Friday, March 31, 2006

Snuffier Snowdrops

This has nothing to do with Spring allergies. I just thought that the picture of Snowdrops in the earlier post wasn't up to "snuff." It didn't really capture the "essence" of Snowdrops - whatever that might be, so I took a few pictures of other more sheltered clumps around the garden and came up with these.

I also tried my hand at some intarsia Snowdrops. I was trying to work out a stitch pattern that would "scream" Snowdrops. Now this a little difficult to do when one is still trying to develop one's artistic skills.

However, after working out a few graphs, I came up with these as a first attempt. I didn't like the black backgound and I became hopelessly entangled in the three colour carries, I had created for myself - yikes!

Back to the graph paper. This time I decided to do two colour carries and add the flowers with duplicate stitch afterwards. You can do this. I read it once somewhere in a book; maybe by Nicky Epstein, not sure; but it is not "cheating."

I used a fingering weight cotton yarn in 3 colours - blue, green and white and knit on 2.25mm needles until I lost one of the needles. Fortunatlely I was almost finished the sample. Now I have to buy a new set of needles or take the seats out of my car to find one 14", 2.25mm needle. Where could it go in a Honda Civic?

Anyway, I am a little happier with this clump which I think might look nice on a bag or scattered over a hat or maybe even a sweater. I even graphed out an idea in fair isle using Snowdrops. I'll let you know how it works out

Now this might seem like a short post. That's because it does not take into account the 4 hours I spent this morning learning that I could not import a graph done in a table format with any of the cute little endings that they give you to try. Nor does it take into account the hour or so I spent trying to find my Stitch Painter discs, loading in the program, relearning the program - read several failed graphs and lots of re-entering small little dashes and X's. I won't mention the knitting and re-knitting of the swatch, because that was actually fun - well the 3 colour carries weren't, but the rest was.

I did this because I am in avoidance mode. I still have lots of patterns to enter into the new website format for Infiknit and I am trying to find other more pressing things to do than that. Here is the graph. The background is blue. The X's are white and the "/" are green. Please let me know if you try it. I think that it could work in any weight of yarn.
My husband, of course, just announced yesterday that there were lots of Crocuses (I know it's Croci, but I prefer Crocuses) up. Better buy some new needles and get busy. How does a Choir of Crocus sound?
Enjoy Carol

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Snuff of Snowdrops

Sorry that's the best I could do with Snowdrops - a Flowering of Forsythia was easier. Anyway we take our highs where we can get them and these are the first flowers up in the garden. Actually they were up about the second week in March; but it turned cold again, so I had to wait for it to warm up to take pictures.

I love flowers and I love knitting floral themes. I remember the beautiful intarsia flower sweaters from Susan Duckworth and others in the late 80's and early 90's.

I was talking to a store in Massacheutts a while ago and she said, "Oh, nobody 's doing intarsia these days." What a pity!

You miss out on the fun of sweaters like these.

Maybe I'll try an floral coffee coat for a little reminiscing.

Coming soon are some rather fantastic coffee coats.
Be sure to let me know if you have any to offer: will get to me. I am almost finished my refining of coffee cats so that pattern will be on its way here soon.

I apologize for the brevity of this post. I am moving Infiknit's web site to new software and I am busily entering patterns - just 750 to go. They couldn't do an import apparently, so I am spending every spare minute typing - with time out for a little knitting when I can't see the screen anymore!

The picture is from "Susan Duckworth Knitting" published by Century Hutchinson 1988.

I think that intarsia is due for a come back!

Enjoy, Carol

Monday, March 20, 2006

Romancing the bean

Jolene Treace very kindly sent me her thoughts on designing and related them directly to designing a coffee coat. Jolene's ideas are pure poetry. Such sensitivity and understanding for such a simple task suggests the tremendous amount of thought and feeling that Jolene brings to her sweater, shawl and scarf designs. Here is what Jolene says about designing:

"The creative process for me is very much one that takes me over. Something catches my eye, and one thought leads to another. I am often inspired by whatever happens to be around me. I suppose it is because I am used to thinking of expression in an abstract way, rather than fully representational like a photograph.

