


So I decided to stop that madness, and drop the white yarn when not in use. Only ... when I needed it again, it was waaaaaay the hell over on the other side of the design. Too many stitches away for stranding. Which apparently you aren't supposed to do anyway.


So I cut it, YES I CUT THE YARN ... but then you're working with 37 million yarn tails, and is this even close to being right? How do you keep your tension even when adding new yarn every few stitches?


Eventually I finished my swatch, my first piece of... maybe intarsia. Maybe not. I do not know because the book refused to tell me. IT IS STILL A MYSTERY.

Just like Stonehenge.

Posted by laurie at 8:54 AM

August 31, 2005

Fancy schmancy remedial knitting


Yes, I know.

Another hat.

But I LOVE knitting hats! I love them! And they love me too! In fact, if I can't marry my Dyson vacuum cleaner, I may one day marry a hand-knitted hat! So there!

(Can you tell I'm operating on zero hours of sleep per night? Can you tell? Can you?) (And I can't watch the news, yet I can't stop watching. That's why we're talking about hats today, ya'll.)

Also! It has been so long since I have had ONE FULL DAY OFF WORK with no work work work and I have not done laundry in forever, since Lord knows I do not spend my limited free time doing laundry, and I am thisclose to running out of clean clothes to wear to the office. When that happens, I will have to call in STINKY. As it is, I am down to my desperation underwear -- you know, the Spy Panties (so-named because they creep up on you from the rear.) Yup.

Anyway! I'm not an advanced knitter, but man I sure do love to knit. I love seeing those decreases on a simple little hat stack up like so many petals on a daisy, I love seeing a scarf grow to lengths of absurdity, I love pom poms.

I also sniff yarn, so this could be a factor. I am also wearing hideously uncomfortable underwear, so that could be a factor.

Ya'll, I'm just going to go ahead and state the obvious -- I may never make it out of Remedial Knitting. And what's worse is that I am TOTALLY FINE WITH THIS REALIZATION. I just love to knit. Knit knit knit. "La la la, knitting is fun, la la, whoops! Look how UGLY this here scarf is! Boy, this is way uglier than I could have even imagined. And I have an active imagination. Um.... well. Guess I'll give it to my mom, har har, because she LOVES ME and she'll be OBLIGATED to wear it, HAHAHAHAHA boy I hope I have my camera 'cause man this is UGLY.. heh heh..."


So, yes, I may be in Remedial Knit & Purl my whole life. I'm not crazy about lace. I'm not in a huge hurry to make a sweater. As it stands, I am still working on arguably the world's ugliest knitted object (see: Ugly Mystery Knitted Cat Thingamajig, coming soon to a padded room near you.) But boy I do love to knit.

So, hello, hat! Again!

I thought mittens might be too challenging to start without some help from my friends at Wine, Wine & Sons, Inc. Yet cruelly, I can't have alcoholic beverages while I am commuting to work -- so the next best thing to mittenknittin' is to knit on a hat during my bus ride. If I ever get a day off (Labor Day? BETTER NOT MEAN I AM LABORING DAMMIT) I will start making my mittens. Until then, I am still in Hat City.

The grey Patons Up Country wool hat (again: things you really need in the San Fernando Valley ... wool hats. To go with your Ugg boots. To ward off frostbite.) (but shutup! I love my Ugg boots!) anyway... where was I? Oh! The grey hat was becoming a bit stockinette-y. I wanted color, but a stripe suddenly seemed terribly passé, what with my panties up my hoohah and the dark circles under my eyes. So I pulled out my Book Of Hats, a much-beloved gift from Jenn of Knitwit Momma, and started looking for ways to make a sow's ear out of a lamb's wool.

I have a blemish. The book barely covered it.

One of the hat patterns in the book uses slipped stitches to create a sort of woven look with different colors of yarn. I just used the technique on a few rows to see how it would go. After some untangling and a little improvising on color, it began to take shape and it's actually pretty! Me! Make! Pretty!


Sure there were some touch-and-go moments. The bus is not exactly the smoothest ride, and my Addi turbos are slick, and sometimes stitches just JUMP OFF of THEIR OWN VOLITION.



At one point, I made the ALMOST FATAL mistake of looking up (OK, small side note here: some folks apparently are GIFTED and can read a book and knit at the same time. Ya'll, I cannot knit and chew gum at the same time! Thank goodness knitting isn't a competitive sport, or I'd be out in the back 40 growing cobwebs. I'm just saying is all.)


But after I got the hang of it, the pattern just moseyed along at a good pace and I was pleased as fur on a frog, my hat was looking so good! This positive result was a much-needed inspiration. You see, about a week ago, I made the mistake of trying to read the Patons Urban Neutrals pattern for the fluffy coat on the front of the booklet. (Since I have ALL THE UPCOUNTRY in the country, it seemed like an obvious move.)

I studied the pattern. I scrutinized it. I wasn't even DRINKING. But for the life of me, I couldn't figure out the pattern and it all started reading like Greek, and my heart rate increased and I was sweating and I started to think I WILL NEVER EVER SUCCEED AT THE KNITTING BECAUSE I AM TOO DUMB TO READ A PATTERN.


Fast forward to this morning, on the bus, and me and my uncomfortable underwear are traveling at the speed of light to downtown Los Angeles (because light travels at 12 miles per hour, right?) and suddenly COLOR starts to look SO GOOD and holymoly I have a fancy schmancy looking hat that will fool my non-knitting friends into thinking I am a BADASS.

So maybe I should do more of this color knitting stuff. I love mixing yarn colors (even when I fail, miserably) (which happens, you know.) I like changing colors and making color combos and patterns, so maybe I need to try some intarsia or fair isle or ... whatsit? jacquard knitting? I think after the mittens, some funky colorwork is in order. This mosaic/slip-stitch knitting is the perfect place to start because a lot of it is written just like a regular pattern, with no chart.

Besides, my future Dyson husband may need a hand-knitted colorific cozy. You never know.


• Here is a little explanation on

•Oh! Free pattern for a slip-stitch dishcloth on

•And there appears to be a whole book about this kind of knitting.

•There's an explanation and a small sample motif on knitty -- for free!

•My favorite link so far is on Wendy's site, she has some amazing patterns that even I could follow and they are so pretty!

Posted by laurie at 8:14 AM

August 25, 2005

Small step for girl, giant leap for knitting.

Finished the jury duty hat last night on the bus ride home from work:



Details: One pink hat, made from the easy roll-brim hat recipe.

Materials: Clover bamboo circular needles (size 11) and Crystal Palace "Iceland" wool in a variegated pink. It came out looking a little like pink camouflage, but what can you do?

I still have two skeins of the yarn left, and of course my normal next move would be to make a matching scarf. However, I have made a decision. A big decision. A bold decision! Sometime in the middle of the night, it came to me like a dream.

It is time.

Time to break out of the rectangle. Time to explore new horizons beyond the circular hat.

It is time to make a mitten. Or two.

I thought I might start with the pattern in Weekend Knitting for "super mittens" unless anyone present can give a reason why this woman and those mittens should not be joined at the hand ...

Also, if you have any Mitten Knowledge and Wisdom you want to share, please! Feel free! I am listening! See? Ears. Open!

Also, I would never end on a cute cat picture just because I am late for a meeting and have nothing witty to say. In fact, that's just a cheap shot and a copout.

Frankie isn't a supermodel, but she plays one on the Internets.

Posted by laurie at 9:13 AM

August 17, 2005

This just in! A knitting website with no knitting!

There hasn't been much knitting going on around Chez Spinster, and the reason is sort of pathetic and reflects poorly on my time-management skills. But ... I just haven't had enough free time to think up my next project, then pull together the supplies from the stash and needles, put it all in a bag and get busy.

This also exposes my poor organizational skills.

Finally, I dug into the stash yesterday and came up with... um. Well. Ya'll know. Patons Up Country in charcoal grey. I am ashamed to tell you how much of this stuff I have, especially after my insane hoarding spree of June 2005. (I am embarrassed... yet also conversely EXTREMELY PLEASED WITH MYSELF.) (I practically have an entire sheep flock in my stash.) (AND I LOVE THIS FACT.)

I haven't gotten very far. But still, it's knitting!
Three guesses what this is gonna be....


I forgot my knitting kit, however.


And... apparently when you WEAR this knitting (even just three rows of it) you become DEMONIC and POSSESSED BY EVIL:


I think I'm going to attach that pic to my divorce papers. For context.

Posted by laurie at 9:42 AM

July 11, 2005

Up Country without a paddle.

I have problems, ya'll. PROBLEMS. With the yarn shopping. And the spending. Because do you suppose Patons discontinued their beautiful "Up Country" yarn just to screw with me? It really brought my hoarding issues out in the open... and that's all I have to say about that.

Oh, ALL RIGHT, maybe I will say one more thing: Notice that is all out of Patons Up Country even though it was on their "new" list just days ago? Yup.


But I am making all my holiday gifts this year. Right? And it's on sale, right? And I am going to need a warm winter sweater for when me and the cats and my cute shoes are living in a storage shed in North Hollywood because I am broke and homeless. Right? Right?

Ya'll know.

Aside from the Patons problem (which, by the way, is not even one of those yarns that makes other knitters go nuts! it's probably been discontinued because I am the only one who loves it! I may be the only human alive to say it out loud, but I love you Patons Up Country! And dammit, you are contributing to my abandonment issues!! How dare you leave me!) anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes! Aside from the Patons issue, the Chez Spinster Spending Cap is on nice and tight. I am sticking to The Budget. Last week I made my own breakfast and lunch and didn't really buy anything besides HUGELY DISCOUNTED yarn that has been DISCONTINUED and if I did not buy it RIGHT THEN I would forever lose my chance and it would be GONE and I would CRY. SO THERE.

It made me feel better that Ms. Sheep in The City and friends also had a hoarding issue, although theirs was with Cotton Ease, and everyone loves Cotton Ease. Patons Up Country? Who has ever heard of someone coveting that?

Crazy. I tell you.

I hate it when a company just ups and discontinues something you loved and took for granted, something you just assumed you'd always have in your life. This is all because of 12th grade when Elizabeth Arden had the NERVE to discontinue Bare Sugar lipstick. I was so mad, I even called the Elizabeth Arden headquarters ("Hello, I am SIXTEEN and this is the only lipstick that does not make me look like a floozied up tramp! Can you hear me! Give me BareSugar!") and I tried to organize other girls at my high school into a letter-writing campaign. I failed. They were all using Revlon So Red.

In retaliation, I never bought another piece of Elizabeth Arden makeup. That will show them! The hatred of a high school girl in need of her Bare Sugar lipstick is strong and enduring. Notice it has been EIGHTEEN LONG YEARS since Bare Sugar was discontinued and I still hate you, Elizabeth Arden! HATE YOU.

