Beginnings and Endings

I’ve been looking at a newish knitting book (published 2012), Cast On, Bind Off, subtitled 54 Step–by-Step Methods, by Leslie Ann Bestor.

What a great cover! This book contains 33 casts ons and 21 bind offs.  It seems it’s easier to begin a knitting project than to finish one!  I know I start more than I complete.  My UFO pile (unfinished objects for you non-knitters) grows continously.  Maybe someday I will take a couple of hours and rip all that stuff out, as I’m obviously not going to finish most of them.  I have good intentions, but if something sits incomplete for over a year, the bloom is kind of gone for me.

The first cast on I learned, the Backward Loop, is in this book, of course, as it’s probably the cast on everyone used to learn first – although it’s certainly not the “best”.  It’s easy to do, but really shouldn’t be a commonly used beginning for almost anyone, it’s main use is adding stitches to a work already in progress.  I didn’t learn that for a while and my early projects have pretty cruddy beginning edges.

For a long time I used a plain Long Tail cast on, and that became my very favorite, until I began making a lot of items for which the pattern began “cast on 307 stitches” or some similar number.  I quickly got tired of running out of yarn before I got all stitches cast on, so I knew some other method had to be more appropriate for things like this. Nowadays  I almost always use a Knitted cast on, which I find easy to do, depending on the yarn, and I also like the edge it forms.  It’s not terifically stretchy, but for scarfs, cowls, shawls, etc. I like it very much.

I am intrigued by the Old Norwegian cast  on (which I had never hear of) presented in this book .  It’s very elastic and had a neat edge, it’s recommended for cuffs, mittens, gloves and hats – places where a stretchy start is ideal.  I did try it, but I did not find it very easy to do, it’s quite fiddly and will definitely take some practice for me.

For socks (which I always knit toe up), I use the Turkish  cast on, also known as Middle Eastern cast on, which is also outlined in this book.  I find it easy to do and I love the way it looks on the toe of a sock.  And it makes me feel so clever!

There’s a good section on provisional cast ons (which I truly hate because I find them so difficult).  Maybe I’ll eventually get to be an expert at those also.

Bind offs are also here, including my new favorite for lace, the every so boringly named Elastic bind off.  I tried it when finishing a shawl and liked the way it allowed the edge to expand and really look it’s best.

I just wonder how necessary this book really is in a knitter’s library, thanks to YouTube, there are even a lot of videos there of the Old Norwegian cast on out there.

If you are a book lover like me, maybe you will enjoy having a book with all this information on your shelves.

I finished the Wingspan shawl.  I knit this from 2 skeins of Noro Silver Thaw, which gave me enough yarn for 7 “wings”, instead of 8.  I did make some changes to the pattern, see my Ravelry project page  for details. Here’s a picture of it blocking.

I love it very much and plan to keep it for myself, which is a bit unusual for me, normally I give away or sell most of my knitting.  Can’t stand the thought of parting with this one, though!  Maybe I’ll grow tired of it, or someone will admire it enough that I think they need it more than I do.  It’s been known to happen!

I really like this pattern, I think it’s brilliant actually, and I plan to knit a lot more of these (or variations thereof) in the future.  It’s easy to understand and memorize, no need for a pattern after you choose a yarn, decide how many stitches to use, and get it cast on.  That’s my kind of project.

I have a gift card for a local yarn store burning a hole in my pocket (many thanks to Sandy S for her wonderfully generous birthday gift last time!), maybe I’ll stock up on yarns for Wingspan.  I’m thinking Mini-Mochi, more Noro, Zauberball….

Current knitting is a scarf for sale in Rowan Colourscape, Frosty colorway.  It’s gorgeous – how can it not be with that fabulous yarn?  Should be done in just a couple of days.  That’s another pattern type I love – quick ones!

I leave you with a picture of the next yarns I plan to knit.  I’d love to hear any pattern ideas anyone has for these wonderful yarns.  This group includes 3 skeins of Noro Transitions (in a cream, tan, blue, green colorway), 1 skein of Rowan Colourscape (Heath colorway), and 6 skeins of Noro Blossom (in a blue-y colorway).

Pagan Party

Had another great weekend here in Indianapolis.  On Saturday I took my two oldest daughters to the Indy Pagan Pride Day 2012.  This was my first visit to Pagan Pride Day, and the 14th Annual Pagan Pride Day held in Indy.  I believe it’s the largest such event in the Midwest, which surprises me.  I would expect Chicago to be the place to claim that distinction.  Maybe they have lots of smaller events in different areas of the city.

