Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gifts: how to get what you want

Yeah, I know that title sounds really selfish. But, let's face it, knitters are super generous this time of year. We love knitting for the people we love. We spend more money on yarn to make gifts than we would spend on just purchasing a gift at a store.  On top of that, we spend tons of time and energy making the gift. Every knitting thing we give away takes a little piece of our heart with it.

So, here's how you help those who love you to get you something you love.

My kids and hubby know I really like yarn, but they really don't know anything about yarn. Fortunately, River Knits allows people to put together a wish list on a little note card.

This is great! However, it still requires my socially anxious husband (bless his heart) to interact with people. So, I decided to make it really easy for him this year.

One day, I went into River Knits and just started snapping pictures of the stuff I like. Then, I took those pictures and used Insta Picframes to create collages and add text. Yeah, I even played around with the colors and fonts and stuff. Like this:

I even did this:

See the "NO" on top of the one little cubbie there in the bottom left corner. There's nothing wrong with that yarn, I just don't enjoy it as much as the others.

If I had taken more time, I would have put together a little map of the shop to show exactly where everything could be found. But, I didn't have time, so he still had to experience a little human interaction.

I know this looks really...um.....presumptuous? Entitled? Demanding?  But, hubby said he actually really appreciated it. His reasoning: "If my wish list involved a vacuum tube store, you'd be just as clueless as I am walking into the yarn shop." Truth. Although, honestly, I don't think pictures would even help me in a vacuum tube store. They all look like weird lightbulbs to me.

Please also note that I have absolutely no expectation to receive all of these things. I just like to give him a lot of variety to choose from.

On that note, Happy Holidays to all of you wonderful fibery folks out there! May your stockings be filled with everything you need to knit your next fabulous project!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Getting there...

I'm still way ahead of schedule--just over 8 days at this point. I also surpassed the 50,000 stitch mark yesterday. I've completely 53,008 sts, which is 68.82% of the total. Not too shabby!  No picture today. It just looks like a bigger pile of yarn. I'm still hoping to be able to start the edging by the end of the week--which is tomorrow. I completed 5 rows this morning, and have 9 more rows to go before starting the edging. Maybe I'll get an edging repeat done before the end of the day tomorrow. If not, definitely Saturday.

Monday, November 10, 2014


I hit the halfway point (of the stitch count) for my NaKniShawlMo project over the weekend. I haven't been taking pictures daily because, frankly, that would be really boring for all involved. Here's where I am at the end of Day 9. See what I mean?
You can tell it's bigger than it was on Days 1 and 2, but you still can't tell how much progress has been made. So, let's put it this way:

I am 7 days ahead of schedule.
I have completed 53.76% of the shawl (based on stitch count).
This means I've knit 41,408 stitches so far.

I'm pretty impressed with myself, if I may be so bold. Right now, the rounds are 580 stitches long. That's quite a slog, but I'm persevering. I think by the end of this week, I'll be able to start working on the edging. Honestly, that's where I usually fall apart when knitting shawls. I knit a couple of repeats of the edging, and I'm ready to be done. 71 repeats of anything is tedious. 71 repeats of a 16-row edging that is 224 stitches per repeat is exhausting. I just get bored after knitting a couple of repeats. That's going to be the big challenge. Can I do it? Sure! Will I enjoy it? Well...... I'm trying to have a positive attitude.

Monday, November 3, 2014


Hello again! Long time, no see. Just 3 months, right? A lot has happened. I've lost a total of 33.8 lbs so far, I've been knitting a lot, plus all the same ol', same ol' of work, kids, family, etc.

A couple of years ago, I participated in NaKniSweMo--National Knit a Sweater Month. Designed after National Novel Writing Month, it requires participants to knit a sweater of at least 50,000 stitches during the month of November. (Novel writers write a novel of at least 50,000 words.) I skipped it last year, but on Friday (October 31), I decided I wanted to do it again this year. Nothing like planning ahead, right?

