The Need for Knit

When I started this blog last February my first post was a fairly detailed explanation of just why I call this blog  Knitting In the Apocalypse.  Please feel free to go back and read that first post.  But, put briefly, the premise is this:  We all face crises in our lifetime.  Those that are capital Apocalypse, the things that affect many people on a large scale and the lowercase apocalypse, the things that are mainly our own personal wrestlings.  I, like many people, find solace and therapeutic value in working with my hands.

In my recent interview with Maggie Menzel: Knitwear Designer she mentioned this very thing.  She said that she was often most productive in her knitting during times of great stress, that the very act of picking up her needles caused her heart rate to slow and her tensions begin to ease. There’s even a podcast on YouTube called Stress Knits for the same reason.  It’s a common theme.

There have been a lot of changes for me in recent years.  Moving from Asia back to America, working in fairly stressful jobs, and simply the ups and downs and frustrations of normal life.  Like Maggie, I find myself reaching my needles more often during those times of high stress.  Each and every time I do, especially during those times, it is as if I discover its benefits all over again.  I will reach the end of a day, I will find a comfortable spot, pick up one of my projects and as soon as yarn flows over my fingers and the fabric grows and moves across the needles I think to myself,  as if for the first time, “I really LOVE this!”.  It’s like magic.

Right now, there’s a feeling of lowercase apocalypse happening.  There’s nothing dire happening.  Everyone’s healthy and projects and goals I have are inching forward, often more slowly than I’d like, but forward is forward.  In fact, if there was something even smaller than a lowercase version of this, that’s where I’d be.  The only things I have to stress me are that my garden needs weeding very badly,  my chicken coop is still not built, and some unexpected car repairs came up.  Annoying to be sure, but really, really small in the grand scheme of things.

So I was a little taken aback with how stressed I was feeling.  My logic and intellect recognized the “ordinariness” of these things, but my nerves just plain didn’t care.  But then it slowly dawned on me, in dealing with all these things the amount of time I was actually spending with my knitting had decreased pretty drastically.  I am rarely without a project bag close to hand to be sure, but I just hadn’t been able to reach for it as often.

The epiphany happened during one of the times I actually did get to sit for a bit with the Taina shawl I Tainahave been working on.  As I began knitting and I had that “I REALLY love this!!” moment, as I always do, I suddenly realized just how little time I had been spending doing this.   Like anyone who requires medication to manage mental or physical health issues, I saw at once that I had gone off my meds.  I’m thinking my family realized it before I did :).  But once I did catch sight of it, I knew I needed to get back on track.

This was really good news.  It meant I had an easy, tried and true solution AND it meant some of my languishing projects were going to get the love they needed.

I currently have 3 projects on the needles.  Besides the Taina shawl I am working on my Vanilla Latte socks and a double knit square for a blanket I am making.

I would have to say that currently Taina is my favorite.  Other than having to watch carefully on the rows that create the eyelet patterns it is simple garter stitch and very relaxing to knit.  It is definitely a good go-to when you want something to help you just recenter yourself and breathe.

As I mentioned in One for the Road I like to have things that challenge me in my knitting skills.  While knitting the Vanilla Latte’ sock I have been learning to Fish Lips Kiss Heel.  This has definitely been a challenge, but I think that once I get the hang of it, it will be one of my favorite heels.  In fact, once this pair is completed I plan to make several more pairs using it to become confident in it before learning a new heel technique.  Perhaps I will try the Strong Heel since Maggie was such a fan of it.

In terms of progress I am about to close the toe on the first sock and preparing to start the heel on the second.  Since I am very close to finishing my shawl, I think this pair will get the attention it’s been lacking and will be completed very soon.

Finally, I’m working on a double knit square.  Here is where I have to be mysterious and covert.  This is for a blanket I am intending to give as a gift for someone who may or may secretnot read this post.  So I must deprive you of the details for today.  But once this blanket is finished, which will be quite awhile I’m afraid, I will post pictures and tell you about the fun and trials and travails of creating it.  I am so, so close to the end of this particular square, but I made some mistakes in the last row I completed and had to put it down and take a break before I went back to it with fresh energy to see if I can deal with them.  Because there is a knit stitch and a purl stitch for each stitch it takes a good long time to do make things in this style.  I am literally 3 rows away from completion of this square so I am dreading the thought of not being able to repair it.  I may have to call in extra help on this one.  But I have every reason to hope it can be rescued and I can look forward to beginning the next one.

Breathing and Knitting.  Knitting and Breathing.

My apocalypses shrink in size if I remember to make time for these things.

I REALLY love that.



P.S. Finished Object!!





Living and Dyeing

I love getting packages in the mail.  Who doesn’t?  When I was in elementary school there was a song we learned in music class called the “Wells Fargo Wagon”.  The first line was:  Oh, the Wells Fargo Wagon is a’comin’ down the street.  Oh, please let it be for meeeee….”.

