Monday, December 31, 2012

Charity Hat Pattern for 2013

Hello!  My goal of making at least one hat for charity each month in 2013 was listed in this blog a couple of months ago, and it was very popular.  It led me to starting a group on Ravelry with the same goal, and I was thrilled to see that it passed 100 members in the first week, and is now at 146! 

The idea is that every month I'll try to provide an original hat pattern for folks to make as their charity hat for that month.  Some of these hat patterns will become paid patterns after the free month, and others will remain free.  Some will be by me, some will be by others who have been kind enough to offer.  (Offers still being accepted, by the way!  If you submit a pattern to me, please email me directly -  Other features of the Ravelry group include moral support, and a listing of dozens of charities accepting donations of hand knits.  Here is the first pattern, which will remain free.  It can also be found, with charting, at Ravelry.

January 2013 Knit Along Hat
Liz Marino

Materials: US 5 needles (this hat was made on double circs)

Tapestry Needle

1 skein Sport weight yarn (12-13 wpi) such as Cascade 220 sport

This hat is worked in the round. The chart represents one repeat. The hat is 5 repeats in total.
Cast on 140 stitches in cable cast on. Join the round, being careful not to twist.

Round 1 - 14: (k2, p2) around
Round 15 - 34: (p13, k15) 5 times

Round 35: (ssp, p9, p2tog,k15) 5 times
Round 36 - 39: (p11, k15) 5 times

Round 40: (ssp, p7, p2tog, k15) 5 times
Round 41 - 45: (p9, k15) 5 times

Round 46: (ssp, p5, p2tog, k15) 5 times
Round 47 - 55: (p7, k15) 5 times

Round 56: (ssp, p3, p2tog, k15) 5 times
Round 57 - 59: (p5, k15) 5 times

Round 60: (ssp, p, p2tog, k15) 5 times

Round 61: (p3, k15) 5 times

Round 62: (cdd, k15) 5 times

Round 63: (ssk, k 14) 5 times

Round 64: (k6, cdd, k7) 5 times

Round 65: k around

Round 66: (k5, cdd, k5) 5 times

Round 67: K around

Round 68: (k4, cdd, k4) 5 times

Round 69: K around

Round 70: (k3, cdd, k3) 5 times

Round 71: k around

Round 72: (k2, cdd, k2) 5 times

Round 73: k around

Round 74: (k, cdd, k) 5 times

Round 75: k around

Round 76: cdd 5 times

Break yarn leaving 8 inch tail. Thread tapestry needle, and weave tail through remaining 5 stitches twice. Draw top of hat tightly closed. Weave in all ends.
If you choose to make it, please do me the favor of submitting a photo!  We'd love to see it!  If you have any charities you'd like us to feature, please share that info, too.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012


I was listening to classical music as I ran errands this morning.  Although I'd love to pretend I'm educated enough to have recognized the music, I'm not and I didn't.  It was lovely, though, and hauntingly sad.

My daughter turns 18 today, a wonderful moment, which was also in the mix.  She has Asperger's, and is naive and capable, overwhelmed and overwhelming at turns.  And now she's 18.

With all of this in my head, I had a mental picture that became a poem.  How strangely romantic, to express music and emotion in a poem.  But it wants out, so here it is.

The vase is ancient,
The lines graceful.

Color shifts along its length
From a breath to a flame.

I love to see it on the mantle.
The crack is thinner than a hair.

No flowers.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Knitting for Charity

If you read the last post, you can probably understand my desire to help those who have fallen on hard times.  I started a group on Raverly committed to making at least on hat for charity in 2013 (click here).

As I've talked to people about making hats for charity, I've received a lot of interesting feedback.  "That's what I do with all my crappy yarn," I was told by one woman.  Why would you do that?!   "Can we start early?" Yes, of course!  Please do.  "Do we have to donate to a specific charity?" No, any charity that accepts hats is great!  "Is there a specific pattern we need to use?" No!  Use any pattern you like.  All of this feedback made me really happy (ok, all but the first one) because it was clear that people wanted to participate "following the rules." 

Since it's almost 2013, I thought it would be a good idea to provide some links to some terrific hat patterns.  Since it's a charity thing, I'm showing free patterns, but if you have hat patterns in books or magazines that you want to knit, have at it.  And if there are some free patterns you want me to feature that I missed, let me know!