Here's the problem: I've been on a sweater-knitting hiatus since I started my weight loss journey. I'm hesitant to spend time, energy, and good yarn on a sweater that might not even fit me anymore by the end of the winter. So, I started looking for patterns for very loose-fitting sweaters, which really aren't my style...  and I ultimately decided I'd create my own challenge:


National Knit a Shawl Month.

I chose Leaves of Grass, designed by Jared Flood. It's a shawl that follows Elizabeth Zimmermann's Pi Shawl construction, uses fingering weight yarn, and has more than 77,000 stitches. Perfect!

Here's the other thing: Progress photos of sweaters are much more impressive than progress photos of shawls. With a sweater, it's very obvious where progress has been made. With a circular shawl, it just looks like a bunch of yarn scrunched onto a circular knitting needle. See?
That was at the end of Day 1. Despite knitting more than 7,000 stitches on Day 2, it doesn't look much different:
(The color difference can be attributed to the fact that the top pic was taken at home, using incandescent and natural light. The one on the bottom was taken in my office, lit with fluorescent lights. The color is actually more accurate in the top pic--olive greens.)

So, anyway, Day 1 looks like a pile of yarn, and Day 2 looks like a slightly larger pile of yarn. Not very impressive.

To really see the design, shawls have to be stretched and blocked. When I stretch this bit (end of Day 1) over my hand, you can see one bit of the motif. 
Still not particularly impressive. Sigh. You'll just have to trust me as I report back on my progress.

I spent quite a bit of time on Saturday putting together a spreadsheet of how far I need to get each day. At this point, I'm a couple of days ahead of schedule. But, I worked an entire row wrong this morning before work. That will teach me to knit lace before I'm really fully awake.

Are you participating in NaKniSweMo? Would you like to join me for NaKniShawlMo?

Monday, August 11, 2014


So, a big thing happened last week: I turned 40. When my husband turned 40 in February, it nearly killed him. He absolutely hated it. I, on the other hand, am excited! This is going to be my best decade yet. Life is good!

Every year on my birthday, I start a new project. This year was no exception.
Pattern: Interpolate. Yarn: Misti Alpaca Tonos Carnaval in Surf Blue and Truffle. I expect to have it completed by the end of the week. It's really fun--the perfect balance between mindless and interesting. The yarn is fabulous and soft and gorgeous.

My birthday also brought some fun entertainment.
I used to be a HUGE Tori Amos fan, but I had never seen her live. So, we got together with some friends who are also fans, and had an amazing evening, which included dinner at McCormick & Schmick's. Sooo good!
It was a really fun way to start a new decade--great music, great friends, great time!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Hey, peeps! It's been a while. This has been an amazing, wonderful and busy summer. The afghan class is going really well, and there are more than 100 people on Ravelry who are knitting along too! This absolutely floors me. I am humbled by their enthusiasm for this thing that I designed.  I'm still working on the scarves to go with the afghan squares, but I'm taking a little break for some other fun stuff.

This is the Blooming Stitch Shawl. The yarn is Louet Cottolin. When Elizabeth (owner of River Knits) ordered this yarn, she was envisioning it being used for weaving. I saw a lovely, light summer shawl in my favorite color.

I'm also working on the Tibetan Clouds Shawl using Fiber Optic Yarns Footnotes Gradients. I love this so much! It's fun to knit and exciting to see what color comes next.The back of the stole is knit from the center out. Then, opposite edges are bound off. Finally, the live stitches are picked up and the ends of the stole are knit from there. I think this projects highlights this gradient yarn in a really unique way.

I'm also knitting this shawl. It's called Ashburn. The yarn is the brand new Classic Elite Villa. This might be my new favorite yarn. Well, second favorite. I don't think I could love anything more than Malabrigo Sock yarn....but this would be a really close second.
I have a couple of other shawls in my queue, but I want to finish at least the Ashburn and Tibetan Clouds before I start something new.