Patons creators, take note. I'm just saying is all.

Posted by laurie at 8:01 AM

June 28, 2005

Easy Roll-Brim Knit Hat Recipe

Right. Clearly I am not the only hat addict out there who has had a run-in with Big Hat, Mushroom Hat, Teeny Hat and Bad Lumpy Lopsided Hat. I got a lot of email asking for the pattern to make my roll-brim hat that (finally!) fits. Here you go!

- - - - - - - -


I am a super-beginner knitter. Also, I hate The Math. But man, I love to make hats. Love you, hats! Perhaps if I had read a beginner hat tutorial, I wouldn't have frogged all my hats forty-seven times to get them right. (Well, I probably would have. So what. Moving on.)

Anyway, in the spirit of Me Being A Cautionary Tale, here is a pattern for a peaceful EASY feelin' roll-brim hat.

This hat is a combination of multiple patterns. I started with a free online pattern from Needle Beetle (pattern here) but I was scared off by starting with double-pointed needles. So I worked off a pattern from Teen Knitting Club, but my yarn and gauge were different, and I had a lot more decreasing, so then I got an impromptu Knitted Hat Math Lesson from Michelle of Fickleknitter, and Laura of JenLa, who explained decreases to me in plain English. Thanks, Michelle! Thanks, La!

The best part? Once you get The Formula, you can make hats all the time with ANY yarn and NO PATTERN. This is my dream come true. Now if the naked-rich-man-who-does-dishes dream would come true, I could die happy.


I am using:
1 skein Crystal Palace Iceland wool in orange
1 skein Crystal Palace Iceland wool in pink for a stripe
Size 11 circular needles, 16" long
Size 11 double-pointed needles (dpns) SCARY!!!
Robert Mondavi Shiraz from Ralph's
NOTE: My gauge swatch gave me about 3 1/2 stitches per inch.

Goal: Make a hat from any yarn without a pattern.

Easy Roll-Brim Hat

Start with a formula (WARNING!!! This is MATH!!) to get your cast on going:

1. Measure the circumference of your head
2. Swatch your yarn
3. Measure swatch to find stitches per inch
4. Multiply stitches per inch by head measurement

My gauge = 3.5 stitches/inch
Shannon's head = 21 inches
Ergo, 3.5 x 21 = 73.5

NOTE: I went with 72 as my amount of cast on stitches instead of 73 or 74. This was because 72 is a number I know how to divide easily (for the decreases) and also, I'm tired of making gigantorhats.

5. Cast on stitches from The Formula. I am using 72 stitches (on circular needles).

6. Place a stitch marker on your needle at the end of the last cast-on stitch. I use the heart-shaped ring my parents got me when I was 15.

The first time I knitted "in the round," I couldn't visualize how on earth the stitch marker worked. Was it knitted into the hat? How do you get it out of the stitches? Yes, I am a dumbass.

But the stitch marker just gets scooted from one needle to the other as you knit around -- you've completed a row when you're back at your marker. Then you scoot it again, from one needle to the other. Use a ring, a piece of string, a rubber band, whatever you want as a stitch marker.

(!!!) This is where they always say MAKE SURE your stitches are not twisted!! That means the knotty-looking part of the stitches are hanging downward and nothing is twisty on your needles.

7. Join the stitches together. Hold the needle with your last cast-on stitch (stitch # 72, for me) in the right hand. Hold the needle with the very first cast-on stitch in the left hand. Knit into that first cast-on stitch, and pull the yarn snug so there's no gap. This forms a circle. Let the circle be unbroken! By and by Lord, by and by!

Note to the OCD-Type-A Knitters: My join always looks sloppy. Hopefully I'll get better at this as time goes by, but look, this is a roll-brim hat. No one will ever see it. MOVE ON.

8. Oh. Hah hah. Here's a tip. Hold your needles toward you. The plastic part (the plastic tubing that makes them "circular") should be sticking out AWAY from you.

Because, me? Cautionary Tale Girl? I found out that if you hold the plastic in front, you will be knitting the whole project inside out. Yup. I have no idea how this works either. Magic! Gnomes! I do not know. And even though I REALIZE this is a problem for me, knitting inside-out, I still accidentally do it. Whoops! It's no biggy. Just turn it right-side once you have a few rows. Who cares, it's just yarn! It loves you!

9. Is this the longest pattern you have ever read or what?

10. Knit every row until you have about 6-7 inches of knitting, depending on how much roll you want in the brim.

Lay your hat on a table, smooth down the rolling brim and measure from the cast-on edge up to your most recent stitch. Actually, just try it on. It will make sense.


STRIPE STUFF: At some point in the 5- or 6-inch portion, you can switch yarns and make a stripe. Just start knitting with another color at the beginning of a row and knit until you got a big fat stripe. Or skinny stripe. Or whatever floats your stripe boat.

11. Now, you're gonna start decreasing. Also, you may want to have some wine or beer handy since the double-pointed needles are coming. I'm just saying, is all.

12. Begin Decreasing.

Dear Aunt Purl: HUH??? Decreasing? How? When? Why?

Dear Decrease Scaredy: I know. There is Math.

Decreasing is pretty simple. You just knit a certain number of stitches, la la la knitting normal, then knit two stitches together, and repeat.

To figure out how and when to decrease, you have to do The Evil Math! But it's easy. Just find a small-ish numer that divides easily into your cast on stitches number.

Me: I cast on 72 stitches
72 is divisible by 12
Now: Math.

Here is the scary genius part of the knitting. YOU DO NOT EVEN REALLY HAVE TO KNOW MATH. Pretend the stitches are shoes. You know all the shoes you cast on (72) are easily divided into groups of 12.

Then, you want to get rid of one pair of shoes by knitting two shoes together. But you're wondering WHICH TWO SHOES you knit together, right?

Subtract 2(shoes) from 12(shoes).

12 - 2 = 10

VOILA!!! You knit ten stitches, then knit two together. Continue all the way on the round (knitting 10 and then K2TOG), and you're decreasing!!! No stitches get left out in the cold. All the shoes have mates!

(I have no idea either! But it works! I swear!)

For this hat, however, I made a quick decrease because I MADE THE BODY OF THE HAT ALMOST 8 INCHES LONG. Whoops! So, 72 is also divisible by 9!

Ergo, I have 9 (stitches/shoes) - 2 (stitches/shoes) = 7. So I knit 7 stitches, then knit 2 together, knit 7, K2TOG and so on. Perfecto. Anything is better if you equate it with shoes.

13. Knit the next round of decreases. So, if you started out by knitting 10, knit 2 together ... then you now knit 9, knit 2 together.

14. And so on. If the previous row was knit 9, knit 2 together ... now you decrease by knitting 8, then knit 2 together.

15. This pattern, the SIMPLE roll-brim hat? We're on step 15 already. HAH HAH.

16. Here they come. The DPNS ofD -- double pointed needles of death.

Deep breath. Sigh with the weight of the world. Begin switching to three double-pointed needles.

Me? I'm a big fat weenie and not a super-advanced knitter (yet!) so here's how I first made the transition from circs to double-pointed needles (dpns). My first few times with the DPNS, I slipped the stitches off my circs and onto my double-points without knitting them, evenly distributing stitches over the three dpns.

It's just a transition step. That way I didn't have to combine decreasing and counting with knitting onto the dpns and cussing and sipping wine and trying to get a cat off my lap all at the same time. It may take a few minutes more in the long run, but at this point we're on Step # 16 and what is a few more minutes? Really now?

OR, alternately: You can knit the stutches off your circulars with your double-points. This is what I do now, but it took me six hats and much wine to get comfortable with it.

17. Now everything is on the double-pointed needles. Your pack of dpns should either have four or five needles. You're only using three in the hat stitches. So, with the left-over double-pointed needle, begin knitting off the double-points. Basically you knit as if with straight needles, taking the stitches off a full double-point and onto an empty double-pointed needle*.

* Also, I am not explaining this very well. Sorry. It's hard. Here's a picture.


18. Keep on with the decreasing until you cannot stand it anymore. I usually decrease down until I only have about 10-12 stitches on my needles.

19. Cut your yarn, leaving about 8 inches of yarn tail for pulling the whole thing together. Thread the tail through a yarn needle and pull it through all the remaining stitches like so:


Make a knot. Weave in all ends by weaving them across the stitches on the inside part of your hat.

FINALLY.... STEP 20!! Easy Hat!! HAH HAH!! Embellish with a pom-pom if desired. Drink wine and feel happy as pie. Imagine you are a superior knitter, with superior hat-making skills. Avoid all news channels that tell you it will be one thousand degrees this weekend in the Valley, negating presence of wool hat.


Posted by laurie at 6:57 AM

June 7, 2005

Look up "obsessed" in the dictionary. Hi! That's me!

I am crazy. As if you did not already know this.

The hat thing has become not merely a project, not just a new notch on my knitting belt, no. No, ya'll. It has moved beyond quest and right into the realm of the OBSESSED and also, CRAZY.


I think I might be channeling my work stress and also looming-court-date stress into hatmaking. (Could be worse, I could be a glue-sniffing carjacker with visible panty lines. You know.) Work is hard, and also long, and there is so much Work involved these days. I thought this place was just where the free coffee and network connection was located. My mistake! And June 30th? Looming. But let us talk about HATS. Because that is THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE OF ALL OUR LIVES.

Green ribbed hat.

Just the facts, ma'am: Lion Brand Wool-Ease chunky in green (Willow 173). Size 11 Addi Turbo circs, 16" long. I swatched, because I love to swatch. Makes me feel like I am a real knitter (ha! I really just do it because it's a mini-scarf!) Got my gauge. Made this hat for a 21- to 22-inch head. Cast on 72 stitches.

Let the ribbing begin.

There were some issues along the way with this hat, because have I ever made a hat without a serious need for therapy and wine? No. Yet I persevere. Because I SHALL CONQUER THE HAT. I will be the freakin' Napolean Bonaparte of hats ya'll. So, here are some things I would have done differently in retrospect.

1. I would have used a smaller needle for the ribbing, to make the ribbing a little more snug.

2. I would have made the hat longer by about one inch.

3. I would someohow magically know how to decrease so I don't get those little "points" where the decrease starts. HOW do I do this? HELP ME. Or is this just normal? Or am I being a perfectionistic freak?

4. I would have resisted the urge to cast on two more stitches than The Math (but I wanted to make it a number divisible by 12! I can do 12!) In the future, I will find some way to learn math and divide up numbers that are not multiples of 12. Pass the wine.

Click thumbnails for bigger images.

With the green ribby hat all completed, I needed a new project for the morning bus ride. I picked up the mohair blend and ribbon combo I had planned to scarf up for Laina, and I started my swatch/scarf. But ya'll know. I couldn't resist the urge to see -- just see -- how it looked in stockinette. So pretty! Really, much better than some old garter stitch. And wouldn't this make a pretty (if somewhat shiny) hat? Wouldn't it? You know, a blue hat. A pretty hat. A HAT HAT HAT.

