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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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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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To Cut or Not to Cut?

Posted by Janis on February 28, 2008

dcirabbitscissorsblue.jpgShall I trim the pieces of the satchel tonight and try to sew them together? Do I have the guts, the nerve, the cahones to do the job — and do it right? Or shall I just knit serenely on with the newly-cast-on Halfobi cardigan, leaving to another day the bigger issues of measuring and cutting and not ruining a project that’s worth $100 of yarn and hours of my life that I’ll never get back no matter what? Maybe it would be better to cut with natural light. Maybe it’s better to do it in the light of day. Maybe I’m just not ready to cut yet. (And these aren’t even steeks, for Pete’s sake.) I’m pretty sure if I had some of these cute bunny scissors I’d be just fine…

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Special Kay

Posted by Janis on February 18, 2008

special-k.jpgToday is my oldest and dearest friend’s birthday. Kay and I have been friends for more than 30 years, having cemented our acquaintance over bleeding fingers, stuffing Kleenex flowers in chicken wire on the Latin Club float for the JCHS Homecoming Parade 1974.

I’m not even sure Kay herself knows all the ways she’s influenced my life and who I am today, but her influence has been profound. Her intellectual curiosity has always spurred me on to challenge myself to learn more, about anything really — from foreign languages to cooking to knitting to cars. Yes, cars — Kay just emailed me a blog post about a ’72 Capri, asking, “Wasn’t this Corey’s [my brother’s] car?” Kay’s father is Chinese, so hanging out at her house meant learning to eat with chopsticks way before the average Jefferson City person, not to mention yukking it up over the impossible English translations in Chinese cookbooks — Roasted Milk Egg Towers, anyone?

Her sense of humor is keen and her memory practically photographic, so she’s the perfect person to riff on Monty Python sketches with — or Mel Brooks movies or “Fawlty Towers” — or the most recent selection from Netflix. Kay’s not all retro, oh no — the girl keeps up.

A few years ago, we went to “Sing-along Sound of Music” together, and who else could have created costumes that won us 3rd place against such tough competition as a couple dressed as a mountain range (as in “Climb Ev’ry”) and a plethora of cross-dressing nuns? Only Kay would have thought of AND created a series of “Favorite Things” costume pieces: the schnitzel with noodles necklace made of Fimo schnitzels and strung with real noodles I still have and treasure.

We took up pipe-smoking for a brief moment one summer, trying to be as cool as a French AFS student I was enamoured of at the time. Our mothers put the kabosh on that little activity, once they realized we were seriously shopping for pipes at the K-Mart. We double-pierced our ears way before it was really popular, but we did it with self-piercers. (Now that’s like having a blood pact in and of itself.) Kay came to rescue me when a relationship blew up in my face when I was living and acting in Omaha, Nebraska. I was her maid of honor and she was mine. She named her second daughter after me, which is about the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. In recent years we have supported each other through some pretty horrific times, and though I wish we hadn’t had to, I don’t know what would have become of me if she hadn’t been there.

Happy Birthday, Kay — you are the specialest Kay there could ever be. Lots of X’s and O’s to you…

(In the photo above, Kay is on the right, I’m on the left. I know, I know — the eyebrows! The perm! It was 1979 or something… One of my favorite things is when people think we’re sisters (Kay’s just the sister with better taste in eyebrows and hair).

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Blocking is Good

Posted by Janis on December 4, 2007

This is a quickie post – I just have to share something good with my Knitties: BLOCKING. Sunday was a gray, rainy, dreadful day, so I mostly laid around moaning about how depressing it is when it’s gray, rainy, and dreadful. When I finally got sick of myself, I decided to go ahead and block the first 2 pieces of the Dad sweater, just to see how it would look. OH MY – it is so nice! Still drying, but I tell ya — blocking rocks. I wish I had taken before and after pix, but didn’t think of the “before” in time. Will do the afters when it’s dry and sewed up, though it won’t be quite the same.

The blocking episode inspired me to knit up a ribbed headband for my almost-daughter’s birthday which is coming right up. A satisfying little knit and one to check off the list. So I went to bed a good deal more satisfied than I arose from it. And that is a good day indeed.

