Changing your mind… and then changing it again.

Some of you might know that I volunteered to do another test knit sweater. Yeah – I know! I just finished The Reach – and the designer was so pleased she featured my photo on her pattern page! (YAY). I actually love that one so much I just swatched for another one…


But – yeah – another test. This one with a tight deadline, too. Sometimes I think that this is the only way I make sweaters. The current one is my fourth and my first for Tanis Lavallee – whose designs I’ve liked for quite some time now. In general I like designers who care enough to include LOTS of sizes in their patterns – especially plus sizes. Tanis’ patterns usually go from kids sizes all the way up to me – 3x. (I used to be a 4x, but I think the recent weight loss has shrunken me just a tad)

I like the pattern – challenging to begin – definitely a different construction technique than I’m used to, even for a top-down. I’ve never done a top-down cap sleeve before – only raglans. Then, once you’re over the hump and have separated the sleeves and joined the fronts and back it’s acres and acres of garter stitch. Nice and squishy, this one is!

But, I was not especially happy with my yarn choice. Its always a challenge knitting in my size because I need so much yardage. I know… I know – I’ve bemoaned this state before. 2200 yards of worsted weight yarn… <sigh> easily $250 for Tanis’ yarns. So, to the clearance rack I go and find what I think is a really nice silvery-gray Rowan Hemp Tweed. Good yardage, reasonable price – less than half what it would have cost for designer yarn. But, as I now work with it I keep finding loads of… mmmmm… vegetal matter. Strands of stalks and bits of stuff twisted into the yarn, so that every few stitches I’m pulling crap out. I’ve not gotten through a row yet without this stuff. It’s too bad, too because, without all of that the yarn is nice and soft.

I was just about to pick up for the sleeve caps when I changed my mind and decided to turn back. Frog and look for different yarn. This yarn was hard on my hands… It had all this stuff in it… I had even had a sweater quantity of another yarn of the same weight that should work… I didn’t mind that the Rowan was a bit rustic looking. I like that. Not slubbed or narrow-thick – not that way, but without the polished smoothness that most commercial yarns have. Go to any store and pick up a skein of Caron, or any LYS and pet a skein of madelinetosh, then this Rowan and you’d see what I mean. But… the junk!

So I slept on it. It was late – well early would be a better word – it was about 2am and I was too tired to make a decision.

Next day I picked it up again and tried a few more rows, tracking my increases, checking my tension – all that – and before I knew it I was done with the sleeve cap! Whaaaaaat? How the h-e-double-hockey-sticks did that happen? I sat down to do a few rows and the project changed my mind for me. So, now it’s really too late to go back (for me it is – unless the problem is severe or I really (like REALLY) don’t like it I don’t frog). And, once I joined the body pieces it began to fly.


10 inches of squishy garter and the ribbed border… After that it’s just sleeves, collar and blocking. Falling off a log….

I’m so glad I’m so good at changing my mind….

It’s been an interesting day

So there was this:


I know – it ain’t a lot under – but it’s under and that’s the point.

Five years ago I quit smoking. I started smoking when I was… oh around 10. Yes, that’s right – 10. My dad worked at a tobacco distributor and it was all around us. Back in the day cigarettes were 23 cents a pack. But the machines would only take quarters. So it was kind of a family side business to put the two cents under the cellophane using a special machine (in those days I actually had two cents worth and never offered change). There were automatic ones that worked on a trigger that I was not allowed to use and smaller hand-driven ones that I was. You’d slip the machine’s blade under the cello, shoot the lever and two pennies would be slid under the wrap. Then you’d place a small piece of tape over the slit and go on. It was my first experience with assembly line process – and we made a family affair out of it. The boys would bring the boxes down to the basement, I’d open cartons and fill the machines with pennys, put the tape over the slits, Mom would operate the machines and Dad would run inventory.