The idea for the coffee cup, for instance. When I thought about what I could do for a coffee cup protector/cozy/whatever you might call it, I of course thought about coffee beans themselves after they have been roasted and before they are ground. They have a simple, strong, geometric shape with clean lines. Then I thought about the smell. Deep and heady and earthy.

Obviously for me, the yarn would need to express this. Something natural. Something warm and cozy. Something inviting. Secondary to that would be the stitch pattern to choose. Something that would have both common elements as well as a little unexpectedness to it. Something with a little bit of an urban edge to reflect the urban edge to the coffee houses of today. Perhaps cables combined with either moss stitch or garter stitch. Or, one of the many types of ribbing patterns that are very nubby and textural. A natural color would be nice. Something in a warm natural brown. I am not a coffee drinker myself, but if I was I would like something tied to the earthy appeal of that smell, that just cannot be matched by anything else. It smells of warmth, and comfort, and good times with friends and loved ones. It smells of solitude with a good book on a crisp fall day. It smells of ritual that comforts on many levels. This kind of process goes on, every day, all day. It is like breathing. I cannot imagine what it is like without that inner dialogue and the drive to create. "

Thank you so much Jolene. It is wonderful to have these feelings translated into knitting patterns for so many of us to enjoy!

Jolene's patterns may be seen below.

I am still enjoying working through the designs of my "coffee cats". Here is another. This time I decided to work with beads. The yarn was a little too thick to thread the #6 bead on the yarn so I threaded the bead onto some DMC cotton the same colour as the yarn and knit the yarn and the beaded thread as one. It was a little tricky and I do prefer to pre-bead the yarn when I can.

I made a few small changes as well. Instead of 2 stitches for the nose. I tried one stitch. I thought that the 2 stitches were too much like a snout and now I think that the one stitch is too much like a beak. I am going to try a few more variations, just to see what happens. In the meantime here is a poem on coffee that I found. It makes me think that Art comes from a main creative force and finds its outlets where ever it surfaces. For us it is knitting!

How can you know,
unless you are addicted so.
The smooth, velvet swish
of liquid, brown bliss,
coating all inner pores
with a soothing balm of creamy, frothy joy.
Ah, to savor the flavor of mellow, ground beans.
There's not enough time,
it seems.

Well the name is divine.

Have a good one


Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Tale of Two Sweaters

For March break, we decided to take our two youngest children(13 & 14) away for a few days skiing & snow-boarding. I ski; they board. I knit; they get bored - It's hard to keep everyone happy. Anyway, so as not to be too "boring", I decided to take a mindless project with me. Then I could still be part of the family arguments - as in- 1. You can't watch THAT music video. 2. What do mean, you left your only pair of mitts at school? 3. When exactly in the last 24 hours did you stop liking frozen pizza? goes on..and on..

I knew that there was an unfinished - really just begun fair isle in the closet. I had started it a while ago for my husband -it would certainly make him happy, if I finished it. I can't even remember now why I had stopped knitting it. However, finishing it would not be quite that easy, because I had forgotten to take enough yarn home from Infiknit for the whole sweater and then went and sold all the remaining yarn - cream hemp and wool - that I needed to finish the sweater. I never seem to get this thing called "organization" right!

However, I also knew that there was another sweater in the closet. This one was almost finished. It really just had a half a sleeve to go and it too was in cream hemp and wool. I didn't finish it because, I had decided that the armhole opening was too small for the rest of the "look" of the sweater.

Well I tried it on for a second opinion. The armhole depth was fine now, but the whole sweater was too big. I had actually lost weight in the last year! WOW! I was down to the wire now, though as far as decisions on knitting projects were concerned.

The car was packed. The kids on board and I was holding everything up. I grabbed both sweaters all the bits of yarn and needles I needed and decided to sacrifice one sweater for the other (the cream nearly finished one for the just begun fair isle) My husband would get the standard crew neck pullover - his favourite and I would settle for an oversized cropped vest! End of story accept that now I have to finish both projects before I make another mistake with yarn and lose the Country Silk "mineral" that I am using as the second colour in the fair isle.

At top is "Flight" - it will certainly be lighter as a vest and left is "Syncopated Sanquhar". Now to the car, the needles and the slopes!