It was the UPS or FedEx of its day.  Whenever I see the trucks for either of these companies, that song pops into my head.  True story.

It’s been a good week for me. Because packages.  I have decided to start exploring the wilds of dyeing my own yarns.  I’ve spent enough time drooling over the yarn porn of the various Indie yarn dyers and decided it is time for me to join the fun.

This past week I ordered a variety of supplies to get me started.  I had already ordered a copy of Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan and begun reading it. I’ve been scavenging my cupboards and garage and thrift stores for tools that can be dedicated to dyeingbookthis process.  THIS week I finally started ordering the fun stuff.  In the mail I received 3 undyed skeins of wool of various type and weight, a sampler pack of 6 dyes, citric acid, a  yarn swift, and ok, so I threw in a new set of really pretty straight knitting needles.

Don’t judge.

Naturally these things all arrived the day before Father’s Day weekend.  This is a big event at our house and almost all of Saturday was spent cooking, with occasional spurts of cleaning.  We definitely had a great time with our family get together, but this also kept me from getting on with the fun!!!! 

I am not a patient person.

After I had ordered the supplies (but before they could arrive) I decided to do a bit of experimenting while I waited.  I happened to have on hand the remnants of a skein of undyed Tibetan Yak wool that had been given to me as a gift.  I had knit up a really nice cowl in the natural color but I still had a small ball left.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching knitting and dyeing podcasts.  As a result I had seen various ways of dyeing with food coloring.  I had undyed wool.  I had food coloring.  I had materials on the way.  I did not have patience.  Time to start.

I wasn’t really worried about perfection this time,  I just wanted to begin learning the process.  So after watching some tutorials,  I just jumped right in.

Without really measuring I pulled out several yards of the yak wool, pulled the white vinegar and food coloring from my pantry and got rolling.

For my first attempt I wanted a good purple that was more on the red side rather than blue.  So after my yarn had soaked and the water and been brought up to heat I started adding in the red and the blue.  I stirred the colors together and dipped a white piece of paper towel in to get a sense of the shade I had created until I was ready to try.  When I was done I had a very respectable reddish purple that I dubbed “Untrod Grape”.


This picture is not the greatest, it definitely shows as more brown, but in real life this is a nice shade of red-purple.  Take my word for it.

I’m working on my lighting.  I promise.

This, of course, only spurred me on.


Time for another tutorial on a different technique.  So:

I wound off another few yards of yak wool and went for phase 2.  From what I’ve read and heard I know you have to be careful when using multiple colors or you are just going to wind up with muddy water.  Which sounds like a funky colorway name, but not really what I was aiming for.

I only had the basic four set food color pack and I was curious to see how the colors would interact together.  After the prerequisite soaking in vinegar water, I carefully arranged my wool in the warm water.  I did careful drips of alternating color repeating each color twice.  I let this simmer together just long enough to start to have some blend but still retain each color.

I was a little surprised at the end product:

I think if the simmer time would have been slightly shorter the original colors would have been more obvious. Still, I’m not displeased with the result.  Since it has very Autumnal colors and tones to it, I decided it should be called October Hike.  I think this would look very nice as a cowl with a denim jacket.

I find it rather amazing the wide range of colors and tones you can create with just 4 very basic colors.  With my new stock of colors waiting for me and far more to choose from when I’m ready, it makes me feel like the possibilities are endless.  I like that feeling.

In both attempts I was just going by instinct and playing in my choosing, mixing,  and blending.  But when I truly get started I plan to keep careful notes and compile all the techniques and color recipes I like best into a notebook.

When fiber enthusiasts shop for yarns and wools,  some shop for just the right materials for an already planned project.  Others find inspiration as they browse and select yarns and colors for an as yet to be determined item.  I do a little of both.  Some skeins I just cannot walk away from even if I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with it.

I suspect my experiments with dyeing will be much the same.  I’ve now taken one yarn dyeing class and done these two attempts at home.  Each time I really liked what I wound up with but each time it was a little different than the picture I had started with in my head.  I think that is true of almost any creative pursuit though.   I am certain, with time and practice, I will be able to produce and repeat the colors that I want.  I also think that the creative Muse is a whimsical mistress and always has a glint of mischief in her eye when you think you’ve got it all figured out.

To the discoveries ahead,




Maggie Menzel: Knitwear Designer

I’ve been looking forward to releasing this latest blog post.

Just a few months ago, I had the very good fortune of meeting Maggie Menzel when she joined our Wednesday Knit Night.  She is so much fun to talk to and one of those people with whom I can go on and on and ON about all things knitting because she shares this passion.

Imagine my delight to discover that not only is she a knitwear designer, but one of her patterns was selected to be released in the most recent edition of the online knitting magazine Knitty.

This was a unique opportunity to pick the brain of a designer.  So Maggie and I met up to talk about her knitting journey, her process and her designs.  I hope you enjoy.


