That stands for Designalong, and Donna Druchunas just announced she's having one after the holidays. It's based on her knew book, Ethnic Knitting Discovery, so get your hands on a copy. We'll be designing our own sweaters using her tips, and she'll be coaching us along. You can sign up at the Ethnic Knits yahoo group for more information, or just stay tuned here and I'll give an update as soon as I know more. I'm in though!

Maybe this sweater with some modifications? I've certainly got enough wool in my stash to work with, and I'm thinking I'll try my art project using a least favorite color, the most favorite, and black. Maybe I can redeem that hideous yellow I found.


Tiny stash enhancement

I know, I know. I swore I wouldn't buy any more yarn until I put a dent in my existing stash. But, I had to get some dark blue to finish my nephew's kiss-my-big-toe socks, and I so loved the Trekking that I got last time, I had to buy some more, and then the Cashsilk screamed out my name and I knew I had to make myself a pair of those gorgeous red gloves out of .... which knitting book were those in? Anyway, I've made good progress on the gift socks for Christmas. How are you all doing with holiday gifts?


Coveting lace

I spent a little time going through pattern books looking for fast holiday gifts. I'm always drawn to lace, and wish I could see and count well enough to crank out a nice shawl or scarf. Like the ones in Victorian Lace Today. So Old Buddy, here in his favorite pose, kept me company while I drooled over the pictures and patterns, and then cast aside any crazy ideas of casting on. He just drooled all over my wool scarf, perfectly content to let me have my little fantasies. He's a grand old cat, Buddy is.


Yarn arts

I've decided I'd like some wall art depicting knitting and spinning, but don't really want a print. Most of the artwork I have is original, so I may need to paint my own. But here's an idea of what I'm looking for, a few examples from history. Aren't they lovely?


Next week's project

I'm going to card up some merino with angora, hopefully enough to ply with straight merino for a pair of homespun socks. I love those subtle Fair Isle socks in the Twisted Sisters Sock Book and at least want to have the yarn on hand to give it a try. We'll see how much knitting I get done in November. It's National Novel Writing Month, so I'll be trying to get in my 50,000 words along with thousands of other writers worldwide.


Stash monsters

Of all those balls of yarn I recently counted, more than 300 if you recall that post, these are the only ones I could easily unload. I've held on to the orange because the school colors here are orange and black. It's like Halloween year-round, boo hiss. But, any of the kids around here would love a gift knit in those colors. I haven't been able to get over the gag reflex though.

The yellow has a greenish-gray cast and I suppose I could create a design challenge with it. One of my favorite assignments for art students is to pick your favorite color, your least favorite color, and black. Then make a drawing using those three. It's amazing the dynamic results, and I imagine it would be as creatively stimulating with a sweater design, too.

The white stuff is some sort of velour ribbon and I can't for the life of me think of anything to do with it. A cape for a bride? A hammock? I got it in one of those great surprise bargain boxes from WEBS. All the other yarn packs were lush and expensive designer yarns, so it was worth it even if I got this one dud.



One completed burgundy mohair tam. I tried it on and looked as hideous as I do in any sort of hat. So, I made hubbo put it on and he looked quite good in it, rather Brueggelesque. Of course, he's a mad hatter and would look great in a dunce cap. His comment was, "I don't have to wear that, DO I?" It was a rhetorical question, of course. I'll try another version, but perhaps in a soft merino knit up with a multi-color pattern. Probaby not for the Man of the Place though.


Why didn't I think of that?

There's been lots of conversation on the forums and in recent books about the importance of swatching. I confess, right here and now, that I don't mind it. In fact, I look forward to trying out any multi-color or novelty yarn I buy. I almost always swatch sock yarns I acquire on the very same day. But, I admit it bothers me not having imagineered a good use for those little squares of knit-up yarn. I've tried numerous times to develop a clever assemblage of the dang little things, and you know what? The result is invariably cheesey and ugly. I wouldn't foist the end-product on my cats to sleep on, much less use it somewhere I'd actually have to look at it. So when Knitting Daily suggested not only swatching in the round for proper gauge, but just making a swatch-in-the-round sampler, I had a V-8 moment. Of course, a long, striped tube! Finally, a potentially creative solution. I could stuff it and use it as a draft-stopper. Or coil it and make a kitty basket. Based on this recent experiment swatching several yarns discovered in my neverending stash, well, you can see the possibilities just from a design standpoint. It's nice having all those yarns knit up side by side. These are all sock yarns, and I'll knit needle sizes 0-3 on this tube. I'll start another for size 4 needles and up for DKs and worsteds. I'm thinking a few thicker tubes might eventually be pressed into service as very artsy-fartsy arm warmers. Yes, arm warmers for my teen nieces who insist on wearing sleeveless t-shirts in the dead of winter. Magnificently brilliant idea any way you look at it. It's rather handsome so far, don't you think?
What yarns are there? From right to left: Cranberry Dragon yarn, custom-dyed blue Opal from Angel Yarns, gray KnitPicks Essential, old KnitPicks Sock Garden, brown KnitPicks Essential, and the long remaining section is off the ball of Opal Hundertwasser.



