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!

Sheeps and Shawls


I don't believe I've done any cross-stitch since spring break. However, this past weekend, I had to wait for workmen to come to my house (so many workmen over the last month), so I decided to finish a project I started in February. "Spring Sheepies" by Michelle Lutzen can be found in the Spring 2016 issue of Cross-stitch & Needlework magazine; it's perfect for spring, for knitters... for knitters who cross-stitch in spring!

The pattern comes with finishing instructions for making a box display which I intend to try this summer. I made the August cottage by Country Cottage Needleworks for my daughter for her birthday last year, and it's still languishing in my craft dresser because framing is SO expensive! These sheep will be my learning project so that I can finish her piece in time for her birthday this August.


I blocked my Lacy Prayer Shawl in Takhi Cora Handpaints and love it! As I mentioned in this post, the yarn came from two different dye lots and had been languishing in stash for at least 4 if not 5 years. I'm so glad I finally found a pattern for it, and since it's for me, I don't mind that parts of the shawl are pinker and others are greener. It's all spring colors to me! (My daughter borrowed my dress form so final "glamour" short to come!)

I also worked on my YOLO shawl over the long weekend and made it to the mock cable border. The percentage method used it this pattern is so simple yet so brilliant! The directions state that you should knit 45% of the yarn before starting the border, and I came with 2 grams of that weight at the switchover. 

I need to find more patterns like this! Here's what the start of the border looks like:

I'd really like to finish this before it gets hot here at the Jersey Shore since it's knit in a mohair/merino blend, and I am not one to turn on the air conditioning until it's truly unbearable. A blog reader emailed me after reading my post about this pattern last week, and she's planning to try it. If anyone else gives YOLO a go, please let me know via email or in the comments!

Most Tuesdays I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party. Please join us 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!

YOLO in Moscow


While life has yet to settle down (see Instagram posts about our new family member, Kimmy), I started knitting a shawl pattern based on percentages called YOLO. As a high school teacher, I've heard that term many more times than any person ever should, but I like the reasoning of designer Susan Ashcroft:
a simple knitting trick to make little mock cables without a cable needle - just YO (yarn over) and LO (lift over)
This pattern takes the weight of all the yarn then uses 45% for the stockinette upper part and 55% of the yarn for the mock cable border. Genius! When one knits with pricey yarn, one would like to use up the skein yet I always seem to have yards leftover, never enough for another pattern! (At least I never run short of yarn.) I bought a small scale for this project; we'll see how it goes.

I came across this version by Raveler PattiAnnieB in yellow gradient yarn and immediately thought the fingering wool yarn I bought last fall from Maple Creek Farms in the colorway Wheat Fields would be perfect:

With a few very hot exceptions, it's been cooler than normal here at the Jersey Shore, so knitting this sunny mohair/merino blend has been a pleasure this month!


Without a lot of time to read recently, it took me longer than usual to make it through A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Perfect for my hectic current life, this book starts off with a very basic premise then remains a rather quiet book until the very end.

Count Alexander Rostov returns (yes returns) to Russia from Paris after the fall and execution of the Tsar. He manages to get his beloved grandmother to safety in Paris but remains behind in Moscow in a luxury suite at the Metropol hotel with quite a few of his family's possessions. On June 22, 1922, the Count is declared a Former Person and sentenced to life confined within the walls of the hotel. He is spared a death sentence based on a poem he published about a decade before that was more revolutionary than aristocratic.

Pay attention to that poem...

Originally sporting some serious mustaches (an early hipster one might say), the Count is forced to have them shaved after an irate customer at the barber cuts one off. This removal sparks a conversation with a young girl named Nina who introduces the Count to what goes on behind the scenes at the hotel as well as many of the Bolshevik assemblies that take place in it's ballrooms.

Nina eventually grows up, marries, and has a child, Sofia. Sofia's father is arrested and banished to Siberia. Nina wants to follow him but cannot take a 5 year old child, so she leaves Sofia with the Count as what everyone believes is a temporary measure.

It is not.

