Of New and Old

Happy 2019.

At the beginning of each new year, we all tend to make a list, be it mental or physical, or things we wish to accomplish. Resolutions, if you would. I could get philosophical about why it is we do this, new beginnings, new calendars, blah blah blah, but the fact of the matter is: It’s just a thing we do. And the more people talk about doing it, the more the rest of us start thinking about what we have to take care of. Thanks, Social Media.

My list this year is mostly mental–with a little bit of verbal (as in, if I tell people I’m doing something, hopefully that makes me do it.) On my mental list: take in fewer calories (have been sort of doing that), exercise every day (already failed that one), clear the clutter–I think my personal reason for the “fresh start” bug every New Year is because of the massive amounts of stuff that came into my house the week before, but a big thanks to Marie Kondo!

So maybe this one was obvious, but a goal I set was to get back to doing this blog now and then. If you are a “follower” of this page, then you may have thought a new blog showed up in your list, and that would be because my last one was February 8 of 2018. I don’t have a solid reason for that, except to say that, well, I just don’t have a particular reason. But I enjoy doing it, I get some fun feedback occasionally, so here we are. In fact, my last dip into this blog was to change its name. Last February, with a little confusion, I figured out how to change the name on WordPress.  Then followed the Instagram and Ravelry names. Facebook was being a little bureaucratic about it and wouldn’t approve the request to change the name. They claimed that “Of Sticks and String” is not in any related to the previous topic of “Cool People KNIT.” Obviously the person making these decisions doesn’t use sticks or string. Anyone friendly with Mark Zuckerberg and willing to help me out? (Facebook hack tip: Change the name in increments. I went from “Cool People Knit” to “Of Sticks and String/Cool People Knit” to “Of Sticks and String.” So far the Facebook police haven’t caught on and busted me.)

Last year was a good year for goal setting and accomplishing, both in crafting and non-crafting realms. I set the goal of running 10 miles per week and 50 miles per month (which, for you math types, means I had to run more than my required 10 miles at least some of the weeks each month). I had a small number of weeks in which I did not make my 10 mile goal, but I made the 50 each month and finished the year at almost exactly 600 miles–not to brag or anything, but I think I ended up a quarter mile over.

GAAA Border
Cabled border for Great American Aran Afghan

I also wanted to learn and “perfect” magic loop, and I can happily report that I have used it successfully for socks, hats, mittens, and one pair of boot cuffs. Another item on the technique bucket list was toe-up socks. In fact, DPN’s are sort of off my list for now. I did two pairs of Skew Socks and love the pattern, but I found that I need to figure out a better way to turn my heel soon enough–I ended up with one pair that was too big and found a home with someone else and another pair that is wearable but still a little too long. I’m finishing up a pair of vanilla toe-up socks now, and so far they seem like I’ve gotten the length right, so the Skew Socks might get another try soon.  I also HAD to finish the border on my Great American Aran Afghan, and I cast that on at the beginning of January (I believe a snow day had something to do with it) and finished it by late February. That brought a 2 1/2 year project to an end.

Joan of Arc sweater, pre blocking and weaving

I also checked off a couple specific projects I wanted to tackle–gift shawls for my mom and my aunt, a Hamilknit hat (supposed to be for my daughter, ended up going to the music teacher, so have to cast on another), and perhaps most satisfying of all, the Joan of Arc sweater for me. This last one was my favorite, and not just because it’s mine, but because I took the time to go back and fix any mistakes (if you don’t like it now, you won’t like it 10 rows from now–Knitmore Girls gospel), and because I revised the things I was not happy with–I made the neckline come up a little higher so it doesn’t slouch off my shoulders and added several inches to the hem portion so it comes down to a comfortable length. Oh, and the Seven Sisters Arts yarn was beautiful to work with and gorgeous to look at–and bonus, I purchased it at a discount.

Now 2019 is upon us; actually it’s 16 days upon us. I’m a list maker. There is nothing more satisfying that slapping that “√” next to a completed item. In real life, my to-do lists usually contain a combination of grading, lesson plans, kids’ projects, laundry, grocery shopping, and the gym. And lets be frank, those lists are lousy. When those tasks are done, I always have a few knitting projects, or a good book (or both depending on how well the book or Kindle can balance on my knee), to let me have some “me” time. That time is more and more precious, so I also think having some advance plans to make the most of it can let me get a lot done without feeling like I’m making knitting a chore.