So, um, Laina! Hi! Hope you want another hat! Please email me your head measurement again! Are you in Boston yet? Miss you! Hat!

Click for big. Fuzzy is Lana Grossa "Fumo," ribbon is Plymouth "Electra."

The green hat, certainly more of a success than the Orange Mushroom Hat, and the new blue sparkly hat to come have inspired me in a way that will warm your heart and make you believe in knitting again, because folks, I have found a way to fool myself. I have decided that if I convince myself the Ugly Mystery Knitted Cat Thingamajig is actually ONE BIG HAT (which it is not, but whatever) then I will finish it. This weekend.


Posted by laurie at 10:39 AM

June 6, 2005

Magic Scarf -- a better recipe


The sun is out today, so let's talk about knitting. Because summertime and sunshine, ya'll that's scarf weather! People on the bus probably think I have gone buckwild crazy, knitting in summer. But yarn is a higher calling, and it calls to me even on sunny days.

I have had more emails than I can count about the scarf with the fancy schmancy pattern, modeled by one Roy The Cat. The basketweave/checkerboard scarf is probably my all-time favorite because it's easy and it looks great and I was so sure I was making crazy advanced knitting strides -- although, really, it's just knit and purl. It's so easy! Even though it looks complex! (I totally lied and told non-knitting friends this pattern was VERY complex and DIFFICULT knitting. Ha! Forget living out loud!)

The first time I posted about making my Magic Scarf (as Drew calls it), I may have been a bit vague and also, me giving directions? So sad. "Turn left where the old truck used to be. Then go up the road a ways... and you know where they once planned to build the Home Depot but didn't? Turn right a little before that."

So here is a better scarf recipe. The kind ladies at A Major Knitwork patiently showed me how to make this pattern. Thanks to Heidi for asking the right questions and to Drew for showing us all how edging is really done!

Hah hah has anyone gotten the irony here of me, gaugeless girl who also cannot cook, posting a knitting recipe?

Magic Scarf
You'll need:

  • yarn

  • knitting needles

The recipe:
(Vary as needed for taste)

  • Cast on 20 stitches

  • Knit 5 stitches. Purl 5. Knit 5. Purl 5.

  • Repeat for ten rows.

  • Magic time! On row 11, Begin the row with PURL 5, then knit 5, purl 5, knit 5.

  • Repeat for ten rows.

  • Go back to knit 5, purl 5. Knit 5. Purl 5 for ten rows.

  • On and on. I did this for nine feet. I am crazy.

  • Bind off! Love! Enjoy!

Can it get any easier?

The concept behind the scarf is so cool. You're making little blocks of stockinette stitch. Some blocks are stockinette, and some are reverse stockinette, and it makes a checkerboard!



Alterations to the recipe:

  • Knit three rows of garter stitch at the beginning and end of the scarf to keep it nice and flat.

  • Knit 3 stitches of garter stitch on the edges (like Drew's scarf).

  • Add fringe.

  • Add stripes (I did all mine in self-striping wool and they look so pretty! If I do say so myself.) (And I do.)

Links to magic scarf stuff:

Let me know if you made something, too, and want your link on the list! I still think it's magic the way knits and purls make art. Magic! Or maybe yarn gnomes! Either way, love you, knitting.

No gnomes were harmed in the making of this Magic Scarf.

Posted by laurie at 1:52 PM

May 11, 2005

Shannon, this hat's for you.

Since I am currently locked in a battle of Insane Woman Vs. The Hateful Knitting in my quest to finish the Mystery Ugly Knitted Cat Thingamajig, I decided to break the stalemate and work on a fun project. Also, the yarn used in the Ugly Thingamajig makes my fingers hurt. Also, did I mention it's ugly?

A while back I bought this luscious Crystal Palace Icelandic wool in bright orange to make a hat for Shannon. At the SnB last week, I swatched for the hat -- two different sizes, even! -- because ya'll, I was so nervous to be at the SnB, about all I could do was swatch. Then I carefully measured my gauge.

My hat pattern doesn't really tell me how many stitches to cast on, instead it uses a formula ("formula" is a fancypants word for MATH. HATE YOU MATH.)

In this "formula" you measure both your gauge and your own head. Then you multiply stitches-per-inch times the inches of your head circumference. I measured my head, which is 22.5 inches and Shannon seems to have a proportional head, not Big Head like me (and Stacy.... ha! Stacy, you know we just have Big Heads for our Big Brains!) so I estimated 21 inches for Shannon's smaller, normal-sized head.

Now, OK, even a mathtard like me can multiply 4 stitches per inch times 21 inches. And that's supposed to mean I cast on 84 stitches. Which is AWESOME, because you're supposed to (ideally) have stitches in multiples of 6 because it's... I don't know why. The book says this is the way it is. Multiples of 6 are best.

So, I cast on my 84 stitches and hi! I know I'm a new knitter and also sort of a remedial math person, but there is NO WAY this hat, based upon the cast-on size, would fit any human adult, even if they aren't Big Head. I think I'm just going to keep the whole thing intact in my bag and call Shannon and ask her to measure her own head and then take the whole mess to SnB tomorrow night and beg for help. Yes, I will beg. I will bribe folks with beer. I am not above bribery.






Posted by laurie at 9:54 AM

May 3, 2005

You. Must. Make. THIS.

I have never seen anything funnier in my entire life. Annie Modesitt has a "Make Jennifer's Blanket" pattern on her site for the Runaway Bride's oh-so-chic headcovering, as seen on TV:


Jennifer Wilbanks, the Georgia runaway bride, is escorted by police through the airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Saturday, April 30, 2005. Wilbanks first told police she had been kidnapped. She later confessed that she got cold feet regarding her wedding and that's why she vanished for several days.(AP Photo/JOe Cavaretta)

Posted by laurie at 10:19 AM

April 26, 2005

Can someone call PETA? This may be cat abuse.

The Mystery Knitted Cat Thingamajig? It's ugly. The stitches are fine and straight and the tension is even, and the fabric is dense and fluffy. But there is no denying the obvious. It is God-awful ugly. We're not talking about your normal handmade kind of ugly, but we're talking 1970s macramé plant holder created by a third-grader in remedial art kind of ugly.

Yet I persevere.

I cast on for the second half of the Awful Ugly Mystery Knitted Cat Thingamajig this morning on the bus. I intend to finish this project because ... ? Frankly, I have no good reason at all except DAMMIT, I SHALL FINISH YOU BEFORE YOU FINISH ME.

(Knitting is difficult for the mentally unbalanced. We take things personally. We talk to our knitting. We wonder why it betrays us so when things go awry. But it's cool ... I'm working on it in therapy.)

My hours of knitted stockinette will eventually turn into an object so tacky my cats will most likely never go near it. They're snobs. No one scratched up the secondhand futon, but when the restored vintage Kagan sofa arrived? CLAW CITY. (By the way, you should have seen me with the tin foil on the sofa. I taped foil all on the sides and back for weeks, to deter scratching of all kinds. Then I switched to big clear sticky tape panels, and then finally after months of living like a crazy grandma with her plastic-covered furniture, my sofa was unveiled and has remained scratch-free. The things we do.)

If my cats don't use the Mystery Knitted Cat Mistake, I am not above soaking it in catnip spray to lure them. In fact, I'll feed them tuna in it. The good tuna, too, from Trader Joe's. Someone is going to use it. There may be a cat pan and some cat litter in it by the end ... but dammit, THEY WILL USE IT. Or I will sell them on eBay, all four of them and their little pile of homemade knitted crap, too.

Also, by the way, next project? Something that uses a pattern. I'm so bad at The Math that my first piece of Mystery Knitted Crap ended up way too big but I improvised and also... there may be hot glue involved. I'm just saying.

And in other news:


Posted by laurie at 12:35 PM

April 20, 2005

Oh, and sometimes I talk about knitting.

I have completed the first half of the Mystery Knitted Cat Thingamajig. It's big. And heavy. And it is miles and miles of totally boring stockinette, which I love! Love you knit stitch! I can watch TV and drink (Dad: lemonade) (everyone else: as if!) and knit away because this gigantic project of mine has no pattern, no colorwork, no purling, just some knitting in the round. You advanced knitters will find this project the most boring thing you have ever laid eyes upon. Unless you are crazy cat people (ha! don't act like you're not! I have seen all your catster pages!) and then you may think this is a cool project.

Your opinion on this project cannot deter me, however, since I am in this for the long haul. In fact, this project may be the WORST idea I have ever had, but I am totally committed to it. Kind of like my marriage. Whoops! Did I say that out loud?

Yesterday, my knitting bag was bulging over with the ginormous mystery project, and one of my coworkers asked me what I was making. I pulled it out of my bag and explained the Mystery Knitted Cat Thingamajig concept to my office mates. Big Mistake. Helpful Coworker #1 pointed out that I was going to an awful lot of effort to knit something that I could just BUY. At a store. And then Helpful Coworker #2 piped up that, you know, wouldn't it be CHEAPER to just purchase the item at a pet store? And FASTER? And also, it would probably look better, too.

Thank you, Helpful Coworkers. Now, let me explain a few things to you.

Hi! Guess what! Knitting is not the cheapest way to get a pair of socks. Or a sweater. Or a scarf. Or ANYTHING. In fact, if you're thinking, "Self, maybe I should take up knitting so I can save money on clothes..." then you should probably back away from the computer, slowly, and make an immediate detour to the closest yarn store in your neighborhood. Then watch in awe as your credit cards vibrate. Pick up a ball of your favorite yarn, look at the price. Multiply that by 10 or 11 or 15 for a sweater. Even a scarf can cost you $60 if you, like some people we know who shall remain unnamed, select a Filatura di Crosa yarn called Tokyo (ahem) for your first ever project.

No, I do not knit for the ROI, nor for the cost effectiveness of handknit vs. store bought. I do not knit because it's the fastest way to get a scarf. I do not knit because I am a great knitter.

I knit so that my hands and mind will be occupied with miles and miles of stockinette. When my hands are busy, it becomes much harder to drunk dial Mr. X and tell him that God has spoken to me, and God says Mr. X is bad, and should be punished, and that probably his new girlfriend has a social disease that has no cure. And probably he has it too, even though she is probably faking it just like I did, and by the way, God is the one telling me this, it's not because I'm bitter. Or drinking. With my four cats.

This, folks, is why I knit.

Posted by laurie at 10:23 AM

April 11, 2005

I met Annie Modesitt! Oh, and learned to cable, too!

Are ya'll the most jealous you have ever been? GOOD! Because yesterday I did the coolest thing ever, I took a class at Unwind with knitting goddess Annie Modesitt, who traveled all the way from New Jersey just to show me how to cable without a cable needle! Oh, and she showed some other people too. But mostly for me! Shut up, she totally did!