Both my parents smoked, so I started by snitching cigarettes from them. In those days the store owners didn’t ask for ID. All you had to tell them was that you mom or dad sent you over to buy them a pack and that would be it. They were so easy to get that I started buying my own when I was about 12.

For some reason, after nearly 50 years I just decided one day to quit. My cat was wheezing. My niece remarked one time that her of smelled of smoke after I’d been sitting for him. I was wheezing… It was time.

So I just…. stopped. I finished my last pack and threw it away and that was it.

And I went a little nuts.

I couldn’t figure out what to do. I had a comforting routine. Cigarette in the morning with my coffee. Refill coffee at break time, light one up. One after lunch and with afternoon coffee. One after dinner, then again before bed. And, if I was wakeful a smoke would calm me and I could sleep.

Now all of that was gone. What to do???

Well, you turn to an even older and dearer friend – food. When I lived in Upstate NY I’d lost nearly 90 pounds and was weighing in at around 260. When I quit smoking I went back up to about 330.

So, to curb the eating I started knitting – I guess I’m an obsessive personality… But I couldn’t shift the weight. I dithered around with my diet – going to fast food drive-throughs and ordering pizza or Golden Chicken. And I fell on the ice – twice. For five years I’ve putzed and puttered, knowing what I should be doing… but not doing it. I was justifying the bad eating with ‘oh, it was a really bad day…’ or ‘I didn’t have breakfast, so I can have this…’ What a crock of BS, if I do say so myself!

Then, just like smoking it became time. Time to stop jerking around. Time to start testing my blood glucose levels again. Time to make a Dr. appt and have my A1C and all my levels checked. Time to do a 30-Day Challenge with someone who not only makes it fun but is a great example of turning your life on it’s head. Someone who inspires me every day. Time to dig myself out of the hole.

Time to live again.


Okay – I’m just going to get this out of my system…


Whew! That was intense. But seriously, this is seriously soft, squishy yarn. I’ve kind of steered away from cashmere for socks because I never felt that it was durable enough. This stuff might prove me wrong. (I hope so because I’ve told my feet about it and they are going to mutiny if they don’t get some).

My only previous experience with cashmere was with Handmaiden Casbah. Lovely yarn. I had gotten a skein as a bonus add-on during a sale at an online store. The colorway was called Glacier – lovely aqua blues that went to grays. I made a cowl and matching mitts (I love fingerless mitts – that’s where most of my ‘extra’ yarn goes when I’ve finished a project). It’s so soft and luscious! But very limp. Perfect for a cowl as I don’t like thick stuff around my neck, but would never stand up to socks:


I love this little cowl so much! I’m going to have to make this pattern again – maybe out of some of that lovely Raven Ridge… But I digress…

The Caper is the same blend – Merino/Cashmere/Nylon, but it just feels a little beefier to me. Maybe I’m wrong- my hands are notorious for lacking feeling (all those surgeries – but that’s for another time), but it just feels a bit more substantial. Could be the twist.

The reviews for it seem very mixed – while everyone loved working with it (save for a few folks who had problem skeins) there were some whose socks wore well and some that did not. And the newest review is almost a year old. But, one thing I’ve learned about online reviews – there are generally more negative reviews than positive ones. For some reason people think of it as a forum to log complaints – but rarely for compliments.

So I’m torn. Socks, yea? or Socks, Nay?

I’ll keep you posted (after I finish the current crop of 7 sock WIP’s)…



I used to think I was a little nuts…

Now I know that I’m certifiable. Off the deep end. One-flew-over-the-cookoo’s-nest gone.

Why would you say that about yourself, Jude? You may ask.

I don’t know if you remember this sweater:


Not a great photo, but you get the idea. This is destined to be my next favorite sweater. I rarely knit pullovers – I like the option of stripping a layer or twelve when I get one of them ‘power surges’, but this one is not so heavy. It’s knit in a lovely DK weight Berrocco Vintage that is very soft and has great color (I’m still waiting for light to take a decent shot – every weekend has been gray and cold).