Have a good one!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I come, graymalkin....

.....and paddock and harpier. These are the other familiars mentioned in Macbeth, however, they are NOT cats. Chelle was the first to post the name of the cat familiar from Macbeth- it was/is Graymalkin! Thank you sooo much Chelle for participating. Your yarn is going out very soon.

Actually, the other two familiars are quite interesting too - Paddock is a Hedgehog. (Please ignore anyone who says he's a toad - he isn't.) He has to be a hedgehog, because Fiber Trends has just brought out a brand new pattern for knitted felted hedgehogs, not toads. Harpier is a little more difficult; he's an owl. Sorry no knitted owls - any takers? Anyone interested in knitting and/or felting an owl will receive a special prize......not sure what it is yet...but it will have to be a good one as there are lots of collectors of owls out there. And there are lots of Owl references in literature - I Heard the Owl Call My Name - comes immediately to mind. Please post any other references or quotations of interest related to owls, hedgehogs and cats. These are said to give us "divine" inspiration!

I also have the first coffee coat or java jumper or whatever... I call it "coffee cats". I was no doubt influenced by our discussion of cats. My attempt on the left is actually the third or fourth go at something I ended up not really liking at all. My first struggles were with gauge - too small - how do you cover a one inch gap - not very easily. The second was too big - I could have overlapped it and added buttons - next time maybe. I was also trying to get a motled grey cat by using a varigated yarn - this looks more like a cross between a cat and a rabbit. Well Easter is coming!

The guy on the left I'm a little happier with although he looks a little - ok, a lot- like the cat on Vermont Fibers sweater pattern shown in a previous post. I am also not that happy with the way the green is lost in the slip stitching at the top. I think it should be black. Then should I change the bottom accent colour to grey or leave the top and bottom "trim" off entirely? I like the cats themselves. There are 4 and they could make for nice company, if you were having coffee alone or needed someone to help you think! You could even give them names!

Well come on, I need some help. I am waiting for this inspiration that these wonderful creatures are supposed to impart.

When I am happy with the final cover, I will post the pattern.

Enjoy Carol

Friday, March 10, 2006

A River Runs Through It

In my last post I asked whether you could tell from her designs that Jennifer Appleby was from Northern BC. I said that because I knew I was going to post designs from an other designer who lives in Montana and draws a lot of her inspiration from the Montana landscape. I think that knitting one of Sarah James' designs might be a bit like capturing a piece of Montana on your needles - to die for! Here is what Anne says about her design inspiration:

"Before I put yarn to needle I think about what age group the item is going to be for. After all a person in their twenties or thirties is not going to wear an item that is styled for a different age group.

When I am creating a new design, I think about stitches, yarn type and color. I swatch and swatch and swatch, till I can see the finished design in my mind's eye.

As I am knitting, the garment will practically speak to me when it is not falling into place, so quite often a design that was supposed to be a sweater will become a jacket instead.

I am always inspired by nature which has a wonderful color palette with each season. Often I will go for a walk and take in the colors of nature. Living in Montana, there is always blue sky, and the sunsets are spectacular, every shade of yellow, lavender, hot pinks, blues and mauve. "

Thank you so much, Anne for taking the time to share with us your sources of inspiration. I have just added "See a Montana sunset" to my 1,000 things to see before I die list. Your patterns are beautiful! Top is the much requested "Diagonal Vest". At left is a child's sweater, Anne has identified it as CH 526. I would like to call it River and at right is WS118 a lovely mosaic pattern in DK weight yarn - very pretty for summer. You may see the entire collection of Sarah James" designs at


PS We have a winner in the post asking for the name of the witch's cat in Macbeth. More on that later.

