Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ah-choo!

Fred brought a cold home for Christmas and now I have it, too. Yippee.

This will be my fast friend for the next few days.
So if any of you are wondering why you're not hearing from me or why your patterns aren't shipping, well, now ya know! At least I'm getting a lot of knitting done...and HGTV watching done...and going through the Kleenex!
Hopefully I'll be back to wish you a Happy New Year soon. Have a good one!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

One hat to rule them all

Can you tell I just watched the whole Lord of the Rings marathon of movies? Well, I did. We do it every Thanksgiving weekend. I miss Frodo and Sam and even Gollum/Sméagol. I do not, however, miss the turkey. I can do without turkey for a while now, thanks. so. much.
What I can't get enough of, apparently, is this new Figheadh Fundamental Watch Cap. This makes the tenth in the Fundamentals series--our line of patterns designed for multiple yarn weights and lots of sizes. This pattern is the topper in more ways than one. I put in numbers for sizes premie to XL adult and for six yarn weights from superfine all the way up to super bulky (yeah, a premie hat in super bulky yarn--try it--I challenge ya!)
In the layout above you can see a premie hat in Pagewood Farm St Elias; kids' hats in Noro Kureyon (thanks Shirley!), Schaefer Heather, Hazel Knits DK, and Mini Mochi; and adult hats in Cascade Lana Bambu, Butternut Woolens Homegrown, Noro Kochoran, with the biggest of all in Malabrigo Chunky.

Here's a little taste of mine and Natalie's little bayside photo shoot a couple of weeks ago. She's wearing (L to R) Marr Haven Sport, Butternut Woolens Homegrown, Noro Kochoran, and Cascade Lana Bambu.

I sign off with Nat the wood elf wearing the lovely lavender Marr Haven hat. Headed to the Grey Havens, Nat? Have a nice trip!
Whew! Tired out from tipping my hat (chuckle) to all these wonderful yarn companies. Gotta go now--see ya next time!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Meet My New Friends

Get ready for some beautiful yarn shots, brought to you by me and Butternut Woolens, Shelly Whitman's yarn line. I first found out about Butternut Woolens in summer of 2007 and finally got to meet Shelly at Madrona in February 2008 where she had a booth selling her yarns. At the time, she had a farm in Oregon and grew her own sheep and rabbits, having the fiber spun into yarn and dying it herself. At Madrona, I had the good favor of purchasing three little batches of her various yarns. The rest of that year got pretty crazy for me so some chunks of time actually got blanked out (another story for another day)--so much so that in the meantime, Shelly had a complete change of events that led her to give up her farm and her business, move to Montana, and oh happy day for those of us who love what she does, re-open her business. Yes, Shelly is up and running again and you can buy her gorgeous yarns! Let me just show you some of the fun I've been having with them.
First of all, I used a hank of her Homegrown worsted in Beargrass to make a mini version of my Cabled Tam (Vogue Knitting Holiday 2008). Then I whipped up a sample for my new Fundamental Watch Cap with the same yarn in her Many Glacier colorway. Then on the needles you see I have started a free-form long-cuff glove with some of Shelly's Blue-Faced Leicester 4-ply sock weight in Fox Ears. I enjoyed every stitch of this. Beautiful, rich colors and excellent quality yarn.

Here's a basket of the Homegrown awaiting a Fair Isle felting project.

And another batch of Homegrown already caked up and ready to make a cardigan I have planned just for this. I know you love the colors as much as I do!
The last thing I want to show you, though, is unfortunately something you can't get anymore. I know it's cruel, but such is life! I have been hanging onto a couple of skeins of Shelly's precious Meadowspun Rabbit in Prairieaster that I bought from her back in 2008. When I found out that she had closed her business and might not be producing any more yarn, I couldn't think of anything special enough to make with that yarn. Boy, was I overjoyed when she got back running again. That meant I could make these.

Grace Note Mitts made with Meadowspun Rabbit 2-ply fingering (85% angora/15% merino) on size 3 needles.

