on knitting and healing and other stuff

Introducing… the Pasta Swift

Posted by Janis on March 1, 2010

So I’ve branched out a bit in the past six months or so, getting back into the kitchen more and more. Still knitting a lot, but balancing that with cooking. There’s a long, weird story there — feeling guilty about having the kitchen redone, it’s too nice, I didn’t need such a great kitchen, all that money, etc., etc. Very tiresome, and thankfully, now over. So I’m having a wonderful time following in the footsteps of my foodie friends and idols — Kay, Chris and Marc — you know who you are!

I got myself a nifty little hand-crank pasta machine after Christmas. It’s an Imperia – very basic, very solid, Italian-made. My very smart pal Jill was over for fresh pasta one night and hit upon the idea of using the yarn swift as a pasta dryer, instead of buying a purpose-built one.

Last week when I had a free morning, I made a batch of pasta and tried it out. Works like a dream! And holds a ton of noodles. Don’t worry, my knitties — I covered the arms with waxed paper so as not to get pasta dough on the yarn next time.

On the knitting front, the Ravelympics are now over and I did not complete my entry. (Ravelympics is an event in which knitters from all the world try to complete a challenging project during the timeframe of the Olympic Games.) I got only one panel done on a throw for Orestes (need 4 total, unless I can’t bear to go on and decide he’s skinny enough to warrant a 3-panel throw). Knitting a blanket is really amazingly boring. Last night I just couldn’t face another row of it, so I worked on my Bird-in-Hand mittens instead. Well, mitten — the first one. Much more satisfying. I also have a nice cozy scarf on the needles, made with the delightful but now sadly discontinued Big Kureyon that my knitting chica Trish gave me ages ago.

I’m glad to be mixing it up a bit with the knitting. Had gone through a lengthy period of making mitts. And mittens. And a very long stocking cap for my pal Janelle for Christmas. Oh, an a chullo for Jen, too.


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Not a Happy Camper

Posted by Janis on March 10, 2009

Well, last night I finished putting the zipper in the cabled vest (Pretzel Logic). Finally I could try it on and see how my Frankenstein number on the added side panels worked out. Tooooooooooo big. I feel like Goldilocks, for Pete’s sake — oh, this time it’s too small, this time it’s too big. Will it ever be JUST RIGHT?

I had to put it aside last night or risk going at it with scissors or worse. I’m pretty sure I can take out the crocheted border around the armholes, take out the side panels, reknit them smaller – and maybe ribbed for stretch, sew them back in, and put the borders back on the armholes. It didn’t take long to knit the panels, so I’ve probably got 2-3 hours of work ahead to make it wearable, but it is sooooo disappointing. Also, the 2 rows of crocheted border on the fronts, while now nice and flat, have ugly bumps along the outside edges of them. I may try pulling them to the inside with a crochet hook. Or I may try setting fire to the whole stupid thing. No – wait – scratch that – wool won’t burn.

To take the edge off this whole mess, I decided to play with my other toys – swift, ball winder, and scale. I just got the scale and it has inspired me to conduct scientific experiments, such as the one shown here. tool-time I wound up seven skeins of Rowan Summer Tweed that’s going to be a Liesl cardi, then weighed each to see how close they come to 50 grams. The smallest skein weighted 47 grams, one was a perfect 50, and the others came in at 51, 52, 52, 53, and two 54’s. That’s a total of 11 bonus grams of yarn, or 25.5 yards, enough for a generous-sized swatch.

Sorry to go all geeky on you there — I just needed a distraction from the %@*&^! vest. I went on to swatch and cast on for Liesl last night, so that was pleasant.

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Field Trip, Reunion, Color Therapy

Posted by Janis on February 28, 2009

Pam's show at William Woods University

Pam's show at William Woods University

I took a field trip yesterday. Even the words “field trip” give me a little buzz — the memories of school day getaways to places unusual, new sights to see, time to hang out with friends on the bus to and from, trying to get truckers to honk their horns and singing “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” at the top of our lungs until the driver or our teacher begged for mercy (usually around Bottle #83, as I recall). I wonder if sixth graders are allowed to sing about taking down bottles of beer and passing them around these days? Probably not.

So — I drove to Fulton yesterday to meet up with a dear old friend from high school whom I hadn’t seen for twenty years. Pam had a show of her art quilts at her alma mater, William Woods University, and it was my first chance to see her work in person. You can see it, too — a couple of images anyway. And you simply must go to Pam’s wonderful website/blog to see all her work: .