I had a great time browsing the product stalls and chatting with the vendors, and made a few purchases (of course).  I bought some lovely hand made soap from Body Eclectic Skin Care.  The very nice soapmaker had way too many choices.

After lots of sniffing, I chose “Borealis” which contains strawberry, blueberry, goji, and pomegranate.  It’s described as “fabulously flirty and fruity”.  Maybe I was hungry!  I would also like to try “Danae”, which is grapefruit, tangerine and amber – I wonder what amber smells like?  I love citrus fragrances, anything that comes in grapefruit scent is likely to land in my shopping cart.

There was also a soap with bacon fat in it – it smelled very odd to me!  It also contained liquid smoke.  It reminded me a bit of a wood fire, I guess that would be a masculine fragrance!

My other purchase was a small pendulum with a glass pendant.

I’ve been wanting one for a long time, ever since I experimented with them in my Reiki training.

I also met a very nice young man, I seem to recollect his name was Fred.  He was just visiting the festival with his caretaker, who was a vendor.

Since I am not a pagan, I did not realize that the Pagan Pride event coincided with a Pagan/Wiccan holiday, Mabon.  This holiday honors the harvest and celebrates the bounty of our earth.  Lovely!  And part of the festivities typically involve sharing with others.  The Pagan Pride Day collected two tons of donations for the Damien Center, and one ton of supplies for Indy Feral.  That’s a lot of sharing!

Here’s a Mabon blessing for all (a bit late perhaps, but still heartfelt).

On this day of equal light and darkness, may you find the balance you need in your life, may you be blessed with abundance of many kinds, and may you be surrounded by the people who love you.

After we finished shopping and people watching, the girls convinced me to take them to Noodles and Co for the first time (first time for me, they’ve been there many times).  Yes, I’m the last holdout to visit that restaurant.  I had Japanese Pan Fried Noodles with Tofu, which were quite nice, although nothing spectacular.  There are several vegan choices, which I do appreciate, it’s not always easy to eat out vegan style in Indy without special ordering.  I do order “off the menu”, but it’s nice to be able to just order.  Some of my friends seem a bit embarrassed when I order something “special”.  I absolutely hate when a big fuss is made about my food when eating out!

The noodles

And they also had a nice strawberry spinach salad, which could be veganized by just saying “no cheese, please”.

Then it was home again for a nap, and an afternoon and evening of knitting, a simple dinner and TV.  I had an assistant help me knit.

I did finish that shawl.  Pictures next time!

Vegan Eating and Another Etsy Shop Update

People ask me all the time “what do vegans eat?”   I was at the dentist for my routine cleaning a couple of days ago and the hygienist was saying how little build up I have, must be that I have “good saliva”.   I asked her if what we eat has any effect on tartar build up.   She said she thought it probably does.

So, I mentioned I eat a vegan diet, and of course, her first question was “what do you eat???” in a shocked voice.  I laughed and said “plants”.  She then asked routine question number 2 “where do you get your protein??”.  I replied “seeds, nuts, tofu, and vegetables”.  Thinking back I should have added “the cows eat only grass (unless they are force fed corn), they seem to get plenty of protein”.  But, it’s a good policy not to be too snarky to the person probing your gums with a sharp instrument.

She couldn’t fathom what kind of meals I eat, and I’ve heard that a lot before, so here’s this week’s dinner menu.

Monday – Taco Salad and quesadilla made with vegan cheese (Daiya is my favorite vegan cheese, kudos to my Kroger for carrying it!)

Tuesday – Pasta with jarred sauce and roasted vegetables

Wednesday – Sauteed Tofu in bottled teriyaki sauce with rice, green beans and a raw vegetable salad

Thursday – Vegetable Soup (homemade in my pressure cooker) and a bought italian round bread from La Brea Bakery

Friday (today) – Couscous and curried vegetables, I will probably sprinkle some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) on mine

Saturday – Veggie plates (like Cracker Barrel, only vegan)  Baked potatoes, salad or maybe cole slaw, carrots, and probably green beans (we love them a lot!), maybe corn.  It’s possible I’ll get ambitious and make some french bread or something similar.

Sunday – Potato and cauliflower curry (with peas), basmati rice, probably with a raw vegetable salad.

All meals here are served with seasonal fresh fruit (right now sliced peaches or nectarines, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, quartered oranges, etc.)

Doesn’t sound too spartan, does it?  Kids seem to like it, and we are all pretty healthy (my cholesterol is awesome!).  My 17 year old daughter was texting me from school (study hall) on Tuesday – here is her text verbatim  –  “tofu tofu tofu 🙂 can we have tofu tonite pls pls pls”  I was laughing pretty hard, never thought I’d have teenagers begging for tofu!

