Archive for May, 2006

have a pattern in a Stitch ‘n Bitch book?

When I first started knitting, I wanted nothing to do with the SNB book. It was for (in my mind) those that were knitting because it was cool. People like me (in my inflated ego-land) who’d been working with fiber-related things since childhood, who wanted to expand their horizons with knitting, didn’t need some silly-titled book. After fussing with several not-great books, I finally caved to pressure realized that Stitch ‘n Bitch wasn’t half bad.

Some may have seen this, so forgive me for posting old news. (I have a number of bloggable things in progress right now, but nothing ready to show) I got this email over the weekend, and it was a bit of a wake-up for me. I forwarded it to my friend Eskimo, who had a great idea for charting funky patterns into lace. I’m brow-beating the hell out of her to contribute. In case anyone out there wants to be similarly inspired:

Dearest stitchers ‘n bitchers:

I’m gearing up to get cracking on my next Stitch ‘n Bitch book. It’s going to be an advanced knitting manual, and I’m looking for patterns that incorporate a bit of fancy-pants knitting such as cables, lace, color work (either intarsia or fair isle or, hell, both!), beading, etc. The book will be covering these techniques in great detail, as well as much more.

Patterns can range from clothing to accessories to household items to baby things and pet items. Even first-time designers are invited to contribute. I’m looking for lively, fun projects, and I’m especially interested in sweaters and socks.

So put on your thinking caps, cause submissions are due June 19, 2006!

To submit, please send the following:
1) If you have a completed project, please send a few good-quality photos of the item, along with a detailed description of it.


2) If you can’t get a large project done in time to meet the deadline, don’t worry. Just send me a very clear, detailed sketch of your project idea (include basic measurements, fit information, etc), along with a photo of a rather large swatch (at least 10″ x 10″) made in the yarns and stitch patterns you plan to use.

Photos of projects and swatches can be emailed to me at stitchnbitch@bust.com, or mailed to me here:
Debbie Stoller, BUST Magazine,
78 Fifth Ave, 5th floor, New York, NY 10011.

IMPORTANT: Please be sure to include your full name, email addresses, daytime and evening phone numbers, and mailing address, along with your submissions. Include a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) if you’d like me to mail your submission back to you after I’ve made my selections.

It will take me at least 2-3 weeks to make my selections. If your project is accepted, you will be provided with the yarn you need to produce a sample, which will be photographed for the book and kept by me (to take on tour, ‘natch!). You will also be paid for your submission, your pattern will be credited to you in the book and will run alongside a brief bio, and of course, you will receive a free copy of the book once it is completed.

If you have any questions about the process, feel free to email me. Thanks in advance, everyone!

(I apologize to any of you receiving this call for submissions more than once; I’m just trying to get the word out to as many of you as possible.)

xxxooo deb
Debbie Stoller

Whatcha think?


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An unintended consequence of the Sheep & Wool Festival this weekend has something to do with this:

(Image from here)

Angora bunnies.

There was a tent near the parking area that offered bunnies for cuddling. Clever marketing ploy those folks had. While my sweetie was not interested in holding one, he did notice how much I enjoyed it. So. Amazingly. Soft. Well, bunnies are nice to hold and all, but we had fiber to buy. Saying goodbye to the baby, we set off. I didn’t think anymore of it until a few hours later, when he said something like: “What do you think of getting an Angora rabbit?” Let me just say that I was speechless.

Now, we’ve been thinking of having a hobby farm in that distant someday when my husband finally finishes law school. His theory was that if a bunny is too much of a pain, then maybe alpacas/sheep/llamas might not be what we want. Granted, a rabbit (or rabbits) in a hutch isn’t nearly the commitment that, say, an alpaca is, but an idea at least would be a good thing.

The idea is for the end of summer, since we’re planning more weekend tours of New England. I’d feel awful leaving the bunny alone, especially since they need something like daily grooming. Leaving kitties alone for 36 or so hours isn’t a big deal, especially since they are pretty good about rationing food. But a bunny? It just sounds mean, especially in the summer, when the poor thing(s) may get too hot.

Ooooooooo, maybe I could barter angora wool?