I couldn't resist anymore. After seeing posts of tams knit by Susan Wittig Albert on her blog, getting the latest holiday news with tam-wearing models on the cover, and discovering an easy-peasy recipe in one of my knitting books..... well, I decided I'd take the cosmic hint and try one as a gift. It is holiday knitting time, after all, and I have nieces - oh, so many nieces.

This pattern is for an advanced beginner. I can handle that. I did wonder why the "destructions" didn't mention anything about joining the cast-on stitches to knit in the round, but hey, I can punt. It called for a 16 inch circular needle. I had a 13 1/2. So far so good, right? Wrong. The 13" cable is far too long to join the stitches in the round. Grrrr. Was this pattern written by an advanced beginner? I ask you. So, I put the stitches on three dpns, and started knitting . After getting the K1P1 band taken care of and increasing until my dpns couldn't hold anymore stitches, I switched to the aforementioned circular needles. It's gone relatively well ever since.

More later after I get a bit more done on this burgundy mohair tam.


Back to the future

There are hidden benefits to stash-busting. I discovered incompleted projects, some of them very old. One such was the two-color vest I had attempted in my teens and which I subsequently discovered in my mother's centuries-old stash. I took it home with me, and have been keeping my eyes open for matching wool ever since. Well, okay, I must not have been working too consciously on finding said wool, because I found both gray and red in my own inventory. Almost perfect matches really. So this teen vest of mine - was I ever that little - gets finished and then one of my truly little nieces can have a gift. Curious thing that's it's so modern looking. The needles are old aluminum things I wouldn't dream of using, but I keep them because they're my very first pair of knitting needles. Nostalgia, you know.


More than luxury

So here's another cedar chest and it's contents. It included at least 30 balls of sock yarn. My total inventory of full skeins was over 300. That didn't include any cotton which amounted to maybe two dozen skeins. Then there're about ten pounds of leftovers, I'd guess enough for at least 30 of those aforementioned tea cozies. The inventory of the roving is not included in any of this.

I thought about the Monthly Selection at the Women Writing the West reading group, about a German pioneer in Oregon territory whose clothing is becoming threadbare, and who is learning to pound cedar bark into useable material. You might say I feel just a little bit chagrined by my bounty and her lack. The story even references a quote that very much hits home. To think I coveted all that yarn at Green Valley Weavers just a few days ago!
Next post will discuss what I can de-accession.

Contentment is natural wealth; luxury, artificial poverty. ~ Socrates


Going through the stash

They say a picture is worse a thousand words. This, the wool contents of one wooden chest. More tomorrow, when I unload the others. Somewhere underneath all that is my dining table.


Stash inventory

That's what I have on my agenda this weekend. I also plan to sand the cedar in the chests for better moth-prevention efficiency.

Oh, and I took a day trip to the city and while there, made a quick stop at my favorite LYS. Got a few treats, but I managed to hold myself in check. I don't need to be diverted with new projects while I'm up to my ears in Christmas projects. I got a tea cozy pattern and a Dragon Socks kit, and hubby picked out some of his favorite Galway tweedy green for what? A tam and matching scarf maybe?


An Ethnic Knitting Discovery


Today we're visiting with Donna Druchunas to ask questions about her new book, Ethnic Knitting Discovery. Here we'll talk about the two-color knitting project I attempted from the book, what I’m calling The Buddy Project.

Dani: Donna, I grew up in Europe, seeing and wearing Nordic sweaters, and love them! I decided to try the two-color knitting in the Norway section of your book. I haven't knit using two colors much, and wanted a serious try at it. So, here's my first attempt, using your clever charts to size an ankle warmer for myself, and using one of my first attempts at spinning yarn. I had definite troubles stranding the yarn and you can see how it pulled inward. Any suggestions on how to alleviate that or is that just a common issue with beginners?

