Saturday, April 28, 2012

What I'm knitting

As usual, I've got several projects on my drawing board...

The Cameron Cardigan, my custom fair isle cardigan based on that beautiful painting from John Duncan, is stuck in swatch mode. I need to knit a swatch in the round, in pattern to determine my exact gauge. Perfectly fitting sweaters depend on accurate gauge and I can let this important step slide (and neither can you!).

I splurged (yet again) on some gorgeous yarn from The Woolen Rabbit, an accomplished hand-dyed yarn purveyor from New Hampshire. Grace, "a soft yet crisp 4 ply merino yarn, that knits with lovely stitch definition" comes in hand-dyed, 525-yard worsted skeins. I bought the gorgeous Forever In Blue Jeans colorway. The Woolen Rabbit will dye all your yarn at once so you get the same dye lot, so I ordered five giants skeins. Don't you wish every hand-dyer offered this much-needed service?

I'm going to use this delicious yarn to make the Wrought Iron Cardigan from Stephannie Tallent's remarkable new book, California Revival Knits. I'll be blogging about this book soon - and even giving away a copy! - so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, while I ponder these two big projects, I've been working on two smaller ones. My Color Affection Shawl is about three-quarters of the way done and I'm liking it thus far. I'm anxious to get it off the short needle so I can see what it really looks like. My plan is to wear it to a family function next weekend.

I'm also knitting a sweet Aynia, a shrug that only a beautiful little woman could wear - which is why I'm making it for my friend, Erica. This Cecily Glowik MacDonald design will be perfect for her. Oh, to wear a  a 33-inch sweater! It takes no time at all to knit garments when you're tiny.

For both projects, I'm using Bijou Lhasa Wilderness, an unusual yak and bamboo blend that offers wonderful softness and lovely drape. Bijou's yarns are dyed by Lorna's Laces, so you know the color is spectacular. Erica's blue-gray eyes perfectly complement this gorgeous hue.

Enough blogging! I've got to go grocery shopping, ride the bike, and then go back to knitting. Happy weekend, everyone.

Fall colors

Yeah, I know. We're knee-deep in spring (or pollen anyway) and I'm talking about autumnal colors? Not exactly. I'm giving you the down-low on Pantone's Fashion Color Report for Fall 2012. Pantone writes:

From love potions and the magical hour of sunset to witches and warlocks, fantasy and illusion are inspiring designers this fall season. With an unexpected mix of darks, brights and neutrals, they cleverly manipulate reality to transport consumers to an enchanting place, free from the stresses of everyday life.
Hmmm. Sounds a little overblown to me, but here is Pantone's color outlook for women:

The only color I'm not crazy about is Tangerine Tango but that's mostly because I can't wear it. Dark-haired, pasty-white, northern Europe descendants just can't rock tangerine and chartreuse. My blonde GFs will love it though.

So what's up for men this autumn? Can't see them wearing tangerine and chartreuse, can you? Well, according to Pantone, we're wrong. Men will be finding lots of neon orange and lime clothes at the mall, too.

No man I know will buy those bright colors, but Tom would like the Olympian Blue. After 16 years as a self-employed graphic designer, I know that almost every man's favorite color is blue. They all want blue logos, every single one. And blue shirts, too.

My favorite palette is as follows. Don't know about you, but I'd rather have that pretty Rhubarb over the Pink Flambe any day. My colors look like variations on the same theme, but they appeal to me.

What appeals to you?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Handy e-books from Ann Budd

If you're among the growing number of iPad, Nook, or Kindle owners, you'll be happy to discover that many knitting books are now available for download. I recently received two Interweave classics by Ann Budd: The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns and The Knitter's Hand Book of Patterns.

The Knitter's Handy books are even more handy on a reader. I routinely knit with both my dog and my iPad in my lap, and now these great books can join me there, too.

The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns "presents easy-to-follow charted instructions for eighteen sweaters, three in each of the six most popular sweater constructions: drop shoulder, modified drop shoulder, set-in sleeve, saddle shoulder, raglan, and seamless yoke. Each style is provided in fifteen sizes (in two-inch graduations) from a 26-inch chest circumference for a two-year-old child to a 54-inch chest circumference for a large adult. Each size is further divided into six possible gauges: 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 stitches per inch." 