For weeks I have talked about my "Cabling Without A Cable Neeedle" class to all my friends, whose eyes glazed over with a look of painful boredom, but did I stop talking? Ha! No way Jose. I tried to explain to my non-knitting friends that she's like... a knitting legend. It's as if you were taking guitar lessons from Jimmy Hendrix. Only with less LSD and pot on hand.

And Annie is so funny (notice how I am now on a first name basis with her?) and she's smart and energetic and patient (and I can wear a person out, with all the talking and the talking ... but she has an eight-year old daughter, so she was very patient with me. Yes I am a grown adult. Moving along.)

Annie Modesitt helping class member Bernadette:

And the other people in the class were so nice. Everyone just chatted and cabled and helped each other out. Except.. oh, ok ... there might have been this one woman who was not so much into it. When I arrived I took the only remaining seat at the table (at the left hand of Annie, the weight and portent of which were not lost upon me, ya'll I was seated at the left hand of Annie Modesitt) and anyway, another woman beside me at the table (seated to MY left) ... well, she just up and left five minutes into the class. Apparently being seated at the left hand of crazy old Aunt Purl is not quite the same religious experience. I'm not one to be paranoid (ha!) but do you think when she found out I was Southern she immediately had to flee? Was it something I said? Did she recognize me and my evil Internet ways? Or was it when I tried to convince the class that Texas was an alright place because of sweet tea? Was she on one of those carb diets and the mere mention of sweet tea sent her on a bender? It was so weird. She just... left. No goodbye, nothing. Just... poof.

All the nice ladies in class (click for bigger images):

After the mystery disappearing act, class became very entertaining. Especially when we all tried to read from a chart. And do yarn overs. Somehow I got tricked into using teeny size 8 needles (newsflash: I am such a beginner) but I was so nervous to do a good job for Annie, goddess of knitting, that I did not even complain, and ya'll know how I am.

And look, I made a faux cable here:

[click for bigger pic]

After another row of garter stitch to separate the swatch, and I made cables! Real cables... without a cable needle. Which I suppose I should have gathered from the title of the class, but sometimes you get a wee bit skeptical of your knitting ability.

My amazin' cables:

[click for bigger pic]

During the class, Annie was endlessly funny. She alternated between calling her stitches "hot tramps" and "pretty girls who did not get asked to dance" and occassionally referred to her left needle as Hot Dude Brad Pitt, all the while working in some knitting philosophy. She had a keen observation about knitting mistakes -- she says that messing up is actually really, really good so you can learn from your errors. I was a superb student, too, since messing up is my specialty (see: whole life, esp. four cats, divorce, one potty mouth.)

And let's face it, a sense of humor is critical in knitting, especially my knitting ("Oh, looky here, I'm knitting this whole thing inside out. Isn't that funny!") Sometimes knitting books and classes can be a bit ... dull. Know what I mean? There's a lot of very technical stuff in knitting, and I can definitely appreciate that, but to me the whole joy of making fabric from string and chopsticks is the sheer surprise of seeing it all come together, a handmade wonder, knots and all.

With her sense of humor, she was speaking a language I could get, it all made sense to me. Because if you listen to me knit (oh yeah! I knit out loud, it's so so charming, for the first five seconds. Then you want to kill me.) Anyway, after listening to me struggle with a pattern, you will eventually begin to think that "Fuck!" is a type of knit stitch. As in, "Ok, here I knit one, purl two, yarn over, FUCK! knit two more ..." Not that Annie Modesitt said the F-word, she's way too goddess-y for that. Even though I may have accidentally done my knit-out-loud thing once or twice in class, no one so much as shot me a mean glance. And she was such an amazing knitter, lightening fast, and witty, and kind, and even though she probably thought I was a total stalker ("Hi! I watched you on TV! Hi! I love your website!") she never even tried to call the cops once. I have to go now, because I have to write her an email. How does this sound? It's my third draft.

Dear Annie, Class was so fun. I'm not stalking you, promise! OK yes maybe I have now decided to move to New Jersey, but I swear it's not 'cause you live there. It's not! I'm only moving there for the... uh.... the cake. That's right! The cake is really good there. So anyway, want to hang out sometime? Like next week? When I move to your town?

Your Best Friend Laurie

Posted by laurie at 7:52 AM

April 10, 2005

Help for the clueless? Anyone? Bueller?

My swatch is completed, though with the amount of imbibing that went on around here last night I am as shocked as you are. By the way, it was all Jennifer. What a boozer! (Ha!)

So, I have a question. When you're knitting a swatch and measuring the gauge for your Mystery Knitted Cat Thingamajig, and you have two stitches per inch plus a smidge, do you just say it's two stitches? or do you have to add in a percentage, like 2.1 or something?

My swatch, resting on Britney's bikini-clad self:

And a close-up:

Also, Do you want to know what an AMAZING and TALENTED hostess I am? Oh please. You doubters! So, I decided to have a little dinner thing at my house last night, and this time I thought I should actually make dinner. (See: serving your guests potato chips as a main course.) And for whatever reason, this dinner seemed like a completely achievable idea. Perhaps it was the wine talking. We may never know.

There's so much an AMAZING hostess must do. First, one must go to the grocery store. The real grocery store, you know, not the 7-11 (shutup, you HAVE TOO bought groceries at 7-11.) And then you have to stray from the frozen foods aisle. Then you come home, and whip up a little masterpiece, I called mine "meatloaf."

Only, something went wrong. Perhaps it was around the time I totally forgot I was making dinner and sat on the patio just chatting and drinking and so on.

Now, I present to you our main course:


And you know what I served with it? Potato Buds. And Bud Light. And you know how classy I am? I served in on paper plates. (That's klassy with a "k" if you know what I mean.) But I have good friends who don't mind my cooking, once you get 'em liquored up enough:

Still life with Jen, paper plate, and meatloaf.

Thanks in advance for the gauge help, ya'll. How can I repay you? Oh, I know! Want some leftover meatloaf? I think if you put ketchup on it it'll be just great. Or maybe if you have a beer first that would help. Ahem.

Posted by laurie at 4:27 PM

April 9, 2005

If this is Saturday, we must be in Target!

Yesterday, I posted not one but two whole diatribes on my issues, and I provided what I thought was quite the public service announcement to people explaining the "dooced" phenomenon, which I myself just recently discovered because I've been way too busy being depressed and drinking and functioning as the mouthpiece of Satan to bone up on popular culture, but anyway. And you know the email response I got? Amazing. Volume. You know what it said?

"Tell me more about the Target and the knitting and the pre-made kits and, oh, the Target! I love the Target! I love the knitting!"

So, ya'll, when you get dooced, don't come crying to me. All I am is your Target-enabling lackey.

Also, you know I can't sleep so I'm one of those nerdy freaks who is at Target at 8 a.m., long before the crowds and ketchup-covered children arrive. And before you laugh at me and my spinster-can't-sleep ways, just know I risked getting apprehended by the po-po and getting sent off to Target Jail for photographing the goods. You'll have to excuse the quality of the images, I was trying to be all covert and cool. Even so, I'm fairly certain the security guard thought I was an operative for Al-Quaida who was photographing the knitting kits for a possible terrorism attack.

Click on everything here to see it bigger!

This is the Target where I found the kits, it's on 5711 Sepulveda Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, just a few blocks north of Burbank. It's the two-story one with the decent parking structure, click here for a map.

As you walk into the store, keep going straight and you'll see an end display on your left, sandwiched between Home Office stuff and Gifts, that is loaded with knitting kits. (Also, check out the Isaac Mizrahi stuff on the aisle next door ... sooo cute!)

Baby beanie and dickie kit(ACK), super cute bikini set, except, I don't know, there's not enough yarn in that swimsuit kit to hold in all my parts, know what I mean?

Cat and dog toys (Ashley has a better pic of these and a whole opinion on the dog toy on her blog); Striped summer tote

Wine bottle cozy, knitted belt kit, furry boa.

Pet bed, so cute and fuzzy! Also, are ya'll noticing I tried to get the price in these pics? Also, are you noticing the horrible flash spots on these pics? Because it would be great if you wouldn't mention that part. Moving on.

A little knitted purse in two color options, and a "techno" tote.

A summer shawl kit. Eh. Verdict's out on this one.

Summer halter... I think this had some beading, too.

And finally, the yoga mat holder. Because if knitting is the new yoga, then the old yoga needs something knitted to stay relevant. This looked so cute I almost bought it but then I remembered I haven't done yoga in about three years, ever since I gave up exercising for Lent that one time.

And this ends our mad photo shoot inside the Sherman Oaks Target. Also, in other crazy cat lady news, can I just tell you I went to the Home Depot and after seven years of wandering in the desert with no manna and no Jesus, I finally out of blind luck stumbled upon the very thing I needed to create my Mystery Knitted Cat Thingamajig? I did! And it only cost me $7.50! This is going to be the best, or possibly the ugliest, knitting project EVER.

Of course now I have to do this thing the fancypants French call a "swatch" (oooh la la!) and then I have to measure and ponder and do some math and if my brain does not explode from the pressure of such pursuits, I will begin knitting. Ya'll, knitting is hard. Only smart people like us can do it.

Oh, and if you ever go to Target to take pictures of knitting kits for your imaginary friends on the internet, be sure that you FIRST put away the other things you bought at the store that day, like say... you know, the toilet paper. So that when you are amusing yourself to no end with your digital camera and you are all sucked into your computer, you don't emerge hours later to find this:

Thanks, cats.

Posted by laurie at 12:56 PM

April 7, 2005

Knitting for the masses; Mohair scarf

I have to go to Target every weekend or else I'm just not right. Here in Los Angeles, we don't have Wal-Mart. We go to Tar-jzhay. Actually, there is one Wal-Mart in the valley, and it's in beautiful downtown Panorama City. I have been there, and I've dragged Shannon and Jen and Karman there with me, but ever since the last drive-by shooting Karman refuses to go. It's very crowded. And dirty. And also, you kind of wonder if you're catching scabies while you're there. (My parents, who live in Florida, buy their grocieries at a Wal-Mart, which FREAKED ME OUT. I couldn't picture buying GROCERIES at the scabies store. But then I saw their Wal-Mart and it's ... it's... it's beautiful. So clean! So big! So much to buy! One-stop shopping! But not in Los Angeles. No, no no.)

So, while I was at Target stocking up on the essentials (paper towels, cat litter, a pink Swell broom, US Weekly magazine, oh God I am a total spinster crazy cat lady) (anyway) I happened up on a big display of knitting kits.


