the hermitage

Posted on 12 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, lace/shawls


just a few days after getting in from filming my newest craftsy class in colorado, i was packing up to take off again. in truth, i barely had a minute to spare in between, but i made it out the door in time and i even got to sleep for a few hours (always a bonus!).


when i last wrote a knitting update, i showed you the swatches for my spring knits and the beginnings of a stripey top—with the front and sleeves complete and blocked, i had all the information i needed to knit the back and finish up my sample. so that last piece was my plane project and no sooner had i buckled in than i was up and running the knitspot design studio right from my seat, complete with beverage of choice.


by the time i got to atlanta, where i was laid over for a couple of hours, i was halfway through the body shaping and increasing my way to the armhole BO. i’m working with our luscious 3-ply ginny sport—a smooth blend of the softest dehaired alpaca/ cotton/merino/nylon. i chose the mississippi shade for the main color and georgia for the striped accent. the yarn is a dream to work with—every stitch falls right into place—and the colors are so soft and touchable, mmmm. i can’t believe how much knitting i got done during my flights, woo-hoo!


this time, i was heading for NYC, one of my favorite places in the world. as you can see the pilot gave us a real show upon landing, flying so low and close to the city that as we passed brooklyn, i could see my friend nancy’s building from the plane (not shown in this photo, haha; i got out the camera too late).


i holed up there for a two-week work retreat, to design and write patterns. i’ve got a bevy of spring teaching and show events scheduled for the next two months and with our spring ensemble also scheduled to release at the end of april, i needed to get ahead of the ballgame while i had the chance. and it’s best to have quiet, uninterrupted for concentrating on calculations and construction choices.


it was a gorgeous day for landing and we were treated to incredible views as we circled up and around the city.


there’s the skyline from the eastern angle; i can’t believe all the new buildings that have popped up just since i was here last.


by the time i got in, i had just a little left to go on my back piece. after a brisk evening walk to shake off the flight and stock up on groceries, i got some dinner in my belly and settled down to finish it up. the next morning there was just one thing left to do before i could block it . . .


remember the front piece that i blocked at home before i left? something about it was bugging me the whole time i knit up to the neck and my suspicions grew when i pinned it out. that placket seemed awfully long compared to what i intended when i wrote the pattern. sure enough when i checked, it was about two inches longer than it was supposed to be and so were the side seams. part of it was growth of the fabric, but mostly it seemed like a mistake. ugh.

i like to generate an initial pattern with an old software i have, just to get a starter set of numbers and it’s usually pretty good, so at first i thought the problem was me not reading my pattern correctly. but when i double checked again, i had knit what it said—my mistake was actually in not stopping sooner to question it. bottom line—i had to fix it, grrr. i first assumed i’d just rip back and reknit those fronts from the start of the placket, but i set it aside to see if could come up with another solution while i knit the back.

and i did.


i know—not for everyone, right? but i wanted to see if i could truly save time by simply cutting out what i didn’t need and then grafting it. i planned the whole thing out first so i could knit the back to match the NEW front; it worked out just right that i could take out one entire pattern repeat to get my piece to a more desirable length. so i snipped the first thread and got started. first i removed one row of the left front, in the stockinette region between two pattern lines. since i had washed and blocked the piece, these stitches were not going anywhere, but if they were slippery, i would have placed them on the needles as to hold them


then i unraveled the section i wanted to remove below the cut (because you can’t unravel in an upward direction).


i subtracted an additional row which i would replace with the grafting row. i cut the yarn and spliced on a length to sew with—they say that a row of knitting uses a yarn length that is about three times the length of the row. my front at this point was about eight inches wide so i cut my yarn at around thirty inches and there was plenty to work with.


next, the grafting itself. don’t laugh at my nerdiness, but i actually like grafting—there, i’ve said it. i LIKE it—i even look forward to a difficult lace graft with mixed knits and purls and openwork; there’s nothing like beating a good challenge to make me feel more confident about everything else.


anyway, you can see that i was even a little lazy and did not use fresh yarn, but just what was at hand. and i learned something new—while not pretty, the crimps actually helped me judge the length of each grafting stitch; once i found a rhythm, most of them sort of plopped into place with an almost audible click (ok, maybe i do get into this knitting stuff a little too much . . .).


the stitching was done in no time—with stockinette, it goes super quickly. at each end the edges will be off by a half stitch, which i fix with a matching half stitch into the row below, using the yarn in hand.


