Knitting Knews

I know you are all dying to know, “But Johanna, what’s going on with your knitting?”  Well let me tell you, the thrummed slipper is coming along magnificently.  The sole of the first one is done.  The outside, or bottom is the brown side with the yellow v’s.  The inside, where the bottom of my foot will go, is the side with the fuzzy yellow caterpillar looking thrums.  Next I just need to knit up the foot and then add more thrums to the top of the slipper.  I’m expecting coziness for one foot soon.  Sadly, since I’m on the road, I had to abandon my slippers for a bit.  Thrums are cool, but not travel friendly.  I’m hopeful that with a Sunday of football ahead of me I can get the first one done.  Then we’ll see if I make the second one next, or make a pair for my demanding daughter first.

One more update on the hat I knit for my friends with the sick little girl.  I heard back from them.  They love the hat and it fits perfectly.  I was so worried, but then a friend at work said, “Of course it was going to fit.  It had to fit.”


She’s right.  Sometimes fate, or God, or the powers that be make sure that things work out.  The hat had to fit.  It has been called, “The coolest hat ever” by several admirers.  The pom pom is also adored.  This makes my heart happy.

There, feel better?  You are all up to date on the knitting news…except, there may be another hat in the works.  This time for me!

Old knitting dog learns new trick

I have a few skills I’d say I’ve mastered.  Knitting is one of them.  I’m no Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, but who is?  There’s a difference between a knitting master and a jedi-knit-knight.  I’m a master because there isn’t much that intimidates me.  Sure, I have to remind myself how to read lace charts, and I refuse to deal with 80 bobbins of yarn to create intarsia, and I’m always watching videos of different cast on techniques, but the things I don’t know how to do are just things I’ll try someday and when I do I’ll turn out a passable product.  I know how to fix mistakes, I know when to just turn a knitted item back to a ball of yarn.  I can throw and pick and strand and design.  I know how to knit.  It really doesn’t surprise me anymore.

Well, today a miracle happened.  One of my favorite blogs is SouleMama.  I feel like SouleMama is bizarro me.  She has five kids, homeschools them and lives on a farm.  I have one kid who has been in “school” since 13 weeks and I live in a city.  Her life intrigues me, because I can see myself in it.  If somehow we had been switched at birth I can imagine living in a homestead filled with children all wearing the clothes I made them with my own hands tending our flock of sheep.  (I’d homeschool them so that their friends wouldn’t laugh at my inept seamstress skills.)

On Monday Amanda, the author of SouleMama, posted about their family activities during the rainy weekend, and she included a picture of this crazy knitting project with yarn on double pointed needles and fluff hanging out of it.  No explanation, just a pictures, but I was intrigued.  I commented on her post guessing that she was creating roving lined mittens.  Well today her post was all about the thrummed mittens she’d created.  I took a deep breath.  In thirteen years of knitting I have never heard of thrumming.  This was something new.  I tore through her post.  I started searching Ravelry and Etsy.  Thrumming is a thing.  It is an amazing technique where every few stitches instead of stitching your yarn you knit in some fluffy roving.   It makes garments that are soft and fuzzy on the inside and super warm.  I love that thrumming incorporates color and texture into projects in new ways.  I was giddy.  I sent the post and patterns I found to knitting friends and tried to get them all on the thrumming bandwagon.

Where to start?  Well, I stopped at the local yarn shop on my way home, bought a hunk of roving for $6 and then came home and bought a slipper pattern that I adore: Cadeautje by Ysolda Teague.  The roving I bought is an odd mustardy green roving so I can’t make the cool rainbow slippers featured on the pattern yet, but I dug deep into my stash and found some really ancient chunky alpaca wool blend that meets the designers suggestion for yarn and looks pretty darn cool with the roving.

Let me lay this out to you.  For a $6 roving investment and a $5 pattern investment I am going to embark on a new stashbusting project to create wool/alpaca fluffy lined slippers.  Can you imagine anything more dreamy on your foot?   Then I can move onto mittens, funky earflap hats, and glasses cases.  It’s a miracle!  I am so excited.  Now, off to read a couple of thrumming technique blogs before I cast on.

Finally, I’ve gotta be honest here, thrumming?!?!  Can you imagine a cooler word for a new knitting technique?  Thrum, thrum, thrum.  Eeek!

Knitting Knew Year

Oh my blogging friends, I have missed you.  Since December 10th I’ve had gum surgery, had an allergic reaction to my antibiotics, got canker sores at each of the 17 sites I had stitches in my mouth and pulled off the annual miracle we call Christmas.  I have so much to tell you!  There are posts floating around my head about friends, Christmas, books, gum surgery, anniversaries and work.  And so many blogs to read!  I am terribly behind!  So to ease my way out of my no-blogging streak, I’ll start with the knitting I accomplished over the last few weeks.

