Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I love my mailman

Look what came in the mail today? I've got oodles of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in just the right colors for the Handstrikket. Guess what I'm doing tonight...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


While I impatiently wait for Webs to send me alpaca yarn for my Handstrikket, I knocked out these mitts using the leftover Dream in Color Classy from the February Baby Cardigan. I'm glad to make something out of the extras - and avoid adding yet another skein to my mountainous stash.

I used the free Susie's Reading Mitts pattern from Dancing Ewe. Cute pattern, very quick knit. The pattern calls for DK yarn and size 5 needles; I used worsted yarn and size 7 needles, and made the smallest size. I have pretty large hands and this sizing adjustment worked perfectly.

I've made four pairs of mitts in the past four months - one for my friend and three for me. Think that's enough mitts for a while? I do! It's time to make a sweater. I sure hope that yarn comes in the mail today.

Monday, January 25, 2010

"I'm knitting a pattern without stitches, without needles"

A lovely poem from Minnesota Poetry: Eireann Lorsung's "Knitting," State of the Arts, Minnesota Public Radio


When are you coming back to stand in front of the window?
(I heard you whistling last night. Cars pass me by all day,

waves circling the enormous globe.)
So much is left out, I'm knitting a pattern without

stitches, without needles, only long fingerbones
to carry yarn. There was something buried

the night I left Eau Claire for good, and I never knew
how it would grow. Now your childhood friends

are my students, I walk past houses you lived in
without my knowledge and your scent trails

from abandoned bakeries. Whole warehouses
have been invented to catalogue want like this.

I go on knitting night and day because I don't know
any other thing. All unknits by darkness

into twine birds use piece by piece. What secret
name can I call you? What adventure are you on tonight?

There is forgetting in the density of raw new wool,
yarn shop one block from your apartment,

the cheap scarf - you don't value things
because you never make them. Moon over the whitening world

sharpens spindle, windowframe. The sash
is pulled, seam is set: without material, there is no map.

"Knitting" in music for landing planes by by Éireann Lorsung (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Éireann Lorsung. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions.

Éireann Lorsung's website, which also features her beautiful artwork, is

Ground Control to Major Tom

Ground control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown (Five), engines on (Four)
(Three, two) Check ignition (One) and may God's (Blastoff) love be with you

When I was 16, I attended the strangest public event of my life: a David Bowie concert. Here I was, a girl who listened to treacly pop like Bread and the Carpenters, dropped into the middle of the Capital Center with a bunch of very stoned adolescents and David Bowie, too. I retain these memories: an exceptionally inebriated dude who kept graciously handing me his bong - even though I had zero interest in getting high. All this while a movie played on a giant screen above the stage, showing a tight closeup of a very sharp knife slicing through an eyeball. Ack! So disgusting. To this day, I have PTSD flashbacks. :-)

Why David Bowie this morning? Because I'm "commencing countdown, engines on" with my Handstrikket. While I'm driving, cooking, and staring into space, I'm designing my Handstrikket. I'm in my spacesuit and am ready to go, gang. My current itinerary: use the revised Ditto Cardigan I made last year as template for the new Handstrikket.
  • Use the basic garment construction
    • Knit in the round from the bottom up
    • Make decreases on the sides that emulate seaming
    • Keep the gentle A-line shaping on the skirt of the sweater
    • Knit up to the bottom of the yoke and then knit the sleeves - but make long sleeves rather than elbow-length sleeves
    • Make the sweater about 29-inches long (the original Ditto I made is probably 33 inches long)
    • Join it all together on one needle and knit around
    • Create the yoke
      • Omit the raised rib
      • Use the same decreases
      • Make the neckline two- to three-inches smaller (it's too wide in the current version)
      • Add the fair isle patterning at the top of the yoke
    • Use the same knitted button placket but make it narrower
    • Add ribbing at the neck 
    • Use smaller pewter buttons that match the ones on the original Handstrikket

  • Fair Isle pattern revisions
    • Omit the stranding at the bottom of the sweater (the last thing I need is to have giant fair isle marching horizontally across my giant ass)
    • Retain the stranding on the sleeves and yoke
    • Use blue, brown, and white yarn

  • Sizing
    • I've lost 35 pounds since I made the Ditto Cardigan - which was too large to begin with
    • Rework the sizing to make the sweater skim my current form without being too tight or too loose - and lean towards making the sweater a little smaller since I hope to lose more weight
These are my current plans. Hopefully, I won't end up in a tin can, far above the world! Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I've got to admit...