But what I really want to make myself focus on is a couple of languishing projects. These are “WIPs” that I found myself pushing to the side for one reason or another, and now they’re just taking up space and periodically reminding me that I shouldn’t get too wrapped up in something all-consuming until I at least get some progress made on these.

Waiting for me, there’s the Instagram photos, podcast chats, and other siren song topics that will get me distracted and plotting other projects. But in the meantime, the checklist progresses.


What’s in a Name? (or The Introduction of “Of Sticks and String,” the Blog Formerly Known as “Cool People Knit.”)

A while back, I entered into the foray of the Knitting-Social-Media-Chasm by starting a Facebook page, then an Instagram account, and finally a blog. Aside from the fact that I did everything in the opposite direction one usually goes, something has always bothered me about this little experiment–the name I chose.

Since I did all of this pretty much on a whim, I kinda just pulled a name out of thin air. And the name I pulled was “Cool People Knit.” I stand by this assertion, and many a “follower” has confirmed it. You’d be amazed with how many knitters completely agree with that statement, probably because I’m stating the obvious. Just trying to convince family and close friends that it is in fact “cool” when I pull out the knitting at various social functions.

Monkey Socks

A few months ago, however, I decided that I wanted to change the name. It’s tempting to try to develop a rationale for the name change. Like, I could say that I want to take my thoughts on knitting into a new direction and explore new avenues. I could tell you that there is something about this blog and my other accounts that will be better captured by the new name. I could tell you that the FBI is looking for me, and the only lead they have is that I am the knitter behind “Cool People Knit.”

But the fact is, I just decided that my original name is cheesy.

So that’s the only real rationale behind starting a new blog address. My other social media–Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Ravelry–can just get a name change, but the blog GAAA (16)site itself takes a little more effort and tinkering to change once it’s established.

So I hope my blog followers–all 42 of them!–stick with and still enjoy “Of Sticks and String.” In the meantime, I’ll use it to post my random thoughts and play around with pictures of my WIP’s my FO’s, and other knitting adventures.

But for the record, knitters are still most definitely cool. SO cool, in fact, they choose the best titles for their blogs.

Confessions of a Lazy Knitter

With any hobby, it is natural to get deeper and deeper into the processes that go into it. Gardeners go from planting purchased plants to starting their own plants from seed and composting their own soil. Musicians learn other composers’ works then begin to compose their own. If you love baking, you attempt to branch out into more complicated recipes, and perhaps make more of your baked goods from scratch, relying less and less on pre-prepared ingredients.

It’s sort of a horizontal integration tendency. The more we come to love a hobby, the more we want to take our involvement back to the roots of it, and we get more interested in the process of carrying out that hobby, but also in the producing of the materials needed to carry it out.

I see and hear about this same desire in the fiber world. The more I listen to podcasts and read knitting-related articles, I am amazed by how many knitters and crocheters are also fervent spinners. It could very well be that someone who is likely to host a podcast or write an article is also more likely to be taken with other facets of their craft. In fact, for many of these people, knitting is a component of their occupation, so it is certainly understandable that their interests are also going to take on spinning.

Not me. I am a final product person. I hear and read about the great love some of these crafters have for spinning, dying, and all other steps between that sheep/goat/alpaca/cotton plant/bamboo and my final product, and my reaction is a definite “no thank you.” This could be a reaction born of the limited time I or any knitter has, so I’m pretty content to walk into a store and buy the product of another crafter’s very extensive labors.

For every step in the process, you can almost always take it back a step and get more into the “raw” material that will one day become your scarf or socks. If you don’t have a pretty big yard, then purchasing that sheep or alpaca is probably not in the cards for you. So the closest the truly committed crafters get is usually buying a fleece and going from there.

Raw fleeces available for sale at a Sheep and Wool festival. Took my picture and kept on walking to shop for more of the finished product.