This was a test knit for one of my favorite designers. I love that her sweaters have nice shapes and textures – not just a couple hundred acres of stockinette. I love her details – like the pockets (which I may have to line because they do look a little droopy). I also like that, in the right colors her garments would feel just as at home in a bowling alley (although I doubt that Lori bowls :D) or as business casual. I actually plan to wear this with a button-down shirt to a meeting next month.

So why does all this make me crazy?

Because – on the very throes of finishing this test knit sweater I’m doing another!!

HOLY CRAP, BATMAN! You really ARE nuts!

The new one is by Tanis of Tanis Fiber Arts. I’ve always liked her designs and I just couldn’t resist when she put out a call on Instagram for test knitters. You see – this is what I get for following so many knitwear designers on social media! Designers and yarn companies – indie dyers, too. Remember a couple days ago I was bemoaning my tendency to buy random skeins of sock yarn? Well, I also have a sad habit of buying sweater quantities of clearance and sale yarn. I swear that, if my LYS knows I’m coming they pack the clearance shelves with all my kryptonite!

So, when I saw the call, I quickly checked my stash to find 2 sweater lots of Cascade 220 just waiting for a sweater. Now all I need to do it chose pink or blue (yes – I actually said that). The pink is a really pretty marl called Cameo – I don’t think they make that line anymore (it was called Quattro) and the blue is a beautiful hue with a hint of lavender called Delphinium.

Nice problem but geeze! I need to knit faster!


Oh, and there there was that thing about Sock Club…

fullsizeoutput_72dThere are 27 skeins of sock yarn in this holder…. For socks. Only socks. And that ain’t even all of ’em….

I get a little out of control when I’m confronted by pretty yarns (or sales). I figure – well, it’s just a skein of sock yarn and I always need socks.

I started wearing only handknit socks about four years ago. They were the first thing I learned to knit properly and I had a goal of getting rid of all ‘production’ socks. I did that – and as a result I have healthier feet!

Plus, when I go into a yarn shop, especially a new one, I feel a little guilty if I don’t buy something. I mean – I want to support the local business and, since most Yarn shops are also women-owned enterprises I also support women in business. Win-win.

But, at ~$25 a pop I can’t buy enough of one yarn to make a sweater for me. I’m not exactly a toddler two! I’d love to be able to be one of those people who only needs 900 or so yards of fingering yarn to make a sweater. At an average of 425 yds per skein that’s about 2 skeins. Expensive, but well worth it. I need more than double that – so it quickly goes out of the realm of possibility.

But socks are another story! I probably have the most pampered feet in town. I wear cashmere. I wear silk blends. I wear pure, soft merino wool. But, my feet are mostly slogging around the house all day in moccasins. I work form home, so I wear slippers or soft shoes most of the day. So I indulge myself when it comes to sock yarns.

And it has turned me into an addict! ‘Hello, my name is Jude and I’m addicted to Sock yarn…’

I’ve been told that there’s no cure.



Baby its cold outside… but I’ve got knits!

Not even as cold as some places around the country – and we aren’t having the snow, but with the wind chill still below zero!

The problem this poses for me is that I need to take ‘glamour’ shots of my new sweater for the designer and its way too cold to pose outside. And I don’t have a nice indoor spot – unless I go to a public place like a library or something. If I still worked in an office I’d go there, but I don’t really know any place I’d like to go to this time of year. The sweater is really nice (quickly becoming my favorite) and deserves a nice setting. Plus the designer asked for ‘professional’ photos…


And not only do I like to keep warm, I like for others to stay warm also. That’s why I no longer own this little hat:


My stylist, Patrick mentioned last time I was in that his head was cold. So he was gifted a hat… 🙂 Not like I don’t have enough yarn to make another (and one is already on the needles!)

But I don’t give them all away. This pair of gloves (my first attempt at gloves) are all mine! The gray is a special yarn that’s spun with silver – so you can operate a touch-screen with them on. I’ve tried with the fingers that I have complete and it does work!