Personal History:

I’m Maggie Menzel,  I’m originally from Bloomington, IN which is a college town.  My parents are both professors, my Father, Kent,  is a Professor of Mathematics and my Mom, Suzanne, is a professor of Computer Science, so a super snotty background, haha.   I’m a midwestern girl.  I always loved being creative. I give a lot of credit to my sister Cassie for this. She would draw and so then I would have to draw.  But the real credit for my knitting comes from my Gran, my Mother’s mother.  My Gran is an amazing knitter.  When I was 10 years old, at Christmas, she gave me a beginning knitter’s book and 2 inches of scarf already made so I wouldn’t have to learn how to cast on and I could just go straight into the knit stitch and (laughing) it was with this terrible yarn, it was brown, variegated and scratchy..

Me:  Why does everyone start off with terrible yarn?!

Maggie:  I don’t know!! Part of it is that my Gran, bless her heart, has skin like leather, she doesn’t feel it!  I love her to death, she has amazing color sense most of the time, except with this yarn.   But she herself knits with the scratchiest wool because she doesn’t feel it.  Also because I was 10 she bought some cheap yarn.  So I started knitting this on US size 13 needles, which was smart, since I was a kid and had no dexterity.  She taught me to knit that afternoon and off I went.  It took me a year to knit that scarf, starting and stopping.  I gave it to my Mother the next Christmas.  And it was awful!   It had these sections that were super tight and then other sections that were super loose.  The edges were all wavy where I had accidentally increased and decreased; and my mother promptly lost it (chuckles) Which I cannot blame her for, because it was hideous. The yarn was hideous, it was scratchy and I was not a very good knitter yet.

Then I took a break for about a year.  But after that, all through middle school and through most of high school I went through this period where I just knit a lot of garter stitch scarves all the time.  Finally I met some other people who knit.  And meeting other knitters I thought “Whoa, I thought only old ladies did this! And me!” They were like “Oh, let’s try knitting a hat!” or “We’re going to try knitting these fingerless gloves” And I was like “Well, if you’re doing it, I have to do it too.”

The first pattern I ever followed was a sweater.  That was a dumb idea, let me tell you. And I picked the worst yarn for it.  I picked a bamboo yarn, which was really pretty but it was heavy so the sweater just weighed a ton, but I loved it and I’ve been hooked ever since, all because of my Gran.

Me:  I’ll bet she’s been a great resource when you’ve hit walls with your knitting.maggs

Maggie:  All through my youth, she was the first one to teach me how to knit a sock, for instance.  Unfortunately she’s always lived up in Maine.  But for years she would come and spend 2 or 3 weeks at Christmas.

Me: What are your most favorite and least favorite thins to knit?

Maggie: Right now I’m on kind of a sock binge.  Which, for anyone who is familiar with my patterns started with Stripe Strides, which is a series of patterns made specifically for self striping yarns that I created.  There’s actually two series, Stripe Strides and Stripe Strides 2.  Altogether it’s 10 patterns and ever since starting that,  all I want to knit are socks, especially socks with self striping yarn.  I’ve finished that project for now.  I don’t know if there’ll be a part 3, 10 patterns is a lot.   

Me:  You’ve released these on Ravelry?

Maggie:  Yes, I’ve considered putting out a part 3.  I have two more ideas in mind, but I don’t know if I have 5 more in me. Sooooo maybe someday.  Not soon, though.

Me:  Well, artists have their blue period and you had your sock period, lol, that’s ok.

Maggie:  I’ve been doing other socks recently.  Right now I’m doing colorwork socks.  Colorwork used to be my least favorite thing to knit, but it’s growing on me a little bit in this project.  Least favorite?  There are certainly things I knit less.  But I don’t know if I have a least favorite.  Really, if I’m knitting, I’m happy.  There’s a couple of techniques I haven’t tried yet.  I haven’t tried Enterlac yet, but I have to try because it looks so cool.  There’s nothing I’ve hated.

Me:  Are you a monogamous knitter?

Maggie:  No….but I don’t have 20 projects going at once either.  I could never keep track of that.  I have one project that is very long term and has been going on for 5 or 6 years.  It’s a scrap blanket so I only work on it when I have scraps.

I like to have one big and one little project.  So I usually have one quick, satisfying, easily finished project that I’m working on.

Me:  You said “As long as I’m knitting I’m happy”.  What moved you from just knitting to taking the next step up and start designing your own patterns?

Maggie:  (Pausing thoughtfully) Well, when I went to college I had this period of high [knitting] productivity.  Probably because I was so stressed.  Whenever I’m stressed I knit more.

At the time I was crocheting a lot.  I was crocheting the dolls that have heads bigger than their bodies.  I had a boyfriend at that time who wanted me to make one that had a head proportional to the body.  So I kind of looked for a pattern, I didn’t look that hard, but I thought, “I could probably do this myself”.  And I did!  And that became the crochet version for my basic doll body pattern.  That wasn’t actually the first pattern I published. 