Go and visit Shelly. You won't be able to resist. And if enough of us buy her yarn she will be able to build another bunny building for some bunnies and make more of this lovely yarn. I won't even try to describe it. Just ask me next time you see me, because I'll probably have these mitts with me showing them off. See ya then!

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm a Blockhead

No, not a self-derogatory remark on my part--it's just the truth. I am crazy for blocking my yarny makings. Many patient souls have had to listen to me go on and on about how they should block their knits and crochets. As a result of this fixation of mine, I have amassed quite a few blocking tools over the years. I thought it would be fun to have a look at them.

Our first is an assortment of blocking tools. From left, you see my artist's model hands obtained from Dick Blick Art Materials a couple of years ago. I bought them not only to block gloves and mitts but to take photos when I had no live model around. They are perched atop one of my plastic sock blockers. Behind them is a trio of single wooden sock blockers that I bought from The Loopy Ewe last year. As I've blogged about before, I love it that Sheri lets you buy one sock blocker at a time. I knit socks one at a time, mind you, because I like to focus. Therefore, I only need to block one sock at a time! The glass head from Pier One is great for blocking hats, and I have the requisite plastic ever-pointy foot model (given to me by the ever-generous Sonya at Yorkshire Yarns) for the occasional sock block and/or photo session. Behind it all is my latest blocking tool find, the Knitter's Block by Coco Knits. This is a really fun tool. Joyce at A Good Yarn Shop in Port Orchard let me buy her display model. Thanks, Joyce! I plan to have a lot of fun with it. Like this...


After reading about and eying longingly at wooly boards for a couple of years, I finally came off the bucks and ordered one from Halcyon earlier this year. I was immediately intrigued but also a little disappointed that the thing had such a small range of sizing. Next came Brian (of Terri & Brian) to the rescue. He used his drill press to fix me up with more holes in the wooly board parts so that I could block little sweaters-in-the-round with it. Here it is up in the office landing, newly holed and wearing my latest Raibeart sample . The wooly board is a puzzling challenge to assemble, but will come in really handy for all the ITR sweaters I make--maybe even that Fair Isle one I am trying to get up the gumption to tackle.

Back in August, I had great help from Natalie (daughter-in-residence) in making my very own blocking board. We went to Lowe's, bought a piece of plywood, and had the guy cut it down into a couple of pieces for us. Then we went to JoAnn and got a two-yard piece of checkered fabric and to Hancock for some padding for making crib bumper pads. I wanted to be able to piece them together just right. Armed with a staple gun and glue gun (crafty artillary!) we put it all together to make a pretty cool blocking friend. I tell ya, I love this thing! It perfectly fits our little dining table and easily moves to the bed or to the floor if need be.
The last tool I'll introduce is the set of blocking wires that I bought at The Yarn Stash in Burien last winter. I finally tried them out on a sample of my Fern Lace Scarf made with the long-defunct kid-n-ewe. I can't wait to use these wires on expansive lace projects (on the needles as we speak) and even for sweaters. They make it easier to get your edges long and even.
Another fast friend of mine that you can see in this picture is the humble T-pin. I used to use regular plastic round-headed ones, but I find myself going for these guys all the time now. I have a couple of different sizes of them for fitting to the particular blocking project.
There you have just a glimpse into my blocking obsession. While not a blocking tutorial, I hope I have at least introduced you to a couple of tools you might like to try so that maybe, maybe you might want to give blocking a go. I promise you'll like the result much better than having all those wadded-up, wrinkly knits around.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bellingham

Fred and I got to take a little trip north this past weekend to Bellingham, thanks to Andrew and Andrea Evans of Apple Yarns. They have a beautiful yarn shop in the Barkley Village shopping district. I taught Cableology I and II on Saturday, and on Sunday a little group of us convened for my Cableology III, which is a designer class. First, I'll apologize to Andrew, Travis, Bell, Bridgette, Kathie, Linda, and Amy (Andrea and Andrew's daughter) for not having a picture here to show you off! I was so busy jabbering at you about cable knitting that I forgot to snap your picture. You were a lovely group! (Back to your cable knitting, folks!)

