International Knitting :: The Tan House Brook Shawl

As many knitters understand, deciding what knitting to bring along for an extended trip is something that deserves a fair amount of thought. Not only do you need a pattern that is relatively simple (traveling, I’m afraid, isn’t a great time to whip out your heirloom lace knit… well at least not for me), that doesn’t take a large number of skeins (luggage size/weight limits are unmoved by pleas from desperate wool lovers), is rather compact (some passengers on an overly-cramped, international flight might frown upon being occasionally poked by knitting needles), but you also need something that will hold your interest and not be complete before your trip back home is over. In addition, it also behoves one to learn of various airport regulations regarding the allowances or prohibitions of getting knitting needles past security—Charles du Gaulle, for instance, does not permit knitting needles on the plane—so you’ll also need to carefully consider which equipment to take or leave at home or pack in the checked bags as appropriate.

Casting On

Equally important, of course, is the choice of yarn. Because you can not bring your entire stash with you, it is necessary to take some time to consider where you’re going and what you’ll be knitting. I would strongly advise against selecting black, worsted wool for a summer vacation in Greece, or a fluffy glittery angora for your eight hour flight. You might think, as a knitter might, that one can obtain yarn almost anywhere in the world and that a yarn shopping excursion sounds like a wonderful use of down time while on vacation, but the sad truth is that even yarn shop owners like to take a break every now and then. So you may just find yourself standing in front of the singular yarn shop on your beautiful get away island staring at a “gone fishing for August” sign in deep despair. This story may or may not be based on personal experience.

My Own Yarn

Which is how, upon the wise recommendations of my most experienced knitting friends, I found myself winding up my very own hand-spun for a beautiful shawl the day before I flew out. Socks and shawls, they told me, are a knitter’s best friends for long, uninterrupted expanses of travel time, shorter lay-overs, and slowly swaying train rides past fields of golden sunflowers. This was the first time I wound my own yarn for an actual knitting project. I’ve been slowly collecting skeins, eking out a few moments to spin here and there, and the collection has outgrown it’s designated spot. It was just about time to find some way of using what I’ve made. I wish I could tell you more about the fiber—I had it all carefully recorded, the weight, the dye house and colorway, the yardage—but other than the blend (panda roving which is a lovely mix of merino, bamboo, and viscosemy favorite spinning fiber thus far), I’m afraid all other info is lost. I’m hoping the band will pop up as I get the house cleaned up, but for now, it will have to remain a mystery.

On The Med

One of the other bonuses of having such wise and experienced knitting friends, is that a few of them are designers! One of my newer knitting friends, Jennifer Lassonde of Down Cellar Studio, offered up her absolutely lovely Tan House Brook Shawl pattern, which fit all the considerations for the right project perfectly. I waited to cast on until I arrived in Frankfurt, trying my best and utterly failing, to sleep on the flight over in attempts to mitigate the effects of jetlag. And I managed a few rows there as well as the subsequent flight and layover to Athens before arriving in Crete, where I discovered much to my delight, that the hotel room my friend and I were to share, had an absolutely stunning balcony over looking the Mediterranean, perfect for sipping coffee, knitting, and napping!

On The Plane

The Tan House Brook shawl is a lovely, lovely knit, just what I needed for both the trip and my second shawl. Rows of soothing ole’ stockinette to help me recover from nearly 20-some hours of travel, before getting into a perfect little bit of textured stiches, just in time to keep my interest while waiting for the flight to land in Paris. I am sure the passengers next to me are also unknowingly thankful for Jennifer’s pattern, since I managed to leave them in peace instead of asking “are we there yet” the number of times I would have if left unoccupied.

And it was a great companion for our train ride across France and into Germany where we met up with my husband’s relatives for their annual family reunion in his hometown.


On The Train

I was hoping that I would finish it while I was away, but unfortunately due to the regulations at Charles du Gaulle, where the belief is that knitting needles are weapons of mass destruction and terror and not the tools of peace and charity, I had to pack it in the checked bag for the flight home. I was a little worried about what I was going to do with all those hours of sitting without some knitting within my hands, but that was before I remembered about the in-flight entertainment system and all the movies I haven’t been able to see in the past two years. But I am hoping to finish it up in the next week or so as I find myself sitting on the sidelines watching a few kids kick a ball back and forth for the next few weekends.