At the same time I had made a simple scarf pattern, the Color Changing Scarf, and someone asked me to publish it. It is such a simple pattern I wrote that one up in an afternoon.  I knew nothing.  I didn’t even know about test knitting, I just published it.  Someone said, “you should get this tested” I said, “how do I do that?” and they pointed me over to some of the great testing groups on Ravelrycolor

It all just sort of snowballed on me and I became obsessed with pattern designing very quickly.  All of a sudden I had all these ideas for things.  Once I had done it one time I wanted to do it again.   It took me a long time to want to do it, but once I did, I was hooked.

Me:  There’s a lot of Math involved in writing a pattern.  Did you have certain books or resources that you went to when you started designing, or did you just do it yourself?

Maggie:  No, I didn’t know anything back then.  There are resources that I use now.  There are all these designers that I so admire that are able to figure out all the Math beforehand and then knit it or having someone else knit it.  I have never been able to do that.  I’ve always figured out the math as I went.  Once I get one size (for a garment), I’m able to do the math to get the other sizes.  But for the first size I always have to knit it myself.  I’ve knit ever single pattern I’ve ever published.

Me:  So you’ve been your own test knitter until recently.

Maggie:  Well, I’m my first test knitter.  But I’ve been really fortunate to have some very good test knitters to test my work.  I go to some excellent test knitting groups on Ravelry and get these amazing volunteers who are willing to sift through my errors, because I am not perfect enough to make a pattern without errors.  I give them a lot of credit, they’re fantastic.

Me:  Tell me about your process, the ups and downs of your designing.

Maggie:  One thing that was intimidating for me was after I had done a couple of patterns I started looking into how other people design and I started reading about how there was a “right way”.  The “Right Way” was to figure out ALL of the math and write everything down and THEN start knitting.  I was never going to be able to do that.  That was never going to be my process.  If that works for you, great!  go, have fun, I applaud you.  But that was never going to work for me.  Because the minute I have an idea I start knitting and then everything falls apart.  So I rip everything out and start again with a way to fix it.  That usually goes on about 3 or 4 times before I get something that I’m happy with.  My design process is not the most efficient at all, it’s incredibly inefficient.  People talk about how they swatch a bunch and figure out all the math.  That is the more efficient route, but I could never do that.  There’s always something I didn’t anticipate.  There’s things about the construction or stitch pattern that I just didn’t think of.

Me:  It sounds like you are a very tactile learner

Maggie:  I am a VERY tactile learner.  I have to do it to figure it out.  What I’m trying to say is, if that’s the way you are too, that’s ok.  Do it in whatever way works for you.  If the way I just described sounds awful, don’t do it that way!  But if what I described sounds like the way that works for you, it’s the only way that works for me, so go ahead and do it that way.”

Me:  So, THIS is the exciting news.  You’ve recently had a pattern selected to be released through Knitty, the online knitting magazine, in their just released Fall patterns issue.   

First of all, what pattern was selected?

Maggie:  It is called Vinculum and it is a cabled sock.  It’s really cool because I used a different kind of heel called the Strong Heel, which is not a particularly common one.  I found it on the Internet.  I spend a lot of time searching the Internet, searching for Vinculumdifferent types of heels and toes, because I’m a Nerd!! (laughing).  I first used this heel in Stroll which is part of Striped Strides 2 and I loved it because you get to go in continuous rounds almost the whole way.  Which means you don’t break your pattern when you reach the heel.  In Vinculum I used the Strong Heel so that I could keep the cable pattern going without having to cable on the wrong side of the work.

I was also able to add this really nifty little cabled gusset, which I’m quite fond of.  It makes me very happy to have all those cables everywhere.  So it’s just a very, very, very cable-y sock.  I submitted it to Knitty and was amazed and shocked when it got in!  I submitted it because “Why not?!” There’s no harm.

Me:  How long did they keep you waiting before letting you know it had been chosen?

Maggie:  Maybe a month or two?  It wasn’t a very long time.

Me:  What was your reaction when you found out you had been selected?

Maggie:  I called my Mom immediately!!  I freaked out!  How could this have happened to me?!  I was shocked and a little starstruck because Knitty always has these incredible designs and to be a part of that was really exciting for me.

Me:  Future Tense.  What are your knitting and designing goals from here?

Maggie:  That’s a good question.  Right now I’m working on another pattern that involves colorwork.  It’s another sock pattern because I’m obsessed with socks!

In terms of future goals I just want to keep getting better.  I want to be better at forming my patterns, better at making them clearer. and I want to continue to improve.

I look back and I started designing during my Freshman year of college, about 7 or 8 years ago and I’ve improved so much.  I want to continue to improve so I can be in things like Knitty.  It’s very satisfying to look back and see the improvement.

Me:  Before we actually started recording you said that knitting is “the fun” and you wouldn’t want it as a primary job because it would become “work” then.