If I had any doubts as to my yarn producing apathy, I just had to hear a few podcasts about processing a raw fleece. By raw, I mean “it was just taken off an animal that spends all of its time outdoors.” So you have to start by removing the grass, dirt, and who-knows-what that a farm animal is picking up while growing your next sweater. This involves soaking the fleece in hot water (but not too hot) and cleaning it with soap (but only very mild soap). You might have to repeat this process. A lot. Then to remove the dirt that is still in your not-yet-yarn, you need to use “cards,” to keep combing the fleece and straightening it. You then are ready to…spin. I don’t even know where the dying part comes into the process. Even some of the hardcore spinners who I have heard describe this process then follow up by stating that they now pay someone to process their fleece for them.


This description makes spinning sound easy. No interest. I guess non-knitters would find the knitting and purling to be fairly tedious. but hey, at least I’m seeing the final product emerge as I do it, and if it’s a pattern that is even a little bit involved, I can enjoy the design come to life as I do my cables and lace. I teach high school history, and earlier Americana is replete with the musings of women of centuries past sharing the tedium of spinning, so I’ll learn from their experiences and leave it to the truly committed.

My preferred method of yarn acquisition.

I get it. Some people are meant to get back to the core roots of any given craft. And thank goodness for them, because I love buying and using their stuff. More power to the crafters who dazzle all of us (and I say that in all sincerity) with their beautiful end products–there is nothing like casting on a gorgeous skein of yarn with an amazing texture and more amazing color. I am in awe of their efforts, not only because I can see that their talents are really shining through, but also because I know my lack of patience would lead to a pretty half-baked effort and a more half-baked result. I raise my coffee cup (or wine glass depending on the time of day) to them each and every time I partake in one of their final products.


In the meantime, I will be visiting the vendors, admiring and squishing the skeins, and happily purchasing those I can afford and use.

Next week’s blog: “How to Answer ‘Why Don’t You Just Buy It?’ Questions While Knitting (nod, wink)

If You Don’t Have Something Nice to Say…

The post started out innocently enough.

“Just got this beautiful yarn on sale! Any suggestions what to make with it?!?!”

So began a very excited post I came across several months ago on a Facebook group I follow, which is, of course, dedicated to knitting. The OP (which I recently learned is the jargon for “Original Poster”…these kids…) was SO excited about this find and was ecstatic to share her excitement on the Interweb, most likely also expecting to hear gushing and excitement from others over her great fortune.

Attached to the post was a picture of…yarn. No surprise. And the color was spectacular. A beautiful and vibrant teal with flecks of purple and green. It would have caught my eye as well. And wrapped around that skein of yarn was a “Red Heart” wrapper.

I knew what was coming. I opened the comments. The first one: “Set it on fire and go to a yarn store and buy some real yarn.” Further down: “No don’t set it on fire. It’s acrylic so it will just melt.” And even further: “Go return that to Walmart and get yourself to a Local Yarn Store for something nice.” And many similar snarky comments.

This is not the first or only time I’ve seen all hell break lose on the topic of yarn. Mention acrylic and someone will tell you that you’re using the devil’s material. Talk about a purchase you made at AC Moore, Michaels, or Walmart, and someone will try to convince you that you’re uncultured swine. And you don’t want to get into a conversation about Hobby Lobby or hats with ears.

I will admit, I wouldn’t buy Red Heart. I don’t like the way it feels, it pills when you wash it, and I prefer natural fibers when I find them. I won’t refuse to buy an acrylic blend, but the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t feel as nice.

Does that mean I feel a compulsion to express my preference at the expense of someone who is clearly excited about finding yarn that she found to be beautiful? I certainly don’t need to tell you, people can be pretty nasty. And when social media is involved, they get Internet balls and say things they would never dream to utter face-to-face. But I think such attacks go even deeper. I know we’re talking about knitting in this scenario, but I think the political atmosphere this year has made it abundantly obvious that people have strong opinions and will not feel satisfied until they have told others how absolutely wrong they are in everything they believe.

