Monday, January 29, 2007


So last week I mentioned that, technically, a haiku centers on the natural world. Its cousin, the senryu, follows the same 5-7-5 syllable structure, but focuses instead on the human realm.

I confess that this week's poem is not precisely knitting-centric, but when I realized--while writing at a particular coffee establishment--that one could easily make a senryu out of any number of espresso-based drink orders, I couldn't resist. So I'm calling this one "Stopping by Starbucks on a Snowy Evening." Just pretend that this java run is taking place on the way to knitting group . . .

I'll have a decaf
nonfat extra-hot grande
vanilla latte.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

There Once was a Sweater from Nantucket . . .

No, it's not time for a knitting limerick yet. I just figured it was about time for me to blog about the main project I have on my needles right now. It's hard to believe I haven't blogged about this already, but I guess I've had a lot of smallish finished objects (and poems) to post about recently.

Anyway, like just about everyone else in the world, I was immediately attracted to the Nantucket Jacket from the cover of the Winter 2006 Interweave Knits. I decided to make mine in a pretty neutral color, letting the pattern speak for itself. The yarn I'm using is Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran in grey. Here it is so far, with the back and the right front panels finished.

Like Johanna, I have some reservations about the two-stitch twists that run up the entire length of the sweater, but couldn't quite bring myself to rip back and replace them with something like the baby cable rib I used on my Sockapaloooza socks. I think the twists look fine from a distance, but they do look unnecessarily sloppy up close.

I also had a lot of problems getting gauge--I think I ended up casting on three times before I got it right. My swatch gauge seemed fine, but when I actually cast on for the back, I would have been able to wrap the back panel around my entire body if I had continued knitting. That's how far off I was. I had intended to make the 36" size, but I ended up both switching to 7s and making the 34" size. In retrospect, I'm glad I am making the smallest size--I'm not crazy about the large seed stitch sections that border the lace panels in the larger sizes, and I probably would have ended up making some modifications there anyway.

I am enjoying knitting the sweater, although it's been a bit slow going, just because I've had so many other small projects to distract me. The cable pattern is actually remarkably intuitive, and I don't need to look at the chart after the first repeat, so that makes it pretty easy to work on wherever I am.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


You know, I don't think any poetic form gets as much of a bum rap as does the lowly haiku. But I discovered this week that writing a passably decent one is actually a lot harder than you would think.

Everyone knows the basic structure of a haiku--three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable structure. However, did you know that, strictly speaking, a haiku should focus on a scene in nature? And that it should have some kind of seasonal reference?

The haiku has several close relatives on the poetry family tree--stay tuned, because those are on the agenda for the next several weeks. Here's today's poem, which I've titled "Sheep in a Snowfall."

You think it hides you.
But that white coat you wear now
Warms me next winter.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It's My Blogiversary!

I know you all are waiting with bated breath for this week's installment in my poetry project (brace yourselves--it's a haiku), but you'll just have to hold your collective breath until tomorrow, because today marks one year since my first post on this blog.

To celebrate, I thought I'd share some photos of the very first project I ever knitted, a project which predates the blog by several years. Here it is:

It's a sampler scarf knit in three colors of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride worsted, purchased from A Good Yarn in Brookline back when I first wanted to learn how to knit. I taught myself, using Melanie Falick's Kids Knitting (don't laugh--I still vouch for it as having one of the clearest "how to" sections for beginners). Instead of doing a simple swatch to start out, I decided to make a sampler scarf to try out a number of different stitch patterns.

The scarf's got stripes (both stockinette and garter stitch), garter stitch ridges, Fair Isle checks, a basketweave pattern, and even a cable. What did I learn from the project? On a very basic level, I learned how different stitch patterns "behave"--ribbing pulls in, stockinette curls, etc. Doing this project also gave me the confidence to move on to more challenging projects more quickly than, say, a garter stitch scarf would have. I also learned that I like variety, which is why I still make more hats and sweaters than scarves.

The scarf was knitted for P. shortly after he was born, and look--it still fits him!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

What to Do? What to Do?

Last week, as part of Alison's massive destashing project, I was the happy recipient of eight skeins of seriously discounted Cascade 220, color 9498 (olive heather).