I had been following Pam’s adventures in quilting online for a year or so now, but seeing the work in person is absolutely overwhelming. It is the most exciting art I’ve seen in … well, maybe ever! Yesterday was gray and cold, and walking into the gallery was like getting a super-shot of pure color therapy, relief for the winter blues. When you see the quilts from a distance, they look like paintings. Pam has created all these amazing techniques to apply drawing and painting techniques to fabric, so the quilts are incredibly textured and dimensional. Looking at them close up, you can see they are created from an infinite variety of different patterns of fabric, painstakingly chosen to contrast, blend, or do whatever The Artiste wants them to do — she is master of her materials, that’s certain. Pam has a stunning sense of color, as you can see, plus her sense of humor comes through the work so clearly. I laughed out loud looking at the quilts — in the Food Pyramid (below), the hieroglyph camel has a tiny cigarette hanging out of his mouth, for instance. Pam calls them “cartoon quilts,” and that is really apt.

It was so great to see Pam after all these years. We had a good laugh about my taking her to her first concert – Kansas – and my brother swiping my car to take his girlfriend home, leaving us stranded so that Pam didn’t get home till 2 a.m. — to a frantic mother. (This was way before cell phones, dear readers — and I doubt if either of us had enough change to make a long-distance call on a pay phone.) Pam was one of those people who, even as a kid, you just knew she would do amazing things. If there had been an award for “Most Likely To Live An Artistic Life,” Pam would have won. Because she did and she is and I am so very proud of her.

Pam and Food Pyramid

Pam and Food Pyramid


Portrait of the Artist as a Young (still!) Quilter and Me

Posted in Therapy, Travel | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Earnest Hemming (A)way

Posted by Janis on February 25, 2009

The sweater surgery was pretty successful. The patient did not expire, nor did the doc, though I had a very faint moment at the end of 120 (on each side) stitches grafted when I realized I was off by two stitches on one side. Yeah. Two stitches. No way was I going to pull the whole thing out and redo it. So I cleverly hid the problem in the seam.

Hemming (and hawing) the Sunrise Circle Jacket

Hemming (and hawing) the Sunrise Circle Jacket

I’m now onto sewing up the hem. Last night during Obama’s speech, I was so inspired I got both of the sleeves hemmed and started on the neckline, which you see here. I have got a lot of sewing left to do here, but it’s really not bad. It’s not making ugly marks on the front of the sweater so far, so that’s a huge relief. I had worked myself into a tizzy worrying about that little “what if.”

Aside from the Sunrise Circle progress, I washed and blocked the pieces of my Pretzel Logic Cabled Vest yesterday. Just peeked at it — blocking works wonders for cables – so here is a rather dim picture of the back. My basement blocking area is not a sunny delight — bear with me. I have fallen in love with cabling this winter — I love the variety it affords. I’m a little worried this vest may end up being just a smidgen small — I did some funky math with my yarn sub and am afraid I goofed it up. We’ll know tomorrow when it’s dry enough to baste together and slip on.


Posted in On the Needles | 4 Comments »

Once Upon a Mattress (Stitch)

Posted by Janis on February 25, 2009

Carol Burnett as Winifred in "Once Upon a Mattress"

Carol Burnett as Winifred in "Once Upon a Mattress"

This is for those of us who grew up on wonderful television broadcasts of Broadway classics like “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin (OK, now that I look back on that one, she is rather grotesque as young Peter), “Cinderella” with Lesley Anne Warren, Celeste Holm, and Walter Pigeon, and this classic — “Once Upon a Mattress” with Carol Burnett as Winifred.

Having just completed quite a lot of mattress stitch, I felt it was a fitting tribute to my now better-honed skills in that area. It’s a funny thing with knitting (or any other skill one is learning, come to think of it) — the things that used to strike fear in my heart as a new knitter have, after three years of obsessive knitting, become… well, much easier. And not only are those things easier for me to do, they actually look pretty good, too. I’m sure you can recite the litany of scary knitting things with me, knitties: Kitchener stitch, seaming, lace, knitting with tiny needles… (And I must say, I had a proud knitting in public moment about a year ago when working on a sock on two circ’s – size 1 Addi’s with regular fingering weight sock yarn – and a woman came up and asked me if I was knitting with wire and thread!)