Basic Striped Hat
The Basic Striped Hat by Shiri Designs at left is very easy, and great-looking.  You can make all the stripes the same color, as shown, or use up odds and ends of yarns in the same weight.  It's shown in the adult size (it comes in adult, child, and baby), and in an acrylic yarn.  Remember you may want to attach a label indicating the size and material of your hat so that it will fit the recipient, and avoid any allergic reactions.

Alpaca Earflap Hat

The Alpaca Earflap Hat by OzYarn is a classic style chullo hat.  It was originally knit in a yarn that is now discontinued, but it can be replaced with any 12 wpi sport weight yarn.  Try Frog Tree Yarns Alpaca Sport Weight.  It's a fun knit, and can be made in as many colors as you're moved to use.  Different textured yarns might make an interesting look, too.  Maybe boucle in place of one of the colors, tape yarn for another, and a simple 5 ply for the the third...  It's an adult size, and made in alpaca it's very  cozy!
Baby Jester Hat

Wooly Wormhead brings us the wonderful Baby Jester Hat.  I love this hat so much!   I've seen it in person on a few occasions, including two different versions of it at Rhinebeck this year.  It's very quick to knit in worsted on US 7s, and it has very easy shaping.   The recommended yarn is 50/50 wool and silk, but unfortunately the exact yarn is discontinued.  Remember, you can use any yarn with the same wpi (in this case 9) and get the right gauge and effect.  Try Crystal Palace Yarns Mendocino. 

Hesper Tam

Last but not least, enjoy the Hesper Tam by Wendy Poush.  The mohair in the yarn is what gives it the wonderful halo.  The pattern itself reminds me of church windows, and other beautiful Gothic things.  This would also look lovely in angora, or brushed cotton.   I'm thinking this could make a lovely chemo cap, too.  And wouldn't it be striking in a rich navy blue?

If you need more ideas for hats, check, the website of your favorite yarn manufacturer or distributor, or, of course, Ravelry.  There are several free pattern links on my Ravelry Charity Hats group.  I can't wait to see what you make in the next year! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

One of Those Years

Well, it's time to look back at the year and assess the achievements and failures.  This has been a very strange year.

As the year dawned, I had just learned that one of my local yarn shops had been destroyed by fire.  Then I was invited to write a post for the British Campaign for Wool, which was a wonderful honor.  There seemed to be some balance to the universe, however slight.  My Gift Knits Kit Club was just kicking off, and the members were very happy with the first pattern and kit I sent them.  Then I severely injured my elbow moving furniture.  More balance.

Well, the universe wasn't done with me.  I learned I would teach at Rhinebeck this year!  In April I published 8 new patterns.  I was spending lots of time at the doctor's for the tummy, but happily living in the land of yarn. 

I had a few very uncomfortable tummy tests.  But in May, June and July, I maintained my teaching schedule and kept up my design schedule.  If I stuck to a liquid diet, I was well enough to travel.  August 1 my FIL Lou was hospitalized with extreme pain.  By the time he was discharged a week later, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer metastasized to his bones.  6 weeks later he was gone.

October was spent entirely on the road teaching, and culminated in a wonderful time at Rhinebeck.  Colleen and I met the Savvy Girls from the podcast, and shared a hug and a few moments with Kerri Steinmetz of KnitPurlGurl.  In a Toronto teaching gig, I physically crashed into Kaffe Fassett.

In November I initiated a group on Ravelry to knit at least one hat for charity each month in 2013.  I had surgery to solve my tummy trouble, and spent much of the month wishing pain pills were better at their job.  And then, right at the end of the month, the world lost Kerrie Steinmetz.

Now it's December, and I'm back on my feet.  The tummy is good, and solid food is amazing.  I think about Lou, I think about Kerrie, and I've been knitting charity hats.  My daughter, who has Asperger's, has been escalating in violence and aggression, was brought to the hospital by the police for evaluation.  And her frequent tantrums have gotten us thrown our of our apartment. 

She's back on her meds now, and things have calmed down.  We've found a new place, and we'll be moving after the first of the year.  I still can't make myself knit Lou's blanket, but someone is going to enjoy these hats.  I'm ready for a happy new year. 

Best wishes to you and yours.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ugly Hand-knits, or Halloween in December

Recently I went out to breakfast with my DH, and was slightly horrified to note 4 different hideous handknits within my view at the restaurant.  4:0 to the bad knitting.  Usually when I see hand-knitted pieces in public, I'm delighted.  And there was nothing to like about these pieces, so I started paying very close attention. 

There was a man walking a Black Lab mix in obviously hand-knit gloves in stunning yarn that appeared to be hand-dyed.  Not spectacular, but attractive enough to have caught my attention.  One in the good column.