it looks a little lumpy because of the crimped yarn—also, there were a few loose stitches at the start and end of my row, but instead of ripping back—i was committed now and confident i could make this whole operation work—i just went over the row with a tapestry needle to even them out and remove the excess.


much better—on close inspection, my sts were very even; i felt sure the rest of the ugliness would work itself out in a nice hot bath—i.e., reblocking.


now i had two uneven fronts so it was time to tackle the other side. so far, i’d spent about twenty-five minutes on the whole thing—even with stopping to take pictures every other minute, i was definitely saving time over reknitting.

the right side went even faster than the left side and soon i was done.


after a little primping to straighten out those stitches, i was satisfied.


and i really did save a whole bunch of time—several hours, very worth it.


i was so happy with the results that i treated myself to spending the evening of swatching, with the free time i gained by not reknitting. here they are the next morning, ready to go into the bath with the sweater pieces.


i had a lunch date with agnes and cathy, so before i left i ran a soapy bath and piled in everything i had to block up to this point and left them to soak while i was out. while my preferred method of initial blocking for wools is to pin and steam the pieces, i’ve been using wet blocking with the plant fibers because they change so much more in gauge after a bath.

steam will still work to prepare pieces to be seamed, but won’t set the size as it will with protein fibers. and while our plant-based yarns still have a good measure of protein fiber, i’m finding that for design purposes, i get a more accurate idea of the final size with wet-blocking.

out into the rain i went—i was excited to be eating again at nobu that day.


beautiful food—and tastes SO delicious too; what a treat! and they had plenty of gluten free options, lucky me.


i think this was an espresso or chocolate mousse; isn’t it pretty?


but the best thing about the day was seeing the ladies—i just love them. we talked about all sorts of things—knitting, books, movies, and food; all of our favorite subjects. though the day outside was miserably wet and cold, they made it warm and special. afterward, we all went back to work a little more glowy.


back at my little workshop, i rinsed my pieces, squeezed them in a towel, and began the work of pinning them out. i usually don’t enjoy this part of wet blocking—the wiggly wet fabric is harder to work with than when i steam-block the dry pieces. but i’m getting used to dealing with it. these were no exception—i really had to ease those side seams down to the right length, but by working in quarters from my four-point system, eventually they were tamed.

and that graft sure did work out nicely.


the sleeves were a little easier, being small. another thing i love about these plant based yarns is how quickly they dry—these took only a few hours; really fast for a cotton blend yarn, especially on a rainy day. i left them pinned til the next morning, just to be sure. i also pinned out those other swatches, which i tell you about next time . . .


the next day was sunny bright, so i hustled myself out into the brisk air for a nice run in the park—and was duly rewarded with the appearance of these perfect snowdrops nestled into a heavily wooded area. getting back to near-daily running was another goal i wanted to accomplish during my trip. winter wreaks havoc with my running schedule—even a mild winter like ours will throw a week of bad weather at me here and there to interrupt my mojo. and with the schedule i’ve been keeping, running is almost an indulgence some weeks—i do it, but not at the length or with the discipline i’m used to. time to take back that hour for myself that i love so much and use it for spring training.


post-shower and stretching, i put my feet up to start some finishing work. so as not to waste the incredible light in the apartment, it worked out better to spend most of my my day hours on knitting and stitching, while working at night on patterns. with this top, i first added the front plackets in the contrasting shade, then seamed the shoulders before knitting on the collar. it took a couple of tries to get the right number of sts so that it lies flat, neither buckling nor pulling up, but the second pass was successful. the plackets are not buttoned, they just overlap at the bottom; i stitched them down last.


next i added the collar—easy peasy, since there is little danger of picking up too many sts or anything—with a collar that folds out like this, looser is always better, especially for the bind off. i planned to add the armhole finish for the sleeveless version so we could photograph that first, then we’ll remove it and sew in the sleeve. it’s amazing how that little sleeve changes the look, haha.


i had forgotten to bring my 16-inch needle, so the armhole finish had to wait til i got home, but i wanted to tell you about the collar because the pattern instructions will seem weird unless you are in the know—they tell you to pick up the collar from the wrong side of the neck edge (the inside).


that’s to ensure that when you fold down the collar on the outside, it will look like this—nice and flat and clean. the pick up will show on the outside of the neck edge, yes, but it will be hidden under the folded collar at the back.


but just to put everyone’s mind at rest, it still looks really nice i think—not messy at all. the bind off from the back neck edge gives it a clean finish so that you can tip up your collar knowing that your knitting makes you look good.