So when this poor knitter starts to see the replies to her original post pour in, I am sure there was a decent amount of shock and dismay to hear others tell her that all of her life choices are wrong. Did she even know there are such variations in yarn? Did she know that there are people who will judge you so harshly based on your choices…in yarn?

img_7327I also wonder what these commentators “know.” Do they “know” that she in fact has a Local Yarn Store (or LYS in knit-speak) close enough for her to patronize? Many parts of the country and the world are not located in an area where a store selling yarn would thrive. Do they “know” that her budget allows her to purchase yarn that can be considerable more expensive than Red Heart? Do they “know” she has been knitting long enough to have become interested in pricier yarns? Do they “know” that knitting is her only hobby and so the type of yarn she is using is something that receives a great deal of attention and thought?

I have read many blogs, Facebook posts, and articles in which individuals proudly refer to themselves as “yarn snobs.” That’s fine. Anyone who has been knitting or crocheting for any decent amount of time has probably had the opportunity to use better yarns and to a certain extent may develop a degree of “yarn snobbishness.” But that snobbery should extend only so far as “This is the type of yarn I like to use.” We all have a tendency to feel more comfortable with our decisions when we feel that others do the same as us. (I mean, have you ever been around a group of mothers when the topic of breastfeeding comes up?) So let’s acknowledge that tendency and overcome it. Chastising a person because they had the gall to purchase yarn from a big box store is just not cool.img_7326

Now, let me start to reverse myself a little. I love love love Local Yarn Stores. As in, I get a giddly feeling when I visit my favorite, Woolbearers. The selection of beautiful colors, and perhaps more importantly, textures, in a business dedicated to only one thing is an experience (in knitting universe) like no other. And not for nothing, but patronizing stores like Michaels, AC Moore, Walmart, and not giving my money to a small business feels to me like I’m just feeding the corporate beast. It saddens me that at least three businesses in my little corner of the universe have had to close their doors in the last decade because there is just not a fortune to be made in selling yarn. I prefer LYS’s. That works for me. Living in a somewhat populated area (South Jersey pride!) I have the luxury of having a few stores within driving distance, even if my favorite is a bit of a hike (probably for the best). While I’m not buying the house in the Hamptons anytime soon, I’m not choosing between yarn and groceries for my family. And since knitting, if you haven’t guessed it, ranks pretty high on my list of favorite activities, I pay attention to the yarn I’m using and have come to have certain preferences.

It is a good thing to feel passionate about one’s joys in life. It is human nature to want others to share in these passions. Sometimes that passion crosses over into a meanspiritedness designed to denigrate those who don’t see the world the way we do. The parenting world lays on plenty of judgment, thank you very much, I don’t need to bring it into my yarn. I also exhaust enough mental energy judging and second guessing myself, so I guess I don’t need to get worked up about how others shop for their craft supplies. Believe me, I have much stronger feelings about a person’s political views, but I also know (most of the time) when to shut it.

So if you want the rest of the world to be “enlightened” because you have achieved yarn nirvana, perhaps go about it in a more constructive way? Years ago, I came across a letter to the editor in the Philadelphia Inquirer. From what I gathered, the original article had quoted a wine connoisseur making disparaging comments about people whose wine of choice was Yellow Tail. I inferred the gist to be that these were hopeless individuals who had no idea what good wine was. The letter to the editor that I read, penned by another wine aficionado, suggested that the appreciation for Yellow Tail could be harnessed to help expose those individuals to finer wines and a greater appreciation of good wine. In other word, if you’re not a wine sommelier, that doesn’t mean you deserve to be cut off from enjoying it.

I think the same applies here. It would be great if every knitter patronized LYS’s, if for no other reason than I want them to do a great business so they can stay in business for me to patronize them as well. Instead of expressing this idea by telling people to set their yarn on fire (I mean, seriously?), it might be better and more constructive to suggest a project for that yarn, then suggesting other fibers they might want to explore. A few nights ago, I saw a post that carried a link for a brand carried by Michaels. The sole purpose of this post was for Facebookers to mock and make fun of the yarn, and predictably, many of them did. One comment, however, caught my eye. She pointed out that she was not familiar with anything beyond such chain stores when she first began crocheting, but that a person might have their curiosity “piqued” by the yarn being discussed in this particular post. Another comment suggested that these less expensive yarns can be the “gateway drug” to get crafters interested in better yarns. I only hope the knitter who posted the Red Heart picture wasn’t completely turned away from the world of LYS’s by the nastiness she experienced. Please don’t use those comments to judge all knitters. We’re not all like that.