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funk? What funk?

Nothin’ relieves a funk like:


My husband, (who apparently like punishment) spend hours yesterday helping me figure out a lace pattern that had been kicking my butt for months.

Imagine, its the middle of the night in a hotel room in Asheville. You can’t sleep, and all that’s going through you mind is the new pattern you’d bought earlier that day. Your first attempt at lace, and its right there, just a few feet from you. Oh, and right next to your sleeping best friend that you don’t want to wake up. In the pitch dark, you poke through the bags from that day’s Stash Enrichment Expediton, feeling for the one hank that you rolled into a ball earlier. Once found, you slink off to the bathroom and settle on the floor, having turned the light on only after the door was shut. Your butt already going numb, you cast on, then start the pattern. Eleven rows in you see that there’s a Serious Problem here. You rip back, cursing your bleary eyes and your stupidity at sitting on some nasty hotel bathroom floor. Then cast on again, only to realize that again there’s something seriously wrong with the pile of snot that’s supposed to resemble lace. Third time? Same thing. You give up and lay down in bed, still wide awake, and now royally pissed off. The hell with the Classic Elite Four Seasons and to hell with Sirdar. Who needs lace, anyway?

On that trip, I went down to the hotel computer and email those folks at Sirdar about the stupid instructions. I don’t didn’t know much about lace, but I do know one thing. If you need to have the same number of stitches at the end of 11 rows that you began with, you darned well better have the yo’s and k4tog’s equal out. They said everything was fine, and that I was just too dumb for lace (ok, maybe not those exact words, but some just like it). But! HaHa! Excel spreadsheets save everything

(If I knew how to add a shot of the kickin’ spreadsheet he made for me to the blog, I would. Just imagine it, will ya?)

We shall see how it turns out, though.

On a side note, thanks for the advice with the old love. I responded back with all I wrote before, sans whining. Its just that after the train wreck that was my life when he knew me, the way things are now (mind-numbingly awesome) just seemed so…unreal on paper. But oh, heavens, I will take the cottage on the pond with the swans, and the sweet library job anyday over that world I left behind. And, as my friend Lisa (of the hotel room above, oddly enough) told me, “Consider this: At least you aren’t stereotypically starving in a third world country. Or stereotypically Fran Drescher. How awful would that be?” Damn straight.

Hmmmm, did someone mention swans?

Mama and three cygnets, taken this morning on the way to Cummington. Not a bad life, here.

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I’ve been feeling the knitting ennui lately, but I just couldn’t bring myself to write about it.

I haven’t really had the desire to knit, lunch break knitting aside. The first boot sock for Father’s Day is done (okay, okay, I haven’t kitchenerd the toe) and the second bumblebee sock has a (reasonably) hole-free gusset. I tried a pattern from the new Interweave, but for the LIFE of me, couldn’t get gauge. Aside from that? Eh.

I wonder if there’s something horribly wrong with me.

[deleted: paragraph whining excessively about missing the blogger picnic at Cummington]

Leave me some goodies for Sunday, will ya?

Finally, (which may signal the near-end of ennui-related complaints), I’m beginning to figure out that some of this might have to do with an email I got recently. An old love, who I have (purposely) not looked upon the face of since 2001, wanted to “catch up.” Mind you, this was one of those sob-into-the-pillow-every-night-while-listening-to-sad-Dave-Matthews-songs kind of end to our relationship. Not something I’m keen to dredge back up.

So how do I answer a question like “So what are you up to?” Oh, you know, I’m married, now. I live in a cottage, with two cats, on a pond, with swans and a waterfall. In New England. Oh, and I’m a Librarian now. In my spare time, I knit, and I’m learning to spin.

Stereotype, anyone?

(P.S. Thanks to all who gave birthday wishes to my sweetie. He blushed a great deal. And for the record, I AM a lucky girl.)

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# 32

Happy Birthday Mr. CygKnit!