I know this is probably a real non-brainer for most of you. You do something more, practice, you get better. Our moms and dads told us that all the time. But get this — they were right.

Posted in On the Needles | 3 Comments »

Sweater Surgery

Posted by Janis on February 16, 2009

I know it’s a holiday, but the doctor is in and busy at work. I had a major surgery scheduled for this morning: my Sunrise Circle Jacket’s back is suffering from a moderate to severe case of shortness.

I diagnosed this problem only when actually suturing the fronts to the back yesterday (yes, this doctor even works Sundays). Of course, in my usual fashion, I insisted on completing the side sutures on both sides, easing the extra frontage into the backage, and creating what I’ll kindly call a gently undulating effect along the front — not unlike a bad lipo job. So I modelled it, looked, thought… “hmmmm, I really don’t want to knit a new back, even though I have plenty of yarn.” Then I thought — surgery! Snip a stitch, unravel, knit in a couple of inches, and graft it shut again. I had performed this procedure successfully over the summer on a baby sweater sleeve that needed an additional inch. The scale of the SCJ is much larger – oh, say 4 times more stitches to be dealt with – but I know I can do it.

The offending uneveness.

The offending uneveness.

Surgery in progress.

Surgery in progress.

At this point I have ravelled (unravelled?) the back just above the hem-turn line, and have managed to get all the stitches on both sides of the incision on needles. I’m sure some of them are twisted, but I’ll deal with that as I knit them or graft them. When I get the knitting done, I’m going to try the brilliant TECHknitter’s method of grafting with knitting needles.

And now, my big confession. It is utterly ridiculous that I’m having to do this in the first place. You see, I looked up everything ever written by anyone who’s done this pattern before I cast on. Did anyone mention a problem with back length? Oh yes, many times. Did I follow the designer’s recommendation and knit the back first, then match the fronts to it? Well, I knit the back first, but I didn’t understand how to adjust the size of the fronts, as they’re knitted in a semi-circle, so I just trusted the knitting goddesses. And here I am… having what I will choose to call “a learning
experience.” I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Posted in On the Needles | 4 Comments »

Fall is for Frogging and Felting

Posted by Janis on October 26, 2008

I can’t even bear to start off with an apology for not writing in ages yet again. So I’ll just jump in…

The summer’s huge kitchen renovation project is now officially FINISHED. Hooray! Though we didn’t do the work ourselves, it was more stress-inducing than I could have ever imagined. The end result is just lovely, though, and I enjoy it more ever single day.

So on to the knitting news. I’ve had a rather severe bout of startitis this fall, thinking about cold weather and wanting all sorts of fab new knitted garments for myself and others to sport. In September, I started a project that’s been on my list and in my stash for well over a year, Sasha Kagan’s Floral Lace Shawl (VK Fall ’06). It looks so beautiful in the mag and I thought I just had to have it. Except knitting it was a royal pain, for several reasons. First and worst, the little flowers that look Fair Isle-ish in the pictures are actually accomplished by the evil INTARSIA. This involved about a dozen bobbins across the back of the piece and a lot of twisting of yarn and, well… cursing. I had vowed never to do intarsia again after the Weekend Getaway Satchel (still awaiting final finishing/sewing in the basement), so this was a rude awakening. Secondly, I realized after about one full pattern repeat that the shawl would only be beautiful on one side – the wrong side would be very wrong and not at all suitable for public viewing, no matter how tidily I wove in the ends. This was very disappointing indeed. Thirdly, the charming leaf lace pattern that goes between the little flower motifs is almost completely lost on the dark colored yarn. It’s Rowan Felted Tweed in treacle, which is a gorgeous dark raisin-y color, yummy stuff, but the lace pattern was lost. Finally, it just wasn’t any fun — and at the smallish gauge, would have taken me the rest of my adult life to finish. Please bow your heads for a moment of silence for the Floral Lace Shawl. It is no more.

Abandoning a project still pains me, but I must say it is liberating to just say no to projects that I do not enjoy once I get going. I knit for pleasure and for peace of mind. Irritating or annoying projects do not meet these criteria, so buh-bye.

Also in the startitis pile: a Branching Out scarf for my pal Eileen on her birthday (late now), I’m about halfway through on it. I love the yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, my first time using it. I’m finding the lace pattern kinda boring, though it looks nice and will look really fine when blocked.