Horrific cowl, knit in very pilled extra bulky acrylic, with impressive numbers of mistakes and inadvertent dropped stitches.  1:1

Puke-green scarf on a passerby that appears to be someone's first knitting project.  Every row was of a different length, and every stitch was a different size and shape.  2:1 on the bad side.  This was paired with a floppy hat in multiple mismatched yarns of approximately the same color, but different weights and fibers.  3:1 since I left the restaurant, and 7:1 for the morning.  Wake me from the nightmare!  What's going on?

It makes you wonder if there is a way to go back in time in knitting to find out what the story is.  When you're renovating an apartment, as you peel back layers of wallpaper, or pull up the floor, you see some of the history of the place, and see the choices made by previous owners.  You can see what the architect or previous interior designer had going on.  Where did the onslaught of ugly knits come from?  What were they thinking?  I'll never know what happened, but I'll hazard a few guesses.

1) People don't realize that sometimes a piece of knitwear needs to retire.  If it's pilled and misshapen, and blocking it and shaving it don't help, retire it.  You don't want to turn heads in a bad way.

2) Colors that are pretty in the store don't necessarily coordinate with your wardrobe, and a piece that looks good with a black pea coat may not look good with a plaid sport jacket.  It's fine to have a favorite scarf, but think about coordinating it with the rest of your outerwear.

3) If you're going to knit a small object in a fat yarn, like a cowl in super bulky, realize that every individual stitch is a huge percentage of the whole.  Mistakes will scream at you up close, and still be visible at a social distance.  These are not the mistakes to ignore!  Fix 'em when you see 'em.

4) Unless a pattern specifically calls for you to change fiber size and fiber type in the middle of a garment, don't do it without swatching, or at least looking at the different yarns in natural light.  Things look very different in the daylight than they do indoors.

The good news is that day was an aberration.  Life has returned to normal, and handmade knits that are lovely once again are the norm.  I'm glad you didn't see it.  It was frightening!

Monday, December 10, 2012

What to Give a Knitter for the Holidays

It happens every year: your loved one with a knitting hobby is the last one on your list, and you can't think of what to give them.  Why?  Maybe you're not a knitter.  Or maybe there's just too much knitting in the world to choose from.  What's a sure-fire gift for a knitter to cherish?
Never fear!  There are knitting gifts galore if you know where to look!  Start here.  As always, I recommend shopping locally as much as possible.  Our local knitting stores are the backbone of most area knitting communities, and the knitter in your life is probably well known to the staff of at least one of these establishments.  (They may even have a wish list on file!)

Knitting All the Day
The Savvy Girls Podcast is a knitting podcast by sisters Deborah and Melanie Gall.  Melanie is also a gifted singer, and has recorded a wonderful CD (click the link below the pic) of knitting songs from the WWI era.  It makes a great gift!  Colleen, my intrepid and magical assistant, gave me a copy during Rhinebeck this year, and I'm completely in love!  There's little chance your knitter already has one, and they're sure to enjoy it.

For the book lover on your list, The Vogue Knitting Knitopedia from Sixth&Spring Books is an extraordinary volume.  It has a little of everything a knitter needs - patterns, history, techniques, biographies, and more - all packed in one volume.  Every knitter will find things to love, and ideas to delight them.  The color photos, articles, maps and information will enhance the work of the most beginner and the most advanced knitters. Try your local bookstore, yarn shop, or favorite online bookseller to collect a copy.
Lantern Moon Ebony Knitting Needles
Every knitter loves to have beautiful tools that do the job well.  Few companies produce tools as beautiful and functional as Lantern Moon.  The needles at left are made of ebony, and are spectacularly beautiful.  The wood warms to the temperature of your hands, and the finish has wonderful action.  These needles, and most of their other tools, are not priced for bargain shoppers (the needles at left retail for around $24.)  They are fairly priced for high-end hand-made tools.  On the other hand, if they were cheap, they wouldn't be special enough to count as wonderful gift.  Lantern Moon makes a wide variety of knitting and crochet tools, widely available at local yarn stores.  You can also find their products at a variety of online needlework outlets.  Check out the complete line on

For many knitters, a yarn swift and ball winder are a pair of tools they would definitely use, but wouldn't buy for themselves due to the expense.  This pair of tools works together, with the swift holding large hanks of yarn and the ball winder spinning the yarn into balls without tediously hand-winding the balls.  Knitters who by their yarn at yarn shops and online outlets instead of craft stores often purchase yarns that are still in the hanks, and not yet wound into skeins or balls.  The photo at right is of a pair for sale on eBay.  Often you can find them in yarn shops and online outlets. Prices for the combination run from approximately $60-$175.  If you're not a knitter, you may want to ask for help in choosing a pair that are right for the knitter in your life.