Maggie:  That’s true for me.  Knitting has never been my primary source of income, which has always made it ok that I don’t make a lot of money off of my patterns.  If I were to make designing patterns my career it would become a job.  It would become work.  I’ve never wanted that for knitting.  I love knitting, I’m obsessed with it.  I don’t  want it to be my job.  I will continue doing it.  There’s no sign of it stopping.  But I’ve been known to go 6 months without releasing a pattern because there are other things happening in my life and the inspiration isn’t there at that moment.  That’s kind of sad for me, because I don’t really want those breaks, but at the same time, that’s the way that works best for me.

Me:  If it’s not your primary source of income, then the pressure is off and there’s no one hovering with a deadline and it can just stay fun.

Maggie:  That’s very true.  At the same time I do want to be professional.  If someone pays for my pattern they should get a professional product.  The people who DO choose to be professional designers are amazing to me, but it’s not right for me.

Me:  What is your go-to color palette when choosing colors for designs?

Maggie:  I have a terrible, terrible weakness for brightly saturated colors, which make all of my patterns look like a kaleidoscope.  It’s not always the best choice, but I have such a weakness for bright colors, jewel tones.  Sometimes I start working on a pattern and I think, “Oh my goodness, I need to bring this back a little.  it is just blindingly bright. “  But I have so much fun with it.

Me:  This might be like asking to choose who is your favorite child, but do you have a favorite pattern?

Maggie:  I have favorites for sure.  Cirque is a favorite of mine, it just came together so nicely.  Scamper is a favorite of mine because although Strut was what started Stripe Strides, Scamper showed me it could be more than one pattern.  I love that series so much.  Stroll is another favorite from it.  Stroll took forever to get right.  I knit seven different socks before I finally got Stroll to be what it is today.  When it worked it was so satisfying. It felt so good to get it right.

Cirque          scamper   stroll



In terms of non-sock patterns Moiety is a favorite.  I used that pattern to raise funds for the ACLU.  I raised over $150 by selling that pattern for $1.

Me:  You said that’s not a sock pattern?

Maggie:  It’s a shawl pattern.  It’s free now, but throughout February I did that as a fundraiser.  I have such good feelings about that. So many people came together and they donated just a little, but over a hundred people came together to donate to that cause. It wasn’t a ton, but it felt really good to be a part of coordinating something that brought  support to something we believed in.  I felt so flattered by the people who messaged me thanking me and telling me how much this cause meant to them. How happy it made them that I was raising awareness for it.  The whole thing was such a wonderful experience.  I have a real soft spot for that pattern now.  But I have a soft spot for all of them, they’re all my babies.

Me: Process knitter or product knitter?

Maggie:  (thinking) I’m a product knitter, for sure.  I want the thing.  Which means, of course, I have a lot of “the things”.  I have an overflowing drawer that has hats and scarves and shawls and things in my apartment.  I can’t bear to part with any of them.  And my sock drawer is also overflowing. But I can’t bear to part with them either.  I keep fixing them when they get holes.

Me: (laughing) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Maggie:  Yes!

Me:  What has knitting meant for you personally?

Maggie:  I’ve always felt that when I am the most stressed is when I knit the most.  When I’m the busiest I knit more.  Which seems counterintuitive.  It seems like you should knit when you have free time.  When I have free time I don’t knit at all.  I knit when I’m stressed and it’s such a fantastic stress reliever.  When I pick up the needles my heart rate goes down and I just feel better.  Unless it’s a particularly stubborn project, in which case it does the opposite!

It’s also been a wonderful way for me to make friends.  Wherever I go, there’s always other knitters.  It’s a way for me to connect with people who I would not normally hang out with.  They aren’t my age or they aren’t from my school or job.  They are people I might not meet otherwise.  I love how knitting broadens my social circle. 

Another thing is that I can look back at my life and remember where I was when I was working on a certain project.  I can look through My Ravelry Page and it’s like my personal history from when I was 10.

Me:  How old were you when you released your very first pattern?

Maggie:  I was a freshmen in college, so I was probably 18, about 8 years ago.

Me:  Anything you want to say to any other budding knitters or designers out there?

Maggie:  I think that it always looks harder than it is.  Which is not to say it isn’t hard.  But all of knitting is just a combination of knits and purls. If you can do that, you really can do anything.  It might take some practice and it might take ripping it out 10 times, but you really can.

Me:  I’ve definitely been there.

Maggie:  Right.  It takes some patience and it takes some effort but it’s not as hard as you think it is, I promise.  It is but you can do it.

Me:  If you love it, do it.

Maggie:  Yeah.  If something looks hard or intimidating, a lot of times it’s really a lot simpler than it looks.  The first time I tried cables, it looked so hard and it wasn’t.  Then I tried cabling without a cable needle.  I thought, “Take your stitches off your needle?! That’s impossible they’re all going to fall out!!” But it wasn’t that hard once I actually did it.

So. “You can do it” is really the main message.  I believe anyone can do it.