I try to keep meals pretty simple for the most part.  Vegan cooking is just like SAD (Standard American Diet) cooking; it can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it.

We had another big update in our Etsy shop this week with lots of gorgeous new knitted accessories.  I’d love to hear feedback on our photos and products.  Suggestions on what you’d like to see in the shop are also welcome.

Here’s a great crimson ruffled silk scarf.

This is an unusual wrap/scarf that Cheryl knit (these are all hers, actually).  She has a fabulous eye for patterns, she will knit something I think is nothing special and it always turns out wonderfully.  She gives me lots of coaching on pattern selection (thank goodness).  This is Noro yarn in beautiful jewel tones.  The wrap is knit in wedge sections that make it curve around the body.

The red hot chunky cowl.

And, it’s partner, the watercolor version.

The pink variegated scrunchy cowl

The mohair rainbow cowl

The pinky-peachy hand dyed cotton ruffled scarf

The neutral wool/silk/angora cowl (maybe my favorite of this batch, it reminds me of the winter woods).  This is Noro yarn.

And, to finish – the Pink Roses Cowl.

I’d love to hear which is your favorite!

Creative Weekend

A nice thing happened last week.  I finished a shawl and put it in my Etsy shop.  It was raw silk, so quite warm and had great drape.  Within 25 minutes someone purchased it.  I was quite surprised and happy, of course.  Here’s the shawl.

That was a great start to a very nice weekend.

I am well through another Wingspan shawl.  Here’s a picture.

This is another Noro yarn called Silver Thaw.   I love the way this yarn is knitting up, didn’t think much of it before I wound the skein into a ball, like so many Noro yarns, it’s impossible to imagine what it really looks like in the skein.  This yarn does have shorter repeats than what I consider typical for Noro.  This shawl might be a keeper, it’s really lovely and will be easy to wear with all those colors.

We went to a play at the Mud Creek Players on Saturday evening.  The play was The Trip To Bountiful, which I wasn’t sure about, but I really enjoyed it and the audience seemed to love it.  I knew they were all in when they all gasped at the right place (it was a heartbreaking moment in the story).  The actress playing the lead role was phenomenal, and the other female lead was great too (I really did not like her character, and the actress is actually quite a nice person – that’s acting!). There are still two more performances, if you are in Indy and looking for something different for next weekend click here to find out about tickets.  They are very affordable and the play is wonderful.  Live theatre is such a unique experience, you will be talking about it for days.  I was also crazy about the sets in this play, they were quite minimalist, but just perfect.  I am always astounded by the creativity displayed by set designers in our local live theaters.

Yesterday I spend quite a lot of time messing around in the kitchen.  First I decided that all the fresh figs I bought Friday were not being eaten fast enough.  I’ve never seen fresh figs in a grocery store in Indiana before, so I bought quite a lot (6 pints) and they were just beginning to get over ripe.  I did a bit of research and then bit the bullet and made fig preserves.

Thanks to Bayou Woman for her recipe.  Here they are before cooking.

After the sugar has melted

Cooked for a while

And – the finished product

I probably cooked these a few minutes too long, they came out more like candied figs than real fig preserves, but I believe I’ll be able to choke them down anyway.

Then, I made a big pot of ratatouille, which is so perfect for this time of year.  All the needed ingredients (zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers) are perfectly ripe and inexpensive.  I also used garlic, shallots, salt and pepper, and about a tablespoon of herbes de provence.

I cooked it in my pressure cooker pot for a while (uncovered), then transferred to my slow cooker to continue cooking while I went to work in the reTails adoption store.

I adopted out a dog and two cats during my shift – yay – then came home to finished ratatouille, all I had to do was cut up some peaches, slice some grainy bread and sit down to eat.  Heaven!

I will concede that my daughter Cecily makes much better ratatouille than I do (from her authentic recipe acquired from her host mom in France this past summer), but hers requires messing around stirring it every  15 minutes for 3 hours and I am not often motivated to do that!  I may try a modified version of her recipe next time.

We endured a bit of drama at dusk when one of the biggest boy cats decided to take an evening stroll on top of the deck canopy.  It has some skylights now.

Niblet fell about 8 feet, landing very awkwardly on a chair right across his midsection.  I was afraid he had seriously hurt himself.  He took off running, but came in for breakfast and seems none the worse for wear today.  Cats never cease to amaze me with their athleticism and sturdiness!