What's with all the shawls? I've put a moratorium on sweater knitting. I've lost 21.2 lbs so far, and, while I would LOVE to knit myself some sweaters to wear as soon as I hit my goal weight, I don't know what my measurements will be. So, there's no point spending good yarn and good time on a sweater that might be way too big by winter. So, for the foreseeable future, I'm knitting accessories. Shawls, socks, mittens, hats. And I'm happy with that. Here's the current progress pic. I probably should have taken some time to make myself look nice for the photo on the right, but I was just so excited when I discovered I had crossed the 20-lb mark, I jumped off the scale, got dressed and demanded my daughter take my pic. I promise to make more of an effort next time. :)
In other news, last night brought a completely unexpected event!  Back story: We got a minivan in 2003 or 2004.... it was a 2001 Pontiac Montana, affectionately referred to as Vannah Montana. She served us well for the past 10 years, but for the last 5 years or so, she's been slowly going down hill. First, it was little things: LEDs went out in the radio display, alternator needed replaced, back windshield washer stopped working, gas gauge stopped working (I have to use the trip odometer to know when it's time to get gas). Then, there were some really big things: some gasket I don't know anything about needed replacing and it required Tim to hoist the entire engine up to get to it; the head gasket started leaking, and lots of other stuff I don't remember. For 2 years or so, I've been cursing her and whining about wanting a "new" car. But, it was never the right time. I looked halfheartedly at lots of things. I even test drove a Kia Soul. It was kind of nice. Then, last fall, a colleague invited me to try her Nissan Cube. I instantly fell in love. I know it's definitely quirky and not for everyone. I spent all winter and spring talking about wanting a Cube. Every chance I got, I'd say, "Yep, Vanna Montana will be replaced by a Cube."

Then, a few weeks ago, another colleague informed me that Nissan has decided 2014 is the final model year for the Cube. They will no longer manufacture it. For a short while, that ramped up my search, but nothing seemed quite right. Yesterday, my wonderful hubby sent me a link to a Cube at a Subaru dealership in Indy. We went down last night after work and drove home with the newest addition to our family: Cindy Lou Cube.
I love her. We didn't get home until almost 11:30 last night, which is way past my bedtime. And, I have to be at work all day today because responsibilities. I can't wait to get home tonight and spend some quality time really getting to know her. Isn't she just the cutest thing?!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Times, they are a-changin'

I'm not going to turn this into a blog centered on the topic of this post, but it's a big deal to me. So, I want to share.

On May 20, I made the decision to change my life, and (as of Saturday morning) I've lost 9 lbs so far. Purdue (my employer) is focused very much on work-life balance and keeping their employees healthy. As a result, they offer a 12-week weight management class for free. I'm not stupid, and I know I'm very overweight. I'm under no illusions about that. So, I figured, why not just go and see what it's about, right?

The first meeting included weighing in AND taking a waist measurement. I hadn't been on a scale since before Christmas. I knew it wasn't going to be good, but I had no idea how bad it was really going to be. It was bad. A solid 15 lbs more than I'd ever weighed before ever. Including when I was pregnant. That bad. And my waist measurement was fully 2" more than the last time I'd taken it...whenever that was. Add to those facts, this picture, which was taken in April.....

YIKES!! Yeah. Clearly, I need to do something.

So what is "something?" Moderation and smarter choices. Listening to my body. Moving. This isn't a diet. It's a life change. I'm not a 15-year-old cheerleader anymore, so I can't eat like I am. I'm going to be 40 in August, and (like most Americans) I live a pretty sedentary life. I also really like bread and sugary treats. I mean...really.

So, I'm making healthier choices. I've stopped going to the pizza place for a slice and a bag of breadsticks for lunch. This doesn't mean I can't have pizza. I can, when I really want it. It just means not eating it several times a week for lunch. I'm also not visiting the vending machine for a sweet treat every afternoon. But, I'm also not depriving myself. I had a small bowl of ice cream last night. It was delicious. I've also discovered the tastiest salad in the whole world, which I've eaten for lunch 3 or 4 days every week for the past 3 weeks: Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken salad from Panera. It's sooo good!  I get the baguette as the side because the bread makes me feel more satisfied. The salad is sweet from all of the fruit that's in it, so I don't get that mid-afternoon sugar craving. I also don't get that mid-afternoon energy slump I used to get from the carb-heavy pizza and breadsticks lunch. I feel SO much better.