Sofia grows up as a Russian Eloise while the Count becomes head waiter at the illustrious restaurant within the Metropol. Characters come and go, plans are made... and the end falls together perfectly. I enjoyed this book with its unusual premise and quiet yet moving story. Events happen outside the Metropol hotel but the hotel and its inhabitants power on. The movie Casablanca plays a part in the later pages and if you liked that movie, I'm certain you will enjoy A Gentleman in Moscow!

Most Tuesdays I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party. Please join us 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!

Yarn Dyeing with Indigo

I don't know why, but when the weather gets really bad on a Saturday, I immediately think about dyeing yarn. Maybe because I know I'll have the entire afternoon to play with color or maybe because I like to dye bright colors which cheer me up in dreary weather. Whatever the reason, this past Saturday when it was cold and rainy and very uninviting outside, I decided to try the Indigo Dye Kit kindly gifted to me by The Wooliers after I interviewed them on the podcast.

Such a fun way to dye yarn!

My go to way to dye is with a crockpot and either food coloring or Kool-aid, and if you've dyed yarn with either, you know you've questioned how those items are considered edible. This kit gave me a chance to try a natural dye in an almost fool proof way (if you read the directions before you start, definitely fool proof).

The kit comes with detailed instructions, 3 packets of pre-measured dye ingredients, a wooden stick to stir the yarn and dye, and 120 yards of wool (25% baby doll, 25% merino, 50% alpaca). Earlier experiences with alpaca had me wondering how bright this dye would be; alpaca tends to mute even the brightest of Kool-aid colors, but turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

After mixing the hot water and the ingredients, I left my jar to sit for an hour. Then I let it sit for another hour. My jar never got to the "translucent yellow/green" described in the directions, but I've created some mighty fine colors in the past by winging it, so I pushed that hank of yarn into the dye mix anyway.

The directions said let it sit for 5 minutes. I of course got involved with the new Anne of Green Gables series on Netflix so didn't come back to it for about 30 minutes. Super dark blue!

After letting the yarn sit for awhile (ok more of Anne), I rinsed out the indigo. That took quite a bit of soaking which may be due to my water never turning that yellow/green, but once it was rinsed, I gave it a soak in, what else, Soak, and then wrung it out to dry.

The yarn dried overnight (and was of great interest to my new dog, Kimmy - I think the smell intrigued her), and I am IN LOVE with this yarn!!

I see this in a hat very soon... now to get some of The Wooliers natural yarn to go with it!

If you've never tried your hand a dyeing yarn, I highly recommend this as a first time experience. Very self contained in the jar, the directions are very detailed, and the result nothing more than spectacular! If you decide to give this kit a try, let me know!

Paddy 2002 - 2017

It is with a sad heart that I write this blog post about Paddy, my dog of 15 years. He passed away on April 27, 2017 and his loss hit our family hard. While I still knit and read while I grieved, I didn't have a blog post in me last week. I'm sure I will feel his loss for the rest of my life; he grew up with my children and was indeed my third child.

He was a big fan of a good chew bone:

He was also a good sport when his human siblings forced him to do things like listen to Fallout Boy:
His favorite spot to hang was the futon in the playroom even when the kids outgrew the playroom:
He also loved snow even though his Mom does not:
He was often at my feet when I knit or read (or stealing my chair when I was elsewhere). Paddy, you will be missed.

Season 2, Episode 4: Interview with Kate Frank


In this episode, I chat with Kate Frank of Kathryn Frank Fiber Arts on etsy and the Kitchen Stitching podcast. I mentioned that she's offering a coupon code for any purchase in her shop. That code is knitreadpray for 20% off anything in the shop. If you do buy her yarn, please let me know and I'll provide a copy of my newest pattern, Lingering over Tea,  made with the yarn pictured above!

Speaking of that pattern, if you'd like to receive a coupon code from me for a free copy on Mother's Day, please sign up for my newsletter in the sidebar on the right.


I review The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson and Isabella of Castile by Giles Tremlett in this episode. Very different books - I loved them both!

Bible Study

I mention the E100 Bible Reading Challenge which I've started as well as the Facebook group for the podcast. As I mentioned, I'd like to get the group going again as a place for Bible and Scripture discussion.