i got home two nights ago but yesterday i had to leave the house early for a day filled with errands. this morning i had a chance to add the final touch to this top and take a few pictures. i couldn’t be happier with it—in fact, i love it. this top has been on my mind and in my sketchbook for over a year; i remember talking about it with katharine last summer and she was goading me on as i described, literally saying, “yes, yes, YES”.


i’m naming it janet guthrie and it will become available in our spring ensemble collection, out next month—just in time for racing season. it’s a slim fit on my dress form and of course it can be worn comfortably without much ease (the ginny blend is super stretchy and comfortable), but it fits me slightly looser, which i prefer, especially in warm weather. one of these days soon, i’ll get david to take a few snaps


and i am SO going to knit myself one of these tops in the hempshaugh fingering yarn too—maybe even in a solid color with just the texture for striping—it will substitute in nicely for the ginny, knitting to the same gauge.

i’ve got tons more stuff to show you from my trip; i wrote four sweater patterns, a lace scarf pattern, and a new skirt pattern, plus worked on a complex shawl pattern during that two weeks. i’ll be back in the next installment with more about all that. in the meantime, spring has been teasing us both at home and away; i can just about taste that warm sun, even as the temperatures dip dow for a few last days this weekend.

well, i’ve got plenty to keep me busy, knitting up some of those patterns i wrote—i can’t even knit them all myself but thankfully, barb, kristi, cherie, and jeanna are helping out (i’m so grateful you guys!).

speaking of knitting, time to do some—go finish up some UFOs so we can knit for spring together!

classy and adventurous

Posted on 19 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, designing


not very long ago, i blogged about preparing for and traveling to denver to visit friends and film a new craftsy class. a small group of super people formed a team and worked for weeks beforehand to help make it happen.


our darling friend cherie worked like a demon to knit most of the stepouts i needed for my class—more on that later, as i got several queries about what step outs actually are (silly me, i didn’t think when i used that word in passing).

evan, my producer and our scriptwriter kim, met with me weekly from the beginning of january to the middle of february to put together a class packed with wonderful, animated material.

they took scribblings like these and worked with the graphic designers to make them into animated illustrations to highlight the lessons. they also helped me distill a book’s worth of talking points into the most important and precise instructional text.

and you—because where would we be without you??—the questions and concerns you write and post about, the feedback that you give me, and the challenges you want to take on, are all resources for choosing material to include in my classes.


and today this new class goes live! (click here for a specially-priced instructor offer). this class a compendium of some favorite knitting tips and techniques—those foundation principles and methods that i use over and over in my own work because they’ve proven to serve me so well—not that this is a definitive compendium of every technique; these are my favorite ways of doing things, the ones i reach for nearly every time. if you like the way my knitting looks, this class shows how i get those results.


the craftsy platform provides a special learning environment, perfect for those who cannot access live classes easily, have trouble learning in a distracting environment, or whose work/home life throws up obstacles to traditional classes. the ability to use the platform on any device, to log in at any time, and to the use material over and over—even in slow motion!—is like having a walking, talking encyclopedia at our fingertips.


just yesterday i was emailing with an artist who wrote me, wanting to know if she could learn to knit on her own—and of course i recommended the craftsy platform, even thought i haven’t yet taught a beginning knitting class for them (though i’d like to; i just love teaching beginners). i really believe they offer top-notch visual support for learning; i am always surprised and pleased at the precise filming when i see a new class.

(our accountant doug has been making noise about learning to knit recently and keep hoping he’ll try it; maybe if you all leave a comment to encourage him, he’ll see how much support he has!).

but i’ve digressed . . .


this class moves through a series of technique-based lessons, beginning with better basics—understanding some fundamentals in a little more depth to build on with other skills. this section is great for newer knitters, covering topics such as universal techniques for better castons and bindoffs, reading your knitted fabric, using the pattern as a resource, and making yarn work for you.


those famous step outs make their entrance right away to support each lesson—they are the knitted pieces i use to demonstrate techniques and concepts throughout the class. knitting step outs is a special talent and i can’t be grateful enough that our friend cherie has accepted the assignment of creating them for several of my craftsy classes now.


many of them need to be knit several times (or seemingly a million times; i’m sure cherie doesn’t even want to hear the phrase “split leaf lace”) in order to show a series of steps; the pieces are then traded in and out of the on-camera frame to show progress. it takes an incredible amount of planning to think weeks ahead about every last demonstration piece we’ll need, not to mention the patience of job to knit them. plus the knitter has to think through the little things almost as much as i do—using the same color yarn holder or stitch marker for each identical piece, so that to the viewer, it appears to be the same one. a few weeks of work to be sure and not even a real FO to show for it (except for this class, haha).