Today is my sweetie’s birthday, and guess where I am? At work. Just so you know, it’s 7:40pm. Because birthdays are a big deal in the cygnet household, I feel awful for the sweet man left all alone tonight. If you stop by and read this blog, even for one visit, just one random click, wouldja give some love to the man? Why? He buys me wool. He goes to sheep & wool festivals. Get this: on our planned weekends around New England, he’s already mapped out where the yarn stores are.

Why yes, yes he is taken. Why do you ask?

Since he’s a bit shy, I’ll post this, instead:

He made this to apologize for something he did. Did I mention he had never done any knitting but a garter scarf (for himself, it was December and I was under a deadline). He taught himself fair isle/stranded knitting for me. To say “sorry.” How sweet is that?



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Green is for May

Suddenly, almost a week passes and no post. What’s with that? My sweetie (who I now refuse to call DH, only because he likes it) has been working from home on some awful project for a professor. Something about indexing three volumes on international law. Only in rare moments have I been able to cause a distraction, then sneak over and furtively check my email. Sad, I know.

Some unsettling stuff has been going on in my world. Nothing awful, just random weirdness. The unending rain got to me a little. I mean, not that I was counting the days left until the ark was needed (29) or anything, but the grey, oy the grey. And the damp cold. Eeech. But I got this when I came home the other day:

Isn’t it pretty? This is the edge of the driveway where we park. Some days I just get out of my car and stare at the dam, its so shocking. Right in the middle of town we live in this oasis of quiet green. The pond we live on was once an ice farm. Since my misspent youth was spent in Florida, I had some trouble with that whole of concept of “ice” and “farm,” but after two winters in New England, I’m starting to figure it out. If you look carefully, there are some metal spikes at the edge of the water, which regulated the flow for the farm. Something to do with layers of ice?

Although its just across the driveway from our cottage, the noise of the fall isn’t awful. Usually, I can just hear it from the bathroom (oddly enough), but its kinda comforting. Imagine, 2 am or so, I stumble in after the cat wakes me (again). No glasses, no contacts, no light, and the need to scan the floor just in case some cat has left a snake lying about. The reassuring woooosh lets me relax enough to pet the cat instead of wishing to whack her upside the head (not that I would for real, but oh, the desire at 2am!)

This is just a smidge of the pond, last summer, with the dam off past the left. Swans are pretty, but kinda grumpy.

Would you believe that I had no idea what these are?

My landlady gave me the same “what, are you stupid?” look when I asked her what they were as she gave me when I asked about the snowdrops.

How about some current events?

This weekend was WEBS anniversary tent sale.

One of those unsettling things going on is trying to figure out where we will be living a year from now. While this cottage is all kinds of pastoral, its less than 700 square feet. The “second bedroom” as advertised? Will not fit a dresser and a twin bed. Seriously, its a closet. And the real bedroom? Seven feet wide. Room enough for a queen bed and barely two night tables.

A year from now, my sweetie will be graduating from Law school. Now, to me, we should wait maybe a few months or so before thinking of this, but it is the Burning Issue of the Day. He would really like to move West (Rocky Mountains, not Western CT) but I’m not sure yet. Somehow I got old along the way, and don’t feel like change. I just got to Connecticut, it seems. So what does this have to do with yarn? I really want to explore New England before moving out. This past weekend was Western Mass. Wouldn’t you know we had to drive through Northampton?

In addition to getting 8 hanks of the Classic Elite Premier for something in the new Interweave, I got enough Cascade 220 to make the Cambridge Jacket for sweetie, and the Debbie Bliss? $3 a ball for Wool/Cotton ! My husband is such an enabler.

Now that all the bins are full,

at least the top layer of stash, I’m going to have to actually knit something. (This is really a footstool, btw). So how about I ply some yarn instead?

Now, I need help here. So I put each ball–1 oz–in each bowl, to keep them separate. Then, I plied them using the opposite twist than what I spun them in. So far so good? Then why do I have one empty bowl and one *not* empty? Ok, I know that I spun one (the second) a lot thinner, but my real question: What do I do now? Separate the ball from what’s on the spindle? Ply it with itself later? Pretend I didn’t spin the two halves of the roving so amazingly different?

Oh, and the kitty is Misfit. He generally spends his entire life sleeping on the bed, so this appearance is a rare and special treat. Can’t you tell by the look on his face?