And finally a scarf that I’m making. I had this lovely yarn, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. I’m not a fan of singles – they just seem really delicate to me – I’m a twist sort of girl. But I so fell in love with the colors that I had to have it. So, it’s going to be a scarf. It’ll keep me (or Becky) warm without getting a lot of torque.


The colors look almost metallic…

But today its all about snuggling with the kitty. We slept in this morning because he was feeling especially cuddly and just borrowed in, paws wrapped around me. I just couldn’t get up…


Sometimes the important things are not the biggest….



Ahhhhhh Silk

My, aren’t they pretty?

I LOVE silk! I love to wear it, I love to sew it, but I’ve never KNIT with it before. For some reason, though I was drawn to these.

These are some yarns that I got on my Montana trip. They are incredibly soft and have such a lovely sheen that I’m almost afraid to knit with them! If you’re not a maker you may not understand, but it’s that thing where something is very beautiful and has so many of the attributes that you enjoy you’re afraid to mar it in some way by altering it’s form. Afraid you’ll ruin it.

And besides – what would I make??

Hats – a possibility, but it would not be an especially warm hat as these are fingering weight yarns… But, since I have so little hair I could make some summery hats.

Mittens/gloves? Um… no. Probably not durable enough for that.

Socks? Probably not. They would feel wonderful but again, see above.

Sweater/top? At ~400 yds each not enough for anything like that. At least not to fit me! 🙂

Which leaves the shawl/scarf category. That’s what my Ravelry friends are suggesting. And it seems like at least one of these will wind up as a shawl, it’s just – how many shawls does a girl need? Of course, how many knits does anyone need (outside of socks – you can never have enough hand-knit socks)?

I suppose Hitchhiker would be a pretty one for the pink… But it calls for more yarn than is in that skein. Hmmmm. That’s usually my problem, though. I like big shawls that I can wrap around myself. I wear a shawl if I’m cold – not as a fashion statement. In fact I completely pass over pretty much ANY pattern that has ‘-ette’ at the end of the description! Shawlette? Give me a break! I couldn’t wrap most of those around my left arm!

I’ve already selected Skein of Geese for the blue one from Raven Ridge. It reminds me of the patterns that geese make as they fly though the autumn sky. I like that triangluar eyelet detail.

Then there’s the blue from Mountain Colors. That’s a bit heftier than the ones from Raven Ridge – those might be okay as house or bed socks. Three years ago I would never have said the words ‘Sock’ and ‘Silk’ in the same sentence and now I’m contemplating that very thing!!  But I have really tough toenails and, even though I keep them trimmed and filed the toes would be a major concern for me. (although I could do a turbo toe but, with the silk content I don’t know if it would be stretchy enough)

What should I knit with my silks? Or should I just pet them for a while and see what they say to me?

Good problems…. I like good problems.


The bright promise of new yarn

See those three pretties? Those, my friends are NEW YARN!

New yarn is like a new day – full of promise and excitement. Will it be soft on my hands as I knit? Will it work up into a lovely new garment? Will it be full of drama (not the good kind) as I wind it or tame as a goldfish (no – kittens and lambs are NOT tame, sorry)?

These are already destined for a project – a Drachenfels Shawl. It came as a kit from Craftsy. Ordered because Becky wants one and I thought I should test the pattern before I ‘go live’ with it for someone else.

Do I NEED a new project? Um… that would be a no. I have 8 projects currently on needles, four in hibernation and a further 44 in my Ravelry queue. So, no – I don’t need another project.


A Red Herring – or why I don’t like cables


I have to admit it – I’m not a big fan of knitting cables. Don’t get me wrong – I love to look at them and I’d love to have an Aran sweater. But please don’t ask me to knit one!

Why, you might ask? When sweaters with cables and all manner of twisted goodness seem to be all the rage and the one thing most knitters aspire to?

