Aspen Winter Cowl



It's official! My first pattern, the Aspen Winter Cowl, is now available on Ravelry. While I am in no way a fan of cold weather, I've always loved the visual contrast of the last bright leaves of fall against the first snow fall of winter. This pattern mimics the texture of the aspen trees surrounded by a bed of fallen leaves and snow. The picture above, taken by Elisa (ARockandaTree on both etsy and Instagram), captures the exact inspiration for this design.

There are 2 versions of the cowl, town and country. Both are knit with approximately 200 yards of worsted weight wool on size 8 needles. The borders of "snow" are done in seed stitch, and the center section uses my "birch" stitch to recreate the knots and ridges of the aspen bark. The town version is knit in a custom colorway by Robin's Roost made specifically for this pattern:


I created the country version using one hank of Romney lamb wool from the Prado de Lana farm in Pennsylvania. I won this yarn as part of a giveaway on Instagram and fell in love with it. Squishy soft and natural gray, this yarn was a perfect match for the center birch stitch. I used some handspun alpaca from stash for the snow to create the perfect rustic version of the cowl:


The birch pattern really stands out in the Romney wool:
Both Amanda from Prado de Lana and I will be at Vogue Knitting Live in New York City in January. Amanda will be selling copies of this pattern along with the wool I used - if you're going to the event, stop by her booth! I'll be there Saturday, January 14th, wearing my version; if you see me, please say hi!

I was lucky enough to find some very gracious test knitters. Below is a version by Gill (knit.purl.relax on Instagram):

Angela (harknessangels on Instagram) knit a rustic version in Cascade 220 before Pantone announced that the 2017 color of the year is "Greenery":

Joy (joysharynsquiresjensen on Instagram and 1sexygramma on Ravelry - the best rav name ever!) knit this version that looks just lovely:
A big thank you to all of my test knitters including Juliann (juliannph on Instagram) and Amanda of Prado de Lana (she took the test knit to Florida - jealous!). I'll talk more about the background of this pattern as well as my start on my new cowl pattern for spring in the next podcast - stay tuned!

Moss Cake Knitting Pattern

Knitting - a Scarf Pattern!

A few weeks ago, I posted about a scarf I started using Caron Cake yarn. I admit, I was curious about this yarn after reading numerous posts either loving it or hating it; it's a yarn that inspires all the feels!


As someone who likes to make up her own mind, I bought the Fairie Cake colorway - teal is my favorite color - and started a scarf. I haven't knit a scarf in a long time, and I wanted to trying double moss stitch. Its a stitch that makes a squishy and intricate fabric that impresses non-knitters but is easy enough for knitters to do on the go (or during administrative duty if you are a teacher).


I'm a little over halfway through the cake. This acrylic isn't squeaky on the needles or rough on your hands.  The color changes are instant and not gradual, but gradients are not necessarily good (said the teacher whose students often think the gradient tool makes them a graphic designer). Also, check out my cute little progress keeper I received from White Whisker Studio (and that nifty moss stitch):


A note on how I knit the scarf: the cake started with a few yards of the lightest color before the full block of dark teal:


I originally started with that partial block, but not only did I not like the look of that sad little slice, I also didn't like the slipstitch edging I used, so I started over. I cut the lightest color from the cake and am saving it for when I get to that color. That block will be slightly larger than the others, but it will be at my neckline and should look appropriate. You could always just discard that little extra if you get a cake with the same issue, but I wanted to use my entire cake!

While the scarf isn't complete, here's the recipe for my Moss Cake Scarf. It's a quick knit and might be helpful for last minute gifts.

Moss Cake Scarf

Yarn: One Caron Cake

Needles: Size 8

Cast on 36 stitches. The first and last stitches of each row will always be a knit stitch.

Rows 1 and 2: K1, *K1, P1* to last stitch, K1
Rows 3 and 4: K1, *P1, K1* to last stitch, K1

Knit until you have just enough to bind off, then do the bind off. Since this is acrylic, blocking won't do much, but I always wash a hand knit before I gift or wear it.