This book provides patterns for sweaters that the man in your life might actually wear, meaning they're classic and not too froo-froo. Even my beloved Tom might wear this pullover (might being the operative word).

The Knitter's Book of Patterns has a template for almost anything you'd like to make. Socks of any stripe - or even classic ragg hiking socks - spring forth.

Do you have a couple of skeins of beautiful hand-spun or hand-dyed yarn? Try the book's easy-to-make mitten pattern.

Or take Ann Budd's tam pattern and make it your very own. Isn't this an adventurous beauty?

I'm looking forward to Ann's next books, The Knitter's Handy Guide to Top-Down Sweaters, which will be published in July. It is available for pre-order now. Interweave says, "this handy book offers instructions for knitting five basic sweater types: circular yoke, raglan, modified-drop shoulder, set-in sleeve, and saddle shoulder. Patterns are offered in multiple sizes and yarn gauges and for a broad age group."

Interweave offers The Knitter's Handy books in ebook, print, and a print/ebook bundles. You can find out about all of Ann Budd's books, including links for purchase, at 

Friday, April 20, 2012

And the question is...

The answer is:

And the question?

Who is that woman on Jeopardy and which beautiful handmade sweater is she wearing?

"Did you see her?," long-time friend-of-the-blog Teresa asked. She'd happened upon Jeopardy and had an instantaneous reaction. "As soon as I saw her I said: That sweater is hand knit and I really like it!..and she is AMPLE!"

As it turns out, the highly talented knitted and Jeopardy champion is Mary Harris, owner of the Fiber Gallery in Seattle, Washington. Mary won the first night, came in second the second night, and declared that she'd had a wonderful time after that. 

Teresa did some digging and discovered that Mary made Vonica by Bonnie Marie Burns. As the Ravelry description says, "Beautiful all-over eyelet patterning with lovely detailing and minimal finishing, Chic Knits VONICA features subtle but simple top-down, set-in sleeve construction." The sweater calls for DK weight yarn and comes in sizes up to 52 inches.

Mary's cardigan fits perfectly. How wonderful that she made her own sweater for a television appearance. I'd love to think I'd wear one of my creations if I ever managed to get on Jeopardy. 

Watch Mary in her show promo - while you're at it, check out that amazing  sweater, too! Congratulations, Mary!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Creating the Cameron

Edward F. Matthews' gravestone, Buffalo, WV
On January 16, 1813, purportedly in the village of Washington, PA, a little boy was born. A child from humble beginnings, he spent his childhood in Indiana before migrating back to Ohio to marry Rebecca Daugherty and father 11 children. He supported his large brood by farming throughout western Pennsylvania, the panhandle of West Virginia, and southern Ohio. In his later years, he bought land in Buffalo, WV, and finally stopped his wandering. He died on August 15, 1887. He was 74.

For 200 years, his progeny called him Edward Franklin Matthews. A half dozen family researchers have spent their entire lives trying to find his parents and siblings, tracing census, birth, death, and marriage records; poring over old newspapers and obituaries; connecting with other researchers; and even hiring professional genealogists to go to that part of the world and do original research. NOTHING. Edward was apparently plopped down on the earth with no past and only a future.

Until January. My father agreed during our annual Christmas brunch to take a battery of DNA tests that would provide information on his patrilineal (father's side), matrilineal (mother's side) and autosomal (both parents) genetics. This is something we'd discussed for years and I was excited to see the results.

Most people take these tests and find other researchers who share their same surname. So imagine our shock when we received the test results and discovered there wasn't a single Matthews among them. Not one. Instead, I had a long list of people named CAMERON.


Long story short, we now know that my beloved great-great-great grandfather is the result of a "non-paternity event," as genetic genealogists so inelegantly put it. This means:
  • The child was adopted by another family
  • The mother had sex with someone named Cameron but the child was raised as a Matthews by her Matthews husband
  • The child was conceived out of wedlock and the mother named the child using her own surname
  • The child was either formally or informally adopted by a Matthews family.
  • There is some other complicated scenario I have not yet discovered
Therefore, however Edward came in to being, my real name is Julie Cameron and not Julie Matthews, at least genetically (and no, I'm not changing my name). Cameron is a fine name so this is all fine with me. But I heartily object to the Cameron tartan which looks remarkably like a very bad Christmas tablecloth.