Sentient Moss

The song at the end is Unit Zero, written by my son, Joe Fadem, and performed by his band Sentient Moss. You can find their entire CD on Soundcloud, bandcamp, Spotify, and iTunes.

Spring Break Reading & Crafting

Spring break came very late this year, and I think students, teachers, and parents all felt the effects of the long stretch of school days since the beginning of January. While my to do list was filled with both life and school tasks to catch up on, I put aside time each day to read and craft.

I am the much better for that!


I cast on some Tahki Cora Hand Paint yarn I have had in my stash for ages (and by ages, I mean 5+ years). The colors are very spring even though it was 80 degrees the day I started knitting with this wool and alpaca blend. I stumbled upon this simple Lace Prayer Shawl pattern by Renee Rico while searching for a lace pattern for some fingering weight yarn I wanted to knit up.

Obviously, I'm easily distracted while on spring break!

This pattern fit my needs perfectly: knit a lace pattern that's not too challenging (break after all) with yarn I have in stash in spring colors. I admit, I've had to rip back a few times when I've paid more attention to what's going on around me than the pattern, but it's easy to memorize and quick to correct. It's also rectangular rather than triangular so no pesky increases!

The yarn is from two dye lots which is noticeable if you look for it, but I think I'll keep this one for me. No regrets!


I don't cross-stitch every day, but when I do, I cover a lot of ground! This pattern is called Spring Sheepies from the Spring 2016 issue of Cross-Stitch & Needlework magazine. I stitched those cute sheep this week!


I requested Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Bachman after I read a number of good reviews on Yarn Along posts. After finishing a long (and I do mean long) biography of Isabella of Castile, I started this book having no idea what to expect.

I love it!

This has to be a movie, and Francis McDormand must be Britt-Marie. I admit, she reminds me of my mother in many ways (although her cheating husband is nothing like my father). Britt-Marie likes things clean and orderly. Britt-Marie loves a good list. Britt-Marie needs a job and finds one in a dying town called Borg caring for a soon to close recreation center. (As a Star Trek fan, this name was ominous, but the author is Swedish and one assumes Borg is in Sweden.)

With the recreation center comes a tribe of misfit children, some young gansters, a shop owner called Somebody, and a kind and slightly awkward policeman named Sven who tries very hard to take Britt-Marie out on a date.  On top of all that, Britt-Marie becomes the coach of the children's soccer team knowing nothing about soccer or, really, children.

She is, after all, as her husband says, "socially incompetent".

I'm reminded of Olive Kitteridge when reading about Britt-Marie so perhaps that's where my casting comes from. If you like a book with unusual characters, subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) comedy, a heroine who has more depth than most, and the best ending I've read in a long time, check out Britt-Marie Was Here.

Every Tuesday, I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party. Please join us 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!


As sad as I am that Ginny Sheller's Yarn Along has ended, I understand her decision and am treating this as an opportunity. Yarn Along provided structure for my new blog when I started a year ago as well as a new audience, but change is good, and this change came at just the right time!

The #100dayproject starts today. What's this project, you ask? It's a challenge to do something creative for 100 days. Most participants do something with art or photography since an integral part of the challenge is posting daily on Instagram.

I am not an artist or a photographer.

But I am a cross stitcher! I recently returned to cross stitch after a very long hiatus. Pattern content has changed since the early 90s; babies, unicorns, and Holly Hobby have been replaced by cottages, buildings, and houses.  Based on this new aesthetic, I've come up with a project that lends itself to my interests and talents.

I'm going to create an original cross stitch pattern based on the Allgor-Barkalow Homestead in my hometown of Wall, NJ. Every day on the way to work, I pass what is probably the only historical landmark in my town. In the 20 years I've lived here, I've never visited the museum or attended an event there.

I'm not even sure why it's a historical landmark.

At the start of the project, I plan to take a picture a day of the Homestead at various times of the day and analyze each with regard to a final image. For example, I need to remove the electrical wires and fire hydrant from the final image. Another issue: the only way to take a "head on" photo of the house is to stand in the middle of the cross street. That's a problem I've yet to solve!

This week, I'll start with photos like the one below and take a tour on Sunday when the museum is open.