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll most likely see the finished scarf sometime this week. I'll also include it in my next blog post.

Reading

I was lucky enough to get the newest Jack Reacher novel, Night School, from the library over the weekend. This was a double win because (1) a whole bunch of roofers put a new roof on my house Saturday which prevented me from leaving for most of the day, and (2) it was cold here in New Jersey so I had no interest in leaving my house anyway!


You know what you're getting with a Jack Reacher book: lots of action, sparse prose, an unusual mystery, and woman who falls into bed with the main character for absolutely no reason (but generally just once or twice in less than 3 paragraphs total so easy to breeze through). In this book, that woman is a high powered government official who "combs her hair with her hands" which is just silly - are men really impressed by that?

It is 1997, so maybe.  Reacher is still an MP in this episode, and Y2K gets a lot more attention than fringe Islamic terrorist groups. That changes by the end of the book but not by much. Most of the action takes place in the reunified Germany which has it's own problems.

Great literature, it's not, but it is good fun. If you, like me, hate to leave your house when it's below freezing or in bad weather, this is a good weekend thriller that won't tax your brain but may tax your patience once or twice much like the action movies of the same era.

Today I'm joining The Really Crafty Link Party and Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party.  On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties.  You may find your next book or project waiting for you!

Little Women and the Aspen Winter Cowl


Aspen Winter Update - Call for Test Knitters

In mid November, after the election, I felt inspired to create my first original knitting pattern. I thought it would be appropriate to release the pattern for my first "podversary" on January 11, 2017. To that end, I started translating the pattern I had in my head on to my needles. Inspired by the photos of aspen trees in the winter by Ansel Adams popular in the 80s, I created a cowl with a seed stitch border (the "snow") and a center section in the Trinity stitch (the "birch").

I knit the first, or "country" version of the Aspen Winter cowl using Romney Lamb worsted wool from Prado De Lana farm for the center, the birch section, and some handspun natural alpaca for the snow section. The small bobbles created by the Trinity stitch really mimic the knots in the birch tree in this yarn, and the contrasting cream alpaca frames the natural wool perfectly.




My friend Robin of Robin's Roost yarn agreed to create a custom colorway for my "town" version of the pattern. This 100% wool not only has the cream, gray, and black of the birch trees but the bright yellows and oranges of the fall leaves lying on the forest floor.


I'm halfway through the test knit for this version and anticipate finishing it by the end of the week. I've opened a thread in the ravelry group for anyone interested in test knitting this pattern (you must join the group to participate). I ask that you indicate what yarns you intend to use in that thread, complete the test knit done by December 30, 2016, and create a project page for your test knit on ravelry. I know it's the holidays with lots of gift knitting but then again, no reason you can't add this pattern to your gift knits!!

Reading

In book news, I love to read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott during the Christmas season. I mentioned the book to some of my seniors, and one of them knew the opening line by heart!
Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents, grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
While I don't read this book every Christmas, I do every few years. This past Saturday, I found a copy from 1976 at my local library's book sale for 25 cents - best deal of the season! I started reading that afternoon, and on Sunday, when I woke up a bit sniffly, I made a pot of tea (complete with my grandmother's knitted tea cozy) and settled in with Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.


Anyone else love reading Little Women this time of year? Definitely a great way to get into the spirit of the season!

Today I'm joining The Really Crafty Link Party.  On Tuesday's, I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party.  On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties.  You may find your next book or project waiting for you!

Episode 11 - Interview with The Wooliers




The Wooliers

Thanks to Margeau and Rebecca Soboti for taking the time to talk to me and share their fiber journey as well as their wonderful yarn and patterns. If you live in Central NJ, you can catch up with them in real life at the following events this month:

December 4, 2016, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Holiday Craft Fair at the Monmouth Reform Temple
Tinton Falls, NJ

December 10, 2016, 12 p.m. - 3 p.m.
The Wooliers + Margeau Blanc Trunk Show at Chelsea Yarns
Colts Neck, NJ

December 11, 1 p.m. - 7 p.m.
The Greenpointers Tropical Holiday Market
Greenpoint Brooklyn

Coding Corner

Thanks to Connor, Grace, Kail, and Kelly, my students, for the great introduction to this new segment.  I discuss variables in coding as they relate to knitting. The examples I use look like this:

gauge = 6
needleSize = 9
yarn = "East Yarn"

Gauge and needleSize are numeric (integer) variables, and yarn is a text (string) variable.

