September 27, 2017

Season 2 Episode 6: Book Chat - Edna Ferber

Below is a transcript of the podcast for those who would rather read a blog post:

I decided to read Wuthering Heights again (because I love everything Bronte almost as much as everything Austen) at the end of June and finished on July 4th. The date is significant because when I went looking for my next read, I thought I would give American classics another chance. I love British classics especially from the 19th century and have since I was in high school yet I consciously avoid American classics.

The blame lies with sophomore English lit and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Not just The Scarlet Letter, which I really disliked, but his other works especially The Marble Faun which I had to read and present to the class and was such torture that I refused to read any 19th and early 20th American author for the past 4 decades.

It was bad.

I thought I’d start revisiting American classics with The Grapes of Wrath because I love other John Steinbeck books especially East of Eden but couldn’t find a copy anywhere, probably because it’s assigned as summer reading at least in this part of the country. I read an excerpt in high school and hated it (not as much as Hawthorne, but close). I thought it was worth another look almost 4 decades later.

I eventually found a copy while visiting my parents in Texas, but in the meantime, I picked up Giant by Edna Ferber at my library from their small classics section. I love this movie (James Dean, Rock Hudson, and Elizabeth Taylor, oh my) so figured I was safe choosing this book to start my summer of American classics.

Boy was I ever!

September 18, 2017

Using Up My Stash with the Greta Vest

Over the summer, I decided to update my stash spreadsheet. I know I can put my stash on Ravelry, but I'm an old school girl who likes to make spreadsheets then "visualize my data".

It's a gift or a curse, not sure which.

After completing said spreadsheet, I realized I have a lot of yarn. Like 75 separate line entries of yarn. I'm not at the point where I want to recognize that I may have a problem, but I am ready to put a hold on any more yarn purchases.

So, yea, I'm going to New York Sheep & Wool again this year. Might not buy quite as much yarn as I have in the past which gives me an excuse to stand in line at Jennie the Potter!

But I digress.

If you've been following the blog, I'm almost finished with the Gigi sweater for Rhinebeck out of Jacob sheep yarn from my family's farm that I had in stash. I also discovered during my stash dive that I had 5 balls of I Love This Wool by Hobby Lobby in terra cotta burried at the bottom of my largest yarn bin. (Yes, there are multiple bins.)

I know, I know, shopping at Hobby Lobby can be controversial, but I bought this yarn a number of years ago while visiting my parents in Texas when Hobby Lobby was closing out this brand (a real shame, it's a very nice acrylic/wool blend). Trust me, many a summer afternoon has been spent in a Plano, Texas, Michael's, Joann's, or Hobby Lobby with my Mom and daughter wallowing in all the crafty possibilities!

While I didn't have enough for a sweater, I did a quick search on Ravelry, and found I had enough for Greta (above), a cardigan vest pattern by Christina Wall. Like a good knitter, I swatched and found that the I Love This Wool yarn blocked to a perfect gauge for this pattern using the suggested size 9 US needle size.

This pattern also has a lot of garter and stockinette stitch, good old mindless knitting for a teacher facing the shock of back to school brain.

I started the body portion this week, and my Greta is knitting up quickly. Could I possibly have TWO sweaters finished by Rhinebeck? Let's not get ahead of ourselves, but you never know! I do recommend this pattern especially if you, like me, need to knit from stash and don't have a large quantity of one type of yarn to make a sweater.

I'm looking forward to wearing this fall color next month ... and clearing a place in my stash for a few new purchases at New York Sheep & Wool!

September 11, 2017

Dottie Angel Frock for Short Round Mom Bodies

Last summer, it seemed like the Dottie Angel Frock pattern was everywhere. All the knitting podcasters and bloggers were suddenly sewing, and this was their go-to pattern. There were sew-alongs, tutorials, Instagram posts, a host of Dottie Angels populating the internet!

So, of course, I wanted a Dottie Angel frock.