I purchased a Fitbit One a couple of weeks ago. I love it. It's a great motivator. It's so fun to see the little flower grow as I am more active throughout my day. I remember being really excited the first time I got two leaves. This is what it looked like last night:
That's SIX leaves! What did I do? Grocery shopping in the morning. Then, Tori and I went to the mall in the early afternoon so I could get new shoes--my old athletic shoes were extremely broken down. It hurt my feet to walk in them. That's been fixed with a cute new pair of neon Asics. Love them!  But, I digress. We went to the mall and walked around a lot. I did laundry. Our laundry room is on the second floor of our house, so there's lots of stair climbing on laundry day. I also went for a mile and a half walk after dinner. Ended up with more than 12,000 steps for the day!

I also started using My Fitness Pal, which syncs with the Fitbit, to track my eating and calorie intake/burning. This is really important for me. I have to log everything I eat to hold myself accountable. Typically, I will plan my food for the day in the morning. This eliminates the poor choices that come when I don't plan and I'm hungry. So far, it's working really well.

Now, let's talk about my Diet Coke addiction. I *love* Diet Coke. I mean seriously. Part of my morning routine is stopping at the Family Express to fill my 32 oz mug with Diet Coke. It gets me through the morning. I don't drink coffee or tea, so that's my caffeine for the day. For years, I've heard or read (and ignored) articles about how terrible artificial sweeteners and soda are for you. I'd see the headline, and skip it. I'd hear them start talking about it on the TV and change the channel. Head in the sand much? Yep. (My husband says I'm like this about a lot of things....)  Well, I wasn't able to ignore it when the instructor started talking about aspartame in the Weight Management class.  Not to mention the sodium, artificial coloring, and other chemicals in pop. Sigh. So, five days ago, I decided to start weaning myself off of Diet Coke. I went from 32 oz every day to 24 oz for three days, then 16 oz for three days. I'm on Day 2 of 16 oz. Not sure what I'll do Wednesday. 8 oz? I'd have to eyeball it in my 16 oz cup. Or do I just quit at that point? We'll see. At any rate, it's been pretty painless so far. I know people who have quit cold turkey and were a mess of headaches and energy slumps. I didn't want to go down that road. BUT, I know I'm making a healthy choice, and that feels really good. I'll be interested to see how it affects the frequency of headaches and migraines once I'm fully detoxed from it.

I think the most interesting thing in this whole process is how different it feels from every other time I've tried to lose weight. I'm not looking at this as a diet or a temporary thing. I'm living a more healthy lifestyle. Period. I'll never be an outdoorsy person or someone who loves to exercise. But, it's high time I start taking care of myself. I don't find myself thinking or saying, "When I get to my goal weight, I can finally go back to...." because it doesn't work that way. That's "diet" thinking, and leads straight to gaining all the weight back. I'm not going there.

So, that's my story for right now. Maybe you don't care, and that's okay. This isn't a health or weight loss blog, and it's not going to become that. I just wanted to share what's been on my mind lately.

In other news: The YLA2 class starts tomorrow!!! I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Year-Long Afghan II (official)

I really love everything about it. The colors especially. It's so bright and happy. And, because each square is only 14 inches, you're never working one technique long enough to get bored!

The great news (for me!) is that the class is full! Then I added another session, and it filled up within a couple of days! It's going to be a fun year!!

For those who didn't make it into the class and who still want to knit the afghan, here's your chance.

I have created an e-book on Ravelry: Year Long Afghan 2.  It will work similarly to the class in that the patterns for the squares will be released monthly and added to the e-book as a separate pattern. This will be just the concise pattern as you would see a pattern published anywhere. It does not include the class handouts, in-depth description of techniques, or one-on-one instruction. When an unusual or complicated technique is required, resources (websites, books, articles, etc.) are cited to offer additional help.  At this time (May 20, 2014), purchasing the pattern will allow you download the Introduction sheet, which lists a schedule of release dates, materials, and other information. Instructions for individual squares will be released monthly, beginning on June 21, 2014.

Some of you may recall that I'm designing scarves to go along with the afghan for those who don't really like afghans. The Year of Scarves pattern will be available separately, and I will post more info once all of the scarves are knit.