Me:  I’ve seen that myself.  Things used to intimidate me.  I’d read a pattern and I’d encounter something I was very unfamiliar with and for the longest time I’d let that deter me and I would just find a different pattern.  But I finally decided I really wanted to learn some of these techniques and once I sat down with them I often found they were less difficult than I had anticipated

Maggie:  I mentioned earlier, I started knitting when I was in 5th grade and i didn’t even learn to do the purl stitch till I was in High School.  I didn’t do anything other than garter stitch scarves.  First of all, there was no one to teach me.  It didn’t occur to me to search on the Internet.   But once I was around people who were trying things then I had to try them too.  Once you do, it’s not as hard as you think it will be.  The things that were intimidating become easy once you try them. (End)


Please do go and look up Maggie’s patterns.  Especially if you are enjoy a fun sock pattern.  Maggie has at least 46 patterns on Ravelry and I’m sure we will see more added before long.   Maggie has no shortage of the creative talents.  In case you are curious, her day job is that of a professional filmmaker and animator.

Next weeks post:  Living and Dyeing

Much Peace,




Studio Loading…..

I hope you can all forgive me for the brevity of this post, as well as how late I am in getting it posted.  If you read Floods, Fibers and Family you will know this is a busy time for me.

What is relevant for us here today is that my daughter and her family have relocated to their new (and awesome!) home.  This meant (Oh, Happy Day) I could reclaim my studio which had been converted into a bedroom for the duration of their stay.

So this week has been a spring cleaning/ rearranging/setting up my studio.  In the midst of this I have a friend who has downsized and gifted me with some furniture she no longer had need of.  This included two really great shelving units perfect for a studio.

Here are some pictures of the “work in progress” shots from the studio:





This is not even remotely finished, of course.  It WOULD be if I didn’t have to also clean the rest of my house! Sheesh.  But I’m pretty happy to get  this rolling again.  This is my Creative Think Tank and I’m looking forward to the projects I will make, the skills I will learn and going “confidently (or more like, determinedly) in the directions of my dreams.


See you all next week!



….or the studio.

Floods, Fibers and Family

It’s been quite an interesting weekend in our little spot on the Earth.  I don’t have much to relate to you in the category of Finished Objects or new Works in Progress, but I think, once you’ve read this article, you will understand.

In a recent discussion with my knitting buddies, Jen and Maggie, I learned about a Yarn Con held annually in Chicago.  This was the first I had heard about it and I was EXCITED.  I really, really want to go to one of the larger festivals and Chicago is only around 6 hours away so this was a reasonable goal for me.  But when I went online to check when it was being held, I was disappointed to discover it has already come and gone for this year.  THIS will be a goal added to my New Year’s Resolutions for next year.

However, in the meantime I was looking forward to a smaller, but much closer event, the Boonville Pioneer Fiber and Music Festival, which was being held only 30 minutes away.  I can be content with that… for now.  Being budget conscious (whether I want to be or not) I set aside an allowance of spending money.  NOT that I don’t already have some lovely yarns all lined up in queues waiting patiently for their turn for love and attention, but if I go to a concert I want a T-Shirt (BOSTON!) and if I go to a yarn festival, same principle applies.

As it happens, this Festival fell on a very busy weekend.  My oldest daughter and her family had been staying with us while they were house hunting. This had taken several months, but they had finally found an amazing place in the area they wanted and THIS was the moving weekend.  Ok.key

Next up, my second daughter’s birthday had been the past Thursday, so we were celebrating that at my house.  No simple cake and ice cream.  Our family likes to get together and cook Chinese food together due to living in China for several years.  This was what she wanted to do for her birthday.  Ok.


And THEN the rains came, and came, and….well, you get it.  Suffice it to say, there was a lot going on in that 48 hour time span.

However, the disappointment of having been denied Yarn Con being so fresh I would be going to the fiber festival.  I dutifully put in the address to my GPS in order to find the most efficient route there.  However the heavy rains meant having to find alternative routes to reach my objective.  Fortunately, I was vaguely familiar with the area so I could make adjustments without becoming completely lost.  It may have been my imagination, but the GPS lady did start to sound slightly miffed when I continued to disregard her directions (since I didn’t pack my snorkel) but eventually I arrived safe and dry.

Sonya on the left with her smirky-smile

If you read Yarn, Colors, and Friends you will recall Sonya, who taught me my first ever yarn dyeing class.  She was the co-organizer of this Festival and had clearly done her hard work.  There was an interesting variety of vendors at the venue.  Although the Fiber Arts figured heavily in the theme there were also those who brought their local honey, pottery, quilts, and a variety of other crafts.

After taking a tour and chatting with several people, I finally settled in at Sonya’s booth to sit, knit, and chat with some of the others there.  One thing I enjoy most about doing this is being able to engage in interesting conversations about knitting, yarns, fibers, current projects and knitting techniques with other people who are as interested in these things as I am.  Being a person who is both verbal AND passionate I cannot help talking about the craft that I love, but with my non-knitting friends and family if I am not careful, I look up to see that I have carried on too long, the eyes have glazed over, and it’s time to find more “Muggle-y” topics to talk about.