And if you do find yourself so very anxious regarding the sitting on a plane for nine hours without anything to occupy your hands, you may find that a skein of sock yarn and a few bamboo double pointed straights mixed in with all your pens and pencils in the pocket of your purse do not seem to cause any alarm, concern, or the forcible removal of said items from your cold, sweaty-palmed hands. This story may or may not be based on personal experience.



Shawl for September

This summer, there has been a fair amount of knitting progress! It is definitely a strange thing to proclaim, that during the hottest, sweatiest months of summer I managed to find some time to devote to wool. Yet that is the truth of it, and I am happy for it regardless of timing. I am certain that my days at Squam in June have had a lasting effect on my ability to continue on with the making, and now even with hectic days of school starting I’ve still managed to sustain some dedicated time for it.


This is Rondelay, a shawl pattern by Jennifer Dassau the writer and designer of The Knitting Vortex blog. It was a lovely little knit. Although it was designed for sock yarn, I knit it up in worsted using two skeins of Souk by Cascade. I ran out of yarn with only the eyelet border to go, which is a scrap ball of what I believe is another bit of Cascade, if memory serves.



I actually started this one several times over while at Squam; we had a bit of a rough start, Rondelay and I. We had a disagreement about wording that led to a few days of frustration, and quite a high incident rate of ripping out and casting back on.That being said, it really isn’t a difficult pattern once you get the hang of it, but I did up having to write to Ms. Dassau to ask for clarification. She was incredibly gracious and helped clear up my confusion at one particular problematic spot, which happened early on (possibly row 8?) with my stitch counts once you begin picking up wrapped stitches. So should you find yourself in similar dire straights, I would say that you should knit up to and including the last wrapped stitch, then wrap and turn the next stitch.

At Rest

This is my very first shawl, which might surprise you, and definitely surprises me! What, exactly, I’ve asked myself a few times in the past number of weeks, have I been waiting for? Knitting shawls is lovely. This was a smaller project that seems to fly off the needles; I didn’t have to knit it twice as one would with socks; it’s easy to transport; it doesn’t take a huge time commitment. Of course, mileage varies with different patterns, and I’m not quite up to the ninja master levels of concentration needed for a wedding ring shawl for instance—my children need to be a bit more older before I’ll be ready for that—but right after I finished this up, I threw a few more shawl patterns in my Ravelry queue! As a matter of fact, I’m finishing up a second shawl that traveled with me across the pond that I’ll write about later.

Circle Detail

Rondelay is made up of three circles that are cleverly knit together using an interesting short row technique, and if you’re knitting with sock weight, it only requires one skein. The little circles are fascinating to watch as they grow, especially with the gradual color shift of the yarn. Ms. Dassau has made Rondelay available for purchase through Ravelry individually, or if you’re as fascinated by short row work as I am, she has created a little e-booklet of five short row shawls as well.


Due to the interesting construction it gets a little ruffle-y… or maybe twirly is a better word. It’s just sweet really.

Its A Wrap

Looking forward to those cool, crisp Autumn mornings to give it a go and see how she’ll feel all snugged up. It can’t be that much longer, right?

In Celebration

Yes, I’m celebrating.

I’m celebrating one successful night (working on my second) of the Kids Clothes Week Challenge session last night. Have to say after looking at some of the other entries, I’m a bit—OK, a lot—intimidated, but I’m going to soldier on anyway. Sure, some people can sew four outfits for their kids in one hour, some of us take an hour to thread our needles. We all start somewhere. I have one new pair of little pants, and three more planned. Also a few embellished shirts that will all coordinate for four pairs of PJs. Pictures coming later.