The February Baby Sweater truly is the perfect baby sweater, a claim made by Elizabeth Zimmerman and now corraborated by me. The Dream in Color Classy yarn completely seals the deal. It's just gorgeous yarn.

The lace was a total bitch - for me anyway. It's really a simple lace pattern but I'm not sure I'm cut out for such concentration. My knitting friend, Michele told me to use a lifeline and stitch markers - wonderful suggestions that I will definitely use the next time I knit lace (which is likely to be the Jared Flood Willoughby stole I love so well).

I'm going to whip up a quick pair of baby booties and then I'll be done. Whew! I'm tired of knitting presents. I'm ready to get back to my original objective: making sweaters that fit. Yesterday I got the first skein of Ultra Alpaca for my Handstrikket cardigan... swatching in process. It's nice to begin.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Baby, baby sweet baby

I'm almost done with the February Baby sweater for my friend, Elizabeth's first granddaughter. Because it is lace and requires my full attention, it hasn't been going well. I read on Ravelry that some knitters made this cardigan in seven hours! Not I. It's taking me 70 hours because I keep drifting off, screwing up, losing my place, frogging back, and trying again. This project makes me wonder if I have ADD. Pay attention, girl!

In this picture, you can see the color chart I made myself to make this (admittedly easy) lace pattern easier for me to do. It really has helped - but I still have to pay better attention.

I picked out some pretty purple buttons and ribbon; I'm thinking I'll make some matching booties.

Hopefully I'll have the cardigan done tonight. God, I hope so. I cannot wait to finish this up and move on to my Handstrikket sweater.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Curvy Knits Update!

Houston, we have a link to the new Curvy Knits patterns now! Here are the designs... aren't they all cute? I ordered my book today via snail-mail (see the comments from my earlier post today for details).

Excited and aggravated - all at the same time

A couple of days ago, I received my Knit Simple magazine in the mail. The best thing about it? The ad on the back of the magazine that features the new Curvy Knits release - and this pretty red sweater.

Curvy Knits is literally the best plus-size line available today. Published by Classic Elite, the patterns are usually sized up to or near a 60-inch finished bust size and are uniformly lovely. Stylish, attractive, and designed for a larger form - what a concept! Classic Elite doesn't take a pattern created for a flat-chested, 100-pound chick and make it exponentially bigger to fit an ample woman (which only means it won't fit). No, they start from scratch and design clothes customized for larger women from the get-go. God bless them!

The new book, entitled "Curvy Knits Park Street," I suspect is the work of my beloved Jillian Moreno, but I don't know for sure  is the work of the very talented Pam Allen, Lisa S. Rowe, and Kristen TenDyke. I love the blue sweater on the cover.

So, that's the good news. The bad news: I'm all dressed up and ready to go buy this book - but it is no where to be found. I hate this. Classic Elite routinely publishes ads for books that aren't yet commercially available - it's so aggravating! They shouldn't put a single ad in a magazine until they're ready to post information about the new offering on their website at the very least. I can understand that I might not be able to buy it in my local yarn store yet - but couldn't I buy it directly from you, Classic Elite?

This morning, I finally got an email from a yarn seller advertising the book. I was so excited - until I went and tried to buy it. The $9 book costs $8 to ship, dammit. Look, if you stuck this booklet in an envelope and sent it to me using four 44-cent stamps, it would get here just fine and cost me only $1.76 - for first-class postage no less! I vote with my pocketbook - this company is not getting my money. I will not buy from retailers who charge ridiculously overpriced shipping fees. I encourage you to do the same.