During the course of this conversation I talked with a woman who had grown her own cotton to harvest, card, and process into yarn for knitting.  I was fascinated by this.  This is exactly the kind of thing I would love to do, although I would probably choose a wool of some kind.  It was a very enjoyable time.

Since my weekend was still packed with the many other things, listed above, I had to wind down and head back.  But not before picking up two really beautiful skeins of yarn, fiberista

some progress keepers,


some beautiful pottery buttons for future projects,

and a button to flash at my husband (the chocoholic) the next time he mentions my yarn stash.


It was brief, but sweet.


The next day was an endless stream of moving boxes, watching children, cooking, and eating going from one thing to the next almost without pause, but it was wonderful.

My oldest daughter and her family are moved and getting settled into their very own home after renting for years.

We were able celebrate my second daughter’s birthday with time together and really good food.

Am I tired? Very.  But a good tired.  We are reorganizing our house back to functional again, with a studio and work room (more about that later) and at the end of the day I relax with a drink in my hand, yarn in my lap, as I scroll through patterns dreaming what to make next.

To the Fibers that knit us together (yes, I went there :),



Casting a Circle

How do you like to knit in the round?  I have now tried using the double pointed needles method, Magic Loop Method, and the basic circular needle method.   So today I’m going to break down my experiences with these approaches.

Double Pointed Needle (DPN)

This image was taken from WEBS yarn store blog featuring the Knitter’s Pride brand of cubic needles.dpn
There are many reasons to be able to knit with DPN’s.  If you are making a project in the round that requires decrease rows, this is an important skill.  If you were simply doing a cowl that maintains the same measurements throughout the project you could easily use circular needles in the round from beginning to end.  However, if you are making a hat, once you begin decreasing your stitches to taper your hat to a close, you will eventually have too few stitches to continue in that method.  At that point you will need to slip your stitches onto dpn’s dividing them as evenly as possible between 3 needles (some divide between 4) and using an additional needle to work the stitches.  However, one of the issues of knitting with dpn’s is the problem of laddering:


This can actually be a very cool design element when done intentionally.  Otherwise it is an annoying disruption in an otherwise lovely pattern.

The most basic approach to dealing with this is, when working the first two stitches of each needle, to make sure you pull them snug before continuing on.

Then there is the Magic Loop Method.

This is a short, but clearly explained video on how to do Magic Loop by Very Pink.

This is the method I learned most recently while knitting my Mercury Socks as described in For the Journey.  Since I’m a novice at this particular approach I will say that I’m glad I know how to do it, but it’s not my favorite way at this moment in time.  I think the problem for me may be that I learned to do this while knitting a sock, a smaller project, using a circular needle with a very long cable.  So doing this while trying to keep the excess needle out of my way was kind of “fiddley” for me and would get on my nerves.  Having said that, as is mentioned in the video above, it would be a good method to know for a larger tube such as sleeves or cowls, especially if you didn’t have the precise size of circular needles on hand and you don’t feel like dropping the cash for some new ones.  I hate getting excited about starting a project and finding out something small is preventing me from beginning.  This would be a good way to avoid that.

This method has less tendency to ladder since there are fewer joins to think about, but as with the dpns you still need to make sure the first two stitches are snugged up to avoid it.  With the Mercury Sock project I completed, I still had a small amount of laddering, mostly due to this being my first time using this method.  Fortunately, it was all at the bottom of the socks.  Since I will be keeping this pair for myself, no harm, no foul.  They turned out beautifully otherwise and I love them.teaandyarn

When I have enough socks knit up (working on a new pair now) I will do a post doing a “Sock Strut” fashion show to showcase my growing collection of hand knit socks.

Another plus to this method is that you don’t need to switch to dpns even when decreasing.  That alone would be reason enough for some folks to learn this method.

As I said, I’m definitely glad I learned to do this and as I become more proficient at it, it may win me over completely.

Finally there is the basic circular needle method of knitting in the round. Since this is my personal favorite, I saved the best for last.


This image comes from Fiber Flux Blog  where Jennifer discusses this method of knitting in the round.

When I learned how to knit in the round using this method,  it opened a whole new world of possibilities for me.  As I discussed in my first post Knitting In the Apocalypse,  knitting was always a kind of therapy/relaxation for me.  But I had few other knitters around to help me gain true skill.  So up until that point there had been endless piles of scarves and blankets.

But I was able to join a knitting group that met at a local Starbucks of the town to where I would eventually relocate.  They were very generous and welcoming and one of them starbucks-coffee-cuptaught me how to do this.  Learning to knit in the round gave me hats, cowls, and eventually sleeves for sweaters.  Once I learned the basics of it, it was just as therapeutic, but way more impressive in terms of what I could create.