Do You Knit Around?

There are many ways that people might categorize their knitting (or crocheting, or spinning, or just about any fiber craft). Do you like to knit socks, or are you more of a sweater person? Do you prefer making gifts, or do you keep it for yourself? And how is your tension?–loose or tight? Then you can get into dirty little secrets–some knitters don’t check their gauge before they cast on. And probably have tales of woe as a result of that decision.

Yes, it’s a craft full of judgment and controversy. But one area that generates a lot of confessions (OK, not as many as questions of one’s “stash”) is the number of one’s Works-in-Progress (or WIPs, for you non-knitters…who are reading this…so never mind.)

In fact, this topic can generate so much conversation, that some refer to their knitting as “monogamous,” meaning that they only work on one thing at a time. For some, the rules are strict, and they may not start another project until one is finished. Maybe this rule is self-imposed, maybe it’s imposed by a loved one who would prefer that yarn not take over their living space.

And now it’s the New Year, times for new beginnings, resolutions, major changes. All of which we are lucky to stick to for two weeks. Among those resolutions, a few that I frequently hear are in reference to one’s knitting habits. Some of the oft-mentioned promises I hear in the knitaverse are: “I will not buy any more yarn until I have used (x) number of skeins in my stash;” “I will not start any new projects until I have finished knitting projects (x), (y), and (z); “I will not purchase/download any more patterns,” and so on. My point is, these promises usually are geared toward limiting one’s knitting.

So, I have decided to take a (slightly) opposite approach. Confession time: I am, for the most part, a monogamous knitter. Part of this comes from the fact that in recent years, I have tended to gravitate toward fairly large, time consuming projects. I finished (OK, not the border, but I’m getting there!) an afghan about three months ago. That one took close to two years. At one point, for about four months, I had put that on hold to make a christening gown

The afghan had to go into “time out” while I worked on the Avery Christening Gown by Kristen Rengren.

for a close friend’s baby. So technically, I had two projects going at once, but if memory serves, I put the afghan on a hiatus and focused solely on the christening gown, partly because I have traditionally leaned toward the monogamous knitting side, partly because I was not going to incur the wrath of a mother with no christening gown–especially since my making it was my idea in the first place. On the flip side, though, since the afghan was 25 separate squares, I was only somewhat polygamous since I stopped between squares. So it was more like a breakup followed by a rekindling.

So why the monogamy? I think that casting on a new project while one is still in the works is akin to admitting defeat. I also know my own tendencies–and I make myself think that if I set a project aside, I’m going to let it linger for an extended period of time. One of the reasons I find knitting to be relaxing is that I can pick up and put down a project. But if I’m retracing my steps and re-acclimating myself after a pause, that’s precious stitch making time that has been sacrificed. And the project take longer, meaning fewer projects completed. I mean, I have a real job, after all.

But lately, I have decided that maybe it’s time to play the field a little. I recently heard Jasmin of the Knitmore Girls podcast mention that she has about 40 WIPs. I only have so much sanity and attention span, so I definitely don’t think I’ll be going that route. But I can think of a few reasons that three or four projects at a time could be reasonable and beneficial.

For starters, some projects are not as portable as others. I have two pairs of socks going right now, and they’re certainly small enough, but there are situations where double-pointed needles are not travel friendly. I’ve started a blanket for my daughter, and at this point it’s still easy to carry around, but 200 stitches times 2 feet (as opposed to its current status at 2 inches) is not something you can throw in the bag and go.

Like I mentioned previously, I’ve enjoyed socks lately. When you’re sitting on the couch and starting a TV show at 9:00, they’re great. But if it’s 10:30 and you’re approaching the gusset, you might need to set it aside. Exhaustion + Stitch Math = Knitting Disaster.

Stitch and Pitch at Citizens Bank Park–unfortunately, the “pitch” part was terrible that night (hence the empty stadium), and I was unable to do a lot of stitching.