By Saturday afternoon, however, I was calmed down enough to get all of these folks in the intermediate cables class! First, to your left you see Becky, obviously heavily focused on her project. To her left there's Andrea of the many hats, and then Sarah holding her knitting aloft.

Here we have Sarah again and then Hilary and then unnamed new cable knitter who came in a bit late and did not sign my list (sorry, sweets--please let me know who you are!) Speaking of that, if any of you are reading and I get your name wrong, well, excuse my memory and I'll excuse the crazy way you filled in the sign-up sheet! It was bouncing all over the table! This was one wild and crazy bunch, I'll tell ya. We had too much fun. Really.


On around the table we have Francine, Kim, and Margie. Yes, that's a quote on the wall from Clara Parkes' The Knitter's Book of Yarn. When I saw that, I knew I was in the right place.

Sunday morning we had the advanced cables group--the ones who are ready to design their own cable hat. And boy did they! These accomplished knitters came up with five very different takes on the cable hat. I can't wait to see their results! In the picture above you see DeeDee and Hilary knitting and looking through references.

Here you see Claudia and Francine starting work on their own designs. Yes, Hilary and Francine came back after a good night's sleep and joined in for more fun! Brave souls.

And here's Francine again with Miriam, who was designing a cable toque. Boy, are they concentrating!

After class Sunday Fred and I went downtown for lunch at Boundary Bay (yum!) and then for a drive down Chuckanut Drive. Here's Fred enjoying the scenery.

See?

And here's Margie signing us off (don't ask me how this picture got taken, but it perfectly illustrates the mood Saturday afternoon). It looks like she's saying, "Come on up to Bellingham and hang out and knit with us--it's sure to be a blast!"

Thanks to everyone at Apple Yarns for a really good knittin' time!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Tartans!


A couple of weeks ago we were privileged to be hosted by Yorkshire Yarns in Lakewood, WA, for a fashion show of the Figheadh designs. Look who joined us for the festivities! This is Mr. & Mrs. John & Ann Martin of Tacoma. Aren't they simply lovely in their family tartans? You can't hear it, but there is bagpipe music playing in the background and you can't taste it but we were drinking Scottish Breakfast tea and snacking on shortbread and scones. I wish you could get the whole picture! It was a blast.


Ireland was represented too, as you can see by Mr. McGaughey, who wore his utility kilt for us! If you think I was in hog heaven, then just multiply that by about ten. Too much fun. (No, I'm not doing a dance--I'm just giddily showing off the kilted guys. Yes, that's my daughter Natalie over to the right. She got roped into modeling and helping me lug stuff around. Thanks Nat!)

I was feeling my oats so much that I coerced this lovely group to model some of my new Fundamental Watch Caps. Don't they just look thrilled as can be? (Not so much) but they proceeded to stand around and be photographed for a good five minutes or so. Thanks to you all!

Last but not least, here is a great picture taken by Kelli of our two smallest models
wearing Declan and Raibeart and a couple of our hat designs. Cute!
We had a very fun and cozy evening as the YY Monday night knitting group knit and watched our little impromptu fashion display. Thanks so much to Mr. & Mrs. Martin and Mr. & Mrs. McGaughey for coming to add the kilt flair (and to model), and to Kerlina for bringing your little ones to show off our kid knits. I hope you had a good time, because we did!

Friday, October 16, 2009

When Life Gives You Jam

You make biscuits!