If none of these ideas work for you don't despair; visit your local knitting store, and describe the knitter in your life.  Maybe you know they love to knit socks.  Maybe you know they knit for children.  After a short conversation, the staff at the knitting store will be able to guide your towards a gift that will delight the knitter in your life. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hitting the Knitting Wall

As many runners and other athletes will tell you, there comes a point in a long workout when your body refuses to comply with your commands.  Your legs feel heavy, your brain seems sluggish, and your coordination is a little off.  They call this moment "hitting the wall".  It's as if, while running, you ran into a wall.  Your forward progress is suddenly in jeopardy.

Well, my friends, I've hit the knitting wall.  Maybe it's the holiday baking, or the other prep for the holidays...  I've been fighting with some socks that are beautiful in my head, and even beautiful on the needles, but they won't come out to fit a human foot.  I'm sure there's a creature out there they will fit, but it's not a person.  Even if they would fit, they're kind of a pain in the but to knit.

My 2012 Rhinebeck sweater (yep, never finished) stares dolefully from the bottom of the knitting pile.  I've finished the back, the front, and 3/4 of the first sleeve.  It's lusciously soft, and I think it's beautiful.  Why isn't it finished?  I have no excuse.  It's a bit like when the dog comes to you with his leash in his mouth, and you still can't make yourself go for that walk around the block.  Sorry.  Maybe tomorrow.

I have hats to design for the charity hat knits of the month for 2013, and keep putting it off.  A nice woman sent in a hat pattern that she had written, and I haven't edited it, knitted it and taken a photo of it for the charity project. 

I have a blanket square that I'm supposed to knit, and I received the yarn, needles, and directions third-hand.  I hate the project, and the directions stink.  I have to rewrite the instructions to make a pattern I can use.  All told, this is maybe 90 minutes worth of work.  Not even started.

I find myself sitting down with my knitting and my coffee and staring into space.  The coffee disappears, and the knitting remains the same.  I promise myself a minimum number of rows, and that's all that gets done. 

The husband's slippers from last holiday that I've gotten 65% of the way through are still lingering at 65%.  They're in stunning yarns, and I just don't feel like it.

I don't know why I've hit a wall.  I just have.  Maybe it's just that none of these projects is fun for me right now.  All of them represent "getting it over with" even though in general I'll be thrilled with them when they're done.  Time to get over the hump.  Find some motivation.  Grow a set.  Or maybe take a nap, and start again later...

Sunday, December 2, 2012


This has been a very sad week for me as I learned of the passing of Karrie Steinmetz, better known as KnitPurlGurl.  Karrie blogged, podcasted, Tweeted, taught, and lived positive knitting support.  She also had a family she adored, hobbies, and was a tireless advocate for Autism and Asperger's Syndrome tolerance and understanding.  She died far too young, with school age children.  My heart breaks for her family.

To say we were close friends would be to overstate the relationship.   We Tweeted about knitting and Autism.  We emailed about knitting and blogging.  We smiled and hugged and talked at Rhinebeck, and we read each other's blogs.  But as an avid knitting professional and blogger, and the mom of a teen with Asperger's, she was an important voice in my life.  I will miss her on a variety of levels. 

If you're not familiar with her work, please visit her blog here.  Her patterns and podcast are still available, too. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Design Work

I've spent some time in the last two weeks working on a new sock design.  This has resulted in ten different swatches, 7 completed sketches, and 5 charts.  I don't know if it's there yet, but I'm knitting up a sample.  If the sample works when I knit it, the next step is to hand it off to a sample knitter. 

Sometimes I lose track of how much is involved in bringing a new design through the whole process.  This sock has open work and cable work, so the gauge varies throughout.  The shaping of the gusset needs to be worked around the design elements.  And the whole thing needs to be worked in a yarn that will allow it to be made in a single skein of sock yarn, or 400yds total.  If not, folks are much less likely to make it.

During this same time, I've designed and made a hat, designed and swatched a pair of gloves, and knit on other projects just to clear my head of sock obsession.  Still and all, I'm probably 24 hours into this sock.  Some projects just go more smoothly than others.  This one seems to be shy, and isn't ready to step into the light yet.