If you'd like more in-depth information about the afghan, read on!

The pattern is written for 6 colors, but you can use as few as 2 or as many as you like. The sample was knit with Cascade 220 in the following colors and quantities and required a total of 2913 yds.

Cascade 220:
7814 Chartreuse: 524 yds + 100 yds for assembly, 3 skeins
8910 Citron: 292 yds, 2 skeins
9467 Delphinium: 348 yds, 2 skeins
7808 Purple Hyacinth: 389 yds + 400 yds for edging, 4 skeins
7824 Jack O'lantern: 493 yds, 3 skeins
Schachenmayr SMC Northern Wool (discontinued):
1737 Lavender (a good substitute is Cascade 220 8912, Lilac Mist): 327 yds, 2 skeins 

Finished Size
Approximately 48" x 62", using Cascade 220 to make twelve 14" squares plus border.

Month 1 (June 2014): TEXTURE
An excellent introduction to reading a chart, this square involves simply knitting and purling in various combinations to create a lovely textured pattern.
Materials: 185 yds (Delphinium), US 6 needles 

Month 2 (July 2014): SHORT ROWS
This square is very fun to knit. Learn the German short-row technique while creating a square with undulating stripes.
Materials: You can use as few as 2 or as many colors for this square as you like. I used all of my colors, with Jack O'lantern as the main color with stripes of the other colors. About 224 yards of yarn in total, distributed as follows:   Jack O’lantern: 104 yds, Delphinium: 31 yds; Lavender: 27 yds; Purple Hyacinth: 22 yds; Citron: 20 yds; Chartreuse : 20 yds.US 6 needles, 4 each of 3 different stitch markers (these will be Marker A, Marker B, and Marker C). 

Month 3 (August 2014): MOCK CABLES 
It looks like cables, but it's actually traveling stitches, an effect created by strategically placed knits, purls, increases and decreases.
Materials: 160 yds (Chartreuse), US 6 needles

Month 4 (September 2014): LOG CABIN
Log Cabin knitting is completely addictive. It's simply a knitted version of the well-known quilt block, but with so many options and variations, the opportunity for creativity is limitless.
Materials: This square uses multiple colors. You can use all of your colors if you like. For mine, I used one color for the center square (the homework), and 4 colors for the bands around the center square.  I used a total of 229 yds distributed as follows: Jack O’lantern: 7 yds, Purple Hyacinth: 47 yds, Lavender: 53 yds, Chartreuse: 62 yds, Citron: 60 yds.  US 7 needles.

Month 5 (October 2014): TWIST STITCHES
Often confused with cables, twist stitches are accomplished by (what else?) twisting stitches and rearranging them through unique stitch manipulation. While this can be accomplished with a cable needle, this method is easier and faster.
Materials: 185 yds (Lavender), US 7 needles

Month 6 (November 2014): ENTRELAC
Accomplished by knitting small connected squares, entrelac looks like basketweave.
Materials: About 37 yds each of 6 colors for a total of 222 yards. If you are doing this square all in one color, you will be able to do it with one skein of Cascade 220.  US 6 needles

Month 7 (December 2014): CABLES
Find out how easy cables really are.
Materials: 235 yds (Jack O'lantern), cable needle, US 7 needles

Month 8 (January 2015): MOSAIC KNITTING
It looks like stranded colorwork, but only one color is carried per row. So easy you won't want to stop!
Materials: 100 yards each of two colors (Chartreuse and Purple Hyacinth), US 7 needles

Month 9 (February 2015): EMBELLISHMENT
Embellish stockinette stitch to bring interest to an otherwise plain square. Techniques: Surface crochet and a number of embroidery stitches.
Materials: 155 yds main color (Citron) plus scraps of other colors (don't feel like you have to limit yourself to your afghan colors!), US 6 needles