These boots were made from talking

A number of designers contacted me by e-mail to suggest what goes on in their minds when they design. (A little different, perhaps than what goes on in the knitter's mind when they knit the design.... maybe not) Their comments are as unique as their work. Jennifer Appleby of The Woollen Earth was the first who said:

"My goodness…that’s like trying to pin down exactly how you “seemingly” jumped from one topic to the next…backtracking, saying, well, first we were talking about this, which made me think of this, which made me think of this…

I think I sometimes have a starting point…either a yarn to use (sometimes the yarn just begs for certain “themes” and other times the texture or color triggers a design), or demand for a new sock pattern, or a cute little girl staring at me, just NEEDING a cutesy little hat to wear for winter;

At other times I just “have an idea”…never know what sparks it, never in a convenient spot to sketch it out…and it usually ends up a far cry from the original “flash” by the time it becomes a leaflet or is sent off as a design proposal to a magazine. One exception was my recent contribution to the Spring 2006 Interweave Crochet…I just ‘had an idea’ for beach sandals, grabbed a ball of sisal off the laundry shelf (I had it for more mundane tasks), and feverishly worked away at the sandal until it was DONE, 2 hours later…and that original sandal didn’t change, except in yarn (which the magazine chooses) to the very end. (I love shoes.) That really hardly ever happens. (And you should have heard the comments going around among the male members of my extended family as to shoes out of sisal or jute…no vision, those guys. )

I find it really is like the twists and turns of conversation…hard to trace the thread, but one thought leads to another and another, and in the end (usually after a lot of ripping out), the finished design has emerged! "

Thank you so much Jennifer. To date Jennifer has been published in many knitting and crochet magazines. You may even have knit one of her designs. Check them out below

At top is Felted Mukluks, one of my favourites. Next is Les Fleurs, close to the original of a design that changed a little for a magazine and finally at right Salty Sea. Jennifer lives in northern BC...can you tell that from her designs?

All of Jennifer's leaflet patterns may be seen below.

Can't wait to start that sandal - now you've got me talking err thinking - spa sandal in organic cotton? Another in black for the evening... We love your designs - just keep on talking!!!!

Enjoy Carol

Thursday, March 09, 2006

This sounds like a party!!!

You really didn't want to work to-day did you! Well I didn't either. So when Aaron Lishman posted his comment to my blog, I was thrilled!!! Not only did he correct my errors in the pricing of Paula Lishman's fabulous fur yarns - please read below - many are very affordable. Do I dare dream of a fur coffee coat? He also directed me to a few amazing web sites.

Aaron Lishman says:

"Hi, Aaron Lishman Here, Son of Bill and Paula and General Manager of the Fur yarn Company. Thanks so much for the write up, and the praise. Our family is indeed unique, - some of my father's endeavors are chronicled on his website, , my brother's art is showcased on his site, our latest fur garment collections on, fur yarn through the webstore at , (and if i can put a plug in for my latest CD, it can be heard at http://www.manmademachine. ). just a few corrections to your article, our Beaver Yarn is about $2 per gram, Fox Yarn about $3.50 per gram, and Fly Away Home was put out by Columbia pictures, not Disney.

Here are the sites:

This is a must see, for variety alone. It's hard to believe one person has accomplished so much. I am in awe!

Promise me that you will come back after visiting this site. You will be leaving this earth for a while and I feel ultimately responsible for your return!

Up and away again. Now promise me that you will not do anything really foolish here either. You have responsibilities you know....

This is another truly amazing site. I can see the inherited love of art and nature here; but in a totally different rendering

What is a party without music? I love it!

Thank you so much Aaron for the invitation. My apologies to Columbia Pictures! Disney's loss Columbia's gain.

Enjoy Carol

PS knitting pictures next post!!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

One of my colleagues when I was teaching decided to develop her skills as an artist. I thought that this was a great idea given that as a history teacher she had already developed her memory. She also spent an inordinate amount of time reading about events in the past to make sense of the present and to hopefully improve the future. Developing her artistic side, I thought, was time better spent!

I bought one of her pieces before I left teaching. It was a charcoal drawing of her cat, a black one, which she had named "Magnificat". Most of you will know The Magnificat as the title of many compositions in music. Composers, such as Bach, Vivaldi and others have created their own masterful Magnificats. My friend's husband was a concert pianist and so the cat's name seemed especially appropriate. The original Magnificat was\is a prayer. I secretly enjoyed the exaultation of the cat's status through its name to something close to the divine!

Here is a knitted piece that I also think comes close to the divine. It is a wall hanging or pillow cover designed by Lucy Neatby entitled "Henry the Cat".

