Friday, February 26, 2010


Jane (right) made Ming Lee (left) this lovely blue hat and gave it to her on Wednesday at the Langworthy Library Knitting Association meeting.

And today H found this box of yarn and knitting accessories in a basement storeroom. They had belonged to his mother, Gladys, who died ten years ago at the age of 97. He gave them all to me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why do I knit? An Existential Inquiry

Lately I've been downloading patterns for knitted toys, most recently this, pictured above, last night: instructions from Bernat Yarns to make a "Topsy Turvy Doll, " which is somewhat like Siamese twins except usually only one is visible at a time. (For your very own copy, click on this link: )

Immediately I mentally started designing variations on Topsy-Turvy--e.g. Ego and Id dolls, Jane Eyre/Bertha Mason, Jekyll/Hyde, Estella/Miss Havisham, etc. The literary themes prompted by this contemplation reminded me that I own a book called Knitted Historical Figures by Jane Messent (Search Press, 1992), including patterns for biblical personages, Queen Elizabeth I, Mme. de Pompadour, and a Gibson Girl. I've never been tempted to make any of these because a lot of the highly labor-intensive knitting is done on scarily super-small needles, but the patterns are quite interesting to consider, as they include words like "oddments," "sprig," "waistcoat," "leg o' mutton," and "crochet hook."

But I digress.

The disturbing fact is that I have become somewhat obsessed with knitting patterns for non-wearable items. I just purchased Susan B. Anderson's book Itty-Bitty Toys (Artisan, 2009) which also features designs for a number of reversible toys à la the Topsy-Turvy doll, I follow the Fuzzy Mitten blog ( filled with insanely cute knitted animals, and I recently downloaded patterns for knitting Percy the Pigeon, and a small acorn.

In my blissfully few idle moments, I wonder: what is going on? With me, I mean.

Frankly, I have no idea. If any one of my gentle readers has a theory, please suggest. My children are full-fledged adults, unmarried, with no families in the offing (that I know about), so I'm definitely not thinking about future grandchildren.

Meanwhile, I must draw your attention yet again to the extraordinary design work of Deborah Newton. Her pattern for an ingeniously-knitted "Tissue Cardigan" is in the just-released issue of Interweave Knits Magazine (Spring 2010, pp. 97-99), and the upcoming Vogue Knitting (Spring/Summer 2010) features her amazing back-buttoned sweater that is positively swoon-inducing!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The dog ate my...knitting needle

Agreed: this dog child, a.k.a. Lola, is the image of canine cuteness. Utterly belying, of course, her willful nature, which can sometimes be less enchanting than her appearance.

Today we returned from lunch at the Matunuck Oyster Bar, one of our all-time favorite restaurants as much for the view (illustrated above), as for the food (highly recommended: New England clam chowder, the fried oyster plate) . It was then I discovered the following havoc wreaked by a certain Portuguese Water Dog whose name shall not be explicitly mentioned for the nonce: a plastic bag containing a loaf of recently-baked bread had been removed from the kitchen counter, thrown on the floor, ripped apart on a rug, and its contents removed and carried about the livingroom, where crumbs were liberally distributed on two sofas and another rug.

Adding insult to injury, said canine had also snacked on a wooden knitting needle, size number six, that I'd left in a pile of unfinished sweater in the livingroom. She ingested about half of it. Thus I am again reminded (since this isn't the first time it's happened, and for some interesting reason, Lola favors number sixes--are they meat flavored?) that there are advantages to plastic and metal needles. (Check out the snowdrops at the end of the broken needle in the photo! Can spring be far behind?)

The lesson in all of this, I think, is that we should take our dogster with us, whenever possible. She doesn't mind waiting in the car, and she really hates to be left home alone. Q.E.D.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Entre nous, entrelac

Despite my general aplomb, there are some things I just don't want to do on my own. One of these was learning how to knit entrelacs. I had looked at video tutorials and downloaded step-by-step instructions, and I had the sense that I could probably figure out the process. However, when I saw that Yarns Down Under in Deep River, Connecticut would offer a two-hour workshop in the technique, I signed up pronto, and tried to enlist other members of Langworthy Library Knitting.

Anne took the bait. Yesterday morning we set off, met up with kindred knitters, and, under the tutelage of Janis Witkins, who provided clear and well-illustrated print instructions as well as an actual demonstration, began knitting our entrelac scarves. As you can see from the photo, the process requires deep concentration. It was a very quiet room, everyone wholly focused on the task at hand. Janis was an excellent teacher, and patiently untangled the inevitable problems that entrelac presents to novices.

Talk about flow! Two hours passed almost instantly. (Actually, we didn't leave until almost three hours had gone by.) By today I've gotten through one repeat of the pattern. Knit in Noro Silk Garden, it's lustrous and complex, and the technique is, at least at first, as absorbing as knitting lace.

Yarns Down Under is a beautiful shop, well and richly stocked, with a knowledgeable, friendly staff. It's situated at the edge of a rather sizable pond--hard to say exactly how large, as it was frozen and snow-covered. The view was lovely, however. Free knitting help is offered on Tuesday mornings from 10 to 12.

I will probably return, at some point, for entrelac coaching.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sheer Genius

Recently discovered: transparent highlighter tape (made by Lee Products), available in several colors, is a foolproof placeholder for complex knitting patterns. I had tried Post-It Notes, but the glue wore off quickly. Highlighter tape, billed as "a removable alternative to permanent highlighter pens" (indeed), just sticks and sticks, thereby preventing tantrums when I lose my place in a 24-line pattern sequence for the zillionth time. I love it!

This was a check-out tantalizer at The Island Yarn Company in Waltham, MA (see previous post). It's probably also available at office supply stores, or in the stationery sections of Big Box emporia.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Traveling north

Earlier this week, J and I checked out two LYS in the Boston metrowest area, Wild and Woolly in Lexington (no website, 7 Meriam St., Lexington, MA 02420), and Island Yarn Company in Waltham. Both were well stocked, and we enjoyed talking with helpful staff. I was impressed that Vicki, the owner of Island Yarn, runs what she calls a "destashing" service--wherein knitters who feel overwhelmed by their accumulated, languishing yarns, can turn them over to her, and she'll sell them on consignment--for more on this, see What a clever idea!

Traveling even farther north...

A friend sent me this link to an interview with Chellie Pingree (D, Maine) on the Colbert Report; besides being Portland, Maine's congressional representative, in a past life she was a major knitting advocate and wrote five knitting books, mostly having to do with regional knitting styles in Maine. Here's a snip from the official biography on her website:

In 1981, she started North Island Yarn, a cottage industry of local knitters, with a retail store on the island. The business expanded quickly, becoming North Island Designs, and employed as many as ten local workers in peak seasons. The business sold knitting kits and pattern books nationwide through 500 retail stores and 100,000 mail order catalogues.

My favorite quote: "Knitting started my political career."

The Zen of Knitting

I subscribe to the blog Zen Habits, and was immediately fascinated by its heading for January 19th: "Unraveled? Here's How to Knit Yourself and the World Together":

Actually, the post has nothing to do with the craft of knitting; it simply uses the metaphor of cohesion that the practice of knitting engenders. But it's still worth reading.