The collective (and totally legit--I'd be wondering the same thing) question posed by my fellow Knitsmiths was: What in the heck are you going to do with that much Cascade 220?

To that end, here's a pop quiz:

What is Norah planning for her Cascade 220?

A. A complete set of felted luggage
B. 5.33 pairs of Subway Knitter's Amazing Charlie Card mittens
C. Two (or maybe three) projects--a sweater, a hat, and a bag

OK, so that was pretty weak, but cut me some slack--it's still early on a cold Sunday morning.

The answer, of course, is C. Here are the details:

Project 1: the Arianna sweater from Chicknits, with the same modifications that Cara used (I'm not crazy about the belted look for this cardi--besides, I've just been there, done that with Cherry. I figure this'll use between 4 and 5 skeins for my size.

Project 2: a Doubleknitski hat, using less than 1 skein of the green and one skein of color 7824 (orange)--this one will be for a gift.

Project 3: the Doctor's bag from Knit 2 Together:

This one will actually, believe it or not, put me over the top of the eight skeins I purchased. The good news? The Knitter's Breakfast at the Fabric Place is coming up in early March, and an advance scouting trip reveals that they've got lots more Cascade 220, color 9498 in stock, which I'll be able to get at less than $5/skein that morning. Is olive green my color? I guess it is now!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Simply Finished

Remember that cabled hat I started a while ago? Well, I managed to finish it just in time for Boston's first real cold snap of the winter. I was going to have you all play a game of "spot the mistake," since I realized about 8" into the hat that I had crossed one of the cables the wrong way, but I don't think that error made it in this picture. Oh, and looking at this now, I don't know what's up with that funky spot on the edge of the ribbing--it doesn't do that in real life (I hope).

Pattern: Simple Hat (braided cables) from Cables Untangled by Melissa Leapman

Yarn: White Dog Woolies handpainted worsted 100% alpaca, colorway "Trout." I picked this up at Knit Knot Studio in Portland during my trip to Oregon last spring.

Started: 1/2/2007

Finished: 1/13/2007

Comments: Simple is right--this would be a great introduction to cabling for a novice, but it's sufficiently interesting for someone with more experience. A great pattern that complements the yarn I chose--the subtle variegation doesn't obscure the cable pattern at all (and the colors go great with my orange coat, which you might be able to glimpse in a corner of the photo above). Such a pleasure to knit.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Aw, shucks. Y'all are just too sweet. Thanks for making me feel better about my booties.

I might not be able to make pompoms, but I can still write (bad) poetry. Here's this week's offering, a quatrain. A quatrain is generally any four-line poem, often rhymed either ABAB or ABBA (that's a rhyme scheme, people, not a Swedish singing group), although there are other more restrictive quatrain forms, defined by their rhyme scheme or their meter.

This one made me laugh when the punch line came to me in the shower the other morning (why is it that we do some of our best thinking in the shower?). Anyway, here's hoping it makes you chuckle, too.

Yarn can be gotten from sheep or from goats
Or even from llamas or bison.
If chickens could only grow woolier coats
There'd be a new market for Tyson.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Books and Booties

On Saturday afternoon, the Knitsmiths had a surprise "Books and Booties" baby shower for Alison, who's expecting a Wee One this spring. Each of us was encouraged to bring our favorite children's book and a pair of booties for the new girl baby on the way. Here was my contribution:

The book? Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, a classic gem about one woman's mission to make the world more beautiful (what could be a more fitting gift for a baby whose mama is a knitter?). One of my favorites (and apparently Gabriella's favorite, too . . .)

It appears that I was a bit of an overachiever, having knit a hat as well as booties (although not, ahem, as much of an overachiever as Dani). When I first got the invitation, I didn't realize the organizers would be so literal about the booties, so I figured I'd make a hat. When I realized that "Books & Booties" really meant "Books & Only Booties), I decided I'd better get busy shaking (or making) some booties, too.

Here are the details:


Pattern: Bouton d'Or layette no. 14, Theme Chardon, bonnet (#44)

Yarn: Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK, one skein each of sweet (501), belladonna (502), mist (505), and cream (500).