At least that's what I had to do when life gave Julie figs and I hinted for some of her jam and whaddya know? She sent me some! Sometimes you get what you ask (i.e. hint largely) for. I don't want to make you guys jealous or anything, but she also sent some fig-pear preserves, some Satsuma plum chutney, and some peach ginger marmalade. Precious, delicious stuff. I oughta know--I come from a long line of jam eaters. Not only did my granny Kate make the best plum and apple jelly, but also the best pear preserves and syrup this side of the Chattahoochee. We also had Callaway Gardens right up the road (I even lived there for a time) where you could acquire some mighty tasty muscadine jelly and fig preserves. Oh no--I just found out that they have an online store. I'm in trouble!
In the South, we pretty much make jam, jelly, preserves and chutney out of everything that grows. My mom calls it the "make do" mentality. I even made some watermelon rind preserves once. You never throw out anything you can transform into something remotely edible!
Well, Julie's concoctions are way more than edible--they are divine. We are savoring every bit. I'm "cooking" up ideas to pay her back.
And speaking of "making do," not too long ago when I found out that a design I worked on for Clara Parkes was cut from her book, I was disappointed, of course. I want to be a part of anything Clara does--I've been a fan of Knitter's Review for years. A couple of years ago I got to meet Clara in person, which just made me more convinced. She's a card. She's the kind of gal who comes across all sedate and brainy (which she is--brainy, that is) and wham! She shoots a zinger joke at ya and then you're having fun.
Clara's book, The Knitter's Book of Wool (the sequel to The Knitter's Book of Yarn) came out this week, and instead of leaving me all bummed that I don't get to be a part of the hoopla, well, she went ahead and made me part of the party by posting my design as a freebie to help announce the book! Sweet!

I'll get it added to the sidebar so you can come and print one out whenever you want. Kelli and I had a lot of fun doing the photo shoot of the sweaters with Georgie and Mia, who've gotten a lot of nice comments about how cute they are. Yep--and fun to take pics of, as well. They just both ran around their yard having fun and basically ignoring us while we tried to get details of the sweaters.

So some pretty sweet jam came out of that whole fig pile, as well. I am well pleased.
Thanks, Clara, and I hope your book's first printing sells out, or, um, break a keyboard or something. Well, what do you say to wish good fortune to an author? If they broke a leg, they could still write....
(Okay, I think I had too much coffee and I can't seg my way outta this post. I'll just say goodbye now!)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Drum Roll Please!

Woodjah look at that! Isn't that gorgeous? We have the amazing Sandy to thank for this delicious field of blue yumminess.

And to prove it, here she is showing it off for me. Sandy knit this Big Easy Blanket in Dream in Color Classy in Nightwatch or Midnight Derby (let me know if you know, because Sandy didn't have her yarn label with her). Thanks so much to her for sharing her beautiful work. This was made as a wedding present, by the way. Lucky bride & groom!

I have a couple of FO's of my own to report. Here's a new Raibeart made with Cascade 220 Superwash in the heathery green color #867. I had some help from youngest offspring--Natalie worked the section from the garter edging to just before the underarm gusset. I did some major tweaking of the pattern as I finished it up (as usual.) This one will eventually be a present as well. It's a secret!

I owe this expanse of Merino-Rambouillet sheepiness to Marr Haven Yarn. Clara Parkes just reviewed this yarn as a build-up to the impending release of her new book--go and see! (Can't wait for this book!) I bought this batch of worsted weight Marr Haven yarn in Medium Grey at least 4 years ago and started this top-down pullover as what I thought was to be part of a KAL kicked off by a class I taught in spring 2008 (as far as I know, I'm the only one who finished). The sweater sat in its basket as just a top half until recently when Nat did a few rounds and then I finished up. It's mine all mine! I want cold weather to come just so's I can wear him! It's like a teddy bear you can wear and smells so wonderful with its unprocessed sheepy goodness. Now Fred wants one. If I have enough yarn left, darling. Fingers crossed.

Here's a full shot of Big Marr Haven hugging on a little Marr Haven in progress. That's a cone of the sport weight in Lilac Heather. I'm making a sample of the upcoming Fundamental Watch Cap.

On with the fun!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Day at the Beach

A couple of weeks ago Fred, Natalie, and I spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon just strolling down on the Commencement Bay waterfront, enjoying the new fall weather and snapping some shots. Look at that perfect blue sky.
Fred got this shot of one of the oldest restaurants here. You can still get authentic 50's food at The Harbor Lights--good ol' heart-attack-on-a-plate type food.

This is Mt Rainier from the grassy spot in Cummings Park (which I never knew was so called until then). Yes, that's snow up there, and if you hiked just a little way up there at Paradise you could walk in the snow--all summer long! I don't know how that happens, but I love living in a place where you can see this big guy several times a day.
Natalie caught Fred and me looking across the bay...

