let’s un-complicate this

Posted on 23 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, projects

for a variety of reasons i am a big fan of sweaters knit in pieces, with seams to give them structure and durability. among their many attractions, the individual pieces make it easy to put a fine finish on the garment details by pinning and steaming, as a precursor to seaming and a final wet blocking. i demonstrate these techniques whenever i teach a blocking class, because many knitters have never seen them applied. sometimes students ask me, “but then, how would you block a sweater knit in the round?”

and most times, i will recommend to then go straight to wet blocking because it can be awkward or even impossible to steam block the details on garments knit in one piece. often you can get nearly the same results with frequent reshaping and fussing over details as the piece dries.

but once in awhile, there comes along a garment that defies the simple path of soaking and laying flat to dry. it might include some quirky shape or feature that requires extra special attention for that important first blocking. or large, relaxed cables that don’t hold their shape without rigorous “encouragement”.

i recently completed a design that fell squarely into this category. the body is knit in the round from the hem up  with oversized cables along the side seam area. at the underarms, it is divided to knit separately through the front and back yokes. in addition, it has a deeply textured cabled inset all around the neck which extends to form a curved back yoke. and when knit in our deepest charcoal gray shade—better breakfast fingering yarn in poppy seed—well, this is a sweater i will wear ALL the time.

preparation for this design required many large swatches to get that neck shaping just right. the change in gauge from the stockinette fabric to the cabled fabric is drastic; coupled with simultaneous neck shaping, it becomes one big geometric nightmare puzzle.

the first swatch did not increase fast enough and offered a less-than-compelling center front feature. not to mention that pleat forming long the center front line—guaranteed to grow in size and ruin everything.

my second attempt was a great improvement aesthetically, but now pulled the fabric in the other direction and not in a good way. i thought i could solve the issues here on paper and then go straight into knitting, so i decided to forge ahead and experiment on my garment sample.

while i did fix the puckering problem, i ended up with another underwhelming neck detail—i had to rip back about four inches of the sweater in progress, grr. still, every time i looked at the beautiful swatches of this mega cable, my determination returned. finally i got the balance right and was able to finish the garment.

once off the needles tho, the sweater still looks scarily distorted and less than desirable. the cable cross involves so many stitches that it pulls the entire garment out of alignment until blocked. once tempered, however, it is a gorgeous frame for a deep v-neck that screams WANT!

the catch is, that cable really needs to be steamed to take some of the wind out of its sails. otherwise, it will constantly collapse into itself, drawing the yoke fabric and the neck edge with it. this situation not only causes unsightly puckering throughout the torso, it undermines the impact and drama of the oversized cable. underwhelming is not what we are going for here.

so . . . what to do? how do we handle the necessary blocking? since i definitely want everyone to want this sweater when the pattern comes out in our upcoming ensemble collection, i figured a tutorial would be a good way to make us all comfortable with the blocking steps needed. it’s not really difficult—it just requires a bit of patience, a ruler, and a good supply of pins, along with a hot iron and a wet towel. let’s get started!

once the body was off the needles, i first steamed the cables along the side seams to open them up—until the cable to blocked to its proper expanded width, the gauge for the body won’t be correct and we will fight the tension in the cable while blocking other areas. since the body is knit in the round, i slip the side seam over my sleeve board to separate it from the garment. you could use a rolled towel or a padded ironing board as a substitute.

look at the difference; the blocked cable shows its wonderful inner texture and is much less bulky. don’t worry about losing the depth of the texture—it’s still plenty sculptural as you’ll see in a minute. i have to apologize for the lighting in some of these photos; i was working during an extremely dark (and short) december afternoon and sometimes had to put the overhead light on to see.

you can use a hand-held steamer for blocking as well if you prefer; these are generally cooler and do not require the use of a towel, but it’s a good idea to test your fabric to see how close to the surface you can hold the tool without causing damage. my hand held steamer feels awkward and needs constant refilling; i always gravitate back to my iron. maybe it’s just that i’ve been using it so long, but i find i can manipulate more easily.

once the side cable is tamed a bit, the garment can be laid flat with relaxed armholes. i placed the back yoke face down on my pressing area to begin, folding the front yoke down and out of the way. i have a large, permanently installed pressing bench with a pinnable surface that is covered with batting, muslin, and a terry towel. you can recreate this surface with blocking squares and a towel spread out on the kitchen table or countertop—any large flat surface that won’t be damaged by steam will do.