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A bit of a rant

The comments on this post, on the Yarn Harlot blog, have me all kinds of fired up. Sadly, I must send all this fire out into blogland. For that, I will probably apologize later in the post. But not yet.

She (Stephanie) asked for some suggestions for bookstores, as she is going to BEA Here are some of the suggestions, and some rational (I hope) dispelling of the myths, at least as far as the mega chain Borders goes:

1. “They might try organizing the books in some fashion”

They do. I’ve worked at 2 Borders stores in 2 states, and have shopped plenty of others. There are sections for knitting, crocheting, quilting, beading, etc. They just don’t stay organized. At any store, of any size. There may be signs on the shelves, or dividers of some sort, but there is organization.

2. “Maybe weight towards including some older books with the newer books”

Not that this is a bad idea, it just won’t happen a lot. Bookstores are not libraries. They sell books, and what sells across the board are new books. Borders has dates on those price stickers on the back, and most stores will have employees pull older titles. As well, each month the stores get big lists of stuff to pull and send back to the publishers. Often, these are things that the stores will get refunds on, thus lowering the overall cost of books. If the store saves money on stuff they didn’t sell, they can buy stuff that will. If the store doesn’t pull those books? They catch all kind of trouble from Corporate.

Most stores (of any chain) will be happy to order older books for you. The big two (Borders and B&N) have access to used books, too, and will order them for you. I promise.

3. “It would help if they could read their reference books in print and actually find the book you want to order but can’t because employee apparently can’t read”

We’ll skip over that part for a second that chafes my butt and instead focus on the first part, “It would help if they could read their reference books in print.” This stuff is all on the computer now, either on CD or through Books in Print online. What that employee is doing that takes forever is trying to work with the keyword demon (mythical not program) that, when you type in exactly what the customer said returns no results. A slow, painful dance of trying to keep the customer from getting cranky while trying yourself not to get cranky with the computer ensues. And by the way, “It has a blue cover” doesn’t help much.

4. “How ’bout a sign offering friendly ordering of books a customer would be looking for?

Well, at Borders (dunno about B&N) there are signs everywhere, and not just at the desks. So many you’ll trip over ’em if you’re not careful. Its just that in retail (and libraries, btw) no one reads signs. I’m dead serious here. Ask, please.

5. How ’bout tracking those requests and noticing trends and then keeping the most requested (gasp) in stock!!!”

At my second Borders, which is one of the largest, more than 50% of stock is based on special order trends. If they are a lot of books on novelty yarns on the shelf, its time to beat up your fellow knitters. Seriously.

6. “And the organization thing. Why do they think we don’t understand the alphabet?”

See #1. Honest to the Gods Above, I would organize the sections daily, and by the end of the night they were trashed. Trashed in an “I’m going to cry right here and now” kind way, because all the work I had done just hours before was for nothing.

7. “Have the knitting section overlooking the children’s books with lots of plush adult-sized chairs”

My old Borders did this, and a LOT of sticky books were the result.

7.5 “Putting the knitting books on the shelves that divide the rest of the store from the children’s section (thus having the knitting books IN the children’s section) was also not a moment of great genius (another Borders accomplishment).”

See? What did I tell you?

8. “Tell publishers not to shrink wrap the books in plastic.”

I almost did the opposing views with this one, too, as aome people complain about the books being shelf worn while others hate the plastic. The solution is simple: at the big box stores (Borders and B&N) ask a bookseller if they will unwrap. 90% of the time they’ll unwrap it, or let you do it yourself. Its that easy.

9. “Also, it would be great to see more knitting magazines – there are a bunch out there!”

Amen, sister. This, again, is an issue for the corporate office. Your local branch of the store does not have control over what mags they carry. You want something else? Email a comment to the head honchos.

10. “Then once we get good books at the library we all need to do our part by checking them out so they remain in the collection.”

I want to end my rant on a good note. Here in the lovely state of Connecticut, there are a lot of libraries with a lot of good knitting books. All you need (if you’re a resident) is a card at your hometown library and you can 1) check out books at any CT library; just show up and hand them your card, 2) request from your library any book from any other CT library, just ask “Can I request _____ sent here?” and 3) grab your card, go online and do it yourself.. It will be sent to the library you like.