I made quite a few of my own clothes in high school and college after my mother taught me to sew. She made most of my and my sister's clothes when we were kids, mainly to save money, but also because my mom is really good at sewing! In fact, she used to make clothes for Barbie in her basement sewing "room" to sell at local craft fairs to raise money for our Christmas presents.

Mom even made my wedding gown in a very 1980s peach complete with puffy Princess Di sleeves.

So the thought of making the Dottie Angel Frock wasn't especially daunting for me, but I just ran out of time last summer to make it. At the start of this summer vacation, I began binge watching seasons of Project Runway which prompted a real desire to "make it work" with that Dottie Angel pattern. I wasn't sure the dress version of the pattern would be particularly flattering on me, so I opted for the blouse version that hits mid hip.

All the Project Runway contestants make a version of their pattern in muslin before they create a garment, so I decided I would do that too. I cannot recommend this enough if you decide to make this pattern and are short (5' 1" on a good day), round (aka "mom-shaped"), and / or are over the age of 25.

The first sign that I don't have a model's body came when I made the tie-backs. The placement of these ties not only hit me mid-bust but no matter what the placement, they were not the least bit flattering. I'd prefer not to look like the world's oldest pregnant lady.

After ditching the tie-backs, I tried my first French seams on the sides which went very well until I tried the garment on. Too tight in the bust, huge sleeve holes, hem at my knees.

Mom to the rescue! While visiting my Mom with my daughter in early July, we got into a discussion about sewing. Sarah (my daughter) asked Mom about alterations, and Mom had lots of good advice! One was to raise a garment at the shoulders if the fit in the length was off. She was so right! I moved my shoulder seams down approximately 2" and voila! Bust fit great and the sleeves were spot on.

I also wasn't fond of the contrasting pockets, so I followed this option and made pockets of the same material as the frock (which in my case was the shirt version).

After those adjustments, the pattern when pretty well although all that seam binding and basting got a bit tedious. The neckline, the shoulders, and sleeves are all finished with binding tape which is very neat, and I'm sure will guarantee a longer lasting garment, but I did miss the days of sewing a straight seem and at most taking the pinking sheers to a seam to prevent unraveling!

Finally the hem! So tempted to do a traditional foldover hem, but decided to stick with the pattern and use the seam binding. This took WAY too long what with basting it twice, trying to sew on the right side and not catching all of the binding, then sewing on the wrong side and still having a bit of trouble with that. The only time I had to get out my seam ripper was on that hem!

If I make another one, and I think I will in a light wool for fall, I'm making a foldover hem. What took me 3+ hours will take less than 1/2 hour with this approach, and it will most likely be neater than the hem I ended up with on this version.

Have you made the Dottie Angel Frock? Did it work out for you as written or did you have to come up with some "hacks" as I did? Please share your experiences (and any questions and feedback) in the comments below!

September 4, 2017

A Tale of a Cardigan Collar

About a year after I started knitting, I decided to knit myself a cardigan. I love cardigans and felt ready to tackle something beyond a cowl or shawl.

I was not ready.

The pattern was wrong for my body type, the yarn was wrong for the pattern, I really didn't understand the importance of blocking... so many problems with that cardigan.

I hated it as soon as I finished it, and never knit another garment again. Until this summer.

I like to tackle either a complicated project like stranded knitting or a larger project during summer vacation but had a hard time finding one that inspired me as the school year ended. As luck would have it, a number of knitters I follow on Instagram posted starts for Rhinebeck sweaters about that time. I'm going to Rhinebeck! It's chilly at Rhinebeck (at least in the morning).

This year would be different. This year, I would knit that mythical beast, a Rhinebeck sweater.

With nothing but the desire to knit a top down cardigan - a woman's gotta know her limitations, and I know I have to check fit as I go - I began my search on Ravelry. Lots of searching and thinking about the perfect pattern followed as I lay awake in bed each night listening to the crickets tell me summer was rushing by. (Could also have been the crickets in my gecko's cage... but I digress.)