following right behind the basics are some techniques that build on that foundation—for those who avoid provisional castons, knit-on edgings, fixing mistakes on the needles, and the like—this is where you can boost your confidence and take the bull by the horns. with copious illustration and precise camera work, my techniques for performing these maneuvers are dissected and passed on to you in detail. the only danger here is that you’ll wear out a key or two replaying that video over and over—but no one will be there to tattle about it.


the final lessons focus on shaping your project into a real, live FO—something to wear and show off with pride. after all, isn’t that what a lot of us worry about, that all of our hours of enjoyment will fall a little in our eyes when the final project hits the light of day? we want the world to see what WE envision as we knit through the hours, right? believe me, you can make it happen.


and i’ll be there to hold your hand.

because that’s the other cool thing about these classes—not only is the instruction clear, precise, and well documented, but the ability to interact and ask questions of the instructor is invaluable. i check my instructor dashboard every morning (or nearly, if i’m traveling) to answer questions posted during the class. your questions are my breakfast, haha; and you know that’s the most important meal of the day . . .


i hope you’ll take this opportunity to use this special instructor pricing link to purchase my new class (a bargain at half off). because frankly, your support of my classes through craftsy is one of the ways we keep the blog, our ravelry groups, and other educational projects going; we really appreciate your support to keep that work going!


by the way, if you’ve been wondering where the heck i’ve been lately, i pack dup a bunch of stuff and holed up in NYC for a bit write a group of patterns for our spring ensemble collection. i have been keeping my nose to the grindstone but i’m nearly done—i return home on wednesday and will tell you ALL about it.

and finally, a special note to my friend sam—happy pi day sam!


Good Things Take Time, So Just Be Patient

Posted on 17 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, projects, yarn and dyeing

The above title reflects my fairly recent impression of pattern reading. Unfortunately I don’t read music, but imagine it’s akin to reading a knitting pattern, especially the terminology. A musician’s notes, chords, bars, rhythm all culminate to create a song. Our knitting language is not dissimilar, we have knit/purl, cast on, decrease, wrong side, and more, lots more actually, resulting in fashionable wearables.


Admittedly my initial reception of pattern reading was less than stellar, preferring to be coddled and no so interested in knowing the intricacies of a reading a pattern. Having an expert knitter/designer and pattern writer seated next to me is the absolute best, indulging every call for help. Anne would offer an impromptu lessons with each interruption, however as I said I was not so receptive at that time, being satiated with my immediate problem being resolved. I feel awful about this, taking advantage of Anne’s generosity, could have been a much better student. To my credit I did realize my failures and yes lack of gratitude (by way of not absorbing imparted knowledge Anne offered) and took steps to rectify.

My first foray into deciphering knitting patterns was the Blanket Statement Club, a rather audacious introduction I should think. An assortment of various patterns to be conjoined, now throw in a bit of stitching and crocheting and you have what constitutes a brilliant foundation to understanding and reading of patterns. Perfect for beginners like myself, affording an opportunity to hon my newly acquired skill set and be rewarded with a lovely blanket, of which I have yet to complete, hopefully soon, after finishing Anne’s hat (although if it does not fit, will gift to someone else instead of ripping out). Using the original Breakfast Blend for my blanket project, if anyone is interested the Blanket Statement Club, we can arrange a selection of yarn for you, just forward a note to me.



44 squares so far.

Early on I was unable to grasp the concept of casting on, despite Anne showing me several times. In an attempt to sort this out I took to watching Anne’s Grandmas cast-on video, not only upon casting on, but a few times when not knitting. Resulting in a technique that has become embedded in my mind, instant recall as it were now. The stitches of a cast-on must be consistent, not too tight to allow for some elasticity, no doubt true for most other cast-ons as well. Important to get just right as it serves as the foundation for the project.


In the beginning I found myself often ripping back a square to begin anew (Blanket Statement project is composed of many square patterns, averaging about 31 rows), when a mistake would occur. As I was not able to make corrections on my own, this can only be done so many times before frustration ensues and desire falters. At this time I began to pay keen attention to Anne’s lessons, showing me how to undo several stitches and ripping out just a few rows and picking up stitches. This lead to a transition from angst and frustration to a relative pleasure. A better understanding of the mechanics of knitting, a sense of unravelling (pun intended) of what has heretofore been somewhat nebulas. Good place to end, will continue another time, want to talk about charts versus written instructions next time.