#1: Headband and fingerless gloves for mom

A few weeks before Christmas mom asked me if I could knit her a headband.  I have a knitting pattern I love for headbands.  I’ve made at least four of them, and they come together in no time.  The pattern is just interesting enough to keep me engaged and it comes together in a flash.

Normally, I’m not a fan of lace or cables in variegated yarn, but there were very important reasons I used this yarn for this project: it was in my stash, it is pretty, and it isn’t itchy.  Both my mom and my daughter have a severe dislike for wool and find things itchy that I think are soft and smooth.  As a knitter, that’s a bummer, but when someone asks you to make one of your favorite knitted projects, you do what you can with what you have on hand and that meant variegated alpaca.  (Especially because I couldn’t drive to the local yarn shop while taking heavy duty painkillers.  However, I could manage to follow lace and cable charts.  Go figure.)

This is my favorite of these headbands I’ve made.  I used a smaller needle (10) and it’s much nicer in a tighter knit: it isn’t so loosy goosey on your head, it’s warmer, and it isn’t as wide across the head as my other ones.  I stitched on an antique button and voila!  Christmas gift finished…. except… there was a decent amount of yarn left.  So, I started hunting on Ravelry for patterns that didn’t need much yarn and could be knit on a size 10 needle.  When I came across these owl fingerless gloves I knew I had my winner.  My mom has given me patterns with these cabled owls on them before, and mentioned her knitting friends making them.  These subliminal hints meant she would love them.  I couldn’t resist!  I was nervous though, because the pattern called for 100 yds of chunky yarn, my skein only had 110 yards to begin with, and I’d already knit a headband.  Feeling braved and doped up, I cast on my first mitt.  I shortened the cuff a bit, and in the end had about three yards of yarn to spare.  Plenty!  I had to go to the craft store on Christmas Eve Eve for the button eyes, and stitched them on just in time.  I’m thrilled with the pattern and the results.  The mitts are soft, pretty, and practical.  My mom loved the set.

#2: Mittens for the kiddo

Feeling inspired after Christmas, and with my mouth still in agony, I picked up my sweater I’ve been working on for a few years and started to work on it.  I cast on the neckline and got that finished, but I’m worried it’s too short and a bit wonky.  Ugh.  Hoping blocking would fix my problem, I started to finish up the sleeves until I was waylaid by a little voice and some big blue eyes saying, “Mommy, would you make me some gloves?”  Well, knowing that my daughter never asks for knitted objects and often turns her nose up at sweaters made out of yarn softer than butter, I seized the opportunity.  However, I don’t love anyone enough to make gloves – all those fingers to get the right size and all those joins, gak – but she was okay with mittens, but with tops.  “Not like Nanna’s mittens.”  Back to the yarn closet, and this time we found two skeins of yarn that met her color and “not itchy” requirements.

One Monday night football game and the one with the thin striped was done.  She tried it on and loved it.  Then I asked, “Do you want them the same, or mismatched?”  I was telepathically sending her “mismatched” vibes, because second mittens are so boring.  My powers must be strong, because she was thrilled with the idea of coordinated mittens.  One day of college bowl games today and the second one was done.

Her nine year old friend dubbed them “Totally cool” this evening so I know they will be worn the rest of the winter.  They could use some blocking, but given how much they’ve already been on her hands they may end up staying a little irregular.  I’d rather have them loved than perfect.

Pay no attention to my messy house in the background.  Did I not mention gum surgery and Christmas?  (Ha ha, just kidding you.  My house is always messy.)

Happy Knew Year!


A friend of mine coined a phrase that has stuck with me.  She said that in order to hand-knit something for a friend or acquaintance they had to be knitworthy. Knitworthy is not an overall measure of the quality of a person, but a judgement on their ability to appreciate handmade gifts.  Gifts that usually cost more to make, in materials alone, than it would cost to buy similar objects.  Gifts that take your time and effort to produce.  Gifts, to be fair, that are sometimes lopsided and funny looking but come with all kinds of personality built in.

Lots of wonderful people are not knitworthy.  Let me provide a parallel example.  I am not foodworthy.  Inviting me over for a fancy four-course meal is an utter waste of your effort.  I am a simple eater and cannot tell the difference between a meal that takes 4 hours of sauteing, braising, and chopping and a crock pot meal.  Do not waste your culinary wizardry on me.  Invite over another friend.  Oh, and if you are serving fancy wine, just pour me some water and enjoy it yourself.  $15 and $50 bottles of wine are the same to me.  I am a nice, good, lovely person who does not have the palette to appreciate fancy food.