using my schematic, i pinned out the curve of the back yoke, taking care to maintain the correct, cross-back shoulder width all the way up the armhole. the skinny shoulder straps can easily take a wayward path, distorting the curve of the yoke. taking care to pin it all securely and squarely will pay off in a yoke that is easily seamed and hangs beautifully without bubbling later on.

after pinning the yoke edge and armholes to the correct width, i check to make sure the armhole is also the right depth on both sides and make any adjustments. i always step back to eyeball the whole thing as a last step; if it looks cockeyed at all, i make slight adjustments as needed.

now it’s time to steam this portion. my iron has been heating as i pinned and i’ve soaked a hand towel with cold water. i lay the towel over the pinned area and use the hot iron to LIGHTLY touch the towel, not putting any real pressure on it; all i’m aiming for is to create steam indirectly. when the iron meets the wet towel steam will be forced through the knitted fabric below and become trapped beneath the towel. there it will fill the fibers in the yarn, making them swell and bloom. in addition, steam helps to weaken the molecular bonds in the fiber so they lose enough of their memory to maintain the steamed shape. this is why you should never steam directly onto the fabric with the iron, or press a crease into wool fabric—once those bonds weaken or break, they cannot be reversed. it works in our favor for blocking, but it pays to be careful and respect the process.

once the back yoke is blocked, i can flip the front yokes up over it and block right on top. this allows me to match the front armholes to shape of the back ones as a starting point. you might be wondering about those locking markers—they are placed at specific points that i want to remember for my written pattern; i left them in throughout the blocking process, but removed them once my notes were complete.

after pinning the armhole shapes, i begin pinning out that neckline. you can see by the number of pins i’m using—and the unevenness of the neck edge—that i’m pulling rather rigorously on the cable width to open it up.

again with the ruler, haha! but in my case, at least, it’s a must; i have to be very precise so that when all the sizes are graded, we don’t end up with large distortions in sizes on the far ends of the spectrum.

once pinned, you really begin to see how beautiful this cable is. the very edge of the neck will look kind of awful at this point, but don’t worry too much—when that yarn relaxes from the steam, it will be easy to nudge it into a straight line and the pin marks will quickly disappear. adding the neck trim will also tighten and draw that edge into shape.

this is a good time to talk about the yarn actually—the design relies on a yarn that will relax easily into the shapes i want to achieve. it doesn’t have to flop about helplessly with no spring at all, but a tight twist merino might not be a good choice for this project. the engineering and fiber character will work against my effort to block the cable, especially around the neck where the free edge cannot apply tension and support. the mix of fibers in better breakfast fingering yarn is just right—the yarn has enough spring to hold its shape and give the cable some plumpness, but the silky alpaca fiber helps it relax. a soft twist allows the yarn to bloom, which adds support within the fabric structure.

it’s not really a necessity to match up the center back yoke pieces so precisely at this point, but as the designer, i want to make sure that the width across the back neck (inside of the curve) is what i expected, as i’m seeing this for the first time. and holy cow, that’s a lotta pins! even though i’ve put so much work into pinning, i would take them all out if those yoke straps needed to be resized to make a correct neck measurement.

once i’m happy with the shape i re-wet the hand towel and cover my work. using the iron very carefully, i steam each section well.

after removing the towel, leave the pieces pinned in place to dry. see what i mean about the sculptural quality of the cable? there is no lack of depth here, but wow—the shapes are WAY sexier now!

after the yoke dries and can be unpinned, i give the lower body a quick steaming through both layers at once. this is mainly to open the fiber and get those stitches blooming, so that the main body fabric will match the other parts i’ve blocked.

i prefer my ribbed hem to be blocked flat, so i add a few pins at the side seams to help it along. once the steam enters the fabric, it relaxes quickly.

now you can see the gentle body shaping (optional) and the full impact of the details. i’m getting excited.

here’s a mockup of the back, with the front yoke flipped over the shoulders and cozied into that back yoke curve. looks like a good fit; i can now graft the yoke pieces and stitch the yoke down.