I also briefly introduce Boolean variables. A Boolean variable is written like this:

endOfRow = False

or

stitchMarker = True

Note the way the variables are written in what's called camel case, i.e. the first English word starts with a lowercase letter (as do all variable names) but any part of the variable name that could be a distinct word following that is written in upper case.

Stay tuned for the next episode of coding corner where I introduce conditional statements!


Knitting

I finally finished the Laura Pinafore complete with Mario inspired button:


I knit this Patons Striped Hat pattern for my teacher mentee with Plymouth Homestead yarn:

I also mention my new pattern, the Aspen Cowl. Here are a few images of the test batch of custom dyed yarn Robin of Robin's Roost is creating for this pattern:




I anticipate calling for test knitters the week of December 5, 2016. If you are interested in test knitting either the "town" or "country" versions with whatever yarn you choose, please join the Ravelry group. I will create a thread for testing when that opportunity becomes available. (If you'd like to learn more about the "country version", see this blog post.)

I finally started my Yellow Roses shawl for the current KAL in the Ravelry group. This KAL goes until January 15, 2017 so you have lots of time to join us! Here's the start of my version in some OOAK yarn from Maple Creek Farm I picked up at Rhinebeck:


A random participant in the KAL will receive a hank of hand spun, hand dyed yarn from Pucker Brush Farm that I picked up at Rhinebeck this year.

I also started a basic scarf in double moss stitch using Caron Cakes in the Fairie Cake colorway (check out that awesome progress keeper from White Whisker Studio):



As part of the #getyouryarnwishesgranted event on Instagram, I also received this lovely yarn from White Whisker Studio:


I recently purchased an AMAZING project bag from Toad Hollow. Helen and MaryBeth also have an awesome podcast on YouTube:


Reading

I highly recommend IQ by Joe Ice especially if you love the Easy Rollins books by Walter Mosley.


Finally, I just started The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. It's a wonderful book for the Christmas season and explores the roles of 3 women, Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna in the Christmas story.

If you'd like to learn more about anything in this post, please give the podcast a listen (player at top or the podcast can be downloaded on iTunes and other podcast apps).

On Tuesdays, I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party, and the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog on Wednesdays.  Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties. You may find your next book or project waiting for you!

Town & Country

A New Pattern

In the last post, I introduced my first original pattern design Aspen Winter. I finished the "country" version of the pattern yesterday, and my timing couldn't be better. Here at the Jersey Shore, we wore flip flops on Saturday and winter boots on Sunday. Thanks weather!

This version of the pattern is knit with worsted weight alpaca as the "snow" and Romney wool from Pradodelana Farm for the "birch trees".


There will be a "town" version of the pattern that I hope to test in the next week or two using custom dyed yarn from a local dyer. I hope to share the pattern with test knitters in early December. If you're interested, please join the Ravelry group. I'll post a thread there when the pattern is ready for testers!

Reading

I recently started watching the Murdoch Mysteries on Netflix and just love them. The time period (1890s), the novelty of invention (night vision goggles!), famous characters (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Wild Bill Hickok, Houdini!), the tension between the handsome main character and the female coroner, the comedic constables ... just go watch an episode.

While you do that, we can look at the cover posted outside my classroom. I like to share what I'm reading with the kids so maybe some of them will pick up a book (although many of them tell me they are too busy to read).