I can sum it up in one word: fiddly. Cables are fiddly. Slip x stitches onto a cable needle, hold in back (or front), then knit x stitches from left needle. Then knit the x stitches from the cable needle – then do it all over again. Fiddly.

Give me lace, lots of lace under starry skies above…..

Well – I do like knitting lace. BUT – not Granny lace. I like it chunky – like this one:


Pardon the dog hair… that was Max. I worked on this when I was dog-sitting.

I also like this:


I love this one but all those Vikel Braids like to have killed me!

Or the one at the top – which I don’t really consider lace – just a simple net pattern. But it works, y’know.

I even knit lace on the legs of my socks.

Funny thing is – I didn’t realize it was ‘lace’ when I did the first one. I had made the foot of the toe-up sock and was looking for something a little more interesting to do for the leg than a rib and I just picked out a pattern from one of my books. Then, when I took it to my next sock class my instructor smiled and said something to the effect of ‘oh, you’re a lace knitter…’ and the appellation kind of stuck. To me its just a series of knits, yarn overs and purls – nothing complicated. I guess that’s why I don’t fear it. Especially once I learned to read knitting charts, then it all fell into place for me.

Also when my instructor ‘gave me permission’ to use markers in between the pattern repeats – can I tell you that was an ah-ha moment??  At first I thought it was a sign of weakness to have to mark your pattern repeats. The sure sign of a novice. Now I don’t care! Look askance at me if you will, but I love my markers. More than once they’ve saved me when I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

So, when I saw that pattern at the top – called Herring by Lori Versaci, and saw the bright red Malabrigo worsted in my stash it was, for me a match made in heaven. Chunky fishnet lace set off by a ribbed border – fun! And no need for markers this time because it’s just a two-stitch repeat!

And not a single cable in sight…..

I’m home for the holidays… but nobody else is

Its been a very bizarre holiday season for me. and it’s getting stranger by the day.

In November for Thanksgiving I went to Missoula, MT to visit Becky. We had a grand time, even though the elevation and dryness challenged my asthma in ways I didn’t know were possible. That and the fact that the lives on the THIRD FLOOR… 🙂 But it was all good and, in the end I truly hated to leave her.


This is us at Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. I’m a Park fan and I visit them whenever time and travel allow.

But, imagine my disappointment when, on a Face Time call with the family in Wisconsin I found that they were having their Christmas present opening on Thanksgiving Day. I have to say I was mighty bummed. I understand the reasons they decoded to do it, but I wish they would have told me. I could have sent my presents for the boys along with my brother and sister-in-law and I could have watched them open them over the phone. Not ideal, but that’s what you do when relatives are at long distance. You don’t just have the event and not tell them so that, when you see them opening their presents from Grandma and Grandpa you aren’t totally blind-sided.

Granted – I’m Great Auntie and, if I’m there or not the boys won’t remember, it’s just the consideration that I miss. It felt like slap in the face.

Okay – I said it and it’s off my chest…

But now Christmas Day is going to be weird, like I said. For some reason my brother decided he needed to go to Montana to spend the holiday with Becky. It’s her first Christmas out there and all. I get it. And that’s why they had the gift opening on Thanksgiving.

So that means that there’s no Christmas holiday this year. Oh, my sister-in-law is going up to see Nick and his family. She’s staying the whole four-day weekend, in fact. But she’d move in with them if given the chance. Honestly, I think she’d sleep in the basement if it meant she could see her grandsons every day. It’s like nobody else exists. And I secretly think that’s the reason my brother went to spend the holiday in Montana.

So, no dinner – I even offered to buy pizza but, no. No gift opening (I don’t buy them stuff – I give them money because, with two growing kids and a limited budget there are always things you need). No watching stupid holiday movies or TV Christmas specials. It’s just going to be Nick and I going to see the new Star Wars movie while Grandma plays with the boys.

Hence the gray toned photo. I don’t like this holiday season at the best of times, but at least I used to feel like I was part of something.

Not any more…