I'm so glad that knitting is coming to the masses! Really, I am. More people should knit. Make knit, not war! That's what I say. Hillary Clinton should run on that platform. (Or how about "Knitters do it without a stitch!" I think I should make us T-shirts with that saying. Don't you agree?) But .... anyway .... while I am sensitive to the amount of hate mail this next sentence is going to generate, can I just tell you that this is the UGLIEST baby set I have ever seen?


In case you can't tell, it's a pink kerchief thing and a nubby knitted dickie. With booties.

Just because something is being marketed to the masses does not mean it has to be ugly. We all learned this lesson when Mossimo came to Target and made a bazillion dollars by selling cute T-shirts at Target prices. Style sells! Don't misjudge us knitters, you Target marketing peeps. We may seem like crazy spinsters (see shopping list above re: cat litter, tabloids, etc.) but in fact we have mad style.

And also, if you bought that kit, or if you have a baby that is as we speak wearing a nubby kerchief and a pink dickie from a Target kit, please accept my sincerest apologies and know I was probably medicated and not seeing right at the time of this entry.

Speaking of mad style (pardon me while I pat my own wasp-bitten back here) I finally finished the mohair drop-stitch scarf. It took me a while to finish this baby ... it's hard to knit on the bus while paying close attention in case the HOTT Bus Driver is checking me out in the rearview mirror (really. let me have my fantasies people.) Also, I need to mention that there are loads of empty seats on the bus, and yet isn't it funny how the first five rows are always just packed with women? But I digress. Scarf!

Photos below of my mohair drop-stitch scarf bathing in sunlight on my patio. Oh, by the way, if you know me you might get this scarf for Christmas, so just pretend you haven't seen these pictures, ok?




Posted by laurie at 8:06 AM

April 4, 2005

Clapotis? Do you need penicillin for that?

If you spend five minutes in the internet underworld of knitting blogs, you will discover that all the cool kids have knitted/are knitting/plan to knit something called clapotis.

Isn't that some kind of social disease? Or wait -- are they doing some kind of charity knitting for women with clapotis? And isn't clapotis curable with some good antibiotics? Because I thought it was? But if it's not, is there some sign-up board somewhere where people with a nasty case of clapotis go to ask for some knitted goods? Because that's just weird.

Then I cracked myself up with an imaginary conversation in an imaginary elevator with an imaginary knitting friend.

Me: Hi, Jane, nice to see you.
Jane: Hi.
Me: Oh! So, how's your clapotis?

(commence laughter)

And then, in a bright-bulb moment, I thought, uh, maybe I should Google "clapotis" and see what it is, and, like, how to cure and/or knit it.

So this is a clapotis. It's basically a fancy French shawl. But .... COME ON. Who would name some knitting thing after a social disease? Or even similar to it? That would be like naming your daughter Syphilina or naming your son Herpeen. Please. Clapotis. Eeeeew.

And... next time you see me, make sure to ask me how my clapotis is!

Posted by laurie at 8:57 AM

March 29, 2005

Mohair bus knitting

Now that I've finished my hat, I want to knit another hat and another and another. Breaking free of the rectangle was like moving to France to become a circus performer: liberating and full of cabernet. But I promised Jennifer I'd make her a Noro basketweave pattern scarf like my Kureyon monster (only hers won't be a nine foot long scarf because, you know, I'm not crazy) (oh wait, am I?), and so I'm working on her Noro scarf. But then there was this sale, you see, at a local yarn shop and they had all this great yarn marked at 30% off, and how can you afford NOT to buy yarn at that price?

I have a bad habit of buying shit on sale. This applies to all sorts of stuff -- paper plates, T-shirts, lamps, shoes, furniture, anything on the clearance aisle at Target, sunglasses, you get the idea -- but lately it's been all about yarn. So I'll buy two little tee tiny balls of something (it's on sale! I'd be a fool not to buy this!) but I'll have no pattern in mind or any plan for the yarn, and there isn't enough of it to make an actual garment, so whaddayaknow I'm making another scarf.

So, anyway, I'm making a mohair scarf from some yarn I got on sale.

I'm doing some bus knitting! [click for big pic]

It started out as a swatch (like so many of my scarves do) and after about five rows I decided to try a drop-stitch and it looked pretty cool so I kept going. Only can I just tell you knitting with mohair is a lint disaster. Carry a lint brush if you don't want to look like a magenta cat shed all over you. Fur real.

Fuzzy, gorgeous, pain in the butt mohair. [click for big pic]

And how bummed am I that I can't take the 8 a.m. bus pretty much all week? I have meetings lined up all early and I have to get in before the butt crack of dawn to prep and get my caffeine time in. Now that is just sad. Because you know how I love a man that drives a big bus. I do I do I do.

Posted by laurie at 8:39 AM

March 28, 2005

Of knitted hats and bus drivers


I finished my hat! It is my first official knitted hat, and I do love it. I made this little pom-pom for the top while I was on the bus, but just like that time I made fringe on the bus, it turns out the only thing I had for winding some yarn into a somewhat pom-pom shape was a pack of cigarettes and that seems wrong. But hey, it worked. Then I liked my pom-pom so much all loopy like that that I decided not to cut it and make it fluffy, so it's sort of a flower pom pom, which may be dorky, but hello! How much dorkier can you get than having a pom pom on your hand-knitted pink hat anyway?

But let's get to the part about the bus. Last time I wrote about the bus I believe I was being dumped. This is a better story.

Usually I take the bus around 7 a.m. each morning. Everyone at the park n' ride is just a working schmoe like your Aunt Purl, and we all stand politely in a single-file line and wait for the bus and we see each other every morning but we all have the good sense God gave us to act like we don't know each other because the last time you want to be friendly is at 7 a.m. on the bus.

This morning I missed the 7 a.m. bus due in part to some exploration of fine California wines last night and I just barely squeaked in for the 8 a.m. bus. As we all stood there in a nice, polite, single-file line I noticed that everyone waiting was female. Every last person. Usually there's half men, half women, a few kids on their way to the magnet schools downtown.

This morning there were at least 25 women all standing there with lipstick on and hair done up, each looking way more awake than the 7 a.m. crowd on their best day. "Wow," I thought to myself. "Who knew what a difference an hour could make in your getup?

Then the bus came. The door opened and suddenly it all became clear when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a ridiculously hot bus driver of, like, 22 years.

Now. I was just as surprised as you to discover that there is a smokin' hot bus driver on this whole planet. All I can think of when I think "bus driver" is Large Marge from the Pee Wee Herman movie. But this boy is adorable and there was a whole gaggle of women old enough to be his mother waiting in line to ride his bus to work. If you know what I mean. And I'm sure you do.

So, obviously, I've got to switch to the 8 a.m. bus. Even though this gets me into downtown perilously around the 9 a.m. mark, which is a little late to arrive at the office in the exciting world of high finance. But you know it's just for that extra hour of sleep. I swear it has nothing to do with anyone and their big, studly arms or their cute adorable dimples.

More pictures of my hat now. Because all I can think of are adorable dimples, and that will never do. Hat. Think "hat."

How cute is that pom pom? Cuter than a dimple, eh?


The view from my desk. Still life with hat.

Posted by laurie at 8:17 AM

March 15, 2005

The Existential Knitter

I hate math. I prefer philosophy to numerics. But I have had to learn the tedium to fix my hat, which is becoming a constant source of new swear words. You have to multiply stitches per inch by blah blah blah and do some long division and add barometric pressure to wine squared cheese for the final circumference of a hat.

While normal people may not mind a hat with a little decrease path in the back, I myself have stared at the flaw so intently that the flaw, in true Nietzsche fashion, is staring back.

Ergo, I must rip. Therefore I am.

Before ripping, I got out the stitch counter and figured out what my true gauge was here. I'm way off from the pattern -- which, in my defense, I knew already and had calculated for. However, my way of "calculating" was to say, "Hmmmm, I have more stitches to the inch than the pattern. The pattern says to cast on in multiples of six. So, I'm only getting a few stitches per inch more and if a bear poops in the woods and a rooster flies at night, I guess the magical formula would be... cast on 66 stitches!"

I'm a visual person, I figured I'd notice a weirdly sized hat after a few rows. Which I did. So that started the whole decrease pattern which has led me to Dante's seventh circular needle knitting hell:



What the hell IS that?

Oh well. To rip is to always have a new project. Or something like that.

Posted by laurie at 5:23 PM

March 14, 2005

Scarf it up: Nine feet of Noro scarfdom!

I love long scarves. I think they are a formidable thing to behold. However, I have been working on the Noro Kureyon scarf for what feels like ten years. People have asked me, as you ask a slow child, "You're still working on that scarf, dear?" Then I begin pulling the scarf out of my bag one foot at a time. As I show it to the naysayer, the questioner of my abilities, they see with their own eyes that I have gone STARK RAVING MAD and have, at last count, a scarf which measures 8.75 feet long.

And I say, "Yes! I am still working on the worlds largest scarf! I must Kureyon!"

It's taken time, to be sure. Creating a monster scarf is no quick romp in the garter stitch. The pattern ups the time due in part to the you-must-concentrate factor (I am a novice, remember, obsessed as I may be I still lose count). Plus, there's something I haven't told you yet. THIS YARN IS WACKY. It's so thick in some places it doesn't even look properly spun, like it's right off the sheep's back. The twigs and hay really add to the raw wool vibe. In other places, the fiber is so thinly spun, it's practically fragile, like thread.

This is one long L-O-N-G scarf.....



I only have a tee tiny bit more yarn to knit up, so it will end tonight. Then the monster blocking begins. I have NO IDEA how to block something this massive and long. We're talking a possible 9-foot blocking space. In my house. With four cats. Four really helpful cats.



Posted by laurie at 5:17 PM

March 10, 2005

I'm Kureyon Your Love With Me

I'm Kureyon Your Love With Me
West Virginia down to Tennessee
And I'm movin' with the Good Lord's Speed
Kureyon your love with meeee....

Guess you have to be a country music fan to get that one.

My very first date with a big hank of Noro Kureyon and already we have a tempestuous relationship. I love the Noro, I hate the Noro. It is totally indifferent to me. The texture of the yarn is so earthy and appealing ... I'm using warm, organic color #7 in celery, green, brown, reddish brown, and pale sand. It's nubby and the basket weave/checkerboard pattern I'm using is perfect for it.

But this yarn may be a little too organic ... I cannot tell you how many pieces of hay, twigs, and burrs I have dug out of the strands. At first I thought the miniscule "twig" in the wool was from my beloved Lantern Moon needles splintering and I was not pleased. After the first twig, though, the burrs, mystery clumps and pieces of hay kept a' coming and I finally figured out it was the yarn. Hi, I am Laurie, master of the obvious.

I was almost 3/4 of the way through my first ball when I encountered a knot, something I hate hate hate in cheaper yarn but utterly loathe and feel offended by in expensive yarn, especially something that's $16.25 a hank like el Noro.