If you'd like to follow my adventure, please check out my Instagram feed and the hashtag #100daysofAllgorBarkalow! You'll also find a weekly update here on the blog.

Are you participating in the #100dayproject? Are there any hashtags for this project that you recommend? If so, let me know in the comments!

Season 2: Episode 3 - Lingering Over Tea


My new cowl pattern, Flock of Seagulls, is available on Ravelry. There's a handy link in the sidebar!

The One Nation, Under God hat, a free pattern, is also available here.

My St. Patrick's Day scarf knit in Caron Cakes Pistachio is the Latte Scarf, another free pattern on Ravelry.

Kate's yarn can be found at KFrankFiberArts on Etsy. She also hosts the Kitchen Stitching podcast with her mother Karen. If you aren't watching their podcast, go over to Youtube and watch right now!

I mentioned the Yellow Roses shawl by Clothesline Designs and the Caring Cowl by Alexis Winslow from previous KnitRead Pray KALs.

Podcasts I mentioned: The Crafty Toads and The Sampler Girl

Check out Sarah and the Craftivist Collective for some slower, less aggressive approach to activism.

40 Day Bible Reading Challenge by Margaret Feinberg can be found here. I haven't done any other activities on that site, but this challenge for Lent is excellent!

You can enter to win a copy of Proverbs 31: A Life of Truth and Grace by Jessica Mathisen by commenting on this thread in Ravelry. Check out my interview with Jessica in the last podcast.

Give the podcast a listen to hear my review of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonsen, as well as more information about the links above. After listening, please leave a comment and start a conversation!

Lifestyle Contradictions: Knitting & Thug Life

Due to unforeseen adventures in home ownership, this month's podcast is delayed until next week. However, I do have a brief update on what I'm knitting and reading this week.


I've started a new cowl design using yarn from a new indie dyer, KFrankFiberArts, who is Kate of the Kitchen Stitching podcast. Kate kindly sent me a hank of her superwash merino silk sock yarn to use for this pattern in her colorway Linger. I wanted to create a cowl that works well in spring and early summer, and this yarn is the perfect weight! 

I've incorporated a simple cable pattern that reminds me of small tea roses in a loose cowl that'll keep out the last of the spring chill or enthusiastic air conditioning. Tentatively titled "Lingering over Tea", I hope to publish this for Mother's Day and have it ready for test knitters by Easter.

As you can see from the picture above, I'm also back to cross stitching. This design was in the Spring 2016 issue of Cross-Stitch and Needlework Magazine. I can't resist a pattern with sheep - they will appear on those hills. I still have to concentrate much more on stitching than I do on knitting so I don't have as much time to stitch, but when I do, I enjoy it so much! I learned when I was a child and forgot how relaxing and rewarding this hobby can be.


I just started a young adult novel that seems to be everywhere. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas gets its name from the first part of the words that make up the acronym Thug Life. Urban Dictionary explains Thug Life this way:

A word evolved by the late Tupac Shakur. Commonly mistaken for a Criminal. Thug Life is the opposite of someone having all he needs to succeed. Thug life is when you have nothing, and succeed, when you have overcome all obstacles to reach your aim.
I'm about a third of the way in to the book. The main character, Starr, witnesses the police shooting of her childhood friend Khalid. Complicating the issue (and that's a complicated issue), is the fact that Starr attends a predominantly white private school but lives in Garden Heights, a predominantly black neighborhood. She is living the definition of thug life as are her family members.

Add that to the fact that this is the second childhood friend Starr's see die, and you have a very difficult but important read. In just the part I've read, characters keep referring to people becoming hashtags and losing their privacy and individuality in their role as victim. I'm sure we've all read those hashtags; how chilling to read a story that humanizes those victims and the people who love them. You can't scroll by or change the channel while reading this book.

A student of mine just finished this, and when I told her I'd picked it up from the libary this week, she told me I had to read it "right now". While I have yet to finish the book, I have a feeling I'm going to be back telling all of you to go read this "right now" too!

Every Tuesday, I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party. Please join us 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!

Flock of Seagulls Pattern & Fierce Biblical Women


This week, I released another original pattern, the Flock of Seagulls Cowl. While I recognize that those of us that are a certain age now have a certain song playing in our head (and I'm sorry that it will now be there for hours!), the simple cable stitch in the main part of this cowl reminds me of seagulls in flight.