Then there are simply times when you should have options. Last summer, my sister and I went to a “Stitch and Pitch” night with the Phillies. I had just finished my latest project and hadn’t really given much thought to what I was starting next. So I grabbed some yarn, found a compatible pattern, and threw the called-for needles into a bag. The pattern was a lace handbag that called for size 11 circular needles. Somewhere in the second inning, I pulled out the yarn and needles, cast on the 48 stitches that began the pattern, and plunged in. When I went to start Round 2, I found that there was no way I was going to be able to use circulars for that part–it increased the stitch count rapidly, but in the meantime, there were not enough stitches to join in the round and I was going to need size 11 dpn’s. Which I didn’t have. Or own. Come to think of it, I believe I had to order a set online because my local craft store didn’t even have them. Because, honestly, who the hell is using size 11 dnp’s? So I had to tearfully casually and with dignity put my knitting away and watch the Phillies blow it for seven innings with no yarning, a travesty on Stitch and Pitch night. Conclusion: A sporting event is not the time to try to begin a brand new, never before attempted project, without any opportunity to work out the kinks that appeared with this one.

And finally, sometimes, projects get boring. I can envision this blanket for my daughter getting a little tedious after a while since it will be mostly stockinette stitch. So I will probably have the temptation at some point to put it aside and knock out something else. In the past, when a project has become a dreaded chore (and yes, it happens, even to those who love to knit), it puts a log jam into knitting altogether, and if you don’t allow yourself to move on to something else, you get no knitting accomplished. This last reason, however, is a slippery slope. This is how endless WIPs happen. There’s a difference between needing a break and really not enjoying a pattern, and the danger is that it will languish permanently and never get done. One of my favorite sweaters took me three years to knit because I couldn’t take the endless rows of stockinette, and it took every bit of willpower (and finally a refusal to work on anything else until it was done) to finish it.

So here’s my going-against-the-knitters’-grain resolution: I’m going to be a little bit promiscuous–with my knitting. I hereby give myself permission to cast on more than one project at a time. I plan to have at least one pair of socks on my needles at any given time. This blanket is current project #3, and I will be staring a cowl for myself with yarn my other daughter gave me for Christmas, so there’s project #4. At the same time, I don’t see myself casting on with abandon–I am Type A enough that I will break out in hives if I have too many half-done projects laying around.

OC Gator Yarn
The inspiration for a blanket, coming to an 11-year-old girl near me.

Here’s to New Year’s resolutions and revolutions. I’ll keep you posted.

With Visions of Yarn Dancing in Your Head

For the love of all that is autumnal, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. This is a beautiful time of year, and the urge to bypass the glory of fall and skip right into the Christmas season is, frankly, disheartening. The colors, temperatures, and festivities of this time of year are among my favorite, especially in the Northeast. If you want to truly appreciate it, go to Los Angeles right about now. Not only is everything there terrible (sorry, LA, not my favorite city), but if you visit this time of year, you are bound to encounter jealous Californians gushing “I bet it’s so pretty back East right now!” (I swear, they actually say this. Repeatedly.)


So when people skip right into Jingle Bells the minute Halloween is over–and earlier in the retail world–they are depriving us of the awesomeness of the great things November has to offer. I personally want to savor the football games, light-jacket weather, outdoor activities, and colors of the season. And God help you if you try to rush past Thanksgiving.

So chill out on the Christmas carols and other December holiday festivities. And what is the hurry to start the Christmas shopping?

But. If you have plans to make any of your gifts, especially knitted ones, you need to get an earlier start. Like in January. In fact, Jen of the Down Cellar Studio Podcast has a 12 Months to Christmas Knitalong (or KAL); her discussion thread and finished object thread on Ravelry lets you plan ahead and show off your progress. So for that purpose, and that purpose alone, you get a pass on starting some holiday preparations early.

On that note, I have a few things planned, and if there is a deadline, the easier the better. So here are a few:

  • Boot cuffs. I decided last year to make a few of these for some friends. Some other friends are getting them this year. As are some of the same friends who got them last year.