All businesses, whether for profit like a bookstore or non profit like a library, work from statistical reports. If it doesn’t sell at the store, its pulled to make room for something that does. Likewise, if something doesn’t circulate at the library, it may one day be weeded to make room for something else. Those that move a lot (whether sold or checked out) stay on the shelf. Its not pretty, but that’s how it works. The people you see on the front lines: the librarian, the bookseller, whomever, is not generally the person in power. If you have a complaint about selection, go to those in control and for the love of wool don’t yell at the poor sap barely making a living wage. Please, help the people who are making these books available to you. We’re trying to help you.

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Here it is, a gusset without holes:

Now, I can’t say how I did this. Mostly, I called upon the meager bits I remembered of what advice I had been given before. (I didn’t have custody of the computer at the time, which is why I was stuck with what a I could remember.)

Although I did have holes in the anklet I tried, I still wonder how much of last night’s success had to do with using worsted weight rather than a sock yarn. Is it so thick it hides it? I have the other bumblebee sock at mid-heel flap now; I suppose I’ll know today at lunch or tomorrow.

It is amazing to me how much faster socks go in worsted, though! Since my Dad wears boots for work and needs something more solid than regular socks, it only makes sense to use heavier yarn and bigger needles. The color may not be what he wants–I’m working from stash–but he’s 100% function over form. If I made him socks on size 1’s or 0’s, he’d only wear them for weddings and funerals. Not how I want my socks worn, I tell you. I just feel I am cheating for using such big needles (size 9).

Tonight, no working on socks! I just got a phone call from home that went something like this:

“Honey, do you know a ‘Jane’?”
“Jane?” I say, “that sounds familiar…”
“A Jane in England??”

Yikes! My Project Spectrum postcard swap partner has beaten me to it, and her letter has arrived! Don’tcha worry, Jane, I’m on it tonight.

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Wanna see what I did this weekend?

Here’s a clue:

Yep, my house smells like sheep, tossed in fruit salad with a dash of balsamic vinegar. Mmmm Mmmm Yum. After the hint from KnitFit about her experience with EcoWool, we played scienist and devised our own process. Since there are a bazillion blogs with posts about the right way to dye, I decided to show our deviations, instead. There are a lot of pics here, so be warned.

First, as you can see above, we soaked the skeins in vinegar water. (By the way, we learned why other people soak their wool in large pans. We needed the sink later.) Most directions say to dye the yarn, then make compact little packages with Saran wrap. We found that this left blotchy patches (see the pale purple), so this is what we did instead:

The hank (1 oz) was set in the pan, then the dye was poured into the center of it. We mostly used a 2:1 ratio, 2 packs of Kool Aid to 1 cup of hot water:

My assistant then mooshed the liquid (here, 4 pkts to 2 cups hot water) around until it was all submerged and looked even:

Yes, he did end up with lovely blue fingernails. Instead of draining or just paining the dye on, we gently folded over the Saran wrap, leaving several inches of head space for steam. Then, it went into the microwave for 2 minutes, then a 2 minute rest, until it had been nuked for a total of 6 minutes. I firmly believe that simmering in dye liquid, then steaming in the microwave makes a huge difference. The pack was then dumped in the sink:

Notice how the remaining liquid is milky, but not colored. The package was hot, and removing the wrap was tricky. Once it was off we then ran hot water on the side of the sink to rinse it. I’m not sure if this is normal or not, but no actual dye drained out of the wool itself. We had very little dye wash out of any of the skeins, and only in one color flavor (grape). Also, we didn’t really need to coninually adjust the temp of the water to cool the yarn down. I think this was because the sink itself was rather cool. Chilly rain (that won’t ever stop) must be good for dyeing?

(Here’s the method he used for his multi-colored ones:

For the most part, the color travels up the yarns, but you can see him spooning some on.)