No pressure.  It's supposed to be a holiday gift, but it's not panic time yet.  If the gussets don't work, then maybe.  For now, I need coffee, chocolate, and bravery. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

What to Knit Holiday 2012 6 - Toys

This is often the most popular post of the What to Knit series.  Who doesn't love toys?  Fun to knit, fun to give, and a wonderful alternative to the knitted baby blanket if you've had enough of blanket knitting for awhile.

Knit these Toy Balls for children in cotton or acrylic for babies for a hypo-allergenic baby toys.  Self-striping yarns can be great fun, or use several different colors of a particular yarn.  Remember fathers appreciate toys made in their favorite team's colors for their sons!  Red Sox colors or Green Bay colors are fun for Dad and baby alike.

This Old-Fashioned Sheep Toy by Sarah Elizabeth Kellner is charming.  You can choose a boucle yarn or mohair if the child is old enough to keep toys out of their mouths.  Make it in real sheep colors, or have fun with crayon brights.  Add an I-cord or ribbon collar for a Bo Peep's sheep!

For all the space buffs and burgeoning astronauts in your life, there's this Little Rocket by Megan Kelly.  There are a variety of metallic yarns available if you want a more realistic look.  Maybe for an older child you could embroider NASA across the side!  You can make them in a variety of sizes and make an entire fleet of rockets.  Great idea! 

Fat Robin comes to us from the Petit Purls blog, and it's a multi-piece toy.  Naturally you can make any or all the parts of this set, but the robin's eggs are not baby safe for kids under 3.  It's a well-written pattern designed to take US 5 needles.  With a little adapting, you could make this pattern represent a variety of real or fantasy birds!  Variegated greys and browns would make a believable pigeon plumage, and bright yellow mohair would make an adorable chick!

Last but not least are these adorable Rabbit and Bear by April Cromwell of the By Small Means blog.  Not only are they endearing on their own, they also come with patterns for 5 clothing items!  Many children love to play dress-up, and with a little ingenuity you can devise a wide variety of outfits from these few patterns. 
I really hope this has given you some ideas for ths holiday season, or your next baby shower.  Send pics of toys you've knit.  We'd love to see them!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What to Knit Holiday 2012 5 - Mittens

Those who follow this blog or know me personally know that Mittens are among my favorite things in the world - to knit, to give, to receive, to read about, to write about...  Mittens are friendly, cheerful, cozy, practical, and well-received by all who live or work or vacation in wintry weather.  This year's round up includes the ones I'm hoping for this season.  Which ones?  You can surprise me!

Bias Cable Mittens
Our first mittens, Bias Cable Mittens, come to us from Elegant Yarniverse blog, and were designed by Jenny Jo.  If you have any doubt you can do this, get over it.  Of course you can.  The diagonal effect is created by simple increases and decreases.  This is beautifully creative, but not hard.  It's a very warm and durable design, and as you can see, has optional gauntlet or ribbed cuffs.

Cabobble Mittens
Next up are the Cabobble Mittens, which have a simple and elegant architectural feel to them.  Cailyn Meyer, the author of the Daily Skein blog, offers these lovely mittens with a well written pattern.  Knit in DK weight yarn on US 3s, they have a firm, dense fabric that still manages to be soft and supple.  I'm always a sucker for a pretty cable, and the bobbles are easy and tiny, so if you're new to them, this is a great way to get acquainted!
Pirate Mittens

From Adrian Bizilla of come the Pirate Mittens.  If you loved the hat recommended in the What To Knit Hats article, you'll definitely want to make the matching mittens. Sport weight yarn knit in stranded colorwork on US 3s makes a warm fabric that will keep you dry in all of your outdoor endeavors.  When choosing yarn for these mittens, yarns with a high twist per inch and a low halo (the fuzzy haze around the yarn itself) will show the pattern better and wear much longer.  Wool is equally warm when wet, so if you're making these for the snowball fight prone, you may want to head to the superwash wool section of the store!

Little Zebra Mittens

The Little Zebra Mittens by Odessa Reichel are adorable for young children.  This is one of the rare occasions when I will recommend using a synthetic yarn.  Be aware that not all natural fiber yarns are colorfast (no matter what they say), so if you want to use wool or cotton, you may want to test your yarn for colorfastness first. This can be done by snipping off a 2 inch piece of yarn, soaking it thoroughly, and then rubbing it for 30 seconds to 1 minute between two white paper towels.  If no color comes off, you're good.  If it does, you'll want to launder and dry your yarn while it's still in the hank.  For fun and craziness, consider making these mittens in colors other than black/white, or brown/white.  Maybe rainbow and red?  Very joyful!