i left the yoke straps on scrap yarn holders, in case i needed to add or subtract a few rows when i fit them into the back yoke curve. my first sight of the fit is at this point in the blocking process—up til now, there’s been no way to know if my calculations were correct. it looks good—now to put it all together.

the next day i came back with the yoke grafted, stitched down, and the neck ribbing complete. everything went together like a charm, but it needed some serious steaming and blocking to look its best. the center back graft is tricky because it has ribbing and garter stitch, but you can achieve a nice join using my free grafting class on craftsy.

i folded a large terry bath towel and slipped this pad inside the garment up to the shoulders. this gave me a cushion between layers so that the back yoke pattern would not imprint through to the front side.

same steaming technique as for the other parts—wet towel plus hot iron to create steam; no pressure applied. while the fabric is still damp and full of steam, i nudge and prod to smooth out the joined area. once the garment is soaked well and washed, the blooming fiber will help to mask the slight jogs that are a common result of grafting. after a wash and a little handling, you won’t see them.

it’s easy to obsess over these quirky bits when working so close to the fabric, but try to step back periodically when assessing your work. no one, not even you, will be looking at these details under a microscope; friends be too busy admiring the overall effect and you’ll be too busy accepting compliments!

at the same time i also steamed the completed neckband front and back, stretching the ribbing very slightly so that it lies flat and the neckline doesn’t pucker anywhere.

ok, time to see what we’ve created. one of the downfalls of working in the round in one big piece is that i can’t pin single pieces on my mannequin to check that they work. it’s just a big open tube until most of the finishing work is complete. but i can’t wait any longer—i have to take a peek . . .

phew, it looks good and i like it! the slight torso shaping accentuates the lines of the neckline and bust, flaring up nicely to frame the shoulders and face. a gentle hourglass silhouette eliminates any bagginess at the waist that would counteract this effect.

my aim here was to create a neckline that appears to plunge deeply through the bustling area, but doesn’t have an oversized neck opening. the inset turned out just the right depth (thanks to all that swatching)—it skims over the top of the breast in a sexy curve but does not bisect it unattractively (thank heavens). it will likely elongate just a little more after a good bath and i think there’s plenty of leeway for that. i like it.

the blocked side seam panels are dramatically carved to carry the eye upward as well. steaming helped them spread out and flatten a bit so as not to add bulk; it also assists the fiber is blooming so the cables hold their shape.

want to see it on? i can’t resist; i have to try it.

a bad selfie on a dark day, but it’s a thumbs up for fit and neck depth, yay!

ok, now on to the sleeve seaming. i pinned and blocked my sleeves as i did all the other parts, using my schematic as a guide, then steaming with the wet towel and hot iron. i stitch the sleeve caps into the armhole openings from the shoulder down (using those long yarn ends i left in the shoulders), ending each seam at the center of the underarm. afterward i steam the completed seams, using a tailor’s ham; click here to read an older post about the process and tools.

after the sleeves were seamed in, it was time for a bath. i like to wash machine my garments in mesh bags, using the hand wash cycle. mine is extremely gentle, but spins out a lot more water than i can squeeze out by hand. and since i hate to run the machine for just one garment, i grabbed all my BNWs sweaters and added them as well, including the aspergillum cable and lace top that i plan to publish later this spring (top photo, front left).

you can also see my subterraneans samples at the center of the photo below. in the rush of fall happenings, i didn’t get to blog about this pattern, which was published in the fall 2017 interweave knits.

while dyed yarns should be washed in cool water, natural yarns like ours can enjoy a full immersion soak in hot soapy water to remove any spinning oils or dust that remains on the yarn from the mill. this will encourage the fibers to lift and separate, causing the stitches and cables to plump and puff into their final shape. you should always wash your swatches to understand what the final fabric will be like, as it may vary considerably from its appearance and gauge during construction.

the steam blocking really helps the cable keep its shape. as it dried, i periodically stopped in to pull it widthwise a little, making sure it stayed open, but only to ensure it looked nice for photography. for everyday wear, i wouldn’t feel a need to fuss over it, as it really did look nice when it came out of the wash.

a couple more bad selfies, haha, just so you can see how washing will smooth everything out. you’ll get to see photos of it on a gorgeous model very soon.

because i have to dry it flat, the cables at the sides developed soft creases which again, i normally wouldn’t mind, trusting them to hang out after wearing for a little while. for photography’s sake however, i resteamed them lightly. doesn’t the fabric look SO much softer and cuddlier after a bath?