Donna: Getting a nice gauge with color knitting is always challenging. That's why I like the Andean technique. Because you're working on the inside of the tube, the floats are naturally eased in properly and there's no pulling.

When I work in other color stranding techniques (I usually carry one color in my right hand and the second in my left), I have to be careful to pull the knitting out on the needle before I start each color. I don't know about you, but when I knit with one color, I usually let all the stitches scrunch up on the right needle after they've been knitted. You can't do that with color knitting. You have to take the time to spread out the knitting every time you change colors, especially if you've gone more than 1 or 2 stitches between color changes. It isn't as annoying as it sounds; it just becomes part of the knitting rhythm once you get used to it.

That said, I still often have to steam-press my colorwork to block it out nicely when I'm done. I have a friend who knits so beautifully with color stranded techniques that she hardly needs to block her pieces. Some day I need to sit and watch her knit for an hour or so and see if I can figure out her trick!

Dani: I also had problems with a bit of a hole when alternating between the two yarns. Is there a trick to handling that while I'm knitting?

Donna: Getting a hole when you alternate between yarns usually happens in the Intarsia technique where you're not stranding the unused color behind your work and you have a separate length of yarn for each section of color. When you use that technique, you have to make sure you twist the yarns every time you change colors -- bring the new color up from underneath the old color on the wrong side of the work. If you don't twist the colors like that, you're essentially knitting a different piece with each color.

With stranded knitting, I've never come across that problem before. If you're getting holes in stranded knitting, we should discuss that more to figure out what's going on.

Dani: My zigzag pattern didn't turn out very well, and I think I got the stitches okay. But my handspun seemed to twist tightly enough that the stitches got buried in the black Brown Sheep worsted. Or is it just because a solid contrast color might have worked better?

Donna: Definitely using two contrasting solids would make the pattern pop more. But it also makes a difference which color you carry in which hand (assuming you're using two hands for your colorwork). I usually knit looser with my right hand and get a tighter tension with my left hand, so my patterning looks neater if I carry the background color in my right hand so the pattern stitches are tidier. But sometimes that makes the pattern recede into the background.

Dani: So using Donna's tips, I cast on a fingerless glove and things seem to be working better! You can take a peek at it and read about charting adventures, cutting up your knitting (gasp) and information about books in Donna’s future at the Blog Book Tours site where we continue our conversation.

To buy the book, click here.

To read a bit more about Donna's publisher, Nomad Press, and the Green Press Initiative go here.


Another book comment

I've had every book I can find out of the library about spinning. I have to tell you that my favorite so far is Teach Yourself Visually - Handspinning by Judith MacKenzie McCuin. I'm so impressed, I think I'll take a peek at the Knitting book just to look at their hand exercises.
I won't buy either book. I'm becoming more and more concerned about the environmental impact of all the glossy photos, and though I like to support the arts & crafts as well as artists and writers, I'm trying to add to my own collection books that meet my standards. I can't always, but I can try to minimize the number of books I buy that fall into the questionable category. Sometimes that means passing up a lush book simply because I already have too many that were printed in China and took thousands of miles of non-renewable energy to land on my shelf. It ain't easy, but every little bit makes a difference and you have to walk your talk, even if it's little steps. So to the library it is when I need to take a second peek at this one. Ask your library to get a copy, too.



Edsel Ford, did you just eat my alpaca shawl??

Not me, Mom. It was like this when I found it, honest.

He looks way too guilty, doesn't he? Closer inspection tells the real story. It's the dreaded M-word. Moths. Moths.

ACK. EEEK. YIKES. I loved that shawl. It was the Aunt Phoebe shawl from Sheep to Shawl.

Speaking of that, don't forget to stop in tomorrow when Donna Druchunas has her blog book tour stop here, featuring her latest knitting book Ethnic Knitting Discovery.



This was my new weekend project, a pair of socks tentatively for a Christmas gift, although I like the way they're evolving enough to consider them for myself. I've never tried Trekking (XXL) before, being a die-hard Opal fan, but I have to admit I might like this yarn a tiny bit better for its softness. The label reads "SchurWolle" which is new wool, and I speculate that this results in more loft and a softer yarn. The fabric has a lovely feel. I like the subtle striping, too. Plus, I've decided to add a little burgundy to my life, so that's just an added excuse to tuck them into my own sock drawer. I'm going to try to finish these by the weekend.