I had not yet searched the internet for better ways of joining yarn, so the first Noro Knot became a nubbier row. I unknotted it and sort of double-stranded for a stitch, being careful to weave in the ends (I can't bear a knot right in the middle of a scarf. I don't know how you experienced knitters handle this, especially when the knot just sneaks up on you like in the Noro.)

Close-up shot of the pattern, sans knot:


My next Noro no-no moment occurred when I realized the end of skein one was completely different in color than either end of skein two. My basket weave scarf was ending on a dark, sage green strand. My new ball had one brown end and one rust colored end, too obvious a difference for me to start a new stripe.

For the record, I do not believe this to be an OCD thing, it's a quality-control thing. An artist thing. A jog from sage to immediate rust would. not. do.

When I bought my second skein of Big Kureyon from a local yarn shop, I saw another dreaded knot just as the hank was being wound into a ball. This morning I found myself carefully unwinding the professionally wound Noro yarn cake to dig out the knot, hoping the sneaky bastard would be tying together two pieces of yarn in different colors, one of which (cross those fingers!) would be close to my sage-green scarf tail.

You may be thinking at this point in The World's Longest Noro Story that I have way too much time on my hands. Oh, the story gets better. Or worse, depending on how your tolerance is for yarn talk.

After some seeking, I found the knot joined two pieces of ivory yarn. No sage green for you today! So, I unknotted the Noro into two pieces. Then, I began unwinding each half of the skein looking for a deep green to match my scarf tail. When I found the nearest sage-y green, I cut the noro -- yes I cut the noro! -- and I felted the green ends together for a felted join. No, I did not use spit because that is gross and I have to go wash my hands just from thinking about it. Gross.

At this point I have theoretically joined a new ball of yarn. However, if you've been following along closely, you would have noticed that I have TWO balls of yarn out of skein #2, plus some leftover yarn from the cut. Not good. We'll call my new Noro children Ball A and Ball B. The bastard stepchild yarn leftover from my Noro cutting expedition goes into the pile of unused bits.


Ball A is attached to my scarf, green on green. He is a very small ball of yarn, and he ends on an ivory note.

Ball B is uncooperative. I'd like to give him back and pick out a better, more well-behaved ball. Oh well. Ball B begins with rust brown and ends in the other sagey/brown stuff that I cut to get my green colorway in Ball A. Confused yet? I looked at both ends and decided the best thing to do was find something, anything to join to Ball A. Found some ivory on Ball B a wee bit down on the brownish colorway, and snip! I am a yarn cutting fool! Felted the ivory tail of Ball A to the new ivory beginning of Ball B and voila, the weirdest yarn ball situation ever:


I found a colorway in Ball A that was close to the ivory tail of ball B and hand felted the ends together (no spit! no spit!) for one crazy lunatic Noro ball system. Voila!

What a pain in my ass. Also, upon reflection it appears maybe I do need a hobby to get away from my hobby.

Posted by laurie at 5:06 PM

March 5, 2005

Round and round on circular needles

I finally started my first knitting-in-the-round project on circular needles, oh yes I did. It's a pink multicolor hat. I have a pattern (I really do) but of course I decided the pattern wasn't as cool as I am, and once I got the hang of working with the circular needles, I made up my own pattern as I went along.

Or, at least I thought I had the hang of working with circular needles.

Halfway through my completed hat (Yes! I'm making a hat! Breaking out of the rectangle and making me a hat!) I discovered that I was knitting it inside out. Ahem. Luckily it's just a hat and you can turn that sucker right side out no problemma.

The best part of this circular knitting thing... drumroll please... when you knit in the round, in some magical, mystical way you use the simple knit stitch (no purls needed!) all the way around and yet it makes the most beautiful, even stockinette pattern you have ever seen. Magic!

The bad news is my freeform Who-Needs-A-Pattern? ways have made the hat slightly lopsided. I was just decreasing wherever the moment felt right and now there's a distinct, um, ridge in my roll-brim hat. It's only truly noticeable to me, but I think I'm going to rip the whole thing and start over. There's something oddly soothing about knowing you can mess up, rip, and start fresh. There is a metaphor in there for my life but let's just take another sip of merlot and not think to hard, shall we?

My nearly-completed hat before I rip it out and try again:


I'm making Shannon a hat next, after I finish mine. Hats are amazing. Feel the same pride I would get from curing cancer.

P.S. No class attendance today either because I had to take Roy to the doctor. Will I ever return to class? How can I be the truly obsessed knitter of my dreams if I'm the one teaching myself from a book?

Posted by laurie at 5:00 PM

March 4, 2005

Yarn haunts and Fraggle Rock 'n Roll scarf

Now that I have spent an embarrassing amount of money on yarn and snooped around every local yarn shop in Los Angeles, I have decided on a few favorites. I like the stores that are airier, not so packed in and narrow like little yarn labyrinths. Being that close to someone watching and waiting to see if I will buy something makes me nervous and weird and then I buy stuff I don't need and hurry out. I prefer when no one follows you around or makes you feel you've overstayed your visit or overcontemplated the supply of pink wool.

When Shannon and Karman came over on Thursday for Survivor and pizza I gave Karman a big, furry, striped scarf that looks like a Muppet got skinned and fringed. Hence, I call it the Fraggle Rock n' Roll Scarf.

Here she is modeling it on the sofa. Click for big:

Fraggle Rock 'n Roll scarf: Paton's Divine on size 15 needles, with some fun fur stranded in here and there to make stripes. Very plush and soft and raggedy-chic.

Posted by laurie at 4:57 PM

March 1, 2005

No Poncho Villa for me

Swatched my Noro Big Kureyon. I'm not ready to take on a sweater yet and frankly, between just you and me, I think a sweater in this stuff is a little too Pancho Villa for my taste. The self-striping colors and the nubby fiber remind me of those horrid Mexican anoraks we all wore in school during the grunge period. There are pictures of me somewhere with my big Southern hair and my weird faux-grunge attire and that is all I have to say on the subject.

I didn't want to make just garter stitch out of this, stockinette is so pretty and flat and shows off the nubbiness. Of course, stockinette rolls, so that's out.

Then, coincidentally, I stopped in to a local yarn shop to poke around in the stash (stated purpose: picking up some size 13 dpns for my hat project, since I am a crazy tight knitter and the size 11s gave me too many stitches per inch) and I saw a fancy schmancy basket weave scarf (checkerboard?) done in knit 5, purl 5. Went home and swatched it on the Noro Big Kureyon and ding! ding! we have a winner.

I kept knitting directly on my scarf swatch, and now it's a scarf bottom. The corners roll in a tee tiny bit, but I can block-n-tackle that into submission.

Roy gets into swatching the Noro Big Kureyon.

Posted by laurie at 4:53 PM

February 27, 2005

Now I smoke the Noro weed, too

I stopped by a local yarn shop in Sherman Oaks over the weekend to snoop around. As I do.

While I was there I found a hank of Noro Big Kureyon in color 7 that I just loved, the color palette was downright organic. It's nubby earthiness brought back a previously suppressed memory of the macrame plant hangers and big wooden beads and Grateful Dead of my childhood.

I bought the Noro, even though it was SIXTEEN DOLLARS (and twenty-five cents) for one hank of yarn. I'm interested to see what this self-striping transitioning crack the knitheads are smoking is all about. Will I become a one-dose addict? I fear this habit could get very expensive.

Posted by laurie at 4:51 PM

February 26, 2005

Cats and hats and haiku, oh my

Finally ripped out all my stitches on the Filatura di Crosa "Tokyo" scarf, my first-ever scarf is now my first-ever pile of unknitting.


Gosh it's pretty yarn. Post-demolition, the fiber was all kinked up and crazy from my manic tight knitting so I hung it in loose folds on clothes hangers in the bathroom to steam during my morning shower.

How much steam can be generated by a morning dip, you may ask? I have set off the smoke alarm in my hallway more than once with my steamy showers. I don't know how I manage to take a steamy shower for twenty minutes, but I consider it one of my superpowers. I emerge pink and shiny and pruned of finger and toe, but thoroughly relaxed.

There was a non-knitted ball of the yarn still in my bag and I have been swatching like a madwoman to find the best gauge and stitch to display the yarn to its fullest. I've knitted it on 11s, 13s and 15s. Next swatch is going to be a drop-stitch, which I think will show the ribbon off really well (though doing garter stitch on big needles, or two different size needles, may be a solution). Drop-stitch ends up wonky for me on the first and last stitch. I WILL NOT ABIDE THE WONKY.

In preparation for knitting the Kitty Pi, I decided I should do a smaller round project. I'm not sure why I decided this. If pressed, I might say it came about from a trip to a local yarn shop where I found some really beautiful Lana Grossa yarn on sale. It just looked like a cute winter hat-to-be, and I could envision it topped with the world's largest pom-pom.

Hat Haiku:

Oh hat, I'll knit you....
But circulars look daunting.
Double-points? Eeeegads.

I have missed my knitting class for several weeks and these double-pointed needles aren't just going to knit themselves into a hat, you know. If I can figure out the secret of round knitting I will be able to make the ever-so-coveted Kitty Pi cat bed.

Maybe if she had a Kitty Pi, Frankie would stay out of the cupboard:

One of these things does not belong inside the pantry.

Posted by laurie at 2:51 PM

February 17, 2005

Felting... on purpose!

Turns out, this there's cool thing called "felting" that I've actually been doing for years.

Of course, my felting was entirely unintentional and was generally referred to as "fucking up." My felting (fucking up) occurred mostly with wool sweaters, though I do remember a lone mitten that was felted after my trip to Norway, and a wool hat that snuck in to the laundry between some towels and was felted into a cotton ball impersonator. Don't know what the towels were doing mingling with the outerwear, but I suspect he had something to do with it:

bob the cat
Cat who digs in laundry.

Felting is the intentional shrinking and matting of knitted wool products, and it creates a lovely felt fabric that is smooth and sturdy and it can be shaped when wet (into purses and such.)

You knitter savants already know this, but I am a new knitter and this felting thing was a fascinating discovery. Had I known that ruining wool in the washer would be such a popular craft, I would have made something out of that matted fisherman's sweater in the 11th grade.

I also fondly recall a wool sweater vest (don't ask) that was ugly and loose... slutty me decided to wash 'n shrink it for a Catholic-schoolgirl-gone-bad vibe. However, having never before worked my slutty high school magic on wool I was not prepared for the tiny vestglob that emerged from the washer and dryer. Turns out, one must not dry the felted wool in the tumbler. You shape it and let it air dry.

Good to know.

Now that I have discovered felting is an actual desired result, I'm very anxious to try it. I am going to make the Kitty Pi:

Oh yes I am.