...and Fred caught Natalie watching me snatch a second to knit a couple of rounds on a sock.

And there should be more days like this.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Denise

Some of you may recognize this nifty tool. What's that Jen's knitting up that lovely O-Wool Classic with?
That's right! The Denise Interchangeable Needle Set. That's it poking out of my new Denise Organizer with two removable storage pockets and two pockets inside the front and back cover. It all fits inside!
Over the summer I had the pleasure of working with the folks at Denise on their new book that'll come out next year. They needed a men's sweater design for the book, and I happily complied! I have never had a more wonderful experience on a freelance job. Emily at Denise was a complete joy--upbeat and positive the entire time. Not only that, but they gave me a whole needle set so that I could use it to knit the sweater. (The book shows how to use the set and gives great tips with each project.) Once I worked with the set on this sweater, I found out that I needed a companion set. It has more cords and end buttons and extenders.
Emily sent me the set and the Organizer and some extra needle heads and in exchange I donated the price of a new set to the SD Ireland Cancer Research Fund, the Denise charity of choice. If you buy a pink set, a portion of the price goes to the fund.
Oh, the knitting gymnastics you can do with all these lovely bits! I heartily recommend buying this set. At first I thought I would be put off by the plastic needles. I usually work with wooden-tipped circulars or Addi Turbos. All of my dpn's are wooden, too. I'm even trying to slowly change out all my crochet hooks to wood. I was happily surprised by how much I liked these plastic needle heads. It's not a hard plastic, but a kind, soft material that plays well with yarn. The O-Wool certainly liked it, and it's the purest wool there is. Delightful, in fact.



Not satisfied with having such a cool knitting tool, the folks at Denise decided to go another step by adding crochet. This summer, Denise introduced the Interchangeable Crochet Hooks. Love it! What a great motivation to learn Tunisian crochet. I've been crocheting for about 40 years, so I think it's finally time. I've been experimenting with that this very morning, and next post, I'll show you how it came out.

Thank you Denise and thank you O-Wool for helping make my summer such a happy one!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

We're in Boston!

Well, not our physical selves, unless you count the part of myself (and Bonnie, Sue, Andrea, and Betsy) that were put into these knits you see. This is my "Naturals" trunk show and right now it's at Stitch House in Dorchester, Mass.

If you are in the area, please go and visit the knits and say hi to them. Also wish the Stitch House gang a Happy Second Anniversary!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quartercenturian

Last month we finally got to spend my daughter Natalie's birthday with her. This is the first time in seven years I've been with her on her day. She's a Washington girl now, as of August 1. She bravely packed away and/or gave away everything she owned except what could fit in a medium-large suitcase and one carry-on bag and moved here from Atlanta. We had her car shipped and she's redesigned our basement apartment for herself for the time being. Soon she'll be on her own again, but for now we are thrilled to have her here.
We started the big day with a champagne breakfast (whooper breakfast as it is known around here) and Natalie filling Fred in on the whole Sudoku phenom. Those boxes you see in the corner are the result of her efforts helping me get seven Figheadh trunk shows ready. She's a huge help around here. I'm gonna hate when she gets a real job and can't help me as much.

The big 25th birthday ended after a yummy sushi dinner and with a curious little so-called Red Velvet cake of Nat's choosing from a local bakery. I say curious because it was unlike any Red Velvet cake I've ever had. You see, in the South our Red Velvet cakes are only made with hearty cream cheese frosting and NO coconut, thanks. This one had a very Criscoey frosting with clearly no cream cheese and (what?) coconut in it. Good thing we opted for the small size! Needless to say, there's still some in the freezer. We were wishing for my sister's champion version. It's so good that my oldest daughter Emily chose it for her wedding cake.

I'll tell ya who else can make some real Red Velvet lusciousness--Sweet Things, a new cupcake shop right here in Tacoma. They opened last Saturday, and we had the good fortune to hop by and try out their Red Velvet cupcakes. Ah, at last. The real thing. You have to try it! Like little teasers of my sister's mastery. A taste of home.
Happy 25th to Natalie! We can't wait to see what the future holds for you!