    This year, I’m going to do one or two pairs of these boot cuffs by a Raveler named Jennifer Gregory as well as this pair by Raveler Kristin Ziska. (And psst: Both patterns are free downloads!)

  • Mittens and Gloves. I already passed along a couple pairs of fingerless gloves to a friend, which resulted in my daughters demanding sweetly asking for their own, so now I can do these in my sleep. Well not quite, but one pattern that looks more involved than it is would be the Branching Out Mitts–each one knits up in about two hours. The Ghost of Christmas Future also tells me I might put these on someone’s list for next year: The South Pole Mittens, a pattern by Jorid Linvik, and the Winterland Mittens, designed by Wenche Roald. None of these patterns are free, but there are plenty of free mitten patterns out there, and they’re also probably a good deal less complicated than these.
  • Kids’ hats. I heard about the Force Awakens Hat and immediately timg_5497hought of the sons of a good friend, both of whom take after their dad in being Star Wars obsessed. I finished one over the course of about four evenings and will be starting the second one
    soon. I was actually amazed that this pattern is free on Ravelry–it’s really clever and cute. The same designer, Mrs Luedeke, also recently released a Rogue One hat, so that gives me options.Their sister might be getting this BB-8 hat to complete the theme.


  • Scarves are often shunned by knitters as being a fairly predictable knitting-related gift, and I think many fear that knitting one as a gift is almost a cliche. That said, I came across some unusual ribbon yarn in a bargain bin, so I think that some of the kiddos’ teachers are getting quick scarves from these skeins. Drop stitch is a relatively fast knit that looks more complicated than it is, and you can whip up a scarf in a relatively short period of time with it.

Don’t get too caught up in making knitted gifts perfect–it’s the thought that counts. Just kidding, if you’re going to spend hours making something, you don’t want it to suck and have them not wear or use it. Most of these are fairly simple ideas and patterns that can take care of a small gift. At the same time, don’t overwhelm yourself. I had delusions of grandeur a few weeks ago and told myself I would in fact be making five of the Force Awakens hats so that my three nephews could also have them. Let’s be serious. My boss and my kids have other ideas about my amount of spare time, so the nephews will have to wait for Christmas 2017–and by then the next movie will be out, so maybe a new hat design will also be released!

So go ahead, get started on the knitting projects. But please take some time to smell the turkey!

First You Dye, Then Life Socks, Part 1

I’ve had socks on my mind lately.

I have been a knitter for close to three decades, but I always considered socks to be less than a great use of my time. I mean, they’re socks. You put them on your feet. You usually don’t see them–I’m definitely not a “wear socks with shorts” person, and even when I am, it’s sweat socks I wear while exercising.

But lately, I have been eyeing them up. Part of it is a natural outcome of following the various knitting blogs and podcasts, not to mention Instagram accounts and Facebook groups. Spend enough time in that world, and you’re going to see a lot of socks in various stages of development. Part of it is that I am in a small project phase, needing a break from the magnitude of a couple of big projects I tackled in the last year or so–and socks definitely fit that bill. One perk–ok, peril–of small projects is that they afford a certain amount of whimsy. After all, it’s a small project, not needing extensive commitment, so I can be wild and crazy, which means I can peruse various yarns and imagine the possibilities, instead of selecting the yarn with project already in hand.

And socks are very conducive to such whimsy. After all, they’re socks. You put them on your feet. You usually don’t see them. So if you gravitate to a particular yarn because it’s eye-catching, because it is unusual and fun, you can tell yourself that it’s a small-ish project and you’re not devoting large amounts of time to an accessory that should blend in.

My first step came a few weeks ago when I purchased some sock yarn at the Garden State Sheep Breeders Association Fiber Festival. I picked these yarns for exactly the reasons I just described–they’re eye-catching. They’re fun. I really don’t have to care if they match anything.


My next step was picking a pattern. One that I kept seeing in the Knitting Social Media cortex was the Monkey Socks pattern. And bonus–it’s posted for free at knitty.com. (You just have to get past the, um, eclectic photographs included on the page.)  This is a top down pattern, which I felt might be a good way to ease into the world of sock knitting. The ripple effect is beautiful, but definitely not complicated. Like all sock patterns–at least of the ones I’ve seen–it’s knit on small double pointed needles, size 2 in this case.