And here are Lucy's own words on Henry and the design of the wall hanging: Lucy Says:
"Henry was inspired by my love of decadent angora yarns and the desire to counterpoint them against a matt background to maximize the contrast of lush and mundane. Also to do a complex intarsia piece of a modest size (to reach the finish before the joy evaporated) with a lot of colour blending. I collaborated with Gail Freisen, then of Four Seasons Knitting Products in Winnipeg, as she stocked the necessary yarns. Henry was my cat during my teenage years - handsome but unpredictable, cuddly one minute and a rapier clawed demon the next. He is a more companionable cat in this reincarnation!"
Thank you so much Lucy for taking the time from that very exciting project that you are working on just now - watch for more on this in the very near future!!
Lucy's exquisite attention to detail, I think, has captured the essence of the cat, or at least the knitter's cat. He is in a lovely home - note the details of the printed wall paper. He is well cared for - look at his lovely coat of angora wool and he appears to be both placid and playful at the same time. Lucy has immortalized Henry, through the medium of knitting, in an intricately framed piece of Art, just as Magnificat was celebrated in charcoal.
Pictured here are my 3 Magnificats - Hunter, Zack and Chloe, with Hunter, at top, coming closest to the divine. Zack, left and Chloe, right, are a little older, perhaps a little wiser and ever planning their escape to the great outdoors.

Enjoy. Carol
P.S. One 100g skein of yellow(sorry I have no black left) hemp and wool to the first person who can post in the comments the name of the witches' cat in Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Familiar knitting and knitting familiars

The two animals closest to a knitter's heart, I have to believe, are the cat and the sheep. There are great references in literature to the lion and the lamb and then there is, of course, the Tyger.

Cats are the witches' familiars - the form that witches take when they want to disappear. Some also believe that cats are the spirits that give the witch her greatest inspiration. In Britain, cats, especially black cats, are good luck. Ironically the white ones are not.

What is the synergy, though, between knitter and cat? The newest addition to my cat family - we have 3 and they are all black, quite by accident - plays with my yarn. He is my company in the very early morning when I have time to knit without distractions - well at least except for having to play tug-of-war with Hunter to keep my tension from tightening. Perhaps knitters like cats because they are quiet company; they seem to be more sedentary than dogs. They appear to be at any one time thinking, meditating, even planning, perhaps their next attack on those obnoxious African Violets, all under the guise of being half asleep.

A serene exterior housing a complex interior, the image of the knitter. What are we thinking, meditating even planning while slipping the stitches from needle to needle? Do these thoughts become part of our knitted designs? Do we knit waves of lace, longing for the sea or leaves and ferns for a walk in the forest. Are we through the twists and turns of cables trying to free ourselves or contain ourselves? I think that really wonderful designs connect with our inner voices, our inner thoughts and allow us through the knitting of them to say what it is difficult to express in any other way. More on this later.

Let me leave you with an excerpt from an 8th century poem about a cat called Pangur Ban who liked to chase mice and a monk who spent a lot of time writing (read sedentary activity similar to knitting). We are reaching back over a millenium - awesome, indeed, " the more things change the more they remain the same"

Pangur Ban
So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
-- Anon., (Irish, 8th century)

The picture at top is Kitty, Kitty a knitted felted cat from Fiber Trends, for those allergic to cats, or just for the fun of knitting a cat. The sweater is from Vermont Fiber Designs. It is sized for children; but you could easily put the graph on an adult sweater pattern.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Food for the Knitted Soul

One of the amazing things about the human spirit is its ability to "bounce back" and make the best of things. I might have been "a little down" March 1; but I'm up and back at it to-day! March after-all is the Month of Madness and I am determined to enjoy every insane minute of it!! Fasten your seats belts, this could be an interesting ride!

First I need some help. I read an all too brief article about a group of knitters who are drawing their inspiration from street culture and as a result, are knitting the wildest things. One stitcher, from Oregon, has knit the entire digestive system - not once, not twice, but three times- (nothing to do with food repeating on you) - This amazing piece starts with the tongue and ends with the anus and includes all the vital organs in between. Or as the newspaper article says, "It's complete from its cute red tongue through a pink esophagus, yellow pancreas, brown liver, green gallbladder, peach small intestine and red anus. " I would love to hear more about this knitter, this piece, anything!!!! Thank you!