So here I wait, brokenhearted... uh, I won't finish the rest of that line. Suffice to say: if you see this book online, please let me know - especially if the company has free or reasonable shipping charges. I really want to buy it. What a shame that Classic Elite makes it so difficult for me to give them money.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Handstrikket Rhapsody in Blue

Last week, I shared my proposed Handstrikket Primavera, the re-creation of the Norwegian fair isle sweater my mom gave me back in 1974. Since then, I've been cogitating on a different color scheme which I present to you now: Handstrikket Rhapsody in Blue.

I usually shy away from brown mostly because I'm afraid it is overkill with my dark brown hair and eyes. I also look better in brighter colors; subtle, yellow-based shades that look great on blondes are not for me. But the light, brighter blue in the new color scheme alleviates this problem by relegating the brown to the bottom of the sweater, away from my face.

My plan would be to use Berroco Ultra Alpaca, which is similar to the gorgeous yarn I used to make my cute End-of-May mitts. The blue Handstrikket would look great with a pair of jeans, don't you think?

In fact, I'd love to know what you think. Do you like the brights or the blues? Venture an opinion! I'd love to hear your thoughts on my Handstrikket Cardigan.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Life is too short to hate what you're knitting

The gig is up!

After almost two weeks being frustrated by the Baby Chalice Blanket, I decided "the hell with it!" and ditched the whole project. Whew! What a relief. Life is much too short to hate what you're knitting.

I decided after spending hours on Ravelry looking at baby sweaters that I need to make the venerable February Baby Cardigan by the even more venerable Elizabeth Zimmerman. I discovered much to my joy that I already owned the pattern; I searched the fantastic Ravelry Library and found the pattern in "Vogue Knitting American Collection," an old knitting book that I bought from Goodwill. The book lived a previous life with the Dayton, Ohio Library System.

If you're not using the Ravelry Library, you must! Ravelry maintains a huge database of knitting and crochet books, booklets, magazines, and patterns. You select the books, magazines, and booklets you own. If you buy patterns from designers on Ravelry, the Library keeps track of them, too. Then Ravelry lets you search across all of your knitting media to find the just-right pattern - one you already own! It's terrific. I didn't even know I owned the February Baby sweater. I would have bought the pattern again if I hadn't found it in the Library. (And yes, I know this means I qualify for Knitters Anonymous... I am powerless over knitting and my life has become unmanageable!)

I think the February Baby Cardigan will look lovely in the remarkable Dream in Color Classy yarn. I'll certainly have enough left over to make a pair of matching booties, too. Best of all, I'll be happy. That's all that matters after all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Will it ever end???

WARNING: Whining is imminent.

Sigh... I'm still working on the damn Baby Chalice Blanket. It's going so slowly I feel like I've been gestating the damn thing for at least nine months!

Maybe it's not as bad as I think; after blocking, it won't be a shriveled mess, but for now I feel like I knit and knit and knit and get maybe an inch for my trouble. All I want to do is get it done so that I can make something else. Like a sweater. Like one of the three sweaters in my queue - any of the three would be an improvement.

Maybe I'm not a good lace knitter. It takes a lot of concentration and nothing is more frustrating to me than knitting a whole row and finding out I'm one stitch short. I hate it! I don't mind paying some attention, but I can't pay total attention. My mind is a perpetual motion pinball machine that lights up, dings, shakes, rocks, rattles, and rings. Clearly, silent, meditative knitting ain't my thing.

Like always, the only answer is perseverance. This too shall pass. But apparently not soon enough!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Disturbingly Prepubescent Berroco

Berroco has released a lot of new patterns in the past few days, including this book, Berroco Weekend.

I really like the designs... they're simple and will work for lots of figures (albeit the size range, as always dammit, only goes up to a 52-inch finished bust size).