Posted by laurie at 9:07 AM

February 16, 2005

Fringed out

Lo I present the Raven scarf, a combination of Patons Twister and Patons Allure, knitted on humongoid size 17 bamboo needles:


I finished the furry pink candy-stripe scarf last night for Mary's granddaughter. Traffic was gnarly and I not only finished knitting the scarf while still on the bus, but I also had plenty of time to cast off, weave in all my loose ends and wind my leftover fuzzy yarn for the fringe. However, the only item I had available for winding the right length of fringe was a pack of cigarettes, which seemed wrong and inappropriate for a frilly little girl's scarf (of course I used it anyway.)

Some key things I have learned about making fringe:

Fringe Lesson 1:
Try to make an even row of fringe on the fringe-making device or else some strands will be longer than others. I mistakenly wrapped the thread round and round over itself. I should have wrapped all of it side-by-side (on the oh-so-Klassy pack of smokes) because some of the fringe strands were shorter than other strands.

Fringe Lesson 2:
Do not cut fringe, add fringe, arrange fringe or any other fringe-related activities anywhere near Frankie. She is a fringe-eating, yarn-destroying maniac with claws.


My new morning commute project is a duplicate of the very first scarf I ever completed, a Crystal Palace splash fuzzy little frou-frou that looks exactly like I am knitting up a kitten. I still have my Practice Scarf -- which is going ribbingly! -- but I'm not going to work on my Tokyo scarf swatches until I get some size 11 needles on Saturday and swatch out a piece of yarn in a bigger weave, and maybe in stockinette.

And just in case you think Franklin Delano Rosencat is an evil, yarn-eating maniac who never sleeps, you would be wrong. Even evil sleeps.

Posted by laurie at 9:00 AM

February 15, 2005

Knitting with telephone poles

Working away on the Raven Scarf. Initially, I cast on ten stitches with size 15 needles. My swatch was WAY too tight, this combo is much thicker than I anticipated. After some trial and error, I decided on 7 stitches on a size 17 needle. This should go quickly.

Mistakenly, I assumed the big size 17 needles would be easier to handle but they make my hands cramp and I fear I may even be burning calories hoisting those giants. It's so awkward maneuvering the stitches I could almost break a sweat.

Aside from the prematurely arthritic cramping of my hands, the Raven scarf is turning out well. It's fuzzy and dense but the pink chenille yarn makes a faint stripe, almost like a candycane.

Close-up of the yarn:


In other breaking scarf news, my practice yarn scarf is coming along just swimmingly. It's an original all right. I'm using the Patons Up Country wool yarn in dark grey. By the way, it's much harder to see your stitches in a dark yarn. But my unique one-of-a-kind scarf has got ribbing in the middle of some stockinette, right next to some drop-stitch madness, where I apparently increased a stitch magically. Practice makes perfect.

I can't seem to figure out the proper way to do a drop-stitch row, since my end stitches are either way too tight or way too lose, hopefully I can make it to class on Saturday to ask the instructor what the hell I'm doing wrong. Teaching myself to knit from a book is a real adventure in patience and screwing up. Does anybody know if you're supposed to knit the first stitch, then start your yarnover on the second stitch? I was yarn-overing on the first stitch and getting a mess.

It should be very clear now why I needed a "practice yarn" and a "practice scarf."

Posted by laurie at 8:57 AM

February 14, 2005

First Valentine's Day resingled


You know, after surviving your first Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's season without your spouse, one would think Valentine's Day would be a breeze.

One would be wrong.

So, off to Michael's for yarn. There are some stereotypes built into that sentence and the picture right above probably doesn't help.

The problem with my local yarn shops -- and there are about seven GREAT little yarn boutiques in my general area -- is that they all close at 4 p.m. For those of us who must work to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, that is deeply inconvenient. I better stock up on Saturdays because nothing is open by the time I return to the Valley after a long day of working for The Man. Nothing except Michael's, that is.

The new project is a girly-girl scarf for a coworker's granddaughter, Raven. Raven is the granddaughter of Mary, a very cool lady who is now the sole caretaker of 5-year-old Raven, which I think is pretty upstanding of coworker Mary.

Mary was in the Meeting Where I Got Yelled At (which then became Meeting Where I Cried). As you can imagine, I was horribly embarrassed by this incident but Mary later confessed that she has also cried at work, and she's also been yelled at by the same horrible woman who yelled at me in the meeting, and that made me feel better and somewhat less pathetic. Also kind of wondering why horrible woman is allowed to yell at people. But that was a long time ago and now I carry very sturdy knitting needles in my bag, so take heed future meeting yellers.

Since I was looking for a novelty yarn for a little girl, the Encino Michael's was less frustrating than usual. I decided on a Patons chenille-eyelash twist in hot pink and white. It's a cute combo, but not soft enough for a scarf on its own. I'm combining it with a super-fuzzy, supersoft Paton's Allure in pale pink.


Should be a nice challenge, knitting with three different yarns at the same time. And wine. And general malaise about the day.

I got lots of help admiring the yarn:

Frankie investigates.

Soba appraises the pink yarn from her pink carpet.

Roy is so helpful when it comes to untangling the yarn.

Posted by laurie at 8:51 AM

February 13, 2005

Obsessive compulsive much?

It's final, I am going to rip out the stitches on my Tokyo scarf and start all over again.

I decided this just now, as I am about 3/4 done. What's most embarrassing is that I am only a very beginner knitter and already I'm being an irrational perfectionist freak.

But, OK, I'm not really being a perfectionist freak. I'm being detailed. And craft-loving. I hereby present in my defense three significant concerns about my Tokyo scarf:

Significant Concern # 1: It's too wide. That's the main problem. You don't need to be a Type-A neurotic to see that. It's clearly visible. Really. And while the yarn knits up very neat and tiny on these 10.5 needles, maybe the natural beauty of the yarn would be more obvious in a larger needle. Plus, I don't have to point out that at $12/ball, this scarf is going to cost me eleventeen hundred dollars by the time this is all over.

Significant Concern # 2: This is an eleventeen hundred dollar scarf that I don't love love love.

Significant Concern # 3: Since the yarn is knitting up so tightly, the fabric is super dense and I don't think it will drape nicely unless it's super long to offset the weight or unless I am using it to stop bullets during an ambush. While a dense, warm, bulletproof wool scarf of 15 feet will work swimmingly on a trip to Siberia, it will never get used here in Los Angeles. Not to mention I get about 14 inches of length per skein, and at the required 72.5 feet for draping I'm looking at ....oh, eleventeen million dollars.

So, what do I do? To rip or not to rip, that is the question.

Pro: I will be able to cast on myself, the amount and size stitches I prefer.
Con: I will have to unravel three skeins of tightly knit wool.

Pro: I can avoid creating a scarf I am unhappy with, which will end up shoved in a drawer somewhere, thereby wasting $60 of yarn.
Con: Unraveling days of hard work!

Pro: Can maybe use a new stitch, like stockinette.
What if I rip it all out and don't like the new scarf any better?
Pro: Can avoid that by swatching. See, aha, I am learning something!

Pro: Will not be obsessed by imperfect scarf.
Con: Class and teacher will think I am OCD.

Pro: Since I am OCD, won't care what class thinks. Will need to wash hands twice during class, though.

So I think we all know where this is headed. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night. One last look before it goes away:




Posted by laurie at 8:42 AM

February 12, 2005

Class chatter and knit chit-chat

Class was insanity. Knitting is the new Pilates, everyone is doing it (including me). Except I would never do Pilates, because exercise can kill you.

My co-worker did indeed drive out to the Valley from San Gabriel to attend the knitting class at Lani's. There were two other beginners in the class and both picked really tiny yarn, yikes!, plus me, Shannon, the instructor and a lady who brought her daughter and about 27 unfinished knitting works-in-progress. I meant to tell the works-in-progress lady that her daughter was exceptionally well-behaved and lovely but I forgot, so next week I hope she's there.

Needless to say, with that many new people I did not mention ripping out my Tokyo scarf. It would have been an embarrassing diversion and the teacher was already swamped with needy knitters. Shannon and I chatted most of the time, she's working on her shawl and I decided to finish the fuzzy Crystal Palace scarf and maybe finally learn casting off, thereby picking up one skill and prolonging the pain of scarf indecision for another week. I did buy two balls of Tokyo and our teacher joined the yarn, so some probably futile work was done on it, but not too much.

Co-worker Friend picked out a really pretty cotton tape and she's on size 13 needles so it should go fast. We didn't get to talk at all during class since we were at opposite ends of the table and I felt really bad because the instructor was busy, but as it turned out one of the workers at the shop named Meadow gave her some one-on-one instruction and Co-worker caught on really fast.

Aside: How much do you love the Valley, where women in Uggs attend knitting class at a shop where a girl named Meadow can help you select a $25 hank of yarn?

Now, cue the parting of the clouds and envision a wide swath of sunlight and angels singing in the background...


The teacher showed me how to cast off stitches and my fuzzy Crystal Palace scarf became my very first completed knitting project! I draped it around Shannon's neck to see how it looked ... and she looked amazing in it. It was totally right on her. She was fondling it and cooing to it ("Ooooh, softy soft!") and I was so happy someone wasn't embarrassed to wear a scarf I knitted that I happily gave it to her. And she genuinely liked it, though she is an actress so perhaps she was acting, who cares! I was pleased as peach pie.

After class the shop was still insanely busy but I somehow managed to buy two pairs of Lantern Moon needles (size 15 and 13, both 14" long), the two balls of Tokyo for my possibly-about-to-be-ripped-out scarf, a fuzzy novelty yarn to maybe mix in the fringe of the maybe-ripped-out scarf, and an amazing hand-painted mohair in deepest blues and greens. I LOVE MOHAIR. LOVE it.

Karman picked up Shannon after class and before long she was wearing the scarf I had just made. I was tickled pink.

Hot damn, ya'll, I'm a knitter!

Posted by laurie at 8:34 AM

February 11, 2005

Wherein I persuade a coworker to drink the kool-aid

After weeks of talking nonstop about knitting, combined with the visual aids (look! it's a scarf! and yet another scarf in different yarn! and yet another!) it appears that one of my co-workers has decided to come to class with me next week and see what all this knitting madness is about.

I feel proud like a missionary about to convert my first knitter. Amen.

Posted by laurie at 8:24 AM

February 10, 2005

Veuve Cliquot taste on a Colt 45 budget

Apparently my material snobbery issues extend not only to furniture and design, but also to yarn. And knitting needles.

After spending $120 on supplies this week alone, I decided I needed to calm the fuck down on yarn spending. However, I'm totally obsessed with knitting and jonesing to practice my purl stitch skills and rib stitch and drop-stitch oh my.

So I decided to purchase some more yarn. BECAUSE THAT SOLVES THE PROBLEM. But I decided to purchase practice yarn and by "practice yarn" I mean a skein of something cheap and easy ... not the $25 hank of feathery mohair I purchased, not the Crystal Palace fuzzies in my bag, not the skein of Noro I was eying on my way out of class on Saturday. No. I need plain, bulky wool that is inexpensive and easy to work with.