Those little bird stitches require a simple cable stitch every fourth row, but don't be put off! If you've never knit cables (or rarely knit cables), this might be a good pattern for practice. I rarely knit cables but loved this stitch so much, I gave it a go. This makes the pattern just interesting enough without being so complicated you can't do a little Netflix and knit while working on it!

I knit this in MadelineTosh DK in the colors Cove and Antler. Yarn with a good drape in a DK weight is perfect for this pattern. The lighter weight works well for spring when it's cool in the morning and evening but warms up during the day. (As I write this, it's snowing like crazy out my window, but I have faith that spring is coming!).

The pattern in available on Ravelry for $1.99. The proceeds from all my pattern sales go to support my podcast.


I recently finished Fierce: Women of the Bible and Their Stories of Violence, Mercy, Bravery, Wisdom, Sex, and Salvation by Alice Connor. Not for those easily offended by curse words and feminist views (although the only f word in the book is feminist), these essays take a strong look at Biblical women both in context and as their stories relate to modern culture. While I admit that I thought more than once, "Can a Pastor say that?", I'm so glad she did! As someone who struggles to align the social views I believe are true in my heart with the experiences of people 2000 years ago in the Bible, Pastor Alice's book went a long way to showing me that protest and equality can go hand in hand with acceptance and mercy.

If you, like me, wonder if we've "come a long way, baby" or are still fighting the same fight as women and other minorities fought all those years ago, this book is for you! Pastor Alice is the first author who successfully connected the actions and struggles of Biblical women to modern women for me without forcing me to consider any compromise to my social consciousness. Definitely biblical feminism at its finest!

Every Tuesday, 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!

Caron Cakes Shawl & an Affair of the Heart


My name is Laura, and I'm a Caron Cakes addict. I don't think I'm alone, however (please say I'm not). I've been incredibly busy lately and wanted a fun but mindless knit for weekday evenings. Caron Cakes are certainly fun - when you're getting bored with a color, it changes (much like the weather these days).

This time, I chose Pistachio because I knew I'd be wearing it in March. Ravelry came to the rescue with a simple yet lovely free pattern called the Latte Scarf. I hope to have this done for St. Patrick's Day!

I'm also running a flash sale on my Aspen Winter Cowl pattern because March came in like a lion here at the Jersey Shore. From now until March 12th, you can get this pattern for 99 cents with the coupon code MARCHLION. A handle link is in the sidebar at the left!


What if Humbert Humbert was accused of murdering Lolita in a book written by Elmore Leonard?

That's my description of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker. Released in 2014 to quite a bit of fanfare, the book's sales didn't reach expectations here in the States. I've seen copies on discount racks in Barnes & Nobel since publication, but the book probably reached a new low when I found a copy for $1 at the dollar store.

Now I'm a person who loves to find a good book at a thrift store or in a bargain bin, and $1 isn't much of an investment. Also, on the day I found this copy, I was coming down with a cold and knew I was going to hibernate over the weekend. I wanted a book that would interest me but not require any effort on my part.

This was the book.

Harry Quebert, a writer in the mold of Norman Mailer, is accused of murder when the body of a 15 year old girl who went missing 33 years ago is found on his property in New Hampshire. A manuscript of Harry's masterpiece, The Origin of Evil, is found under the body with the inscription, "Goodbye, darling Nola". 

Harry's protege, Marcus Goldman, arrives at Harry's beach house in New Hampshire right before the body is discovered complaining of writer's block. Goldman published a blockbuster the year before and has a second book due shortly for which he received a large advance but he's yet to write a word. When the body is found and Harry becomes the prime suspect, Goldman's publisher suggests that the investigation of this murder become the topic of Goldman's second book.

Marcus' investigation interspersed with Harry's advice on writing and flashbacks to the summer of 1975 and the murder make up the bulk of the book. At over 600 pages, it's still a fast read and a lot happens including a twist I did NOT see coming with about 100 pages to go. Originally written in French by a Swiss author who spent summers in New England, there's a lot of small town hi jinx and a little social climbing that provides some much needed humor in a mystery that basically involves the relationship between a 35 year old man and a 15 year old girl. 