I’m also celebrating my friend Cosy’s news! Not only has she released pattern, Orsolya, but she now has her own studio back in Pittsburgh where you can go to knit, spin, or buy some of her hand-dyed or hand-spun yarn, or look at smaples from some of her fabulous patterns including a few from her book. Yay Cosy!! I only wish I could be back in the ‘bugh to help you celebrate all your hard work!

You might remember Orsolya as that fabulous little test knit I whipped up super quick this summer. Well, I banged out two more right after I finished the first. This one was knit up with Autumn House Farm Shantung Silk and some Silky Merino from Malabrigo. I’ve been waiting to use that Autumn House Farm yarn for such a long time… I think there was no better way to show it off than this pattern.

Front View O3

Front View Detail

Hemline Detail

Looking Up

Back View

Oroslya and Puppers

Neckline Details

And here’s the other, made with some of Cosy’s hand-dyed yarn and just a touch of Cascade 220.

Oroslya the Second Back View

Orsolya and Drawing

Drawing on the Side

Close Up and Side View

Look at the Eyelets

Neckline Love

Cute Hemline Eyelets

Back Neckline

Heaven is a worsted knit for kids… it goes super super fast, and boy those kids make it look pretty adorable. I’m so thankful they all still like wearing things I make.

And man… this was the shortest photo session ever, and I actually got a few I could use. So I pushed my luck, and tired to get a shot of both together. Fun times.





Not Meant To Be

This is the closest I got.

Eating a Sponge

What? You don’t let your kid suck on a sponge to get her to stand still enough to model a dress that you knit ever-so-lovingly for her? Well! You’re missing out!


OK, time for me to get back to sewing… or maybe I’ll just go to bed and count the extra hour I put in last night as credit for today.

A Lovely Little Knit

Orsolya Debut

A few weeks ago, I cast on a test knit for my talented friend, Cosy, for her latest design, Orsolya.

Orsolya Front Pose

To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement.

Orsolya Back View

Not only did I finish this with lightening speed (after all, it’s knit with worsted weight)…

Front Detail With Cheeks

…I’ve already cast on for a second which is half way done, and I have a third going on directly after I’m done binding off. I’ve had some yarn sitting in the stash for at least five years waiting for the perfect project and this is it!

Orsolya Shoulder Detail

This dress is such a fabulous little knit; I can not begin to tell you how sweet it is.

Orsolya Top Down

The bit of eyelet trim, the teeny pockets…

Orsolya Eyelet and Pocket Left

The top down construction with no seaming.

Orsolya When Seated

It’s a great length for toddling around, although I believe Cosy also includes a shorter tunic length if you’d rather that.

Orsolya Eyelet and Pocket Right

For this knit I worked up the 18m size using some Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora, which sadly has been discontinued. It blocked out with an ever-so-slight halo (love!), and the stitches “fulled out” a bit, causing my gauge to go a little wide. That’s OK, she’ll get plenty of use out of this. This year as a dress… next year as a top.

Orsolya In Action

Oh I can’t wait for Cosy to get this one published for you to try out! Make sure to check out her Ravelry shop or her book for a bunch of her other designs.

A Sweater For Me

A few weeks ago, I finished a sweater for myself.

You would think, with as much knitting as goes down in these parts that I would have a closet full (or at least a shelf?) of knits just lying around waiting for their chance to see the sun. But the truth of the matter is that I haven’t knit anything for myself since the first awful sweater I made about ten years ago. Ten years, sigh, how is that possible?

My Heliotrope

The majority of what I knit are gifts for others. That hasn’t meant I didn’t start a few things for myself, but I would lose the pattern, or the yarn, or frog it just to use the yarn for something else. As a matter of fact this yarn was a cardigan gone wrong before I ripped it all out and started over. Now it’s a mama-made sweater for me.

Heliotrope Yoke

The yarn is fabulous. A lovely bland of silk and linen that I bought in New York at School Products Yarn recommended by Kirsten Kapur of Through the Loops. Yes, it’s a strange name for a yarn store, but the shop itself was nothing short of miraculous. The store itself is relatively stark, but the fiber blends? Oh! I didn’t even know some of the blends they had existed. I felt like I was touching silky strings from spun clouds.