i knit the garment with a fairly long side seam length, but it’s easy to adjust if a shorter or cropped version is appealing.

it turned out to be quite graceful, i think. this is a piece you can dress up or down and wear with or without a shirt underneath. the fabric is light enough to serve nearly year round, but provides a cozy layer of warmth in winter, due to its soft halo of premium fiber.

the design can be knit in several of our fingering/heavy laceweight yarns, including, stone soup fingering (my favorite and next on my list!!), chebris lace (i might need a third), ghillie sock, deco fingering, and hempshaugh lace. the details pop no matter what shade you choose; it’s a great option for a dark yarn. i used around 1400 yards for my size.

i need to think up a name for it; i’m currently using the working title “deep dive”, but “plunge” is another name that i like. what do you think?

cardigan thinks “plunge” is perfect as long as it we are talking about her sheepskin and blanket nest.

i am itching to wear this all the time; i’ve been patiently waiting til all of our photography was completed, but then the weather got so cold for weeks and weeks, that i stayed cozy in heavier sweaters. spring is in the air today so who knows, maybe i’ll wear it to our company meeting this afternoon.

jaw dropping progress

Posted on 22 CommentsPosted in food and garden, home and family

jaw dropping—get it?? haha, little joke there . . . because my jaw actually did fall off! HAHAHA, i just crack myself up sometimes . . . ok, maybe not that funny, now that i think about it.

i’m just popping in to tell you that i’m feeling much, much better and hard at work on my 2018 goals already—i KNOW! how are you doing on yours?

well, i know you met ONE big goal, huzzah! i have to tell you how inspiring that is for me; if you can do it, then i can apply myself just a little more, too. and i have big plans.

first though i have to get this confounded thing removed from my mouth.

this is my fixator, which is pinning my jaw in place while the bones knit together—isn’t it cool that knitting is involved? i though you’d appreciate that . . . it looks a lot worse than it is; after a couple of weeks i got used to it being there. most people who see me on the street just think i’m carrying a chew toy, which is hilarious, since i don’t do toys.

after our trip to the doctor for my two-week followup, i was allowed to go on long walks again, which has been great.

i helped anne scout out all sorts of interesting light displays for our twelve nights of christmas lights on instagram. i even found a couple that she didn’t notice at first!

i’ve been to visit my friend casey a few times too, which is the best thing of all—he was wondering where the heck i’d gotten to. and he was very, very respectful of my fixator; we won’t resume our wrestling matches or serious horseplay until i’m completely cleared for activities like those.

instead he just bugs me constantly, cleaning my ears and nuzzling the back of my neck, haha. but i mostly let him because he means well and is very gentle. also, he doesn’t laugh at all about the clothes i need to wear because all my neck and chest fur was shaved off for my surgery. i actually like my puffy vest a lot, but i’m not a fan of the purple cowl.

this week anne remembered another cowl she had in her running gear and dug it out; this one suits me much better and sometimes i even keep it on in the house. don’t you think this is much more “me”? i mean, slate blue is SO my color . . .

speaking of christmas, i was stunned to learn about this holiday! a day (actually a month, it seemed like) totally devoted to sparkly lights and presents?? what’s not to love? and i got several really great gifts from friends, some of whom i wasn’t all that trusting of and one i’ve never even met, but who love me back anyway.

a huge stocking full of toys from my aunt helen, who has an adorable doggie named pepper; i can’t wait to meet them next time we visit our family in NY state.

and aunt katharine sent me these cheesy biscuits which i cannot WAIT to get my teeth on (when it’s alright to have crunchy foods again). i’m sorry i wasn’t so nice to her when she was visiting; i was a bit overwhelmed by having a houseguest . . .

and aunt kimkimkim sent me this coolio leash, which is made from wool and alpaca that is spun into a super durable rope. she knows how much i like my walks. i need to ask anne to help me organize some goodies for her birthday.

actually, it’s gotten really REALLY cold here since christmas and i’ve been cutting our walks short for the time being—my feet just can’t take the cold after a couple of miles. i’d rather stay in and snuggle up on the sofa, going out several times a day only for shorter walks right now (but i think that’s kind of stressful for anne and david; they are pretty busy). it’s supposed to be warmer this week coming up and hopefully we can get back to our regular walking schedule.