In just the past few weeks I have managed to visit and patronize a rather startling number of local yarn shops. For someone who has yet to successfully cast off a single project this might be a melding of craft love + retail therapy, who can say for sure.

All I know is that if I visit another local yarn shop I'll go nutty and end up with a bag of mohair and alpaca and god only knows what novelty crap. Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

To prevent financial bloodletting, I have to remove myself from the environment of money suckage (i.e. upscale shops with a good selection) in order to buy a nice, plain practice yarn. This method of shopping is how I handle my Bloomingdale's problem. For example, if I want a simple T-shirt and I go to Bloomie's for it, I'll end up spending $72 on a white cotton T-shirt which is INSANE, and I am immediately embarrassed by my lack of self control and common sense. Plus my credit cards begin to vibrate in a bad way. To control myself, I must go to a place where the uppermost cap on T-shirt spending is a reasonable $30-40. That way I feel judiciously prudent with my $25 plain white T-shirt.

The things we do.

Back to yarn. I really had no idea where to go for the plain, wool practice yarn of my dreams. Unlike T-shirts, there is no Gap of yarn. So I went to Michael's in Encino.

It was crowded. And damp. And a ketchup-covered child was running hog wild touching everything within reach of his grimy little paws. There was not a natural fiber in the entire store. I would pick up a skein of this or that, hold it between my fingers, and feel it squeak. Some of it kind of crunched. And some of it was glazed with ketchup from hog wild kid.

As soon as I arrived in the yarn aisle I realized that I had become a yarn snob, and I was exhibiting snobbery -- something I detest to do in the presence of snobbery-free folks -- and I still couldn't stop myself. I wanted to be one with the people, the Glasnost Girl of acrylics, the Cumbaya of faux wool, but I was unable to get past myself. And the people! Ladies were swarming in there! Seriously. It was like the Soviet bread line of yarn, with people prodding and pushing, grabbing skeins out of near-empty shelves, tussling over some burgundy Red Heart.

It's not like I have never been to a Michael's before. I've clipped the 50% OFF ONE ITEM! coupon many a time for a tub of gesso, or a boar-bristle brush, a tube of titanium white. I've bought pre-stretched canvas there. Sure, I prefer to hand-stretch my own, but I also prefer the smell of home-baked bread to a microwaved tortilla and how many nights do you think I bake my own freakin' bread, people? Not too many, I'll tell you that much. I am lazy. And I am democratic with paint surfaces. I mean, if Picasso could paint on a slab of wood, I think I can handle a Michael's pre-stretched canvas. I'll paint on anything. Cardboard, masonite, wood, concrete. I'd paint on you if you'd stand still long enough.

Yet, I've never really wandered outside the painting supplies aisle of a Michael's. I don't scrapbook. I don't do fake flowers, or cake pans shaped like Timba, or year-round Easter baskets. I buy all my sewing supplies in the garment district. My beads and bobbles and such come from Bohemian Crystal or one of the other bazillion notions shops in downtown Los Angeles. I thought maybe the problem was the store. Like Target or Ralph's or Rite-Aid, sometimes location makes all the difference. Right?

So I drove to Burbank to the newer, much larger Michael's where the larger, more plentiful yarn aisles were equally as crowded as the Encino Michael's, but certainly cleaner. I searched aisle to aisle for any natural-fiber yarn. I like novelty yarn and fun fur and acrylic just fine. For some reason, however, I had 100% pure wool bulky yarn on the brain, and I wanted it cheap, and I wanted it now. Michael's is a perfectly fine store, once you get past the ketchup-covered, parentless children. Really. It is.

Finally, I located a Michael's salesperson (do you have any idea how hard that was or how long it took to find a person in a red smock who had worked there for longer than one hour and had any knowledge of the store's stock? Oh. My. God.) and I asked said salesperson if they stocked any 100% wool yarn.

"Well, we have one, but it's been discontinued, so what's here is all we have, and we won't be getting more."

It was a perfectly lovely, soft, classic bulky wool, Patons Up Country in deep charcoal grey.


"Why are you discontinuing this?" I asked. "It's so nice!"

"It's just too expensive," she said.

I looked at the price on the bin. $7.99/skein (100g). That's too expensive? And then my old pre-knitting brain kicked in and reminded me that mere months ago I would have been astonished to find that any human being on planet earth would willingly pay more than two dollars for yarn. Good Lord. I must be sucked into some netherworld of yarn snobbery whose depths are unbeknownst even to me. Maybe I've grown so accustomed to being ripped off, I just think it's natural to fork over $25 for a skein of yarn. Remember me, the dumbass? I was happy with my starter yarn, $12 for a tee-tiny ball of Filatura di Crosa.

So this is how it's gonna be, I guess. It's my hobby after all, not the makings of a scarf sweatshop. Why not indulge myself? I have so few hobbies that I love these days. I'm too depressed and love-hating to finish my novel, I don't have a studio any more to paint in, and if you give me enough time I will think of some other dramatical reason to add to this list.

It's been a rough few months. I need this hobby. I love this hobby. So, if I want to be a high-end yarn ho, then dammit, a-ho'ing I will go.

Posted by laurie at 9:01 AM

February 9, 2005

Perfectionism rears its ugly head

Knitted a few rows on my new fuzzy scarf and then scrutinized my Beginner Scarf, which I will now call the Tokyo scarf, after the name of the yarn. I can't knit on it anymore since I have no aforementioned Tokyo yarn, but scrutiny is free and plentiful.

Problem is that as my Tokyo Scarf shapes up, it's... uh, it's a bit wide. And thick. It's so thick it could stand up on its own, less like a scarf and more life a statue made of knit stitch.

Maybe it's because my stitches are so tight or because I pulled the yarn. Or maybe there are just too many stitches cast on. I read about blocking and that sounds like a wonderful way to shape a project but I'm not sure a spritz of water and a pin or two will turn the Kevlar tightness of this knit into a wearable item.

Also, the ladies at the yarn shop said two hanks of yarn is plenty for normal scarves yet I'm only 25 or so inches in on my impenetrable Tokyo Scarf, so clearly I'll need one if not two more skeins. That brings the grand total to what.... over $50?

In other news, I'll be standing on a corner on 7th Street later if anyone wants to pay a nice girl for her company.

The Splash scarf is coming along:


Roy helps me knit by keeping the yarn warm.

I'm going to teach myself to purl from the Stitch n' Bitch book, I just can't wait until class on Saturday!

Posted by laurie at 10:28 AM

February 8, 2005

Joining the yarn, casting on, and Bob's your uncle

Dilemma struck last night.

I was knitting obsessively on the sofa and at 11 p.m. I knitted all the way through my skein of yarn. I had another skein just sitting there.

But, uh, how do you begin the new ball of yarn?

I couldn't *stop* knitting and go to bed and wait until my next class (many, many days away!) and the store was closed and the cats were not forthcoming with tips so you see my quandary. Unconcerned that it was late and that other people have lives and whatnot, I called Shannon in a flurry and after our phone consultation (and a sigh that may or may not mean she regrets the monster she has created) I finally sort of overlapped the tails and knit them in. It's not perfect, but it worked and I continued in a frenzy.

Tonight after work I decided to stop by the local yarn shop near my house to see if they had any Filatura di Crosa Tokyo yarn for my scarf since I am a apparently a knitting maniac and have knitted all the way through the yarn I bought on Saturday. This is Tuesday. I can do the math, and I do not plan on being yarnless on a Wednesday night with nothing to do but finally unpack the mountain of boxes in my guest room. Nosiree and Bob's your uncle.

My beginner scarf is coming together and I feel it may be a masterpiece. All the neat little rows, the way the yarn hooks together to make fabric. It is rather wider than I thought and I may have a slight hole on the left but no matter. I must knit, must keep needles moving. I NEED MORE YARN.

The closest yarn shop is a small neighborhood place, and inside it's so packed and narrow I worried I might get stuck between the bins. The owner of the store is a tiny, knitting Erma Bombeck. Erma Bombeckish. She's very tidy and cute, but all business. All yarn business. She and her mother run the shop and make all the creations sold inside.

I asked if they offered knitting classes and the owner looked at me, in that way people have of sizing you up, and I came out short.

"Well, if you purchase supplies here we'll show you what you need to know," she said. "Most people don't need a class. But if you really, REALLY need handholding we can sit with you.... for $25 an hour."

I found this very funny. She found me somewhat moronic. I think my exuberance was exhausting to her. This happens from time to time. I overtalk when I'm nervous, it's a compensatory thing.

The shop doesn't carry the Filatura di Crosa Tokyo yarn I need for my scarf but never one to leave a store empty-handed, I bought another pair of knitting needles (size 15 "Uncle Ronnie" needles) and two skeins of Crystal Palace Splash yarn that doesn't even look like yarn. I LOVE it. It's very shiny and fuzzy, exactly what beginners are cautioned to stay away from. But I have the knit stitch down pat (obsess obsess obsess and ye too shall learn to knit.) This stuff is like knitting a cat, it's all silky and fuzzy.


Erma Bombeckish's mom showed me how to cast on with frightening intensity. It was like having a nun stand over you weilding a knitting needle, only this nun was Jewish and wearing a Mickey Mouse wristwatch.

"You're doing it wrong."
"No, hold your yarn this way."
"Stop tugging."
"You beginners always hold the yarn too tightly."

In the end, this was best method of learning the two-tail cast on because I will NEVER FORGET casting on properly. I was so nervous and scared of wearing the knitting dunce cap that I concentrated like never before.

I practiced several times on my new fuzzy yarn. It's wonderful! If I keep buying yarn and needles I assume I can just continue on this path indefinitely, as I have no idea how to cast off and finish anything.

But I can cast on with the best of the best, yes I can.

Posted by laurie at 11:44 AM

February 7, 2005

Spinsterdom, party of one, your table is ready

I spent most of this morning proudly showing off my knitting to every single person who stopped by my desk. You want a banner ad? First, admire my knitting. You need a logo resized? No problem, let me tell you all about knitting class!

I knitted last night. I knitted this morning on the bus. I knitted almost through my first skein of yarn. Admittedly it's a small skein of yarn, but still. Knitting perfectly dovetails with my OCD -- must finish. Must do one more row. Must count stitches. Whoops, twenty-one? Could have sworn I began with twenty. Oh well, I'll just knit those two together. Problem solved. I AM A PROBLEM SOLVER. Must keep knitting. Must. Not. Stop.

All I've heard since Mr. X moved out is, "Laurie, maybe you should take up a hobby or something." "Stay busy, it will keep your mind off things." "Have you thought about taking a class or something?"

Well, the joke's on you now, all you future recipients of thousands of scarves. I have a hobby dammit! Can't talk, I'm knitting!

Posted by laurie at 4:40 PM