After spending some digital time in 1890s Toronto, I was happy to stumble upon A Deadly Affection by Cuyler Overholt in the library last week. The sleuth in this series is a female psychotherapist who encourages one of her patients to confront a doctor who took her baby from her when she was a teenager. Of course, the doctor is murdered, the woman a suspect, and Dr. Summerford enlists the help of Simon Shaw, a man with which she has a history. Early psychology and medical theories abound but don't drag down the story, and the setting of late 19th century New York complete with robber barons and tenements makes this an exceptionally fun read for any lover of historical mysteries!

I participate in  The Really Crafty Link Party on Mondays, Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party on Tuesdays, and the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog on Wednesday.  Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties. You may find your next book or project waiting for you!


Aspens in Winter & Tigers in Summer

Knitting

I finished the Francie Nolan Tam last week and blocked it right away. This yarn really loosened up; I think if I make another hat with it (Berroco Abode), I'll just lightly spray the project rather than giving it a soak. The pattern knits up quickly especially since I went up significantly in needle size for the ribbing (from size 4 to size 7).


Once again, I have yet to cast on the project selected for the current KnitReadPray KAL (the Yellow Roses shawl). As much as I tell my students not to wait until the last minute, I find that I do my best work under pressure! Since this KAL goes through January 15, 2017, I've got lots of time, right?

So instead of casting on the shawl, I decided that, after the turmoil of election season, I needed to really stretch my creativity. Making is great therapy! Cowl patterns are my favorite, and I've always wanted to create my own, so I spent a significant amount of time last Thursday transferring what was in my head to swatches on the needles.

I read somewhere that the first step to creating a pattern is to knit your concept with cotton yarn. There's lots of cotton in my stash (because dish clothes). However, I did want to test the drape, so I started with a skein of I Love This Cotton from Hobby Lobby in light gray. This cotton isn't as stiff as other cotton yarn, so Friday afternoon I cast on my concept:


I also contacted Robin of Robin's Roost Yarn, a local to me indie dyer I interviewed in this episode of the podcast, and asked her to do a custom color way for the "town" version of the pattern. Winter is my least favorite season (even though my birthday is January 3rd), but I've always loved the photos of aspen trees at the start of winter surrounded by fallen leaves. Last year, my daughter hosted one of those painting parties for my birthday, and we, of course, did a variation of Ansel Adam's famous photo:


(Don't judge, I'm a coder.)

I shared a few photos with Robin and discussed my "vision" (I feel so official having a vision), and she graciously agreed to dye the yarn for the "town" version of Aspen Winter.

Of course, I can't leave well enough alone, so after I finished the test knit, I decided to do a "country" version of the pattern using alpaca from Sweitzer's Fiber Mill in Pennsylvania and the gorgeous hank of Romney lamb's wool from Prado del Lana Sheep Farm I won as part of an Instagram giveaway. The Romney wool really shows off the pattern!


My original plan was to publish the pattern on January 15, 2017, roughly the first year anniversary of the podcast, but at this rate, I should get it done before Christmas. I will be looking for test knitters; if you're interested, I suggest joining the Ravelry group if you have not yet done so and then watch for a thread calling for testers of the Aspen Winter pattern.

Reading

Last weekend started on Thursday due to the NJEA Convention in Atlantic City. I never go - I'd rather do professional development at a technology conference ... and why doesn't Rhinebeck count for PD? - so in between bouts of pattern design, I read the newest Virgil Flowers mystery by John Sanford.


I'm not a big fan of his Lucas Davenport series also by this author, but I love Virgil. His stories are very Elmore Leonard, and this episode doesn't disappoint. Inept thieves steal 2 tigers from the Minneapolis Zoo, and it's up to Virgil to track them down and save the tigers. Turns out, Amur tiger parts are used as medicine in China, and an evil Chinese immigrant now in LA pays to have the tigers stolen. (Guess we need a wall around California too.) Throw in six brothers of indeterminate Slavic heritage, a disgraced MD who eats Xanax like Skittles, and a Minnesota summer, and you have a winner!

I participate in  The Really Crafty Link Party on Mondays, Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party on Tuesdays, and the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog on Wednesday.  Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties. You may find your next book or project waiting for you!