Whipped up a pair of Maine Morning Mitts for another friend’s birthday right before the scarf started. Those go so quickly, they hardly count as startitis. (And now you know why I don’t work as a hand model.)

I did finish a pair of socks for my brother for Christmas — one knitted gift down, ? to go! They’re simple garter rib in Moutain Colors Bearfoot — what nice yarn to work with! The colorway is Sapphire Trail, I think. I had the yarn in my stash and chose it for him because it has all the colors of Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon in it — that’s where we took a big family vacation at the end of the summer. Here’s a pic of one unblocked one:

I’m all set to join in the NaKniSweMo (National Knit a Sweater in a Month) festivities in November. I’ll finally pry out all the Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed out of my stash and make the Sunrise Circle Jacket. I hope. If that starts making me crazy, I’ll switch to the February Lady Sweater that’s so popular these days.

Oh yes — almost forgot the felting part of our show. I am possibly the last knitter in North America to make a pair of Bev Galeska’s felted clogs, but I did it! I see why they’re so wildly popular — it’s like magic to make this giant floppy sock-like thing that becomes a real shoe in the wash. Here’s a before-and-after pic of the clogs:

More soon as swatching begins for NaKniSweMo!

Posted in On the Needles | 4 Comments »

Knitter Discovers Ancient, Buried Blog

Posted by Janis on June 24, 2008

Sheesh – ignore the blog for a couple of months and WordPress goes and changes EVERYTHING! I barely recognize this old place… except for the yarn everywhere.

So where to begin? I’m just going to try to throw out all the stuff I’ve been busy with since I haven’t been busy writing here. I left off with spring break…

We have been on the verge of a kitchen remodel for a very long time now and it’s finally happening this summer! Here’s a picture of my darling Dad masterminding the demolition of our old back porch, which will now be part of the new kitchen. Orestes and I raise hammer and crowbar in salute to his genius. We did the demolition, but our good friends at Kohnen Craftsmanship are doing the building. They start Monday – hooray!

It has taken an incredible amount of time to make all the choices necessary here — what kind of cabinets, flooring, countertops, appliances? What kind of lighting? A ceiling fan? What type of windows, sink, faucet? It has all become a very BIG DEAL because I know I will be living with it for the rest of my life. More on that project as it progresses.

On the knitting front, a couple of great meet-ups have occurred this spring/early summer: Stitch n’ Pitch in late May, and the Knitters Connection in Columbus the 2nd weekend in June. My friend Jill and I hit Stitch n’ Pitch sporting our t-shirts designed by Ravelry gal PinkTiburon:

We met a bunch of fun knitters, had hot dogs and beer (OK, and some nachos)(but we DIDN’T get the Ben & Jerry’s), and the Cardinals won. OH – and we KNITTED! I got most of the way through a little stocking cap I was making for charity – goes to one of the Lakota Sioux reservations in South Dakota. It was a gorgeous night at the ballpark. Our St. Louis LYS owners outdid themselves in putting together very generous goody bags — thanks, everyone!

Though I couldn’t attend the entire line-up of Knitters Connection, the all-day class I took with Cat Bordhi (yes, THE Cat Bordhi!) was well worth the trip. I met up with my Ravelry pal Darcy there and we had a great time talking, knitting, learning, and munching our way through Columbus’ North Market! I’m pretty impressed with Columbus, Ohio, I gotta say. They’ve really got their downtown area happening. We also made a pilgrimage to the Knitters Mercantile shop, the one that sponsored the whole Knitters Connection thing. It is a wonderful yarn shop — fantastic selection, incredibly warm and friendly staff. Here are Darcy and I in Columbus:

I’ve been getting some knitting done in and around all this other crazy stuff. Well, not “done” meaning “finished,” but I have several WIP’s on the needles: the Daydream baby sweater for baby Clementine (in an orange-y color, of course), a Phiaro Scarf for my friend Chris who just started chemo this month, and the Pink Mimosa top for myself, which is miles of mindless stockinette for the most part. The baby sweater is a welcome relief from the other two, as it has little lace borders and eyelet trim on the raglan decreases. How I look forward to that k2tog, yo, k2tog sequence!

OK, that’s quite enough for a re-entry into blogland.