I really enjoyed this book, and the Lolita aspect is handled very well. There are some fun allusions - for example, Harry's lawyer is named Benjamin Roth (a not so subtle connection to Philip Roth), and Marcus' mother is every Jewish mother in the body of one New Jersey matron. While I can't say I agree with the fantastic reviews from foreign publications all over the cover and front pages, if you want a fun mystery with an unusual twist on a weekend you may not be feeling your best, this book's for you!

Every Tuesday, I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party. On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Sometimes I post reviews at Cannonball Read. 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!

One Nation, Under God Hat Pattern

This week's blog post is slightly different; I have a free hat pattern I'd like to share with my readers and listeners. It's called the One Nation, Under God hat pattern.

I mentioned this in the last podcast episode and explained that the title comes from the Pledge of Allegiance. As many of you know, I'm a teacher, and teachers recite this with their students 180 days a year.

In my school, our principal recites the pledge over the PA most days. He also happened to mention how much he'd like one of my knitted hats earlier this year. (I made one for a teacher I was mentoring who wears it every day; I think my principal was slightly jealous since I've known him much longer than the new teacher!) When I asked about colors, he said he'd really (really) like a red, white, and blue one.

Challenge accepted!

I already had this yarn (it's the same yarn in different colors that I used for "that hat"). Two summers ago, I learned the fair isle technique and thought this was a good way to test my expertise. With good old graph paper at hand, I came up with my star pattern... and wouldn't you know, the number of stitches I decided to cast on was divisible by 13! Perfect since the colors I used reminded me of older flags I've seen in museums and in documentaries.

Since the United States is known as the Land of the Free, I'm offering this pattern for free. All I ask is that you fill out the form below, and the pattern will be sent automatically. I'd like your email address because I plan to start sending a monthly newsletter to blog readers and podcast listeners in the near future. The newsletter will contain blog and podcast updates as well as giveaways, calls for test knitters, and future pattern publications.

The pattern is also on Ravelry where you can find more detail about yarn, supplies, etc. I look forward to seeing many versions of the pattern in the months to come!

Free Pattern Download

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Today, I'm joining Teresa at the Really Crafty Link Party. Every Tuesday, I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party. On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Sometimes I post reviews at Cannonball Read. 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!

Season 2, Episode 2: Girl Power!

Podcast Love

I mention three podcasts in this podcast, and I recommend all of them!!

CooCooforCowls with Jillian (another Joisey girl!)
The Crafty Toads with Helen and Mary Beth (two more Jersey Girls)
Tome Time Reading and Knitting Podcast

I've noted the time where each sections starts in parenthesis for the segments below:

Knitting (3:47 minutes)

The Caring Cowl KAL ends on February 28, 2017. Alexis Winslow, the designer, donates the proceeds from the pattern sales to the American Red Cross. I knit mine out of Bernat Dimensions; my version and a number of other versions can be found in the Ravelry group.

I am looking for a few more test knitters for my new pattern, Flock of Seagulls. Knit in MadelineTosh DK, this pattern uses approximately 210 yards of DK weight yarn and does have a very simple cable stitch in the main section. I am not a cable knitter! You only use the cable needle once very 6 rows so it's a good pattern to try cable knitting if you've hesitated to do it in the past!

I'm asking that test knitters finish by St. Patrick's Day (March 17, 2017) and post their finished project on Ravelry when the pattern is finished. A final PDF copy of the pattern will also be provided to anyone who is gracious enough to test this pattern!

I also mention the One Nation, Under God hat pattern I'm working on. Here's a picture of the hat before the fair isle stars were added. This yarn is Briggs & Little Tuffy and Heritage in Red, Cream, and Navy. Come back to the blog next week when I will post a final picture. The free pattern should be released on Ravelry by the end of the month!

Reading (18:00 minutes)

Find out just how much I love this book about 16th century women who ruled Europe - there's way more to the story than Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I!

Bible Study (30:54 minutes)

Please check out my interview with Jessica Mathisen, the author of the devotional Proverbs 31: A Life of Truth and Grace. I am giving away a copy of this devotional to listeners... but you have to listen to find out how to enter to win!