My to do list for today includes ordering a new cover.

Completed Projects

I updated my Etsy shop yesterday with several finished items.  One million thanks to Cheryl, my business partner, who has become a fantastic photographer.  Her pictures just sing!

Here is a cowl I knit on Labor Day.  I really love the fall colors!  It’s a Noro 100% wool yarn.

And, a shawl I knit last winter.  The colors on this one are fabulous, too.  I call this the Vineyard Shawl.  This one was lots of fun to knit, I really enjoyed watching the color changes.  This is knit in Kureyon, one of my favorite Noro wools.

Something else I knit is this pretty shawlette, called A Perfect Day at the Beach.  I kept dreaming of the beach as I knit it, the colors made me think of one of those great beach days with blue skies, a little breeze and lots of cool water.

Here’s the Plum Tree Scarf, knit in a terrific Noro yarn that is silk, cotton and wool.  Fabulous nature inspired colors and wonderful texture are this yarn’s trademarks.

Cheryl finished some great things recently too.  I don’t know how she finds time to knit so many items!  She is the most productive knitter I know.

Here’s a cowl she just made.  This is the Royal Burgundy cowl, the yarn is so smooshy and warm, it’s 64% wool, 24% silk, 12% angora, and 100% wonderful!

And, she recently completed this completely gorgeous Leaf Scarf in another 100% wool Noro yarn.

She made another Leaf Scarf too, in a different colorway.  This one is wool and silk.  It’s also beautiful.

Here’s a vividly colored Ruffled Scarf she knit from Noro yarn.   This yarn is silk, cotton and wool.

There are a few more new items too.  I’ll feature them next time.

I’ve been spinning, here’s a picture of my latest single in progress.

I’ll have a finished yarn from this soon.  The vibrant colors are a joy to spin, and the roving (blue faced leicester) is lots of fun to work with too.

Hope to get some spinning (or rather plying) time in today.  A couple of kitties have a doctor visit this morning so stealth preparations must begin soon for the transport operation.  Really looking forward to that (not).

A Visit to the Woolkeepers

Saturday I went with some friends to the Woolkeepers 9th Annual Hook In.  They hold this rug hooking festival/shopping event in a beautiful old church camp now used as a conference center.  It’s been beautifully maintained (possibly restored) and it was a gorgeous venue.  The weather was marvelous, cool and sunny – a real change of pace from our torturous summer.

Most of the booths concentrated on primitive style rug supplies and muted colors, but there were a lot of great things to see for people like me who love bright colors.

I really loved this flower.  It reminds me of a big, flat, rather abstract sunflower.

I’d like to try making knitted roses (camellias?).

There were a lot of very complex rugs in the rug show.  This is my favorite “fun” rug.   I love the whiskers!

And my favorite “artistic” rug (I am making up these categories).

I absolutely adore the way the artist shows the locks of the sheep using swirly color.

My favorite felted item was this great little handbag.  Beautiful, bright colors – I’d carry this (if I didn’t need a small suitcase to lug around all my junk).

There were two spinners, and one was only about 20 years old.  She was spinning art yarn, it was engrossing to watch her.  I learned a lot from standing there observing for just 10 minutes!  Here’s a peek at her bobbin.

It was great to see a young artist like that!  Overcome those stereotypes of fiber artists as middle aged ladies with long gray hair – that idea of spinners, dyers, knitters and crocheters really burns me!

Vendors had some Christmas things out, and I liked these ornaments.  I did not buy a kit as I do not have the patience or skills to make it.

I loved this sign.  Seriously considered buying it, but thought my family might think I meant it (I do).

I enjoyed wandering around the area where some artists were hooking rugs, the skill and design sense on display was inspiring!

Wondering what I bought?  Nothing!  I looked through a table of vintage linens hoping to find a nice apron, or maybe a tablecloth to use as a background for shooting photos of finished yarns or knitted items.  No luck – nothing was quite right.  I did see a darling nightstand scarf that had a little black and white doggy holding a sign that said “Welcome Guest”, but as I have no guest room, that seemed a bit unnecessary.

The linens table threw me back in time to the days when I spent hours during summer vacation embroidering dresser scarves, pillow cases and dishtowels.  When I was growing up in the 60s and early 70s embroidery was taught to a lot of us girls by our mothers and grandmothers, as were knitting and crochet.  I was decent at embroidery and actually enjoyed doing it, but I refused to get into knitting or crochet.  I finally learned to knit when I was 49 and am still only a very mediocre crocheter.