All of this genetic genealogy calls for a new sweater, don't you think? To celebrate my newly found Scottish roots, I'm making a fair isle Cameron CardiganAs I discussed last time, I'm using "St. Brigid" by fellow Scot John Duncan as color inspiration. My palette relies on less gold and yellow since those colors wash me out.

Happily, the Shetland wool (natch!) came this week and now I'm ready to swatch.

All of this is in preparation for the first meetup of the new More * More group. If you can find your way to Frederick, Maryland, next weekend, please join us! More * More is for more advanced knitters who want to tackle that complicated dream sweater they never seem to get to, but anyone is welcome to join and you may make whatever you wish. We'll be having regular face-to-face meetups in the DC area, but anyone anywhere can join us online. Our first event is:

Saturday, April 21, 2012 from 11 AM to 2 PM
Roy Rogers Meeting Room
301 Ballenger Center Drive
Frederick, MD 21703

We hope you’ll join us. Until then, I'll leave you with this Scottish verse:

Here's to the heath, the hill and the heather, 
The bonnet, the plaid, the kilt and the feather

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Revision 2

Naycha pointed out earlier today that my Cameron Cardigan was missing one of the pinks in my palette. Thank you, Naycha! Here is a revised chart with the additional pink. Adds more dimension. Designing this chart provides a unique lesson in color theory.

Oops... I just notices that there's a problem with the narrow dark stripes; they don't meet correctly in a continuous pattern. Need to go figure that out now... but I'm getting closer.


Hmmm... maybe this instead? One small change but maybe it's better?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Cameron Cardigan

I told you the other day about our new Rav group, More * More and my quest to make a beautiful fair isle cardigan ala Alice Starmore. As it turns out, I'm not going to make a sweater by She-Who-May-Not-Be-Mentioned. Instead, I'm doing my own take off of Ann Feitelson's Fridary Sleeveless Cardigan. My cardigan will have long sleeves and will take its inspiration from a stunning painting by John Duncan called St. Brigid. You might remember this graphic from my previous post.

Tonight I worked on my chart - so far, so good, I think.

Of course, it all comes down to the swatching and you don't really know how things will look until you look at the knitted piece. But the Intwined Pattern Studio charting software certainly makes it easy to envision. If you're serious about creating your own fair isle designs - or cabled ones for that matter - this makes the job a whole lot easier. 

Oh! And my project now has a name: the Cameron Cardigan. I'll explain this name in a future post and will post the actual swatch soon, too. Of course, I still haven't gotten the yarn yet, but it shouldn't be long. In the meantime, if you'd like to join us on this little adventure, check out More * More on Ravelry.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


I'd love to learn to really embroider. I poked around with it when I was a kid, making little daisy stitches on my worn-out jeans, but I never pursued it long enough to master the craft.

Recently, I stumbled across a beautiful vintage embroidered sweater - and then of course went looking for more. Here's part of my online scrapbook.

The little pearl beads and buttons are beautiful but beware of the belly gape!

This is the perfect late winter/early spring cardigan. After all, there are pansies everywhere, at least in my neighborhood.

Sasha Kagan, perhaps? This cropped cardigan from Versailles, Kentucky reminds me of her work. Check out the cover of Sasha's new book, Sasha Kagan's Classic Collection, and you'll see what I mean.

I really like this cardi - classic button-down with 3/4 sleeves and a black floral motif  to draw the eye upwards. But damn! Most of all, I envy that model's tiny waist.

Here's another relatively simple white cardigan. I love white sweaters. People rarely make them; I think knitters want to play with color and I do, too. But I love wearing white sweaters. They both soften and brighten my complexion.

Boy, does this remind me of the early 60s. The combination of the gold and pink takes me right back to Mad Men. This would look great with Joanie's red hair and buxom figure.

I adore bright blue and white together so this sweater particularly appeals to me. Kind of Hawaiian or something.

Doesn't this little daisy and pearl cardigan look like something Ysolda might design?

Let's go to the hop! Let's go to the hop! C'mon, let's go to the hop! I think this song was playing when I was conceived in 1958. Hard to believe that song (and me!) are both so old.

And last but not least, there are the over-embroidered, over-appliqued, over-beaded, and over-bowed Christmas sweaters from the 80s and 90s. I'm a bit ashamed to admit I owned several of them. But they do make wonderful holiday gifts for the impossible-to-buy-for men in your life. ;-)