i do love the snuggling; it’s really growing on me. i was not to keen about being touched up til now, even by anne, who gets to touch me the most. but lately i can even let her hold my hands and clean my feet which she thinks is a HUGE step in the right direction (it’s the least i can do, right?). and most days, i also enjoy being gathered up for hugging, which used to make me panic because it felt like i was being smothered. now though, i can relax and enjoy sinking into the warmth.

i even find it quite nice to squish up against her when she’s knitting and lay my head in her lap. sometimes i do a lap takeover, too. that’s where i inch my way over and creep up onto her lap, a little at a time until there’s no more room for knitting junk. she doesn’t mind—she just lays her yarn on top of ME and we’re good.

last week we had a party! anne spent several days in the kitchen preparing all sorts of foods that human people find yummy to eat—lasagne, antipastos, and cheesecake.

now, you might not know this about me but, well, anything involving cheese is of supreme interest to me. i was raptly attentive as not one, not two, but FIVE different cheeses were scooped, cubed, or grated into the party dishes. and naturally i offered my services for taste-testing each one and cleaning up any scraps or bits that were not of use . . .

i was wondering what all the activity was about and she did try to explain it to me ahead of time, but boy oh boy, was i surprised when all of a sudden on tuesday night, there were FIVE TIMES the usual number of people at our house—plus another dog!

good thing i have been working hard, as promised, on letting my friends at “work” touch me and pet me. because the party was full of my work friends (and the dog, thor). and our friend ramona who is safe and a do-gooder, which is why i created a fundraiser for her on facebook.

i was ok with most of it until thor tried to take my “chew toy” out of my mouth. that was it for me—i found a safe spot sitting with my friends ellen and joe, where i could also keep anne in my sights at all times. ellen is just lovely and i almost always let her pet me now; we are working on that together.

in fact, i really hate it when she’s not there. i still check every day when we’re out for a walk, pulling over at the shop door to stop in and say hello. i just love it at “work”, but sometimes when we arrive, the place is empty.

i will admit up front that yes, i do need a bit of a crutch when it comes to the petting; treats make it much easier to overcome my fears. but i am slowly, slowly able to do it without them once in a while too. it’s just that the treats are so yummy, i completely forget myself and before i know it, lillian or ellen or megan are rubbing my ears and i realize it feels good. who knew?

yeah, so for a while after my surgery, we were a little flummoxed about treats—i needed them as badly as ever but my favorites were too crunchy for my jaw situation. we tried a variety of workarounds, mostly involving soaking or microwaving my biscuits, but that proved really messy and took WAY too much time.

then once the christmas rush was over, anne finally got “online” to see if she could figure out an alternative. she has this thing about making my treats, because i usually won’t eat the ones from a package (sorry, but they have absolutely no flavor, FYI).

and it turns out that she can make even more AMAZING ones than the ones she was making before!! plus these ones are soft so i can chew them without hurting myself. ok, i just asked her and she said the recipe is based on the one she found on the sheknows blog.

she put some of my favorite foods (and a couple i didn’t know i liked) into the noisy food-making machine and added some other stuff, including my favorite—CHEESE.

she let me taste the batter and i was like, eh.
but she spooned it out anyway and sprinkled the tops with CHEESE and put them in the hot box.

i’m not really sure what happens in there, but O.M.G., when they came out they were utterly transformed and SO yummy. yummy, yummy, YUMMY!!

i know it’s ridiculous, but i cannot control myself when these treats are mentioned. i will do just about anything to get one. i even let the newest person at work pet me right away because she offered me one (sorry ellen, no reflection on you at ALL; you’re still my fave).

anyway, the upshot of all this is that, seeing how much i love, love, love the new treats, anne went looking for ideas about changing my regular food so it would be equally yummy—and also better for me. i mean, she buys really good food and adds lots of my favorite vegetables, but you know what happens when a mom gets reading—suddenly they go on a kick to make everything “better”.

i already love cooked green beans, which are like a doggie superfood (and good thing we have a lot because i eat a ton of those).

and roasted sweet potatoes—these are so good you guys! steamed carrots are also a fave, along with mashed peas, but i had to stop eating that last one; peas and pumpkin don’t agree with me so much.