I grabbed one of the sock yarn skeins I had purchased and got to work–and by “work,” I mean “sat on my couch and wound the yarn.” I had purchased it at a fiber arts festival, and vendors don’t bring their yarn swifts to such things. THEN, I got to knitting. The pattern is uncomplicated, and it didn’t take long for me to make great progress on it. I think I finished my first sock in about 4 days. One thing I learned–the “sock yarn” I purchased is probably something along the lines of a DK weight, and most sock patterns call for fingering weight. I felt pretty confident it would still work, and it did, but my initial thought at this point is that these socks will probably be better suited for snow boots.

Another Knitting Life-Pro tip I’ve heard: Knit both socks simultaneously. This will help you to avoid Second Sock Syndrome (I’m sure you can work out the meaning of that malady on your own). The lovely ladies from PB Sterling WoolNook & Mill also recommended I try toe-up socks, specifically that I check out the Donna Druchunas class on Craftsy. I’m not sure I’ll be paying the $19.99 for the online class, but I’ve bookmarked it for possible future reference in case I find myself in trouble. Their other piece of advice was that I cast on one sock, knit the toe, then cast on the second sock with the yarn from the other end of the skein. Their explanation was that one’s mood, time of day, etc. can impact the tension of one’s knitting, and so working each part will keep your work consistent and help your socks to match in sizing.

Thus, it seems the popular wisdom is that it is best to knit socks simultaneously. Naturally I didn’t do that. I could say I just went rogue, but the reality is that I only have one set of size 2 dpn’s, and let’s be honest, how much patience can you expect a person to have? Did I mention how much time I had already spent winding that skein of yarn?


So…first sock finished. Second sock…started…and coming out not only much smaller, but with an entirely different color pattern. I can attribute the color changes to the fact that it is hand-dyed yarn. In fact, I’m fairly confident that the pinkish hues do vary quite a bit. Toward one end of the skein, it is  rose-colored shade of pink, but it evolves into a much darker, almost maroon color halfway in. The beauty of hand-dyed yarn is that such variations add character to the project, and were I using it for one solid piece, I think it would serve that purpose well. At the same time, I was finding myself with what appeared to be two socks that were quickly becoming a mismatched pair.

However, it would also appear that my tension is in fact part of the reason for the disparity. I can’t say for certain that my mood is what is doing it. I was on a weekend getaway for the bulk of Sock #1, so there’s is the slightest possibility that my tension was not as significant as it has been during a work week that has had me running in all directions. Definitely not the mood then, so that’s settled. So Sock #2 is a little narrower (which is not necessarily a bad thing, because Sock #1 was a bit on the roomy side). Come to think of it, maybe the two women who sold me sock yarn and have made their entire living from producing yarn and crafting with it know a thing or two about these things, and perhaps I should have taken their advice and done them simultaneously.Monkey Socks.jpg


I’m now approaching the project with a hybrid of their approach and mine. I finished the ankle of Sock #2, then put it on stitch holders. I proceeded to cast on a second Sock #1 Monkey Socks (11).JPG(let’s just call it 1b), using yarn from roughly the same section in the hopmonkey-socks-1es that the color will more closely resemble Sock #2. When I finish that ankle, or run out of that section of yarn (whichever should happen first), I’ll begin “frogging” Sock #1 so I can finish both of these. All the while consuming wine.


But I’m also thinking ahead to future sock projects. I’ve added a lot of socks to the Ravelry library, including a few patterns that call for a DK weight yarn for my second skein. I also found Eagles yarn in a colorway that I love, so I’m possibly ordering that for a future pair (E-A-G-L-E-S!) I saw a self-striping yarn that comes in colors of tan, red, black, and white–and my first thought was the Burberry pattern. I don’t think I’ll be buying that yarn, but I seem to remember seeing a chart to knit a mimic-Burberry child’s jacket. I never tackled that jacket because it just seems so overwhelming, but you know what sounds like a more manageable project to approach with four colors? Yep–socks.

Definitely going to attempt toe-up socks next. Stay tuned:)