I don't know if the crickets had anything to do with it, but I came upon the Gigi cardigan by Devin Ventre in early July and mentioned it in the last podcast. A short sleeved cardigan, the pattern was not only perfect for my mom shaped body, it used worsted weight yarn and the sample was knit in what looked like farm yarn.

Checking my stash, I discovered I had just enough Jacob sheep yarn from my family's farm left to knit this cardigan! I cast it on and went gangbusters until mid-August when I hit the collar.

I loved the collar design. I tried over and over for FOUR days to get that collar to work. This is a paid pattern so I won't go in to detail, but the collar is knit vertically by picking up a stitch at the collar for each row. My collar looked wonky every time. Here's what the collar looks like on the Ravelry pattern page:

So I decided I'd pick up a row of stitches along the collar and do a purl collar horizontally. The sleeves are purled; I thought the collar would pick up that detail. It did, but it also curled like crazy. Rip rip rip! Day five wasted.

The next morning while out on my walk with Kimi, I realized a garter collar would look very similar to the one originally called for. (You'd be surprised how many problems I solve on my walks with Kimi.) That afternoon, Kimi and I settled in for the Fruity Knitting podcast episode with Ysolda Teague (coincidentally the designer of that cardigan I knit so long ago).

It worked! The collar stood up the way the pattern designer intended, and it looked far from wonky. I did do an icord border on each side following this tutorial so I had a clean edge. Here's what the collar looks like now (pre-blocked).

With the collar conquered, I just have the sleeves to kni5 and will post again after I finish and block the cardigan!

Have you altered a pattern in the past (knit or sewn)? I admit, I usually follow a pattern pretty closely, so I'm interested in what others do when creating garments. I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

July 27, 2017

Recipe: Homemade Dog Biscuits

Many of you know I recently adopted a rescue named Kimi. A 4 year old pit bull mix, she came with lots of history and health problems. I've worked on both since she came home with me and my son at the beginning of May, and she's doing incredibly well both physically and socially.

One of the first things I had to address was I'll call "digestive issues", but every dog parent (or any parent for that matter) knows what I mean. I tried a number of different foods to help her digestion and one of the best was baked organic jewel yams from Whole Foods.

Three things about those jewel yams: they are actually a form of sweet potato, rank "number one in the nutrition of all vegetables", and they are only slightly more expensive than regular sweet potatoes at the chain grocery store. (Remember, I'm a public school teacher; I shop in Whole Foods as a treat or for specific items I can't find at ShopRite, so don't be put off by the purveyor.)

Jewel yams are also much creamier than regular sweet potatoes, and Kimi loves them. That got me thinking about how I could incorporate them into a portable, healthy treat I could use as a reward and let visitors give her when she was appropriately social. We also have many play dates with her BFF, Tipton, and who doesn't want to bring treats to their BFF?

I came up with this recipe by taking various ingredients from a number of recipes on the internet and in magazines, so my version may not be a new approach to some readers. However, it's the one Kimi and Tipton love, and it's easy to make!

Kimi's Jewel Biscuits

1 average size jewel yam microwaved to softness (takes about 8 minutes in my microwave on high)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup natural peanut butter (I used Skippy creamy)
1/2 cup regular oats (I used these because I had them - instant may work too)
3 Tbsp. wheat germ (Whole Foods brand but only because that's the only place that carried wheat germ in my town)
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used Gold brand from Walmart - figured that would balance out the Whole Foods purchases!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Using an electric mixer, mix together cooked yam, eggs, and peanut butter until creamy.
3. Crush oats in a blender until the consistency of grainy flour.
4. Add oats and wheat germ to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.
5. Add 1 cup flour to batter and mix thoroughly.
6. Add remaining cup of flour gradually (I mixed a 1/2 cup then another 1/2 cup.)
7. Flour a surface and a rolling pin. (I also lightly floured the dough.) Roll out dough until roughly 1/4" thick but not more than 1/2" thick.
8. Use a dog biscuit cookie cutter to make biscuits. (I got mine at Joann Fabrics.) Place biscuits on greased cookie sheet. (Spray oil is fine.)
9. Bake for 30 minutes.
10. Remove from oven, cool, and enjoy!