don’t get me wrong, anne and david tried all summer long to get me to eat raw blueberries, leafy greens, apples, and other stuff on lists such as this one, but i wouldn’t do it; they just didn’t smell like anything and i like smelly food. i much preferred cooked vegetables.

then when i had to switch to my current soft diet and spoon feeding, she seized the opportunity to get me to try new ingredients. she had the great idea to simply defrost raw, frozen fruits and veggies and presto-change-o, we hit a sweet spot. first i like the softer texture and secondly, once they are stirred into my pureed food, their smells and flavors really stand out.

now, along with my well-soaked kibble, canned soft food, and whipped canned salmon, we are trying all sorts of yummy stir-ins. meals have never been more exciting!

i let her know in every when i can think of how much i love my meals—when i hear my personal dishes clinking and containers coming out of the fridge, i race into the kitchen, run around the island twice and skid to a stop on the rug, then wiggle my butt for good measure (and because it never fails to make her laugh). i park right in front of the fridge where she can’t forget that i’m there, waiting ever so patiently. for at least a minute anyway before poking her leg to hurry up please . . .

i think i’m going to be really sad when my soft diet days are behind me and i’m hoping anne will think of a creative way to continue making fruits and vegetables taste good for me.

one thing that’s still a big challenge—and kind of a fight— is water. i’m afraid to go near my water dish because navigating it with the fixator might hurt, so anne has been syringing water into my mouth whenever she can get me to open it, then rewarding me with dabs of peanut butter. sadly, i am such a sucker that this mostly works, though she says not enough and often i make a big mess by flinging water all over the place.

and since i eat my meals in my bed where i can relax and be touched without worry, that just makes for a soggy mess sometimes. i mean, i would go without it altogether, but i guess that’s not good for me. i’m supposed to drink a lot more, but by the end of each day, we are too tired to fight about it and we settle for what we can get down.

well, we all go back to the hospital in sixteen days to see how my jaw is healing. they’ll put me to sleep again and i’ll get an x-ray and if everything looks good, they will remove the pins and the fixator and we will move on to the next stages of recovery (tho i’m not exactly sure yet what that involves). i’ll be sure to let you know as soon as i know more.

also, i’m sorry this post is going up so late—i know i promised it for sunday but wow, typing is SO hard.

red win

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in projects

view from the front window—a flock of startled frost birds taking flight from a snow bank. while the sky is bright and clear, the temps here have fallen to a new low. brrr, deep winter is here.

on one of the last “warm” days before the extreme cold hit and the ground froze solid, i managed to harvest the very last crop from our garden—parsnips! i love the flavor of parsnips when added to soups, mashed potatoes, and roast vegetable dishes, but they are extremely hard to find in our local stores. it’s good to leave them in the ground til after the hard frost, but that means most years they end up buried under snow. supposedly, you can leave them in til spring but when i’ve done that, they succumb to sodden rot. this year we finally have some decent ones—a small crop, but plenty for the dishes i’d like to make with them. and the day after i dug them, it snowed—a LOT.

cold as it is, our hearts are full and warm—all because of YOU. our red scarf scholarship fundraiser has come to a close for this year and we are super excited to report that we have broken all previous records!!

the final tally even made cardigan sit up straight. thank you one and all who participated in our best effort yet; we really appreciate every single purchase that led to our success this year and from the bottom of our hearts, we applaud you.

we will be funding a new student this year because jelissa is graduating—thanks to our last scholarship, she was able to enroll in all the classes she needed to finish her degree.

tina rasheem, our contact at foster care to success, always searches for a student who will major in an area that fits our own mission; whenever possible she matches our scholarship to a fashion, art, or writing student. i can’t wait to break the news to her about this year’s scholarship and hear about the recipient she decides on. we usually find out during the summer and we’ll be sure to keep you updated!

we really enjoyed the new format of our fundraiser this year too and i think you did as well; hopefully we can continue next year with a similar program. of course, we are always open to ideas to keep it fresh and fun, so let me know if you think of something brilliant! one reader has already requested that we include a doggie sweater or jacket and now that i know how much cardigan loves an outer layer, i am tossing ideas around.

