The Best of 2017

Every year I do a "best of" blog post, and 2017 is no different! In this post, I'd like to share with you my top 5 books read this year and my top 5 patterns knit this year. Keep in mind, they may not have been published this year; 2017 is the year I discovered them.

Top 5 Books I read in 2017

My number one favorite book of 2017 was So Big by Edna Ferber! If you haven't listened to the last episode of the podcast and you're interested in this book, please do! Interesting fact, quite a few new listeners downloaded that podcast in December, and I'm not sure why, but I am thrilled that so many people are interested in Ferber. While her stories may not be as enlightened as those written in the 21st century, for a woman writing in the early 20th century about racism and sexism, Ferber is refreshing discovery!

My other favorites in no particular order are:

1. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Letham (reviewed in the February episode of the podcast)

2. Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth Century Europe by Sarah Gristwood (reviewed in Season 2 Episode 2 of the podcast)

3. Thornhill by Pam Smy: A novel that is very similar in structure to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, part prose, part illustrated novel. Smy's work follows separate stories of two girls, one in the present and one in 1982, that converge in the story of just what happened at Thornhill Institute. This is not a children's story even though the publisher places the age range at 10 - 14. This book deals some very troubling issues including suicide; I wouldn't give this to a teenager younger than 16, and I would definitely discuss the book with them after they read it. That said, it is a great psychological thriller for adults told in a very unique way!

4. The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser (reviewed in Season 2 Episode 5 of the podcast)

Top 5 Patterns I Knit in 2017

My absolute favorite pattern from 2017 was the Gigi cardigan by Devin Ventre. I made this out of the Jacob sheep wool from my family's sheep farm and wore it to Rhinebeck this year. The pattern is knit top down with short raglan sleeves and a generous cut to hide what the designer and I call our "mom belly". This pattern is very well written and suitable for someone who hasn't knit many sweaters (this was my second one ever). 

Here's a picture me in the cardigan with the fantastic group of knitters I go to Rhinebeck with each year:

photo courtesy of @andeekf

My other favorites in no particular order are:

1. Classic Octopus Hat by Molly Kent knit in Pembroke worsted in the colorway Copper Agate and Cascade 220 in the color Pacific. Still have no idea why octopuses, but I love this hat now that it is ridiculously cold in the northeast.

2. Caring Cowl by Alexis Winslow knit in Bernat Dimensions yarn, a big box acrylic yarn in lots of shades of pink that I am also wearing quite a bit this winter. This yarn mimics handspun in that it's thick and thin but in a uniform way since it's a machine made yarn. I love this yarn in this pattern - so squishy and warm and bright pink! Here's a classroom selfie:

3. My One Nation, Under God hat pattern inspired and created for my principal. It's a free pattern; details and the pattern can be found here.

4. North Country Mitts by Andrea Mowry knit in yarn from the Wooliers indigo dye kit. I wrote about my experience dying this yarn on the blog and recently knit the yarn into these very simple mitts. The chevron pattern created with purl stitches makes for a unique look, and I used about 80 yards of the yarn to make them. I bought a 9" size 7 circular needle to make these and love it! While I use dpns on many patterns, I find them fiddly and will probably poke my eye out with one someday, so these small circulars are a treat! I also didn't get any "ladders" using them although I've started using 4 dpns rather than 3 when I do go that route, and my laddering has been drastically reduced.

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!

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!

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!

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.

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)!

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.

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!

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!