Store in a Tupperware-like container but don't worry if the cookies get softer; dogs don't seem to mind! Also, your house will smell good after you bake these "cookies". My son had a friend over while I was baking; when he walked in, he immediately asked what smelled so good!

Please let me and Kimi know if you try this recipe - I'm sure your furry friend will love them as much as she does! If you have any other healthy ingredients you've baked in dog biscuits or any you'd like to suggest, please let us know that as well.

July 24, 2017

Classic Octopus Hat Giveaway

If you've listened to the last episode of the podcast, you'll know that one of my projects on the needles was the Classic Octopus Hat by Molly Kent. My version is knit in the Pembroke worsted base from The Yarn Collective in the colorway Copper Agate, a gift from the lovely folks at I finished and blocked the hat this past weekend and even added my very first pom pom!

I made a modified version by Raveler Quaere that turns the original beanie pattern into a slouchy hat. This version is great; the only change I would make if I knit it again is to do more knit rows in between the decrease rows at the end. The hat isn't as slouchy as I like (I love slouchy), and has a rather square top. That's why I added the pom pom - I'm normally not a pom pom person, but I think this makes the hat! I used this pom pom tutorial, and my pom pom turned out great on the first try.

As noted in the photo above, I'm giving away both yarn colors as well as the pattern for this hat. donated the yarn, and I will gift the pattern to the lucky winner. So how do you win?
  • - Sign up for my newsletter (top right) if you haven't already done so.
  • - Comment on this post or the podcast post
  • - Follow me on Instagram
  • - Like my post on Instagram about the giveaway
  • - Repost my Instagram post
  • - Like the podcast's Facebook page
Lots of ways to win! I'll announce the winner on the next podcast, most likely early August. Good luck and happy summer knitting (with wool of course)!

July 2, 2017

Season 2 Episode 5: Pitbulls, Paranormal YA, & Prizes!

I'm back! And I have a new furry BFF named Kimi. Here's a pic of her (bottom) posing with her best furry friend Tipton (top) in a pitbull garden.

I talk more about how I came to adopt Kimi in this podcast episode, and you can find more pics of her on my Instagram.

Pics and more stories about Paddy the Cocker Spaniel can be found here.


Patterns I mention:

YOLO by Susan Ashcroft - here's my finished version in Maple Creek Farms fingering wool/mohair blend in the colorway Wheat Fields:

I'm knitting the Gigi cardigan by Devin Ventre of Knitty McPurly in Jacob Sheep wool from our family farm for Rhinebeck this year. I just started it so here's a close up of this yarn in stockinette:

Classic Octopus Hat by Molly Kent - WIN a copy not only of this pattern but the Pembroke worsted yarn in the colorway Copper Agate donated by and a skein of Cascade 220 in the colorway Pacific, the colors I am using in my version of this hat. Listen to the podcast to find out how you can win! Entries will close when I next podcast, most likely the end of July.

The photo at the top of this post shows my progress and the yarn used in this pattern. The Yarn Collection Pembroke worsted is the orange/coral, and the blue is Cascade 220 in the colorway Pacific.

The modification I'm following that turns this pattern from beanie to slouchy can be found here.

Simple Striped Bag by Willow Yarns - here's my version about half way done:


I review 3 young adult novels in this episode. Don't be put off by the young adult label, these are great books for anyone approximately 15 years old and up. The links below go to Amazon for informational purposes only.

Firebug by Lish McBride
The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glรคsser
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Bible Study

Information about the E100 Bible Reading Challenge can be found here. Let me know if you decide to try this challenge and/or have recommendations for similar Bible studies!