speaking of the little vixen, while she certainly loves to curl up with a blanket next to me as i knit, she still likes her outdoor walks, which necessitates a whole new level of layering up for winter, haha. i am used to vigorous exercise in the coldest temperatures, but did not have warm enough things for the “walk a little, then stop to sniff” pace of our four legged princess. nor did i have much in the way of waterproof gear—a must when one needs to get out EVERY day, no matter what’s falling from the sky. and my boots, though very warm, were an absolute danger for walking on icy streets (there is no mandate here for clearing walks and hence, very few people do it).

plus, it’s been the winter of winters here this year—temperatures well below freezing for weeks on end now and lots of snow, the howl of wind constantly playing in the background. this is the time of year when a sunny day (or even hour) is rare anyway, but skies heavy with snow make it worse.

i managed to find some icebug boots with a removable web of cleats on sale that are so light and flexible, i can actually walk pretty fast in them when necessary. also, a knee-length water- and windproof down coat was located at a deep discount which i grabbed. it’s basically a big puffy sleeping bag with arms, but it works very well and now i’m never cold or wet. i use a two layer system for my hands that i learned from bike riding—thin liner gloves under polar fleece mittens—that works like a charm.

and then i still have to dress the dog, haha! puffy down vest and cowl for her, easy to slip on in a hurry even when she’s doing the pee-pee dance. yes, it takes forever to get out the door, but it’s usually well worth it. still, i’m always happy to walk back into the warm house and put my hands on some wool yarn, hehe.

we had an absolutely lovely christmas holiday, how about you? our house was very, very quiet with just ourselves and it was a wonderful respite. we all received gifts, both funny and touching—just enough to make it feel like a holiday but not so much that we don’t know where to put it all. i love everything i received and all of it very useful; many of our gifts have already been pressed into service around here, yay.

cardigan got a jaw reconstruction and a new bed from us and many thoughtful gifts from kimkimkim, my sister, katharine, and barb.

a box of goodies even arrived after christmas from katharine, full of tasty treats and notions.

this cashmere yarn is SO luscious, it quickly moved to the top of my queue; i’ve had my eye on the yarn from this company for a while and with this extreme cold, i know i can use another pair of fingerless mitts to wear for computer work. i’m finally kind of in small project mode (i know; WAY too late for gift knitting, oh well) and i’ve been on a bit of a kick for making fingerless mitts, so i will likely make these next.

as soon as i finish my lacunae hat.
which has been mostly languishing, though i’ve made a little progress since i last shared—i think i’m just about to the point where i can start the top decreases and from there it’s a quick finish. so what’s my problem? i really need this hat, too; i don’t know why it’s taking so long.

well, perhaps spoon feeding the dog is cutting into my knitting time (ya think?), but again, totally worth it. i would have missed a golden opportunity for bonding if it hadn’t fallen in my lap to do it. more on that in the next post—cardigan has lots of news to share. she knows that some of you are anxious to hear from her.

we did do some christmas gift knitting, if after the fact a bit. i had it in my mind for a while that i wanted to make something for our friend ramona (founder of JJs ruff roads), who spends hour upon hour out in the cold, helping lost dogs find their way back home. she doesn’t even know what knitting is really (she thought it was nearly the same as quilting), but i knew she’d enjoy some warm, handmade things. fingerless mitts are a perfect gift for her and a hat to go with them that actually fits (she is tiny and has a small head, like me).

i dug deep into my stash to pull out the last few skeins of black mission falls 1824 wool that i’d been hoarding for the perfect person. this is a lovely, soft yarn that makes lush, bouncy fabric which is also machine washable and even dryer friendly. when it was discontinued some ten years ago or so, i bought a bag to sock away for “guy” knitting. i’ve used most of it but had a few left—just the amount i needed for my project.

i meant to start knitting this months ago, but with everything backing up on me all year, i didn’t do it til, well—last weekend. so i declared new year’s eve and new year’s day as my own personal knitting holiday and spent them mostly on the sofa, snuggling with cardigan til all three pieces were complete. she makes a great yarn holder, doesn’t she?

i was even able to wash, block and dry them all with plenty of time to spare for wrapping. we did have a deadline—our office friends and family party was scheduled for tuesday night and i wanted to have them ready. i did not get a photo of her wearing them, but she loved them enough to pop them on immediately for the trip home. she was excited to have a black hat and mitts she could use for work at FedEx, where she needs her fingers free. i was excited that she liked them so much and also that little bits of cardigan were knit into the fabric.