The pattern is Heliotrope by Merceded Tarasovich-Clark and it was a gentle project that really didn’t take much attention, skill, or time to knit… well, shouldn’t unless you’re the mother of four. It took me longer than a year. To knit. The last. inch. Really.

The Back of My Heliotrope

I should note, there is a good reason to take photos right after you complete your project before you have a chance to snag it, or have babies pull on the little loops while she’s riding on your back. And don’t forget the drool and other various bodily fluids you’re likely to collect during a few minutes of wear.

So yeah, finish a project, take photos while the little ones are down. As quickly as possible. Words of wisdom from me to you.

A First Birthday :: The Mama Knit

Time to celebrate another birthday. It was a day of firsts and a lasts for us here: a first birthday that has come and gone; the last of our babies to do so; the first birthday of 2012; the final first birthday our closest clan will all celebrate together; the first time I have felt sure our family is complete; our last baby.

First Birthday Muffin

But lest I sound maudlin, let me assure you the occasion was most definitely celebratory, as any family with four children may be on such a special day. No need to invite friends to fill seats (although all are always welcome), our table is full and no corner of the house is quiet. We are a party unto ourselves most definitely!

Birthday Milo

Just one week shy of her birthday, I realized I had not yet started her mama made knit! Oh no! Not only had I not started it, but I hadn’t even thought about what I might make for her. So in the mad rush to pack and leave for a week back home in Pennsylvania, I grabbed three ball of Rowan Lima from my stash, my pack of needles, and hoped for the best.

Thanks to another lovely mama who has just started knitting not so long ago, Lisa from The Little House That Grew who just had her house grow a little bit more with the addition of a beautiful baby boy, provided the inspiration I needed just in the nick of time. Enter the Milo Sweater Vest.

The Milo Braid

Oh I can not say enough about my love for this pattern! Three days it took me people, THREE DAYS! And that was only during a few hours of movie time in the evening—the only time I get to watch movies is when I visit my parents’ homes. This pattern was lighting fast, easy to memorize, and incredibly well written. Even if you’ve never knit a cable before, this would not be a difficult project given the clear instruction. I love patterns that leave nothing to the imagination. Georgie Hallam, the designer, even provides several cable options, which you could easily swap out with your own preference should you like to try something new. I will be casting on for another very soon. THREE DAYS!

And boy oh boy, does it look adorable on my girl! But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself…

The Milo and Cheeks

The Aran Braid Cable

Sweet Sweet Milo

A Milo Vest, nice and snug for an on-the-move crawler with no sleeves to snag, knit with a fantastically soft beautifully heathered yarn and lots of lots of mama’s love. Every stitch slipped through my hands, little one, while memories of your first year wound through my thoughts and bound your heart every closer to mine.

Happy Birthday.


Linking to these fine sites ::

freckled laundry

Progress, Slow But Steady

Hello Friends! It’s been a while since we’ve moved, it’s been five weeks actually. That is so hard to believe, yet here were are in June and I am still surrounded by boxes and chaos. When will it end I wonder? I see progress everyday, albeit much slower than that to which I’ve become accustomed–the three little ones definitely add to the complexity of it all–but I’ve heard that slow and steady wins the race.

During the re-settling, I have found a wonderful, meditative knit that I’m enjoying thoroughly, the Baby Drops cardigan. It has been in my queue for quite a while and it’s just the knit I need at this moment in time. Rows upon rows of garter, lovely short row shaping, all with very little counting or complexity. I was recently out in LA for my first visit for a dear friend’s baby shower and, heaven help me, I ran out of knitting. One emergency trip later, I cam back with three skein of mini moochi, a set of needles, a pattern, and an excellent traveling partner. I’m starting the second sleeve alongside my second cup of coffee directly after this is posted. I’m starting to feel a bit sad that the end is in sight. I just may need to begin another one to get me through this next month of unpacking and reorganizing, after all there is no shortage of babies arriving amongst our circle of friends, and a baby without a piece of hand knit is quite a tragedy, wouldn’t you agree?