I like this method so much that recently I purchased a pair of 9 inch circular needles so I could use them for sock knitting.  It took me a bit of time to adjust to working in the round on such a small cable length, but once I got the hang of it, I was sold.  I think this will be my go-to method for sock knitting for now.

So what is your favorite way of making yarny magick?  Please leave comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

I have two wands and string and muttering I make beautiful things,





Yarn, Colors, and Friends

This past Saturday I went to my first ever yarn dyeing class.  I have been itching (not dying, avoiding bad puns here) to do this for a long time.  In the last few months as a part of my knitty, fiber-loving journey I decided that this was the next stop.  As I watched podcasts and explored the many and wonderful online shops that sell hand-dyed yarn and saw all the amazing colorways and creative and intriguing names I knew that this was something I wanted to do.

My lovely pussy-hat wearing and proofreading friend Jen knew Sonya, owner of City Stitch Yarn Shoppe  who teaches a variety of classes and she arranged one to teach us how to dye.  Jen and I were joined by our friend Maggie Orr.  Maggie is a designer on Ravelry with numerous beautiful patterns both free and paid.  You can find her patterns on her Maggie Menzel page.

The day of the class was beautiful day and only a 30 minute drive to the location (music blasting).  Sonia, our teacher, was the ideal instructor, full of experience, sound information, and with a personality that kept things both calm and fun.

While the skeins of undyed yarn (100% Merino) were soaking in hot water on the stove to prep them for taking dye, we chose our colors.  Since we were working as a group we had to agree on 5 colors between us.  We settled on Gunmetal Grey, Teal, Orange, Purple, and Dark Blue.

Sonia had set up a screen laying over plastic containers for each of us.  When the skeins were ready each of us laid ours in a long oval donut on the screen just over the containers. We needed to work while the yarn was still hot so each of us began selecting the colors which were in squirt bottles, like the ketchup bottles you would see at a diner, and began applying the colors.  We would apply a color here or there, another color, step back and contemplate the look and then chose which color was needed next.  Once we were satisfied with the look, we carefully flipped the skein over and repeated the process on the other side.   We checked for sections that had not been reached by the dye and “filled in the blanks” with more color.

Once we were happy with our products we carefully squeezed the yarn with our fingers to help lightly blend colors that were adjacent to each other.

The next step took us to the sink to rinse our yarn with hot water until it ran clear.

Then Sonia said, “This is the part where the neighbors look at you funny”.  We all trooped outside and, right on a busy street, swung our brilliant lassos of yarn to spin out as much of the moisture as possible.

Jen, who lives near the shop, offered to take them all home to hang and dry and bring them back to the shop for skeining before Wednesday Knit Night.

We were all so excited to begin dyeing that none of us thought to take pictures of the class.  But we did capture the end results.

Here is a pic of mine in the drying stage:


Now keeping in mind that, while we each chose different colors to work with, we were still drawing from the same pool of 5 colors.  Here are each of our works in the skein:

3skeinsI love how the very different results show the creativity and personality of each one of us.  So amazing the endless variety and artistry that each of us can create.

We, of course, had a great time selecting fitting names for our colorways. The top skein is my “Galaxy Dust” since it has a darker tone but with pops of color.  The middle skein is Maggie’s, it hinted at a green pool inhabited by goldfish.  This became “Koi Dreaming”.  Jen’s with its deep blues, greens,  and grays made us think of the colors of the deep ocean.  So it was christened “Mariana Trench”.

After bringing it home I caked it up and then knit up a small swatch to see how the colorway knit up.  This was my result:


This lighting is not ideal, but I can say I’m really pleased with how this is working up.  It is a fingering weight yarn, but has no nylon, so I will not be making socks with this one.  I’m considering a Space-themed shawl to touch on both the name of this colorway as well as my recent shawl knitting streak.  But I’m going to sit and admire it for a while before deciding just what it should become.

I’m really looking forward to digging deeper into the art of yarn dyeing and exploring the variety of colorways that can be created.  To that end I’ve purchased :dyeingbook

I can’t wait to read, learn and experiment.  Soon I expect to see strands of color hanging from my back porch as they dry.  Oh, the joy.

In other News:

For those of you who enjoyed Yarn, Spring, and All Good Things and are wondering how our chicks are doing.  I am happy to report that they all seem to be thriving.  They have graduated from brooder to coop but have not yet made their first foray outside.  I check on them regularly and while I hope they will become more accustomed to my presence, right now I am still a big, scary monster, it seems.

Things are greening up around the homestead and I’ve been doing a roll call of herbs to see what has come back this year. So far Oregano, Thyme, Lemon Balm, and Mint have shown themselves.  I’m considering what will be revived or added to the herb garden.  Today I potted Basil, Cilantro, and sowed some German Chamomile for tea.  There will definitely be other additions, but I am still choosing just what those will be.

Since I’m still reveling in the joy of the creative process my wish for you is that you will thoroughly enjoy whatever creative outlet you claim as your own.