now that holiday shopping, cooking, visiting, and gift knitting are done for the year, i’m back to work on regularly scheduled knitting projects. plenty of secret ones as usual, which i can’t show you yet, but also the red sweater i’ve designed and am knitting for david in festivus 4.0 sport weight. this first sleeve is finished now and i’m on to the second.

the sleeves are plain, but the body will be patterned. these are a nice, quick and mindless knit and they’re moving along quickly. this design is constructed in the round from the bottom up without seams, which is why i’m knitting the sleeves first—they will be all set to go when i hit the yoke and need to add them in. also i can double-check my final gauge in the round to make sure i’ve got that right. i just love this fabric and i know david will, too. i picked skeins that have very gradual and subtle gradient shading—really almost solid—but when i knit my own version in patchwork fingering (light print), i’ll use ones that have more obvious variations. still very subtle, but more gradient.

around the office, everyone is working hard to keep the wheels turning on upcoming projects. first, we are organizing the last components of our upcoming PAIRINGS club, which begins shipping in february.

make no mistake, we’ve been working on this for almost a year—chef katharine and i prepared way ahead for the food and recipe portion of this wonderful knit/taste experience. she was here last summer for over a week so we could cook together and take advantage of fresh garden produce and talk over appropriate yarn pairings with our knitspot team.

we talked and cooked and drove all over the area looking for great ingredients, making cardigan kinda crazy with kitchen upheaval (she survived and was mollified by the wealth of goodies on offer).

we came up with a four-course menu and recipes that sequence well into an entire meal or stand alone nicely for casual dinners. we chose dishes that can be varied easily to accommodate special diets or out of season ingredients.

in addition, we tried to imbue each installment with a sense of place, choosing ingredients that are emblematic of particular regions around our big, big country.

yarns and foods are a secret for now, but it think participants will be as tickled as they were last year with the first pairings club. each project is a pairing as well, making use of two yarns; the designs are aimed toward intermediate knitting skills and will include a range of techniques. if you’re new to all this, check out the final pairings 2016 book to get an idea of what to expect in the way of patterns and yarns.

we had to finalize our first yarn order for this PAIRINGS club, so space is now limited accordingly to the number of spots we have left—if you haven’t signed up yet but want to do so, i hope you’ll join us before they run out!

we are also getting ready to release the next winter ensemble collection, which includes eight designers who have contributed some awesome garments and accessories.

my own contribution is a v-neck pullover with a mega-cabled neck and side seam detail. early next week i’ll be using my sample as an example of how to block sweater pieces with complex or awkward shapes—if you love blocking (even more, if you hate blocking), don’t miss this post!

i’ve also begun work on a capsule collection that we plan to release in march—light, airy knits that will be perfect for spring and summer, to wear or to knit as the days grow warmer. i am SO excited about it; my ideas are aligning into a closely related set of pieces, making use of a variety of yarns which are pleasant to knit at that time.

let’s finish this post with something pretty—my tarta shawl and cortado cowl patterns are now available for general purchase!

these two super soft and light pieces were designed initially for our 2017 BNK club, when we knit them for the june installment using salt river mills suri decadence in a special put-up of half cream and half medium brown.

the fingering weight yarn is blended from natural shades of pure suri alpaca and muga silk, giving it phenomenal drape and softness.

the patterns include two sizes each and the samples pictured here are the smaller size, which can be knit from just one yarn set (two half skeins sold together).

to purchase tarta shawl pattern or view details, click here for our knitspot pattern shop listing and click here for knitspot ravelry shop (please purchase with the ravelry link if you prefer the pattern to be placed in your rav library).

to purchase coronado cowl pattern or view details, click here for our knitspot pattern shop listing and click here for knitspot ravelry shop (please purchase with the ravelry link if you prefer the pattern to be placed in your rav library).

wow, i didn’t think i had anything to write about today that didn’t involve nursing cardigan, haha, but i guess i was wrong. many of you have sent heartfelt notes and good wishes to her as we advance through her recovery and we are so touched by each one, thank you!

cardigan is feeling much more her usual self this week and has a lot to share; for those who have been asking, i’m helping her prepare a separate update post for sunday, which promises to be newsy. for now, she says, “happy weekend” and “be sure to wear a hat when you go out!”