My former mother in law tried to teach me to knit in the mid-80s, but she was a thrower and that just did not work for me, I just could not develop the coordination needed.  My mother finally convinced me to try again, but – she is a continental knitter and that I found I could manage.  It makes me a bit sad that I didn’t learn until I was almost 50 (all those years wasted!), but there’s nothing to be done about it…

On  our way home we stopped for lunch in the Mass Ave shopping/restaurant district.  We noticed something funny in the upstairs window of the place we ate.  Can you see it?

There is a lamp made of a leg in one of the windows.  Not for me – no body part furnishings in my house, please.  But it is funny and gets plenty of attention, I’m sure.

And no visit to the Mass Ave area of Indy would be complete without a visit to

I bought nothing here also, as I made a bit of a pig at myself at lunch.  The Chatham Tap has a massive black bean burger and I stuffed myself eating the whole thing and almost all the home made potato chips too.  It was very, very nice!  The burger was moist and flavorful, and not overly salty, which I find restaurant food often is.

I did get the old mystery spinning wheel Saturday, but no back story yet.   Waiting for a call from the owner/finder.  Hope the phone rings soon!

A Winner! And A Slight Problem

In my last post I told you about a big yarn giveaway (3 balls a month for a year) at The Making Spot (go enter!).  Well, as hard as it is to believe – I am a winner in a give away from Traditions Fiber Arts in Linden, TX.   I won a really lovely, soft, shiny 4 oz. bamboo roving in a delicate Honeydew colorway.  Thanks so much to Judy W. who had to try so hard to contact me to let me know I had won.  I adore the roving and will spin  it very soon!

Here’s a close up picture of a recently finished item.  Can you see the bit of grass still in the yarn?  That’s Noro for you.  I really enjoy seeing pieces of the field where the sheep spent all her time before shearing!  I think a lot of Noro fans agree with me.

It’s the Dolores Park Cowl knit in Noro Hitsuji.  I really love this yarn.  It’s a joy to knit with, the color changes keep things interesting and, since it’s bulky, I knit this cowl in one day.  Actually, I haven’t yet met a Noro yarn I haven’t loved.  I have my faves (Kureyon, I’m talking to you), but they are all so amazing and unique.  Did you know that Kureyon means “crayon” in Japanese.  Well named!

I mentioned a slight problem.  Last night I went to a convention watching party, and as we watched the speeches, ate heaps of fabulous guacamole, and drank ginger ale,  I knit like a fiend on this shawl.

To my horror I can see I do not have enough yarn.  These are words every knitter dreads (and it’s happened to all of us).  If you have an extra ball of Mini Mochi, colorway 101, dyelot 149, that you would be willing to sell or trade please let me know!  I called two local knitting shops with no luck, and there is no one on Ravelry who lists some of this yarn as for sale.  I could hardly sleep last night worrying about this (well, maybe it was all that ginger ale).

Off to try to eke out one more triangle from that tiny ball.   I will still be 2 triangles short of the “real” pattern.  I have a bad feeling about this…

Finished Objects and a Great Give Away

I finished the scarf I’ve been working on for my lovely sister, Linda.  I’m very happy with it overall.  I did find the yarn, Lunabudknits BFL Sock (100% superwash Blueface Leicester Wool),  to be a bit kinky and thus tangly, but it sure did knit up into a gorgeous scarf!  The pattern is Milky Way Scarf, available free on Ravelry.  I’m really sure my sister will love this.  This is year 2 in the annual “Linda Picks, Sandy Knits” program my sister and I conduct.  We go to a fiber festival (with my mother) and Linda picks out some lovely yarn.  Then we come home and explore on Ravelry until we find the perfect pattern.

Last year’s result in the “Linda Picks, Sandy Knits” tradition was the Trellis shawl, knit in a hand dyed silvery purple merino/bamboo blend.  Click on the picture to see it more closely.  Lots of nupps in this pattern, I was very glad to bind it off!

I’ve been working on swatching some lace patterns for my Craftsy class, Lace Shawl Design.

Here’s one

Openwork Leaf Pattern from Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns

I’ve done four practice charts to see which ones I’d like to include or adapt in the first shawl I design.  As a result, last week was a bit short of actual productive knitting.

On Labor Day, I got back into the “real knitting” swing and started a new project.  The yarn is Mini Mochi, colorway 01.

Love free yarn?  The Making Spot is running a contest right now with a prize of a year’s worth of British Made yarn from Blacker Yarns.  Their yarns look lovely to me and well worth winning.  The Making Spot also has great patterns to dream over!  Join me in entering the contest.  Good luck!