Date Started: 1/3/2006

Date Finished: 1/8/2006


Pattern: Lise, by Kate Gilbert (go look at the picture to see what they're supposed to look like)

Yarn: See above

Date Started: 1/8/2006

Date Finished: 1/12/2006

Comments: What did I learn from making these? That I am fundamentally incapable of making pompoms. I spent one frustrating morning last week attempting to make pompoms, and just couldn't do it--they fell apart, looked mangy, or generally just turned out awful.

Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal. Pompoms are just adornments, the frosting on the cake, if you will. But, as we actually discussed at Saturday's party, sometimes the frosting is even more important than the cake, and I think in this case that's true. Both the hat and the booties were supposed to have pompoms. The hat doesn't really suffer too much from its absence, I don't think, but the booties just look stupid without them. Without the pompoms, the booties lose their pointed-toe, jesterlike elfin character somewhat, and just look like really long socks. So there I was, at Alison's party, with this ensemble that, to all appearances, includes a hat for an infant and socks for a three-year-old. Pretty stupid, huh? I was almost too embarrassed to even put them up on display. I considered substituting jingle bells for pompoms, but figured I wouldn't want to be responsible for the choking hazard that would invite.

Seeing my booties alongside everyone else's exquisite creations, I also felt like I did a very poor job of selecting colors. I chose the colors to complement the lupines that are the central image in the Miss Rumphius book, but the pastels just looked anemic compared with the richer tones almost everyone else chose. In short? I felt like this project was a complete failure, and I felt worse because it was a gift. Ugh. At least Wee One will receive a great book.

Lest my disappointment in myself ruin your impression of the party, though, let me hasten to say that the hostesses (Lisa and Shannon) did a fabulous job. The decorations were great, the company was lively, and the food was superb. Speaking of which, here's the recipe for what I brought--enjoy!

Molasses Marble Loaf

2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 t. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2/3 c. milk
2 T. molasses
1 t. ground allspice

1 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
3 T. heavy cream (more if needed)
1 t. pure vanilla extract

1/4 c. finely chopped pecans (optional--I usually leave them out if bringing this to parties)

1. For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan, dust the inside with flour, and knock out the excess; set aside.

2. Resift the 2 c. flour with the baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar about 1/4 c. at a time, beating for 20-30 seconds after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape the bowl and beaters and beat on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and beating only until smooth after each addition. The batter will be thick.

5. Transfer about 1/3 of the batter to a small bowl, add the molasses and allspice, and stir to combine well. Spoon the light and dark batters alternately in the prepared pan, then run a knife through the length and width of the batter a few times. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

6. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the loaf is well browned and springs back when gently pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Release the cake from the sides of the pan with a small sharp knife. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, and carefully turn right side up to cool completely.

7. For the icing, whisk the confectioners' sugar, cinnamon, salt, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. The icing should be thick but spreadable. Add a few drops of cream if it's too thick.

8. Place the cake on a plate and spread the icing over the top and sides. If desired, sprinkle the top with the chopped pecans. Let stand until the icing sets. The cake keeps well, covered tightly at room temperature, 2-3 days.

Note: This recipe comes from one of my very favorite baking books, Baking in America by Greg Patent. If you like baking, or just reading cookbooks, I highly recommend this one. The author did a lot of research into the American baking tradition, and many of the recipes come from rare antique cookbooks that the author then updated for modern American kitchens. I've rarely had a failure with these recipes (the blueberry buttermilk scones being a notable exception), and the historical anecdotes, as well as the failproof recipes make this a great collection for the serious baker.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Cables, Cables Everywhere

I mentioned that I've been a little into cables lately, right? Here's the hat I've been working on this week:

This is the basic cabled hat from the Cables Untangled book. After I finally overcame my own confusion about the pattern's transition from ribbing to cabling (which led to my expression of perpetual perplexity at last week's knitting get-together), the pattern's been a dream!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cherry Jubilee

I finally finished Cherry and trotted her out for an evening at the BSO, figuring that it's usually so warm in Symphony Hall that a short-sleeved sweater would not be entirely out of place. Unfortunately, it was actually a little chilly there last night, so Cherry spent most of the evening hidden under my jacket. Oh well. Here she is for your perusal--

Pattern: Cherry from My Fashionable Life. Pattern available here.