Posted in Random | 3 Comments »


Posted by Janis on April 1, 2008

I’m usually pretty good about keeping my cast-on projects to a minimum, but something went awry mid-March and I fell under the spell of Start-itis. Seemed like spring should be here soon, I’d like some springy socks for that, but it was still cold and grey, so the Pretzel Logic Cabled Vest was still teasing me to take it on. So I dove into my first big cable project. I love the challenge of the cables after being stuck on so much stockinette over the winter. Alice Starmore I ain’t, but I’m having a great time learning.

cabled-vest-wip.jpgThe day before I left for Colorado, I went on a frantic quest to find “Knitting Circles Around Socks,” Antje Gillingham’s new book on knitting 2 socks at once on 2 circular needles. I HAD to have that book and learn the technique while on spring break. Our wondrous newest LYS, Knitty Couture, came to the rescue and I was ready to roll… Until I realized the circs in the book are 2 different lengths and I had brought 2 same-length Addi’s. Luckily, Leadville’s charming little yarn shop-cum-pottery studio had what I needed — for 10% off! And a sale on all yarns with blue in them — 25% off! It occurred to me that at that price, I had to make myself a new ski hat. So I did, improvising wildly with KnitPicks Options tips in two sizes when I decreased down too small for the 16″ circular I knit the thing on. The nieces promptly fell in love with it and I had a helluva time getting it home. Guess I’ll be making up some “Fantasia Earflap Hats” for Christmas…

Back to the socks — I didn’t cast ’em on till the flight home, but I love the method! It’s very easy to follow — I recommend the book wholeheartedly. Here are the socks:2-sox-2-circs.jpg

The yarn is Claudia Handpainted, in “Blue Fields” colorway — nice stuff! The pattern – indiscernible at this early stage in the socks – is “Eleanor,” a MonkeyToes design by the late, great Gigi Silva. It seems important to do a memorial knit in her honor. I didn’t know her well, but she was my downstream SP for a winter cheer swap and we had a great time. Being a Michigander transplanted to Hawaii, the mere thought of winter was dear to her.

Now the question is this:  the back of the vest is almost done (maybe 10 more rows). Do I put it away till next fall and start something (else) springy? Or do I finish it while it’s making sense?

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Knit It and They Will Come…

Posted by Janis on March 31, 2008

Spring break was a glorious affair this year: headed up to the mountains as usual (Leadville, Colorado – our family’s stomping – and skiing – grounds) and spent a great week with my dad (skiing like a pro at 79), brother and sister-in-law, and nieces. The skiing was fantastic, the snow perfect, nothing but sunshine, good eats, great company — but the highlight? The very highlight of the entire break? My nieces wanted to knit!

The girls are ages 9 and 10, and though I had given them each a little knitting kit for Christmas 2 years ago, they hadn’t shown much interest in learning themselves. I didn’t mention it, but I’m always knitting around them — always. So at our cozy rental house, Hannah picked up some size 9 KnitPicks Options tips that were lying around (not even on a cable) and some scrap yarn and started moving her hands in a knit-like fashion. I said, “Want me to show you how to do it? You almost have the moves down.” And she took off. Then Rachel had to do it, too. All I had left to teach her on were some size 6 dpn’s — no problem. Her little fingers grabbed ’em and away she went. I cast on just 10 stitches for each of them, and told them they could knit till they had little squares and they’d be blankets for the tiny bears I gave them in their Easter baskets that morning. h-knitting.jpgr-knitting.jpg Hannah is sporting the ski hat I’d just finished.

After they knitted for about half and hour or so, Hannah was getting frustrated so I suggested a game of dominoes. She set up the game and said, “Rachel, come on. We’re ready to play.” Rachel’s reply? “Just a minute, Hannah — I have to finish this row.” She’s hooked, my friends, hooked! I couldn’t be prouder. She wouldn’t go to bed till she finished her little bear-blanket, yawning every third stitch. Hannah finished hers in the morning. Here they are:


And Hannah’s bear with his blankie: hs-bear-blanket.jpg

The next evening I was working on the back of my cabled vest. Rachel was watching me like a hawk, asking what the stitch markers were for and how the yarn made the cables. Then she said, “I want to learn to knit in a circle.” So I cast on 60 stitches for her on a size 10 circ and told her that if she knit four or five rounds, she’d have a headband. (I’m doing the casting off, you understand.) So she sat there and didn’t budge till she’d done 5 rounds. My sister-in-law Liz took this shot of the two of us:

r-me-knitting.jpgAnd that’s how I turned two very modern little girls into little old ladies in just two nights… I’m telling you, they ate it up.

Posted in On the Needles, Travel | 5 Comments »