Episode 10 - Electric Avenue

Hello and thanks for giving my podcast a listen. I started this podcast in January of this year with absolutely no expectations, and I'm so glad I did! Some of you landed on this blog post through one of the various link parties I participate in; thanks for stopping by. If you've listened to the podcast for awhile now, thanks for coming back each month. I'm truly blessed by all of you, and I hope I continue to entertain and inform!

In the current episode, I mentioned Ginny Sheller's weekly Yarn Along, and I highly recommend it! I've discovered a lot of great bloggers, projects, and books through that weekly online event.

Knit

Since the last podcast, I've finished 2 Handbrake cowls. I knit these as part of our Cancer Awareness KAL. You can check out some other great entries in the Ravelry group. Prizes for this KAL were a skein of Malibrigo Rasta in Ravelry Red that Andrea donated to the podcast along with a copy of the Yellow Roses pattern from Clothesline Designs.

We had a lot of fun with that KAL although not a large number of participants. This is the first KAL I started and finished within the time frame, and I made TWO cowls not just one! I, of course, can't win anything, so I'm going to gift a Yellow Roses pattern to both Sabrina (sabrab on Ravelry) and Andrea (mrssmith618 on Ravelry) if they haven't bought the pattern already. (If they have, I'll let them pick a lucky knitter to pay the gift forward!)

Sabrina made a cowl in pink and orange, the colors of breast cancer and self injury. Andrea made so many! A blue one for the Duke Cancer Center, a red one and a rainbow one just because, and a teal/periwinkle like colored one that I'm saying represents esophageal cancer (because that's the cancer I wanted to raise awareness for & it's my podcast). Carmen of A Simple Homestead made one in blue sparkle in remembrance of her Grandmother because "who doesn't think 'colon' and 'sparkle' in the same sentence?" For that observation alone, Carmen wins the Malabrigo yarn!

Here are some photos of what the winners produced:







The Yellow Roses pattern will be our next KAL and will run from November 1, 2016 through January 14, 2017. Caroline of Clothesline Designs is donated 75% of each purchase to MIND, a mental health organization in the UK. She's raised almost $150 dollars so far! Please support this great organization by purchasing a pattern and joining our KAL! This is what it looks like although there are quite a few lovely versions out on Ravelry:


Here's the progress on my Francie Nolan Tam:


and progress on my Big Twist Cowl:


You can read more about my adventures at Rhinebeck along with my haul here.  Check out Andee's designs on Ravelry.

Fleece Flight by ninjaChickens - using all Heritage breeds and the pattern benefits the Livestock Conservancy.

Podcasts mentioned: Kitchen Stitching and Sticks + Twine

I mentioned Vogue Knitting Live in New York - if anyone's thinking of going, leave a comment! I would love to go and meet up with some listeners / readers.

Read

I talk a bit about Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Kolz-Weber in this blog post. To hear my entire review, listen to the podcast!

I'm also reading Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden, a nice historical romance with a little bit of adventure.

I won a copy of Cowgirls 2 by Cathy Carron from Marie at the Underground Crafter blog and intend to knit the "Electric Avenue" cowl in the near future (hence the name of this episode). 

Pray

Illustrated Faith 18-month Planner - I LOVE this planner and explain why in the podcast. Suffice it to say, it's a great value, well-made, and contains lots of inspiration. Follow them on Instagram for flash sales - that's how I saved on mine. There's lots of information on their YouTube channel about using the planner; here's a quick video showcasing the contents from a user. I also discovered that my prior planner company (Kristin Schmucker) was not as reputable as originally thought so am very glad to find this one!

The podcast interview with Shanna Noel I mention can be found here.

I'm still working through Entrusted by Beth Moore. Slow going on my part which has nothing to do with the Bible study. I have a 4 day weekend coming up and really want to devote time to this study. We have a very unstructured discussion group over on Ravelry if you'd like to join us. 