Materials: Knitpicks Elegance (70% Baby Alpaca, 30% Silk), colorway Ash (#0528). Buttons from The Button Box in Natick/Wellesley, Mass.

Started: 7/9/2006

Finished: Good question. The actual knitting was finished sometime in August. I seamed and knitted the neckband and button band on 1/1/2007, and finally added the buttons 1/6/2007.

Comments: This was one of those sweaters that suffered from my pathological inability to finish a project. I could have worn it this fall (or on any of the freakishly warm days this winter), but it was just languishing in my knitting basket for months. When I pulled it out on New Year's Day, I was pleasantly surprised by how little time it took to get all those pieces pulled together.

I'm really pleased with the fit on this sweater. I made the 36" size, and I think it fits really well. I did (as usual) make the sweater body longer than the pattern called for, but otherwise it didn't really need any adjustments. I enjoyed the cable pattern, which, along with the styling and the buttons (closeup here), gives the sweater the vintage feel I was looking for. I also liked the yarn, which makes the sweater significantly warmer than it would be with the cotton yarn the pattern calls for (good for me, since I tend to get cold if my arms are exposed).

By the way, for any of you in the Boston area, I strongly recommend the Button Box (on Rt. 9W on the Wellesley/Natick line). The employee there was willing to spend a long time with me choosing the perfect button for the sweater. I think at one point we had pulled out about 50 different button styles! Oh, and if you want compliments on your knitting, those flow as freely as the buttons do.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


A while back, I posted a couplet on my blog and promised more details later. Well, hope you weren't holding your breath, but I'm finally following up on my promise. Seeing as I had so much fun on The Amazing Lace's poetry challenge (not to mention my brief efforts on Dana's blog), I thought I'd do a little experiment. Inspired by the great poetry book A Kick in the Head, I'm going to try to do a knitting-themed poem in each of several poetic forms. Now, I'm not promising great poetry here (far from it), but rather a chance to explore some lesser-known poetic forms and just challenge myself. From now on, I'll plan to do a poem every week (on Tuesdays), each one in a different form.

For the first week, I did a couplet, which is obviously a two-line rhymed poem. This week's poem is a tercet, which is just like a couplet but with three lines (duh). Here goes . . .

Friends who don’t knit sure are funny.
“If you knit,” they may say, “you save money.”
Have you seen how much cashmere costs, honey?

Friday, January 05, 2007

In the Meantime

Circumstances beyond my control (but involving the inventory at my LYS) conspired against me completing my tale of Yuletide Yarn. Stay tuned for next week's update. In the meantime, though, what are these?

Is it my foray into modern art? A bizarre scanner experiment? Some kind of mutant metallic bug? Or could it be the final piece required to finish a long-neglected project?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Season's Readings

For Christmas, I got two knitting books I've been wanting. One (received from my sister) is Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature. This book has been blogged to within an inch of its life, but I do want to just mention a couple things. First, I confess that I was first drawn to Norah Gaughan's designs because of her name (there are so few of us Norah-with-an-h-es around that I feel a particular kinship with her), but that I've since been hooked by her effective balance of visual interest and distinctive shapes. Her designs tend to be intricate without feeling busy (although the Nantucket sweater I'm working on may be treading that line a little heavily), and that's the kind of knitting project I'm into right now.

The other thing I'm into is cables. Frankly, the last three or four patterns I've started have all incorporated cables. I think I got hooked on them while making my Knitting Olympics sweater, even though I detested them while I was in the midst of that whole process. Ergo, when I received a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas, I picked up this gorgeous book: Cables Untangled by Melissa Leapman. I've already started the Braided Cables hat. Most of the patterns are very inviting (I'm actually seriously thinking about knitting that skirt . . . ), but what really hooked me on the book was the extensive cable reference at the back of the book--a great way to get inspired about incorporating cables into other simple patterns.

What other projects will I be making from these books? Not sure yet. A lot of it depends on what I end up doing with my third knitterly Christmas present--which I'll post about tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year!

I celebrated New Year's Day by eating well, relaxing indoors (it was a soggy New Year's here in Boston), and honoring my resolution to finish my knitted garments in a little more timely fashion. More on that later this week, after the project in question is well and truly finished (which involves the procurement and application of buttons and snaps . . . ). Hope everyone is having a healthy and happy start to 2007!