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,




There seems to be a problem here….

Dear beloved readers.

My computer is having issues.  I have not forgotten you all.  I enjoy writing about my forays into all the knitting and fibery fun that I am having and learning.

But at this point I’m doing most things on my smart phone rather than computer.  So this week’s blog is postponed till next week.

But you should definitely look forward to next week’s blog.

This past Wednesday I sat down and interviewed Maggie,  a designer with no less than 46 patterns on Ravelry.  One of her newest patterns is in the newest Knitty edition about to be released.

We will be talking about her patterns, her designing process and all manner of good things.  You will definitely want to check back in for that.  We had a great deal of fun as sat down for a cuppa and a good talk.

So very sorry that this is all I have for you today.

Until next time, may you have great fun and satisfaction in your yarn-filled journey.



STOP looking at me like I’m a ball of yarn!!



Just Start

You can learn a lot from chickens.

The first Saturday in April I bought my first ever flock of chickens.  We have been on a learning journey together.  In those cool early days I was a bit of a “helicopter mom”, always hovering over them, making sure they were all alive and well.

In a few weeks some friends came over and helped us build an inside pen in our Well House just a few feet from our back door.  It is large and roomy, definitely a good amount of space for my small flock of 9 growing chicks.

As much as I enjoy watching them and taking care of them, for them it was definitely NOT love at first sight.  For the most part I was the “scary monster”.  I would speak in soothing tones, handle them gently, bring them food and water.  But they all huddled as far as away from me as they could when I entered the coop.  Slowly (so it seemed to me) I evolved from the “scary monster” to the “scary monster that brings the food”.

Twice a day our routine consisted of me coming in to freshen the water and refill the food dish.  Whenever I had time I would crouch down near the food and wait quietly.  I wanted them to get accustomed to my presence and be less skittish around me.  At first they would give me the side eye (because that’s the only look a chicken can give) no doubt wishing I would go away so they could eat.  Gradually, cautiously, they would inch forward and start eating.  Any shifting movement or slight sound on my part would send them skittering away.

It wasn’t long before I began realizing their therapeutic value.  While I cannot yet enjoy the higher quality and taste of freshly laid eggs from my own backyard chickens, for me, they are already paying for themselves.  In ways I can’t explain, watching them, talking to them (yes, every time I go out 🙂 ) somehow helps to reduce the various stresses I feel.  I have begun calling them my therapy animals.

Somewhere, somehow, at some moment I didn’t recognize our relationship shifted from “scary monster/bringer of food” to “move over, human, I’m eating”.  I chuckled when I realized it.

They are of an age now where I can begin introducing them to the outside yard.  I would be willing let them simply be free range.  But we live not far from a very busy highway, on a fairly busy street, with neighborhood dogs that sometimes find their way over here.  So, an enclosure that allows them both safety and liberty was necessary.

Most people who read this blog will understand the all-too-common issues of not enough time and not enough money to do all the things we want to do.  In the the case of our chickens, that translates into our not yet having a good outdoor structure for them, although the plans are in the works.  We will be building it ourselves,  once we figure out how…we are new at this remember.

But lately they have been rushing to the coop door every time I came into the Well House.  It was as if they were saying “Can we go out today?! Pleeeeaasse!!” We knew it would be a while before we could build a proper outside coop, but I still had to find away to give them at least a taste.

To be honest, I overthink.  A lot.  I like to have EVERYthing figured out and situated before I do something.  Preparedness and excellence are fine.  But sometimes, I let it keep me from doing something, because I fear “doing it wrong”.

But in a desire to allow my flock to experience the outdoors I had to do something.  So this past weekend DH and I took the chicken wire leftover from building the inside coop, picked up a few supplies and hunted around for odds and ends in the garage, and hobbled together a small but adequate outdoor pen.  It is not ideal.  I cannot open their pen and have them walk right to it, like the permanent structure I envision will.  It is draped at one end with a tarp to provide some shade and bird netting at the other end to keep them from flying out or the hawk that sometimes frequents our back yard from making an attempt.  Because it is built on a slope we couldn’t get the chicken wire exactly flush with the ground.  This meant finding whatever materials we had at hand; cinderblocks, pieces of wood and board, to place around the spots that had gaps so they couldn’t make a break for it.  So believe me when I say, this will win no awards for design or beauty.


We carried each one to the pen and placed them in.  They didn’t like this part at all, but once they were in the pen and could forage and scratch and begin to experience a life of air and sun, they seemed to think this was a big improvement.

As I sat in my chair watching them to see how they adjusted to this, they didn’t squawk indignantly at the patchwork design, or shake their heads disapprovingly.  They stretched their wings and explored and found, I know not what, as they pecked at the chickengrass.  The scene was a lovely, quiet rural scene.  In my own back yard.

My lesson from the therapy animals for that day is this:  You don’t have to have all your ducks in a  row (or a perfect chicken pen) to start.  Again with the overthinking, I can do all kinds of preparation and research to start a project or learn something new, but when it comes to the point of beginning, I hesitate.

I need to get comfortable with the idea that I WILL do things wrong!  I will also learn new and better ways as I go.  The joy of it is the learning and growing.

So, to myself and to you, dear reader, I say this:  By all means, do your due diligence as you lead up to something new, but in the end there comes a time to stop prepping and

Just Start.


Updated shots of my studio.  Still a work in progress.  Just like me.

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 :),