Late Over Never, Right?

I am behind on my Christmas knitting. And just in case you considered, for a second, that I meant my preparations for December 2010, let me assure you, I meant this past Christmas, you know, the one in 2009. I don’t know how it happens, really; I plan, I make, I plan, I make, then I plan some more and then before I know it, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m madly knitting the day through skipping breakfast and lunch in attempt to finish up a baby sweater I completely forgot all about. Seriously? Who does that? Forgets about a sweater? Sure, maybe you run out of time or energy, but completely forget all about it even after packing up the yarn and instructions? Sheesh.

Regardless of how it happened, I once again found myself up against the Christmas deadline with absolutely no way to complete all the work. Remember this afghan? Begun in 2008 as a gift for Christmas ’08, completed in January ’10. And I wasn’t going to do anything until that baby was put to bed. And then the baby sweater. And then a sweater for one of my best friends, who went and got herself knocked up! Woo-hoo!! This particular friend, who married my husband and I, made me a gorgeous afghan several years ago (eh-hem!) as an exchange: She would make me the blanket, and I would make her a sweater. I did, in fact, complete a sweater  for her, but it was so hideously ugly that I couldn’t bring myself to gift it to her. I started two other sweaters for her, both of which got frogged before much progress was made. So I decided the time was long past due for her to receive her promised knit.

I wanted to knit something for her that she could use during the months she was gestating, then for nursing and maybe beyond. Quite a feat for one garment, but I was hoping I could find something to fit the bill. And thanks to Ravelry, I did indeed find a few that might work, one of which was Cormorant by Norah Gaughan. This is my second sweater from her, and I have to say both have been an absolute joy to knit. I’m so very close to being done. I have knit the main cardigan pieces, sewn them together, and woven in all the ends, and now I’m knitting up the yarn-over lace ruffle. I’m really hoping it will be as stunning on the soon-to-be mama as it is on the needles.

I’m knitting it up with some beautiful yarn from Sweet Georgia, an independent dyer working out of Vancouver. The color is phenomenal, and it’s the shade that my friend picked out for herself. I do have a few complaints about the yarn however, one being that it is super splitty due to the complete lack of twist in certain lengths of the fiber–I have spent way too much time dropping stitches in the middle of the knit to catch errant stray plies–and none of the skeins I’ve used have been without knots, with one skein having four or more. I have written to the shop owner last week, but still haven’t heard from her yet. We’ll see  how she responds, as I’d really like to try more of her yarn.

So, I’m hoping to finish it up any day now… I was hoping to have it done in March, err, make that December, um, OK a few years ago. But hey! Better late than never, right?

The Sweater in All Its Glory

Back In December, I completed knitting up this sweater. But I thought to myself that it needed something a bit “extra”. In my mind I pictured a beautiful bit of embroidery involving a cloud and swallow motif. And I tried to make it work, honestly, I did. I used DMC floss–too thin to stand out; I used silk yarn–couldn’t get the fine detail I was looking for; I tried needle felting–promising, but I’m too inexperienced to carry out my vision.

In the end, it needed none of that. It is a beautiful sweater, knit for my little baby girl, from a buttery soft yarn dyed and spun by an amazingly talented friend. She loves it, I love it, and sometimes simple is best. We wear this jacket almost daily and I have yet to tire of the joy it brings me to see her reaching milestones in this bit of mama made.

Isn’t that yarn something else?

Really, I just love the colors and how much visual texture they add. No wonder the embroidery didn’t work; the yarn is art enough.

Those buttons! I walked into my new LYS and they were the first thing I saw. I didn’t need to look any further.

Maybe we can even eek out another year of this. I think I have enough scrap yarn to lengthen the sleeves by a bit next year.

The sweater pattern itself was lovely to knit up, and Lisa was very responsive to a question I had, a rather boneheaded problem involving counting, so embarrassing once she helped me figure it out. It really knit up super fast, and it is a beautiful little knit. I think is absolutely perfect to show off hand spun.

Oh! It is such a meaningful knit to me! I hope you enjoy it!