For those who love traditional knits, these Chrysanthemum Mittens by Mary Ann Stephens of the Two Strands blog are lovely.  They are a Norwegian Stranded style, and like all stranded knits, very warm and long-wearing.  They're easy to appreciate by men or women, depending on the color combination you choose. 

But we all know some men in our lives who will only wear things that are overtly MANLY.  For that person, try the 3 St Waffle Mittens, posted on Ravelry by Zortified.  They knit up quickly in worsted weight, the pattern is as easy as I've ever seen for a mitten, and you can make 'em in any color(s) he likes.  Black cuffs on a chocolate mitten might be great, or a solid charcoal heather yarn would be strong and rugged.  If he's a sports fan, maybe combine cuff and body colors in his team colors. 

I hope these help you in your holiday knitting preparations.  And if you make any of these, by all means share a photo with us.  We'd love to see, and we promise we won't ruin the surprise!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What to Knit Holiday 2012 4 - Food

I've been recovering from surgery for the last week, and while on the major pain pills, I've re-discovered cooking TV.  Since I had abdominal surgery, I didn't feel like eating, which strangely made food look all the more fascinating.  (Or maybe it was the pain pills.  Anyway, food was riveting.)  I started thinking about knitting for the TV chefs and food personalities.  What would they like?  Maybe a stocking full of knitted food?  Woo hoo!

Dad's Blueberry Pie
First we have Dad's Blueberry Pie by Jennifer Tallapaneni.  Kind of like ships are always female, it seems that if there's a man in sight, he has claimed rights to the pie.  (And the cookies, even though he says those are for the kids.)  It's a truly beautiful finished piece, and I'm sure some chef would wish that his/her crust would turn out that well!

Knitted Garlic

Mama G's Big Crafty Blog brings us Knitted Garlic.  They use a lot of garlic on the food shows, though I'm not sure why.  They put it in everything!  Maybe they have a vampire phobia. 
Summer Squash

Summer Squash is a ubiquitous ingredient in the homes of many a gardener, and as if you don't have enough of them in your house, now you can knit them, too.  Naturally you can knit them in green and make them zucchini, too.  These will never spoil at the back of the refrigerator waiting for the next time you make soup.  The pattern comes from the Gerwerken blog.


From Hannah Loveless on Ravelry comes this adorable pattern for a Prawn.  I've discovered that the chefs on TV are unaware that all the rest of us call them "shrimp".  Handily enough, since it's on TV, we get to see what they're talking about, and we figure it out pretty quickly.  If you're knitting for a "Foodie", I suggest knitting at least three of these, as they never seem to use just one at a time. 

Knit Mushroom
Knitted Mushrooms have all the advantages of other knitted food, plus you don't have to scrub off the little beards, because you won't knit them on in the first place.  From the Just Crafty Enough blog, these little darlings can be made by the bunch, and if you vary up the colors of tan and beige, and the size of the caps, you can make a variety of gourmet mushrooms. 

Heirloom Strawberries

"Heirloom" fruits and vegetables are mentioned a lot on TV.  In my slightly drug-induced stupor, I picture food in old-fashioned canning jars being handed down for generations.  Apparently that's not what they mean.  They mean fruits and vegetables grown from "traditional" seeds, not engineered seeds.  I've looked and I've found "heirloom" knitted food.  (I don't know what kind of seeds these come from.)  Heirloom Strawberries are adorable, low in calories, and if you make them out of cotton, hypo-allergenic.  This pattern comes to you from the Schooling From the Heart blog. 

These should get you started making trinkets for your favorite gourmand.  If you have a favorite food pattern, please share it with us!  Thanks.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Under the Bigtop

As I was teaching this fall, I had the pleasure of having some of my colorwork classes sponsored by Mountain Colors Yarns.  They supplied wools in a variety of colors for my students to use during their various lessons.  Blues and greens and golds and reds drew the hands of delighted students as they chose their yarn samples for the swatches they would create.  To a person, every student fell in love with the yarn (4/8 wool) and marveled over the richness of the colors.

Watching the various swatches grow day after day, I was mesmerized by the shear beauty of the lively color combinations.  I wanted to make something with these incredible colors, too!  I've used them before, and it's definitely time to use them again.