Secondly, I thought about knitted food - books by Jean Greenhowe are a great source for this. I then realized that I had sold my last copy of Lil Dumpling Dolls Part II - The Village Men which has the greengrocer in it. The grocer and all the food for his shop is completely knit - yes knitted carrots and cabbages. The book is now out of print - any help with pictures of knitted food for the knitted stomach, of course, would be much appreciated.

Thirdly, some knitters have contacted me about the idea of the knitted "coffee coats" - yes, I am still looking for submissions. I can't call them knitted coffee coats, as that is the name that another company is using to market their commercially made I need a name for our knitted protectors.. I thought of Java Jumpers...but readers of this blog are a really creative lot so I know that you will have some really stunning names.

Above is some spirited knitting by Debbie New. It's called "Holy Grail, Holy Gruel and Holy Smoke". Below is a picture from Feb 7, 2006 Maclean's magazine featuring coffee coats from the company Cup Couture, which was first reveiwed in the Seattle Times - must be something about that west coast air - I hope I am not guilty of copyright enfringement here. You will have to buy Maclean's for more information - maybe even subscibe and many of you will know of coffee places who would love to stock coffee coats. There is also a person in Victoria, Cheryl DeWolfe, selling her own knitted ones on-line - Cheryl's Cuppa Joe Cozies - sorry no URL in the article.

Enjoy Carol

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Of Omens and Ominous Knitting

To night at about 6:30pm, as I was bringing my youngest home from an after school class, I looked into the sky. I often wonder if these seemingly vague glances at the heavens are really a lot like casually looking at one's watch - just a quick check or re-aligned with the universe. (What time is it really? or what is the real time?) However small or minute we may seem to be, we are actually part of a really grand system. For me being a small part of something really immense and enduring is sometimes enough.

Well, tonight in the evening sky there was the "new moon with the old moon in her arms." It is the very sliver of the new cresent moon, the reflected light of which makes almost visible the old or non-lighted moon. It is an old country expression and an old country omen.

Somewhere in the poem, the Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens, which I am sure most of you where forced to read, there is a reference to this moon. It can appear on a clear and cloudless night after a particularly beautiful day, as it did before Sir Patrick Spens set out on his ill-fated sea journey. It is the sort of day when you think that absolutely nothing could go wrong!...NOT

I wonder if the same omen was in the sky on the eve of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald - a sea voyage also made famous in ballad form - surely we are all connected.

What has the future in store?..... Well, my husband - the weather forecaster in the family- informed us that we are in for an unusually cold and wet March - I can hardly wait! I missed the celebration of March 1 - St David's Day - due to writer's block and the usual complication of business legal work - is this the ghost of Dylan Thomas extracting its revenge? I had no new knitting on the needles for the hour wait during my son's class - Sally Melville says she always has at least 3 projects on the go - now I know why I will never be organized enough to come close to the stature of Sally Melville!

To-day I was also duped by and old e-mail hoax - post office pushing through legislation to tax e-mails. I am not sure whose ghost this was - Phony Express maybe.

Anyway, because I had no knitting, I started reading "The Princes of Ireland" in the church basement where my son has his class. I might have been reading by candlelight - not the romantic kind - the I can't read the fine print kind.

Anyway, knitting being the therapeutic, uplifting sort of activity that it is, leaves one with few examples of the negative. I was able, however, to find in my cache of Debbie New cards, one that is difficult to send to anyone. It does, however, fit the day - and this is the day BEFORE the actual omen becomes reality - I can hardly wait!!

Debbie took her inspiration for Pebbles Trapped in a Grate from a poster published by Amnesty International - may knitting free us from our bondage. I did have an occasion to send this once to a supplier - my bank messed up and failed to honour a cheque. It expressed my opinion of the bank that day. Pebbles Trapped in a Grate expresses my opinion of March 1 and the weather forecast predictions - caged for another 30 days!

Didn't enjoy! Carol

PS All aspects of Pebbles is knitted. Quite amazing