I participate in  The Really Crafty Link Party on Mondays, Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party on Tuesdays, and the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog on Wednesday.  Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties. You may find your next book or project waiting for you!



Imperfect Projects and People

Projects

This week I definitely suffered from startitis. I originally planned to cast on another Linto Creek cowl, but Sabrina, a member of the podcast's Ravelry group, kept posting all the beautiful hats she knit on Instagram. I've wanted to knit the Francie Nolan Tam from Literary Knits for some time now, so I started that instead.  (Francie Nolan is the main character in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, one of my all time favorite books.)


I used some Berroco Abode I had in stash; teal is my favorite color, and this bright yarn will look great with my read hair!


I also cast on a winter cowl in yarn I found on clearance at JoAnn's. I try very hard not to be a yarn snob; I've been known to use acrylic on occasion (gasp!). That said, this yarn is Big Twist Natural, 80% acrylic and 20% wool, has perfect fall colors and matched a gray GAP fall coat I bought less than an hour before discovering this yarn. Originally $6.99/skein, I got 4 skeins for 6 dollars! (Go to Joann's and get some. I'll wait.)


I'm doing an Instagram challenge with the hashtag #craftyblisschallenge, and one of the challenges is "Trying Something New". The pattern for this cowl was on the back of the tag wrapped around the yarn. I love this broken fishermen's rib stitch and haven't learned a new stitch in awhile.

Unfortunately, I've developed a bad habit with regard to patterns: I read them then think I know a "better way". I don't know a better way, and I need to learn that the pattern designer is a designer for a reason! This pattern started with 73 stitches cast on size 13 needles. I decided to do a provisional cast on so I could do a 3 needle bind off when it was complete instead of sewing the ends together (it's not knit in the round). Three hours later, I realize that you don't sew the bottom edges together so that provisional cast on was worthless!

I really didn't want to frog all that work, so I pulled out the scrap yarn to see what the edge looked like. It's loose and will lay flat which I think I'll like in such a large cowl since I am my own little furnace these days and don't like to be too bundled up.  Stay tuned to see if my decision is a wise one!


People

In book news, I started Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber late last week and cannot recommend it enough! Karen of the Kitching Stitching podcast recommended it to me through Goodreads, and I'm so glad she did!


I really want to talk about this book once I finish it on the podcast in November, so I'll just say that Bolz-Weber's flavor of Christianity is much like mine. We both have a serious problem with comfortable Christians buying in to the "left behind" mentality. Jesus moved among the fringe of His society, and I truly believe that if he showed up today, we'd find him in a rescue mission in Asbury Park not a mission-style mansion in Beverly Hills. This book is a series of essays on Pastor Bolz-Weber's interactions with an entire rainbow of people (some with tattoos, most with wild hair, a few with ironic hipster glasses, and one corporate vice president).

If that's where you're coming from, you may want to find that book at your library - that's what I did! (If that's not your thing, totally cool, we don't judge.) If you're interested in hearing my complete review, please check out my next podcast. I plan to record in the next week or so. It's available on iTunes and other podcast streaming sites as well as well as this website!

I also attended the Dodge Poetry Festival with 12 students and one other teacher in Newark, NJ, this past Friday. This event is free to high school students, and the entire day is spent listening to poets read their poems, discuss their craft, talk to fans, and then go eat food truck food. Perfect day, right?


Every year, I discover a new poet, and this year, I discovered Tanya Olsen. She was one of the 3 poets who read/spoke during our first session, and she was also on the Poetry and Pride panel. We always close out the day with that session, and this year didn't disappoint. I bought her book of poems at the pop-up bookstore and have been enjoying them over the past few days. Her poem "Rose Goes to Sunday School in the New World" is an incredible exploration of the honesty of young children, and there are 2 poems from the point of view of Jonah (he of whale fame). Her book is available on Amazon if you're interested.

Today I'm joining The Really Crafty Link Party.  On Tuesday's, I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party.  On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Please join us either by contributing a link to your fibery work in progress and current read and / or by checking out the posts to the link parties.  You may find your next book or project waiting for you!