Last night I cast on the second sleeve for the Dad sweater and did the first 4 or 5″. Why, oh why can’t the first sleeve look as nice as the 2nd? I want all first sleeves and first socks to look as good as the second one – is that too much to ask? Hey, Santa Baby – if you’re listenin’ – that’s what I want in my stocking this year.

One last thought on holiday knitting: this year I decided not to try to knit for everyone on my list, or even everyone in my immediate family. I have to say, it is making the things I am knitting ever so much more pleasant… ahhhhhhhh! Of course, it also gives me a perverse little desire deep down to cast on MORE holiday gift items immediately, ’cause hey! – I got time to spare – but I am trying to resist that evil little voice inside of me. (I won’t tell you about the beading projects I swapped for knitting projects this year ’cause I know those won’t take but a minute. Honest. It just makes good sense.)

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Posted by Janis on November 21, 2007

cornuyarn.jpg It’s been a better year, so I’m feeling pretty thankful. I always try to count my blessings, but this time of year — I get all misty about it. I’ll spare you most of the mush, but here are a few knitty things I’m grateful for:

1) Great cyber-knitting pals.

2) The Knittyboard.

3) Ravelry.

4) Wonderful LYS’s here in St. Louis: Knitorious, The Weaving Dept., Hearthstone Knits, Kirkwood Knittery. (There are more, but these are the ones I know and love.)

5) A husband who understands my obsession with yarn and needles — and even enables me.

6) Time to knit. Yes, I work, but I have time to knit.

7) My stash. There, I said it.

8) The best reason in the world not to leave the house on Black Friday — there’s knitting to do! Have a great Thanksgiving.

* YIKES – where did that weird little emoticon come from??? I typed an “8”, people! OK – how come I could type “8” just then and it didn’t turn into a smiley? Is my blog haunted?

9) Knitting Daily  – I love Knitting Daily and everything Interweave Press does.

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A Couple of Finished Things

Posted by Janis on September 11, 2007

I wear scarves a lot. Not just winter, muffler-style scarves, but anything that wraps around the neck is my kind of fashion statement/accessory item. So this spring and summer, I made a few accessory-type scarves to add to my scarf wardrobe. The first was the bamboo one from Victorian Lace Today (how I wish I hadn’t made it in bamboo — so limp now). And in the past month I’ve finished two more: the Lacy Kerchief Scarf (curve already featured in this space), and the Montego Bay Scarf (IK Summer ’07), of tangled-skein fame.

Just had to do a front and back view of this one, even though it isn’t centered on my back very well. This is the first thing I’ve knitted besides socks that has really gotten rave reviews. Yes, I am bragging, as unseemly as that is. (Not only unseemly, but unlucky, as it will surely call down the wrath of the knitting goddesses upon my head. Oh yeah — that already happened with the skein of Sea Silk. So I’m good now…)


With the Montego Bay Scarf, I ended up not like the braided fringe at all. I braided about 3 or 4 of them and thought “too fiddly.” So I decided to add beads instead. (I’m on a little beading kick, thanks to the Hanami Stole Knit-along. More on the bead store later.) I alternated silver foil and blue glass pony beads on the fringe and let the ends stay free. I’ll have to see how badly they fray over time.

So – about the bead store. Having a keen self-awareness as I do, I figured that going into a bead shop to buy beads for the Hanami would be an exercise in sensory overload — and I was right! I had waited and waited, knowing that when I did go, I would turn immediately into some kind of crazed bead fiend. (And I was right – mostly.) First, I did the right thing — I went straight to the seed bead section (gigantic) and looked at all the silvery ones. Prreeeeeettttttyyyyyyyyyyyy… Then, just when I was probably starting to look as if I might start eating them or stuffing them in my purse, an alert shopkeeper asked if I needed help. WHEW – boy, do I! I need 44 seed beads, size 8, with silver linings. She showed me 3 or 4 different kinds, patiently waited as I held them up to the light and muttered to myself over which were shinier, brighter, nicer, more uniformly shaped, etc… Finally I chose just ONE tube of them — what self-restraint! Then I turned around, bumped into the red coral display, and ended up with enough stuff to make a necklace, plus a few other little things to make earrings for a friend’s birthday and like that, you know… If you’re in St. Louis or coming this way ever, the name of this crack house bead shop is Lady Bug Beads. Enter at your own peril. It is too shiny and colorful and pretty for mere mortals to withstand its glittery allure. You have been warned.