Here’s my assistant’s feet, as he lays the skein out to dry:

Yes, yes I do need to finish some handknit socks for him. Wait! Here’s one now:

Its mate is nearly ready for the heel flap, but as I only work on it during lunch breaks it goes kinda slow. I started a boot sock for my dad while dyeing on Sat. Nothing like Mother’s Day to remind me that Father’s Day is coming up. Afghan, you ask? What afghan? In my knitting fantasy land, socks will hold him over.

Ahhhhhh, here we go. The finished mini skeins:

My dear assistant helped with a few of these. The top left is grape, but as it was a 1 to 1 ratio it looks a bit faded. Also, the hank was wrapped in Saran wrap without any additional dye, and just steamed instead of simmering. And by the way? Its the only one that smells like burnt sheep. The dark one on the bottom left will create 3 stripes when knitted up. It was made with Grape, Cherry, and Orange, but at a 4 to 1 ratio, which is why the color is soooo dark. Aside from that, I don’t remember which flavors go with what (that was his job, and now I can’t remember and am at work). If you’re terribly interested, pop an email over and I’ll have my assistant work it out.

The real mystery in all of this is Olive the cat. At NO POINT during the dyeing did she cause trouble. That’s right, no batting skeins, no dumping permanent dyes on the counter, floor, or the butcher block. Nothing. I went to bed Saturday night expecting chaos (or at least cat hair) with seven skeins drying on the sweater rack. Sunday morning, I staggered to the couch, waiting for the coffee to finish perking. I looked at the yarn…it was fine. As I was gazing at it in disbelief, Olive went dashing over to the rack. I held my breath. As I stared at her, she proceeded to lick the yarn. She likes grape the best.

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Dye Me a Meme

This is dedicated to you, “Knitter in California”

(all others will most likely die of boredom)

Your favorite colors?

To wear? Icky neutrals. To gaze lovingly upon? Greens, blues, purples. I fell in love with a beautiful Malabrigio in these colors. Socks would be yummy in them (hint, hint).

Do you prefer solid or multicolored yarn?

If my pal is able, I’d love a multicolored yarn. If it turns out horribly, though, a solid color would be just fine, thank you.

If your buddy is able to do so, would you like a variegated,
self-striping, or self-patterning yarn?

Hmmm. Same as above. I think it be a bit much to ask for a self-patterning yarn from a beginner, wouldn’t it? Too rude. Anything is fine, really.

Imagine the perfect colorway. What would you name it?

Oooooooooo. Tropical Ocean Floor? (Green planty things, blues of ocean? Oh, wait, a purple fish in there, too?)

What was the biggest appeal to you for joining this dye-along?

I’d been bugging my honey about this for weeks, but he wasn’t interested in helping. By joining the dye-along–well, I’d have no excuse not to dye. And he’d have to help.

General yarn/fiber questions:

Have you dyed yarn/fiber before? Nope

Do you use sock yarn for just socks or in other patterns too?

I realllllly want to make some fingerless gloves, since its still too cold to knit outside some days.

What yarn do you totally covet?

Malabrigo always wants to jump into my hands. I resisted the call of Mountain Colors once, and seriously regret it. Oh, and I can’t forget my current Art Yarns obsession.

Any pattern you would love to make if money and time were no object?

If time were no object?! Any!

Oh, you meant for real. I really want to do a fancy shawl, but it keeps getting bumped down the list.

Favorite kind of needles (brand, materials, straights or circs, etc)?

Straights in metal, please!

Nothing to do with knitting/yarn/fiber in any way but seemed kinda fun:

Do you have a favorite candy or mail-able snack?

I love jelly beans and sour candy. I don’t need them, though.

What’s your favorite animal?

By default, I collect ladybugs. Fav. animal would be the Olive cat. Who couldn’t love her?

Do you have pets? What are their species/names/ages?

The infamous Olive, age 3, and the less famous (and moresedentaryy) Misfit, age 7

If you were a color what color would you be?

A deep and mysterious blue…

What is your most inspiring image, flower, or object in nature?

Normally, I’d have no clue how to answer this. Right now, though, I amcompletelyy blown away by spring flowers in New England. I just figured out what violets are! How could I have such a deprived childhood??

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