My real frustration though is the model. She's very cute. But c'mon! She has the figure of a prepubescent girl. The last time I was built like her was in fourth grade. By fifth grade, I had larger breasts and hips than this chick!

I wouldn't hope or dream that Berroco would use plus-size models, but how many knitters in America wear a size -200??? This chick is SO thin and non-curvy she could model Berroco's children's clothes. If Berroco won't use real bodies as models, couldn't they at least use realistic ones?

Norah Gaughan (shown below), the incredibly talented lead designer at Berroco, wears a size 16. Don't you think she would get it? Based on the book's waif-like model, I don't think she could imagine herself in a single garment. I sure can't.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Handstrikket Primavera

Yesterday I blogged about the Norwegian cardigan my mother gave me 35 years ago and how I'd like to re-create it in new colors and a new (yes, much larger) size.

Today, I'm supposed to be working. I've got a ton to catch up on and I was going to use Saturday to work in peace without phones and interruptions. But the Handstrikket kept swirling around in my head... okay, I said, I'll just chart a little of the yoke, just to get it started. Just 15 minutes, maybe a half hour...

Six hours later, I'm done!

The earth-toned original morphed into bright colors for three reasons. One, I'm sick to death of the freezing weather - aren't we all? I could use some spring colors about now. Two, because my skin is so pale, I look best in clear, saturated colors. And three, I have the yarn in my stash. I read somewhere that fiscally responsible knitters use their stash skeins before rushing out and buying even more yarn. I wouldn't know myself but I thought I'd give it a try it.   ;-)

The yarn? Knit Picks Merino Style and Swish DK. Inexpensive plus I love that company's merino yarn. Just don't machine wash it! Turns into a fuzzy mess even if it's supposed to be machine washable.

I used Microsoft Excel to chart the fair isle designs. It's a great knitting tool, especially if you have some familiarity with the program. Start by creating a new spreadsheet. Then select the columns and click and drag to make the cells square. Then select a cell, right click, and click Format Cells. Click on the Fill tab and select a color. Click OK and Excel changes the cell's background color. From there, you can add additional colors and use cut and paste to fill in the design. It's fun. A bit tedious, perhaps but a great way to plan and play with your chart.

Next, I'm going to figure out the pattern. I think I'll use Elizabeth Zimmermann's Percentage System for making seamless yoke sweaters. Another option would be Sweater Wizard, but it would be fun to figure this out for myself from scratch. I'm excited. But I still have to finish that baby blanket first...

Friday, January 8, 2010


Once upon a time, I fell deeply in love for the very first time. A mere lass, I knew not of the dangers implicit in true love: the initial attraction, the resulting passion, the ongoing obsession. Nor did I understand the enormous allure of a beloved from another land - so exotic and resplendent in mystery and promise.

Okay, I'll stop now. Harlequin Romance writer I am not, although my grandmother often begged me to bang out - so to speak - sexually syrupy melodramas. She was certain I would make a fortune penning bodice rippers (true story).

No, today I want to write to you about the first sweater with which I ever fell in love: a wool Fair Isle cardigan hand-knitted in Norway. My mother gave it to me in 1974; her second husband was a first-generation Norwegian who owned lots of beautiful things from the mother country, including this sweet stranded sweater.

The cardigan fascinated me. I had never seen colorwork before, never marveled at the mosaic patterns that could be formed simply by switching colors. I learned to knit when I was four, but I'd never knitted anything like this. Not even close.

I loved everything about the sweater, all the way down to the pewter dogwood buttons and the Norwegian red, white, and blue tag which said "Handstrikket i Norge." I knew from my stepfather that Norge meant Norwegian, but I had no idea what handstrikket meant. I'm not sure I even realized then that people actually hand knit sweaters. The only sweaters I'd ever owned were purchased from Sears and made by a factory in China.