You can find Jessica on her blog, An Immeasurable Joy. The video about her devotional that I mention in the interview can be found here
In addition to podcasting, every Tuesday, I join Nicole at the Keep Calm Craft On link party.  On Wednesdays, I participate in the Yarn Along on Ginny Sheller's blog. Sometimes I post reviews at Cannonball Read. 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!

Galentine's Day & Race with a Capital R


If you've read this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I love Parks and Rec so it should come as no surprise that I celebrate Galentine's Day:

For this year's Valentine's Day, I knit a version of the Caring Cowl in Bernat's Dimensions yarn. It's pink, it's squishy, it mimics thick and thin handspun, and all pattern proceeds go to the American Red Cross. What's not to love about this cowl?

There's a Caring Cowl Knitalong going on in the Ravelry group through the end of February. Check out some of the completed projects for inspiration and then share yours for a chance to win one of two prizes!


In the last blog post, I wrote about The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem and likened the story to dropping Holden Caulfield into 1970s Brooklyn. This is true for the majority of the book. Sure, his parents move Dylan (the main character) to Gowanus during the last gasps of white flight where he is in turns treated well and badly by the black characters that surround him. He eventually makes his escape to an exclusive private college and then to the mostly white environs of Berkeley and the Bay Area.

It's a modernized Holden and his backstory until the last 80 or so pages. Then, the reader CANNOT IGNORE the fact that this book is about Race with a capital R. If it's a coming of age story, it's a dual tale: a white boy in the same circumstances as a black boy escapes his situation, leaving the black boy behind and in jail. In the same way The Catcher in the Rye deals with identity, Fortress also deals with identity in it's most basic form: what do you look like, what do people see when they look at you, what assumptions do they make based on what they see.

Early in the story, Dylan finds a ring that bestows superpowers on the wearer depending on who they are and what point in their life they are in, a nice touch of magic realism... but wait! As a tween and teenager, Dylan, can only fly along the tree lines, never really leaving earth. Mingus (his black friend), is adept at flying until a strong wind blows him off the Brooklyn Bridge. Mingus is at home in his world until outside forces intervene; Dylan is not.

As adults, the ring makes Dylan invisible, and if your familiar with Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, you'll know this twist is a take on that novel. Dylan's color makes him visible; only the ring can make him invisible. Mingus, on the other hand, is always invisible, a character almost always off stage in this story... until the very end.

Like I said in the last post, this book is beautifully written and the New York of the 70s authentic (I was there, trust me), but ultimately, this is a book that forces you, no matter what your color but especially if you are white, to face just how little progress we've really made in this country since that time regarding race. Read it especially if you are privileged and visible in our culture.

On Tuesdays, I 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!

Caring Cowl Progress & Boy Grows in Brooklyn


A new semester started this past week at the high school where I teach. While I love the semester system, that first week is exhausting! I teach 3 different courses, Python, Java, and Web Design. This is the first time I've taught different programming languages at the same time.

(Fun Fact: The programming language Python got it's name from Monty Python's Flying Circus. The creator was binge watching while he came up with the language.)

It's weeks like this one just past that I really need knitting! I started my Caring Cowl for the Caring KAL currently running in the Ravelry group. All proceeds from the sale of this pattern go to the American Red Cross. I saw on the news recently that the American Red Cross is very active right now assisting victims of the recent tornadoes in Alabama, so every little donation helps! 

I'm using Bernat Dimensions yarn not so much for the thick/thin texture but for the colors. Perfect for February! I did alter the pattern somewhat by using a smaller needle - this yarn is knits up too loose with a larger needle - and making accommodation for the small needle size by casting on more stitches. I also started with a purl section because I didn't care for how the yarn curled with my first attempt. This yarn makes a nice scalloped edge most likely because it is machine made and the thick and thin sections are uniform. 

I have another ball of this yarn and will probably use most of it. As much as I love real handspun, this yarn is much more affordable! Also, I think I'll knit this pattern in a standard bulky weight yarn too; it's a quick knit. Please consider joining the KAL in the KnitReadPray Ravelry group!