Tangible Love

I don’t always like giving my knitting away, because few people really realize the amount of time involved in creating a silly pair of socks. Twenty hours for me on average. I’ve thought about adding a little note-card that reads, “20 Hours of Handknit Love” to go along with a gift, especially to my relatives. Would that be too tacky, do you think? To point out how much time I’ve just spent on them? Yes, I suppose it would, especially since I’d knit anyway, whether as a gift for them or not.

And then there are the pals who DO appreciate a hand-made gift, and who are exquisite gift givers themselves. These are the people who get gifts like these from me. Where the entire assemblage becomes a project, like staging a play. One looks for the perfect box, and the extra little trinket to tuck in with the gift, and of course, one uses a leaf or two of tissue to declare how special the gift… and the recipient. Then one imagines with a little twinge of joy, the delight when the gift is opened. That’s half the fun.

Whether you wear your knitting or give it away, anything handknit is tangible love. ~ Bruce Hallmark


Buddy Project

As I was organizing photos for the blog book tour stop, I ran across this photo of Old Buddy. He's my oldest cat, and now starting to fail as time goes on. He came into our lives as a stray, and when we had him neutered, the vet told us he was a very old cat. She also gave us the sad news that he had Feline Aids (FIV) and probably wouldn't live long. That was eight years ago, and he's been healthy as can be thanks to a whole foods diet and a lay-back attitude; that is, until lately. I'm preparing myself to let him go, without the frantic attachments I would have had in my younger day. He's had a long life and given us, as well as dozens of feline friends, all his sweet and gentle personality. Now he's tired, and he can go "over the rainbow bridge" whenever he chooses to give up the ghost. I'll always cherish this magical photo of him as he relaxes in the sun catching some warmth, unwittingly colored by the beams of a bevel in the kitchen window. When I post more pictures of my current knitting, it should be obvious why I've decided to call it The Buddy Project.


Roving on

Over the next few days, I'll start posting my preparations for the Ethnic Knitting Discovery blog book tour that's coming up on October 18th right here! This is one of the yarns I'm using in the project I've designed from the book, here still as roving. I couldn't resist the colors and not having much experience with spinning, had no idea how it would spin up.

Here it is spun as a single.

I then plied it with an Opal black sock yarn
just to see what would happen.

This is the Knitty Kitty photogragh for the week. Edsel Ford is much more interested in what's under the fruit bowl than silly old yarn.


A side note

I got this lovely care package from one of my writing pals.

At top right, you'll see three balls of yarn - Cascade Fixation - which I've heard lots about, but never tried. It's 98.3% cotton and 1.7% elastic, so has a very curious and stretchy texture. In fact, the measurements are very curious, too. Each 50 gram ball yields 186 yards (spandex) and 100 yards (relaxed). Don't ask me what precisely that means.

Knitting up - what was to be a swatch - of the pink color resulted in this - a very firm yarn, with great stitch definition and unquestionable stretch. Once I got going, I decided to just finish off the ball to see exactly how much I could get with 50 grams. I also got a real sense of the fabric, and I'm here to tell you, this stuff would be great for lingerie and bathing suits! Think bikinis, if you or someone you know is young enough to wear one. I mean, there's enough spandex in this for support! There's nothing wimpy about Fixation. And the colors I got are great. Socks? Well, maybe... though I'm not a big fan of cotton socks. Thinking about it, it might be because I ordinarily knit cotton too loose, but I don't think that would be the case with this springy yarn.


Knitting twitty

Part of why I haven't gotten too far into my Christmas socks is because of the spinning lure. Also knitting up the small remnants of "twitty yarn" that we all make during the learning phase. We were talking about tea cozies on the Socknitters forum today, which reminded me of one that I morphed from a lace scarf I started, then realized I wouldn't have enough yarn. The handle opening was a save, but you can see that the spout only barely fits through an eyelet. After I joined the handle opening, I picked up stitches and knit the top in the round, eyeballing the shape and left an opening for the knob. It turned out okay, and the end-result is definitely more useable than the fingerless gloves from another batch of homespun which turned out to be a little scratchy.

And here, the first fingerless glove ever, but surely not the last since I had the brilliant insight yesterday that these gloves are about as much knitting as a sock cuff. This could prove to be most useful when I run out of time to make all those socks for Christmas. My new plan is to knit boys socks first, and see how far along things come over the next month. Then I'll bail myself out by knitting gloves for the nieces who'll adore me for being so totally kewl!


How many days?