Month 10 (March 2015): FAIR ISLE
Cast on the perimeter of the square and knit to the center while working stranded color work.
Materials: MC (Main Color; this is the color I used for the patterning; Jack O’lantern): 110 yds. CC (Contrasting Colors, these are the colors used for the background; in mine, I striped all of these colors): A total of  120 yds, divided as follows: Chartreuse: 25 yds; Citron: 20 yds; Delphinium: 15yds; Purple Hyacinth: 35 yds; Lavender: 25 yds. , US 7 needles (Set of 5 DPN, 16” and 24” circular; some knitters might like to have a 32” or 40” circular to start on), 4 stitch markers (one should be different from the other three)

Month 11 (April 2015): LACE
Anyone who knows me well knows that lace is my absolute favorite form of knitting. This square is a good introduction to lace, beginning at the center and working in the round to the perimeter.
Materials: 150 yards (Purple Hyacinth), US 8 needles (set of 5 DPN, 16” and 24” circular), crochet hook 5mm, 4 stitch markers (one should be different from the other three).

Month 12 (May 2015): INTARSIA
Create vertical and diagonal stripes while knitting with only one color at a time.
Materials: 120 yds Main Color (Chartreuse), 80 yds Contrasting Color (Delphinium), US 6 needles

Month 13 (June 2015): FINISHING AND ASSEMBLY
I'll describe my favorite ways to join the squares and give directions for a lovely seed stitch border.
Materials: 100 yds (Chartreuse) for assembly; 400 yds (Purple Hyacinth) for border

So, if you are interested in purchasing the pattern, it is the Year Long Afghan 2 on Ravelry.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Revised, Revamped and Redesigned: Year Long Afghan II

It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since I designed and taught the first session of the original Year-Long Afghan. In those 10 years, I've learned a lot! I've grown as both a knitter and as a teacher. I've added techniques to my own repertoire through classes and books and patterns, and I try to find fun ways to pass those skills on to other knitters. I've also spent a lot of time thinking about the original YLA and what I would do differently if I could do it all over. Then I realized that I CAN do it all over!

Enter Year-Long Afghan II. (This is just a working title. It's boring. I'm open to suggestions.)

What's a YLA?
It's a series of classes lasting one year and meeting once a month. Each month, a new knitting technique is taught in the form of a 14" afghan square. (The original YLA has 16" squares.)

How is the YLAII different from the original YLA?
There are more techniques and skills. You'll really learn something new every month. The original YLA repeated some skills (Fair Isle and Cables had two squares each!), and it even had one square that was just garter stitch using leftovers. This repetition has been eliminated. As a result, there are 12 square classes and 1 finishing and assembling class, for a total of 13 classes, each presenting something different from the squares before.

Awesome idea, but I'm not much for knitted blankets.
I got you covered! :) Each month will also have a scarf or cowl pattern teaching the same skills. 
I'm interested. How does the class work?
The class meets once a month, on the third Tuesday, 7-9pm. You can sign up for as few or as many of the classes as you like, but if you sign up for all 13 classes at once, you get a break on the price AND you'll receive an electronic copy of the final pattern booklet for free. (Details on price are in the information sheet linked below.)  I've already been asked if there will be an online option for this class, and unfortunately, the answer is no. This is a very hands-on class, and I don't feel I could give quality service to online students.

Are you intrigued? Check out the information sheet for all of the details. As stated on the sheet, I'm still in the process of designing the squares--8 are complete and one is nearly done. So, I don't have final, official, accurate yardage needs calculated yet. However, the sheet does show how much yarn was used for the squares that have been completed as well as rough estimates for what remains. I hope to have final, accurate quantities by mid-April. 
In the meantime, here's some eye candy. 
What? You want to actually see the individual squares? Okay...

June: Texture Stitches with a focus on learning how to read a chart. The top picture is actually a much more accurate representation of the color.

 July: Short rows. This one is still in progress, but here's what it looked like yesterday afternoon:
August: Mock cables

September: Log Cabin
October: Twist Stitches

December: Cables

January: Mosaic Knitting

February: Embellishments. Clearly, this square is just plain stockinette and has not yet been embellished.

 April: Lace

You've probably noticed that there are a few months missing. I haven't knit those squares yet. They are November: Entrelac, March: Fair Isle, and May: Intarsia. Pictures will come as soon as I have them completed.