Renovation update, about 2/3 of the ceiling has been removed, my desk resides under the remainder of the ceiling on the other side of plastic sheathing. Will probably temporarily relocate upstairs now that the temperature is rising as spring is near. It is astonishing the lack of interesting relics from the past, you would think that a hundred year house would be a treasure trove of such things. Not so much this house. A fire place in the center hallway was uncovered during the kitchen renovation. Much to my surprise I found a written note and drawing on the wall from the 1940’s where I was scraping off wallpaper, part of the note is obscured by plastic sheathing just now. I thought it curious by the seemingly lack of layers of wallpaper, this explains it. Sadly the plaster can not be restored as I had desired, sustaining a lot of damage when crown moulding was installed. Old plaster will serve nicely as a base for a new finish coat of plaster.




Previous installation of crown moulding damaged plaster. Bil suggested using fabric softener to remove residual glues from scraping of wallpaper, works really well, as you may discern from the two photos above. Still requires quite a bit of elbow grease to get the job done, but worthwhile as it is necessary for preparation for finish coat of plaster.


I try to respond to everyone that leaves a comment, so if you any question and/or comments would love to hear from you.

A Promise Fulfilled 2

Posted on 18 CommentsPosted in projects


Before resuming my tales of the big kitchen renovation, I wanted to mention my current knitting project. The last few months I been knitting the Squish Me hat patten, a wonderful simple design, that holds it’s shape/form, perfect for all day wear. Completed two for myself in Stone Soup and just now knitting one for Anne in Better Breakfast (it looks really small, too small, may end up ripping back and starting over). This is my first time working with Stone Soup and it’s like a revelation of sorts, it’s softer than imagined and really loving the natural tweed it offers. Looking forward to using it with other projects, may become my go to yarn or reference yarn for future projects. If you have not tried it, give a try and let me know what you think.

The renovation, the official living room is on the other side of the house, we have a standard colonial house where you have a center hallway with rooms on either side. Today’s lifestyle dictates a bit of a different approach, more of an open plan layout, with kitchen, dining room and living room being co- joined, open to one another. Many advantages to this concept, one being, affords the meal creator to interact with company – personally does not work well with me, as I need total focus on any meal that I’m preparing, any disruptions are cause for ruination of said meal (incidentally the same for knitting, shh- can not talk and knit either). Originally we intended to basically keep the old foot print of the kitchen, only moving the doorway, enlarging the single door to french doors more centrally located. After demolition and new walls were being created, one of the journeyman noted “have you considered opening up the kitchen”, creating one great one room. Speaking of revelations, no we had not considered this, but as you see, this allowed for a larger island and gives the impression of a much larger feeling place.


Schematic of new kitchen design, note wall with door opening, resulting in a smaller island and less total kitchen space.

The new living room, probably more akin to a victorian parlor as it is a much more intimate (smaller) space. For several years, Anne and I shared this space as an office, great views, cozy in the winter (only room in the house that was completely insulated). I made the desks with a friend in his workshop, Willie, what a great guy, Father of Bil that I mentioned in previous blog, and Willie’s wife Lillian now works with. It took weeks to create the office furniture, I learned a lot. Like the kitchen we intended to have the option of closing off the parlor with french doors, but upon seeing the openness of the kitchen, decided it would it be more advantageous not to have doors. In the end the design evolved from three partitioned rooms to rooms being open to one another, could not be happier.


Old office, we were able to salvage the ceiling and re-install in the parlor.


New: Opening to parlor.


New: Parlor, a cozy intimate space. Made the coffee table, it’s walnut.


New: Parlor, glass book case was converted from Basilia credenza hutch in dining room – great place for all of Anne’s cook books.

Closets offer much needed storage, something we were in much need of, especially a coat closet. I remember mentioning this to the supervisor on site, just sort of casually, more of a placeholder as I intended to re-use our existing Ikea free standing wardrobes for closets. Next day I was pleasantly surprised to see framing for two closets, one of which was for our bicycles.  I realize this is perhaps a tad bit extreme, but when you consider that our garage stands apart from the house and is not conditioned space, hopefully this offers some semblance of justification.


New: Coat closet.


New: Bicycle closet.


Old: Center hallway, would store bicycles here. Had to destroy the piano, broken sound board, could not find any takers.

Had hoped to end on a cliff hanger of sorts, providing a sneak peek of on my next project, but alas Anne revealed all in her last blog. More on this another time, as well a little more about my participation in the kitchen renovation. Next week will write more about my knitting prowess. Stay tuned.