(I apologize for the wanton plastering of my own image in this post. Next time it’s back to laying stuff out on the table.)

KNITTERS’ NOTES ON THE FO’s:  The pink one is the Lacy Kerchief Scarf from Interweave Knits Holiday Knitting 2006, made up in Kertzer Butterfly Super 10 mercerized cotton (DK weight-ish, color – raspberry?) on US #6’s – Addi Lace needles – yeah! It took just a smidge over 2 skeins. (Yes, I have an almost-full skein left — what to do, what to do…) The blue one is the Montego Bay Scarf from IK Summer ’07, made up in HandMaiden Sea Silk, color Periwinkle, on the same US 6 Addi Lace needles. (Love those needles!)

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Tangled Up in Blue

Posted by Janis on August 29, 2007

silktangle.jpgThis could also be called, “What I Did on My Summer Vacation,” except the key word here is “tangled,” not “vacation.” It was NOT a vacation to untangle a skein of SeaSilk, no matter how lovely the colorway (Periwinkle), and no matter how much my saintly father helped. It didn’t even help that we were in the moutains, in Leadville, Colorado, one of my very favorite places on the planet. None of this helped because of the REASON the skein was tangled in the first place. The reason the skein was tangled was because I was lazy. And stupid. Having run out of time to properly wind the skein before leaving home on the trip (and being a little skittish about getting the expensive yarn caught in the ballwinder), I decided it couldn’t hurt to just cast on the Montego Bay scarf, maybe knit a few rows  straight from the skein. I was flush with a big victory – finishing the Lacy Kerchief Scarf and being ridiculously proud of myself – so I thought I was invincible. HA! The knitting goddesses, including my personal muse, Purl, laughed. They snorted. They smacked me down. Hard. And I paid…

To the tune of probably close to 12 hours of untangling, I paid. At the kitchen table in Leadville, in the living room, through several TV shows and a DVD of “Breach,” on airplanes from Denver to Ft. Lauderdale — I untangled, I muttered, I swore under my breath. And you know what I learned? I learned that one’s fellow passengers on airplanes do not find untangling a mess of yarn charming in the way they find my knitting a sock or some lace charming and interesting. NOBODY wanted to talk to me — let me be brutally honest here, nobody would even establish eye contact with me. And who could blame them? I looked like a very scary – if not dangerous – person.

Finally, at my in-laws’ house in Florida, I finished the untangling. Then I started knitting the “mindless holiday knitting” Amy Knitty describes in the lovely Montego Bay scarf pattern (IK Summer ’07). My mind obviously translated “mindless” to “brainless” pretty quickly, because I could not keep the damn stitch count the same 2 rows in a row. I ripped it out – once, twice, three times – I lost count of how many times. I finally realized that I was consistently leaving out the last YO before the end knitted stitches. BFD, but it made all the difference in the world to the scarf.

I cast on that project on August 9 (for the last time, anyway) and I’m still not finished. I have a sweater front on the needles as well, but I really want to be finished with this scarf so I can cast on for the Hanami Stole Knitalong. I have one more summer trip this weekend and my goal is to finish the MBS so I can have some closure and move on with my (knitting) life…

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Look Who’s Here!

Posted by Janis on July 19, 2007


Meet Ermina, pictured here at just 6 hours old! She is the brand-new cria of my new Knitty pal, Laurel, in Ontario. That didn’t come out right — I mean that Ermina is the baby of Roxie, who is one of Laurel’s alpacas. Is that any better? Anyway — Ermina is adorable and we wish all the best for baby, mother, and humans!

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