Someone I know recently mentioned the end of summer, and in the same breath, how many days until Christmas. I had every intention of knitting socks for all my nieces and nephews, and so dug out my accomplishments thus far. It looks like I have about 19 pairs to go and at least one more pair for my hubby. Can I do it? What's that sound? Oh, it's just me hyper-ventilating. No problem, about one sock every two days. Right.

At least I have enough yarn, so that's not an issue and the light worsteds knit up pretty fast. Remember me getting this box a few months ago? Wasn't I blabbering about Christmas socks at the beginning of the summer??



Wheel of Time

Quite a bit of time it took to assemble; not days, but certainly more than half an hour. Even deducting for beers and breaks, it took a good deal longer. But here it is, all lovely and assembled, and for the cost, I must say it works like a charm. The only little complaint is a persistent tendency for the left treadle to clack after continued use. We haven't quite figured that out yet. Today, it got a treatment with stain to integrate the various woods used in the construction of the wheel.

It didn't take long to use up the small bits of roving I had purchased at the class, so the next step in the adventure is to find sources for yummy wool to spin. I love the yarns from Beaverslide Drygoods, so of course, wanted to try their rovings as well. They also have organic wool quilt batts for a very reasonable price, and I love supporting a small wool grower. Here's the box that came in the mail, with a real-life prop for size comparison. Those are some big balls!


It's here!

Well, it wasn't such a long wait. We had prepared ourselves for much longer suspecting the package might sit at customs in San Francisco on its way from New Zealand to The Middle. But, we got lucky, and here are all the components of our new Baynes spinning wheel all laid out and ready to assemble. The instructions assured us it would take about one half hour.

The Man o' the Place gets right to it. I had thought we should oil all the wood parts first, but he didn't think so. Well, and that's because he had every intention of allowing me the job. Bless his heart. I stand by my original theory that it would have been better to do that before we created all the nooks and crannies of an assembled spinning wheel. But, I digress.

Here is is, coming together. Okay, it's been a little more than half an hour. Not bad though.

Is it time for another beer yet?


So what did I learn?

Well, we learned all the basics of spinning, of course. The components of the wheel, a little about fibers, how to work the wheel and actually spin yarn, how to measure the yarn and wash it, blending fibers, and on and on. I also learned what a niddy noddy was, finally! If you look really closely, you'll see kitty naughty down there, too.
The knowledge that made the cost of the class priceless was determining what spinning wheel to buy. We had numerous models to try in the class, and the experience of the teacher to draw from. I quickly determined I wanted a castle, or parlor-style wheel, with double treadle, and scotch tension. I'd had enough of the double driveband jumping off with the Ashford Elizabeth. So, the next step was to find a wheel that had all the required qualifications at a moderate price. We settled on a Baynes wheel that we purchased for $348 and free shipping through The Spinning Bunny. That took about ten days to arrive from New Zealand.
Next, we'll cover our adventures as The Man o' the Place attempts to assemble the wheel in the stated half hour.


Back to class

So here are a few more pictures of Rosebud. You can tell I thoroughly enjoyed making friends with her. She must have the softest fur on earth, and
I have a few bags of her that I'll eventually card
into some other wool, and spin into what??... some Rosebud yarn. Sounds like it may end up being rose-colored. I would have gladly placed an order for a few bunnies of my own, were it not for my husband who nipped that idea in the rosebud right then and there!

Here's Sharon, our teacher, with Rosebud in her lap spinning right off her back. It was an amazing thing to behold! The rabbit seemed curious about the entire process, and even enjoying herself through it all.


A new knitting book

I've just updated my Blog Book Tours site and placed some information about Donna Druchunas and her new knitting book, Ethnic Knitting: Discovery. I'll be interviewing Donna on October 18th so stay tuned! I've started a couple of projects from the book - my own designs using Donna's clever charts and tips - and am first creating some two-color ankle warmers that I'll display here. I hope. :) Until then, you can read all the blog interviews during her tour by checking out the schedule on her website, Sheep to Shawl. She has a great blog of her own there, too, so bookmark it as a favorite.


A Good Class

Of course it helped enormously to sign up for a class, and as serendipity would have it, Table Rock Llamas in Black Forest, Colorado happened to have a beginning class scheduled. I talked hubby into taking the class with me. Once again, an experienced teacher makes the learning process shorter and much more pleasant. Stay tuned for more pictures and spinning tales as we learn the right way to do things from Sharon Dalrymple and her teaching assistant, Rosebud. Here's fellow student, Jackie, giving Rosebud a little brush-off.