In the last blog post, I mentioned I had a hard time finding a followup to 2 really good books I read last month. After rejecting ever book in my library TBR pile, I started rummaging through the multiple TBR piles around my house. (Tell me I am not alone in that!) In stack #2, I found a copy of a book recommended to me by a student a few years ago for consideration for summer reading. I never got around to reading it because we selected other books, and it didn't appeal to me at the time.

Now? I love it. And by love it I mean I LOVE IT! The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Letham is the The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay with magic realism, but it's SO MUCH MORE. The story of Dylan Ebdus begins in 1970s Brooklyn, a white boy in a black neighborhood. Early on, his mother abandons the family, and he meets his neighbor, Mingus Rude, another motherless boy. The bulk of the book recounts Dylan's school years, his friendship with Mingus,  and their adventures as Aeroman after Dylan is gifted a magic ring by a homeless man.

The writing is lyrical, poetic even, and the observations spot on. For example, Dylan observes that second grade is first grade just with math. I know! As Dylan moves from elementary school, to middle school, to testing in to Stuyvesant High School, the author's observations regarding the world of children, Tweens, and teens is painfully accurate. This is a coming of age story that places Holden Caulfield smack in the middle of Abe Beam's New York by way of Gowanus.

I just finished the "Underberg" section (the longest) and will write a complete review next week!

UPDATE: The second part of this book review can be found here.

On Tuesdays, I 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!

A Flock of Spontaneous Combustion

If you're visiting from Cannonball Read, scroll down for my review of Spontaneous.


Over the weekend, I finished my first test knit of a new cowl pattern I've called Flock of Seagulls. I knit the borders in sand stitch and the center is a cable knit that I think looks like a flock of seagulls taking off from the beach.

My LYS has an amazing sale every New Year's where everything in the store, including Madeline Tosh yarn, is 25% off. On New Year's Day I found the perfect yarn for this pattern in Cove (right) and Antler (left):

If you've read previous blog posts or listened to the latest podcast, you'll know I'll be knitting another version of this pattern in Prado de Lana DK yarn that I picked up at Vogue Knitting Live. I plan to finish that by mid-February and will be looking for test knitters around that time. The pattern should be released in mid-March.


Do you ever have a run of days where you just can't get in to any books in your TBR pile? That happened to me last week. I finished both The Sun is Also a Star by Nicole Soon and Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer and just couldn't find another book to make an awesome YA trifecta. Why you ask? The premise of Spontaneous is simple: high school seniors spontaneously combust in the oddest places like pre-calc and an SUV.

What could possibly follow THAT?

The first half of the book is a lot of fun - who will blow up next? The main character, Mara, is far from perfect and a possibly unreliable narrator. Dylan, her romantic interest, is odd in a Jesse Eisenberg sort of way which means he's quirky and endearing.

Mara's best friend Tess is a big part of the first part of the book but disappears for a large section towards the end which I don't think was explained very well. Mara and Tess pledge to be cool old ladies together at the beginning of the book then in the third half Tess disappears, tries to solve the problem of explosive students without sharing her activities with her BFF, abruptly reenters the plot, and then ... well, that would be a spoiler, wouldn't it?

If your unsatisfied and / or confused by the second half of the book and the ending, it may help to view the story as a metaphor for senior year in a US high school. After I lent this book to a student, we had a healthy conversation about that possibility. Both of us were more comfortable with Tess's actions and the book's conclusion after we talked it out from that perspective!

The book takes place in New Jersey, and I agree, our state is one where students could very well spontaneously combust. The author lives in Vermont, and I think he takes some liberties with NJ geography. Mara talks about riding her bike "down the shore" where I live quite a few times during the course of the book, but the action takes place the northwest part of the state. There's NO WAY a high school kid (or anyone for that matter) could ride a bike from that part of NJ to my part of NJ especially round trip in one day. The author also mentions "Rumson Road", a road very near where I live down the shore which the author places in Mara's home town.

Color me confused.

If you don't live in NJ and you're intrigued by the premise of this book, I suggest you give it a go. I read the opening paragraph in the latest podcast so if you're on the fence, give this episode a listen and let me know what you think!

On Tuesdays, 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!