As a designer, wife, and mom, I have a huge backlog of knitting to do, and wondered when I'd be able to fit something in.  Then I started thinking about the charity knitting group I'd just started, and realized I had my "in".  I could design a hat for the charity group using these wonderful leftover ball ends from my classes!  As I started working on the hat nad posting about it on Facebook and Twitter, I started getting "Can we see it?" questions.  It's not finished, but yes, here it is.

I chose the Harmony Iris and Firestorm colorways, and was inspired by the joy of the Firestorm colorway to make something reminiscent of the circus.  It isn't a literal interpretation of a circus tent, but I like to think it has a little circus tent, a little carousel, and a little childish wonder built in.  (Finally, even Colleen would approve of these colors!  Nothing subtle here!)
I'll be posting the pattern to Ravelry in the next day or  two, as soon as I finish it.  I'm just working out the decreases to make them smooth.  Thanks for your interest.  I hope many of you will make it and donate it to your favorite charities.

Update: Done!  Pattern to follow soon! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Knitting to The Bike in the Parlor

Sometimes when I knit in public, people come up to me and talk to me about how knittting has touched their lives.  One of my favorite stories is here, paraphrased, as told to me by a frail-looking woman of unknown age.  She spoke with a European accent I couldn't quite recognize, but I was so fascinated by the story that I forgot to ask her where she was from.  I hope you're as captivated as I was.

I learned to knit from my mother when I was a child.  It was during the second World War, and we would knit at night, often during the blackouts. 

I didn't have any needles.  My father had a spare bicycle wheel, and he clipped out a couple of spokes for me to use for knitting needles.  His bicycle had a light on the front, and he'd ride his bike in a little stand in the parlor to give us a little light during blackouts.  My mother would unravel our outgrown socks and sweaters, and taught me to knit socks with the old yarn.  Eventually I moved on to gloves and mittens. 

I remember for Christmas one year I received two skeins of soft, blue wool!  It was very extravagant.  No one could afford new wool.  It was all going to the war effort.  But there it was, just waiting for me to make anything I wanted!  I was so excited!

"What did you make?"

I made gloves for my mother.  She loved them.  She would darn the holes and wore them for years.  She said they were the best gloves she ever had.

The woman smiled at the memory.  She was clearly transported back to another place and time.  She looked at my knitting, now at rest in my lap as I listened to her story.

"It's nice to see that people are still knitting.  I never really cared for the store-bought sweaters.  It was nice to know that something had been made just for me by someone who loved me."

She walked away smiling.  I still smile every time I think of her.  I tell her story in my classes, to remind my students that we have it easy with our knitting in the scheme of things.  We're part of a wonderful tradition of handcrafts that has been transferred from person to person for hundreds of years.  That knitting was a life skill so important that it was taught on bicycle spokes by bike-light makes it more meaningful to me. 


Saturday, November 3, 2012

What to Knit Holiday 2012 - 3 Hats

This holiday comes on the heels of the worst natural disaster in US history, leaving more people homeless than hurricanes Irene and Katrina combined.  Our focus on the warm and cozy things wonderful under the tree is ongoing; but if you don't normally knit for loved ones at the holidays, consider knitting this season and donating.  Donate to the needy in your community, or knit for those in the Northeast who are survivors of this historic storm and are left with little or nothing.  Many communities are arranging donation drives through TV and radio stations, religious groups and churches, and local charity networks.  Just a thought.

Amelia Earhart Aviator Cap

The ABC Hat comes from The Blue Blog Patterns, by Allison Hansel.  She asks that her patterns are used only for non-commercial uses.  It's an easy hat, a fast knit, and more importantly, really cute!  If you're knitting for charity, please tag the finished object identifying the fibers involved to help those who may be living with allergies.

The Amelia Earhart Aviator Cap is adorable!  It's a pattern coming from Head Huggers, which is a charity network donating hats to cancer patients.  It's definitely girlie, and has a retro vibe that still works well with today's pared-down fashion with clean lines and a close fit.

Beehive Hat
From the Unfurled blog comes the Beehive Hat.  Designer Holly Klein has created this adorable confection which works equally well for children and adults.  Again, it's a quick and easy knit, and it has a joyful personality that's hard to resist. 

Wolf Pack Hat

If you're a fan of colorwork, the outdoorsy types in your life might fall in love with the Wolf Pack Hat.  Originally published in Canadian Living, Thirteen Mile Farm is credited as the designer of the pattern.  Colorwork hats are much warmer than hats in single colors as a rule, because the fabrics are twice as thick due to the second color of yarn being carried behind the first.  If you live somewhere really cold, consider making this hat in an alpaca or camel blend, which add significant warmth!