Right then and there, I vowed to learn to knit with multiple colors. Not with that variagated black and rainbow-colored yarn that was so popular in the 60s and 70s, but separate balls of yarn in lots of shades and hues. It took me a couple of decades to get around to this task, but learn I did. Fair Isle knitting is now my absolute favorite pastime. I've knitted up many colorwork hats, mittens, and even a sweater - but sadly nothing as glorious as my original handstrikket Fair Isle cardigan.

This little stroll down memory lane got me thinking. What if I replicated this sweater and at the same time made it large enough to fit me now? Use the same stitch patterns, perhaps with different colors since I always feel like a tree trunk when I wear brown? Wouldn't it truly fulfill a childhood dream to make something as glorious as this? I think the answer is: YES! So, as I always say, watch this space for Julie's Adventures in Handstrikket.

Speaking of my hand-knitting projects, want to see the latest from my Dream in Color baby blanket? It's coming along and gets more beautiful by the day. God, what gorgeous yarn!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dream in Color Classy is just plain dreamy

First off, an amendment to yesterday's post about my new year's knitting resolutions. I proclaimed that I was going to stop knitting for everyone else and start knitting for me. I lied. Before I go off into knitting narcissism, I need to make a baby blanket for my friend, Elizabeth's first grandbaby.

I selected Dream in Color Classy because, well, it's just dreamy. One-hundred percent merino and miraculously overdyed, this amazing yarn simply dazzles. It manages to have every color of the rainbow but still look purple (which is the mother-to-be's favorite color). I love knitting with it; it's plush and yummy and soft and delicious.

My pattern: the Baby Chalice Blanket designed by Lykkefanten. This pattern, which is free on Ravelry, knits up into a simply gorgeous infant wrap. Check out the finished projects and you'll find one beautiful baby blanket after another. The lace pattern is pretty easy as long as you're not sleepy and pay attention! But that's true for all lace. I always know when it's time to go to bed when I start screwing up the lace pattern. Then I spend a half hour the next day straightening out the mess I made the night before! I never learn.

I hope Elizabeth, her daughter, Belky, and the baby will all love this little blanket. The yarn and pattern are so pretty, how could they not?

Monday, January 4, 2010

My New Year's knitting resolutions

Today I officially present my 2010 knitting resolutions. This year, I would like to accomplish the following:
  1. Learn how to do the Kitchener stitch. Every time I try this technique, my head explodes. I'm a smart girl - I must be able to figure this out! This year, I will.

  2. Knit more for me and less for everyone else. I have knitted something for almost every person I know - I even gave my chiropractor one of my many Lusekofte caps. It's ridiculous. This year, I'm going to knit for me.

  3. One exception to the previous resolution: this year, I'm going to make at least four charity projects. In 2009, my good works included a helmet liner for Packages from Home and a Mother Bear Bear. This year, I want to do more. Afghans for Afghans has a call out for children's mittens, socks, sweaters, and vests. If you have some extra time, make something for this wonderful organization. I've knitted for Afghans for Afghans in the past; it is truly heartening to make something warm for a needy child.

  4. Knit a fair isle sweater for myself. One that fits, of course, but also one that is attractive and doesn't make me look gigantic. My very first sweater was a fair isle of my own design - how ambitious is that?! I made the pullover using the Elizabeth Zimmermann system. It doesn't fit quite right and it's WAY too heavy for most DC winter days. The thing I hate the most however is that it makes me look even W-I-D-E-R than I already am. I'm resolved to knit a sweater with some sort of fair isle design that flatters me. I've got some ideas percolating in my head. Watch this space!

What are your 2010 knitting resolutions? I would love to hear. I would suggest one for you: I challenge you to make a sweater for yourself this year - one that fits, that's made specifically to your measurements and not your quote-unquote size. I'm betting you're like me. You've made a ton of hats, mittens, shawls, blankets, and potholders, but you've avoided making a fitted garment for yourself. I'm here to tell you: you can do it. You deserve it. And I'd be happy to help! It's your turn. Go for it!