We Call Them Pirates

From the incomparable Adrian Bizilla comes the We Call Them Pirates Hat.  It's more colorwork, and for those on your list who love pirates, skeletons and skulls, and things slightly counter-culture, it's a sure-fire hit.  It's one of the most popular hats on Ravelry, and it's adorable. 

The last hat I have to offer this year is extremely fun to work.  Originally published in Knitty, Alexandra Tinsley has created a pattern that is dictated by the color changes in a variegated yarn.  Knit in stockinette until the designated color(s) come along, and then purl.  The result is a uniquely textured piece with great style, and appropriate for every member of the family.  It's called Topographie

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Free Charity Hat Pattern

I've designed a hat for my charity knitting KAL for 2013, and I was going to release it on January first, but due to the push for warm clothes for those in Sandy's aftermath, I'm releasing it now.  Millions without power are waking up to temperatures in the 30s and 40s!

January 2013 Charity Hat KAL  The pattern is free, and the hat is a skullcap sized for adults.  Made in wool or wool blends it will be warm for recipients, but please label as such for those with allergies.  Thanks, Friends.  You guys are the best!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"What's a Clapotis?"

At Rhinebeck, Colleen was shopping while I was waiting in line to pay, and she overheard the question, "What's a Clapotis?!"  The speaker pronounced it kluh-po-tiss, and the combo of the tone of voice and the pronunciation cracked Colleen up.  The woman speaking was probably referring to the Clapotis Shawl (pronounced Klap-oh-tee) by Kate Gilbert.

So, no matter how you say it, what is a Clapotis?  It's a French word for a stable wave pattern, such as you might see on the top of water at the edge of a pool.  There's a longer, very science-y explanation on Wikipedia, if you're so inclined.  As a knitted garment, it's a shawl with an undulating stitch pattern that moves in a fluid way.  Very pretty.

I mention this because there's a wonderful tutorial about how to perform this stitch on the Needles & Hooks blog, which I've linked here.  If you're as seduced as I and so many others are by this lovely pattern, take a look at this article.  It reminds how to handle estimating yardage, performing and modifying the stitch, and even has a companion hat pattern!  Enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Charity Knits Update

Now we have a Ravelry Group!  (We went from 2 members to 59 in roughly 24 hours, and I am getting excited!)

On the Rav group there is a thread about the charities you may choose to donate to.  Please look into your local options through Department of Social Services, homeless shelters, church and religious groups, and cancer support groups.  Many communities have Coats for Kids initiatives, as well as domestic abuse shelters, and foster care programs.  If you're still looking for a recipient, talk to your nearest hospital about charity donations.

Watching Hurricane Sandy wreak havoc on the East coast (and so many of my loved ones) makes me aware that there will also be many groups doing outreach support for those who are displaced or homeless in the path of the storm. 

Thanks for all your support!  I love that so many people want to start early!  You guys totally rock.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What to Knit Holiday 2012 2 - Scarves

If your holiday knitting includes scarves, you're not the only one.  How do you make a scarf special?  Choose the right pattern for your recipient, and choose the right yarn for your pattern.  All patterns are free, and photos are from

This kerchief, called the Age of Brass and Steam by Orange Flower, can be knit light and ethereal, or thick and cozy, depending on the gender and needs of the giftee!

The Noro Striped Scarf by Jared Flood is a quick knit in two balls of color-pooling yarn. The effect is charming, and the length can be easily modified for an adult or child.

One of the most popular patterns of the last decade is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's One Row Scarf.  This scarf is fully reversible, and there's only one row of pattern to remember!  It's a fast knit in worsted on US 8's.  By varying needle and yarn weight, you can make this as delicate or as burly as you like.

Is there a special child in your life?  Do they love stories of kings and queens and dragons?  The Fiery Dragon Scarf by Brooke Hanna, is nothing short of delightful.  This is an easy knit, with only minimal shaping, making it quick while still being impressive.

Need a lighter scarf in the same creative department?  Try the Monty the Python scarf by Rowan Martindale.  Made on US 9's, it's fast and adorable!

If none of these work for you, remember that most yarn manufacturers offer between dozens and thousands of free patterns on their websites.  Dig through your stash, choose your yarn, and then turn to the manufacturer for the pattern that will make you and your loved ones happy.  Good luck!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rhinebeck 2012 Photos 2

Here is the rest of our trip in pictures.  I think it's pretty self-explanatory.  Sheep, vendors, and scenery...