Knitworthy means that the person you are giving your knitted item to will gush over it.  They will treasure it.  They will pay attention when you give them washing instructions.  They will take pictures of themselves, their children, or their spouses wearing your knit item and send those pictures to you.  They will brag to their friends that “Someone made this for me.”  They will treasure baby hats and pass them on to other babies that they love.  They will tell you that the blankie you knit is their child’s absolute favorite and they hope you have more yarn like that in case it ever gets a hole.  When they accidentally miss the washing instructions and their beloved hat shrinks into a fuzzy ball and they will beg you to make another, “just like it, but maybe in green this time.”

Today, I presented one of my dearest knitworthy friends with three hats for her kiddos.  When baby number one was born she got a teeny sweater.  When baby number two was born the new baby and her sister got coordinating hats.  Now that baby three is here, the only option was to make all three girls hats.

They were so fun to make and give.  I loved thinking about each girl and customizing the colors and the topper for her individual hat.  I loved giving them to my friend the day after the first big snowfall of the year and knowing her girls heads will be warm all winter.  I love that she slipped the teeny one on her baby’s head before they went outside, so she wore it home.  She is totally knitworthy.  Spending my time and energy making her kiddos stuff makes me so happy, makes her happy and makes her kids happy.  I can’t wait until they are teenagers and she and I can torture them with “another batch of hats from auntie Johanna”.  I think then I’ll make sure they are really itchy too.  She and I will then appreciate how my knitting skills can be used for good and evil.  Hmmm, I should start learning about GPS trackers too.  I could embed them into the hat so we can see what trouble her girls are getting into.

Finish Something – Meeting St Mittens

The mittens are done.  I’m super annoyed at myself, because I didn’t record when I started the mittens, but I’ve been at these things a l-o–n—g time.  I bought the yarn when my local yarn shop was in it’s old location.  Years ago.  I finished the first mitten when my daughter was a toddler, or was it preschool?  At least three years ago.  These dazzling fair isle, two-color sock yarn mittens made my hands cramp, made me learn the magic loop, and tested my knitting fortitude.  But wow.  They are pretty and warm and I’ll be wearing them all winter now.  (Let’s do a happy dance.  They were done before October!  I didn’t miss a single mitten worthy day.)

These mittens!  I took them on a road trip and while climbing in and out of the car to tend to my needs or my daughter’s needs I sat on the size two bamboo needle and shattered it.  Picking bamboo shards out of your butt is even more aggravating when it means you can’t work on your project the rest of the trip.

These mittens!  Halfway through the first mitten my cat Neko (who died years ago) threw up all over the warm colored yarn.  I mean she threw up all over it.  I had to unravel cat throw up yarn, wash it while it was still attached to my mitten, dry it and wind it into a ball.  Both mittens got knit from the throw up yarn.

For the knitting readers, here are the specs:

Yarn: Berroco Sox Metallic two skeins – one warm color, one cool – I lost the colors long ago but they look so much like the ones in the pattern book, I’m assuming it’s #1366 Mangosteen and #1372 Durian.  Also, I have more than enough yarn left to knit another mitten or two if I <gasp> lose one.

Pattern: Meeting St. Mittens from Berroco Sock Star #279 (COPYRIGHT 2009.  THERE’S A CLUE TO HOW LONG THESE MITTENS HAVE BEEN TAKING UP MY NEEDLES!)

Ravelry page for my mittens.

In case you can’t tell, I’ve been totally into color right now, but all the fair isle wild color projects are off my needles.  I finished my scarf and my mittens.  Now, to finally wrap up that elusive sweater before it gets cold.  And my daughter wants a boring blue hat, but at least she picked an exciting pattern and I have scrumptious yarn to work with.  Ah, fall is coming.  I can feel it in my fingers and my project plans.

Must stop thinking about the Harry Potter sock yarn I have, and how I could mix characters to make these again.

Finish something, part deux

Now that the Afthead lice infestation is officially over, my hands were itching to do something more productive than comb hair.   (I spent a lot of time examining my daughter’s afthead, let me tell you!)  I wanted to finish something, like my BFF Neil Gaiman encouraged me to do a few weeks ago.  The novel is still inching along, but I’ve had a knitting project in the basket since February, and I had Women’s World Cup soccer and Tour de France to watch this weekend.  Knitting time!

My husband jokes about my knitting and my writing, “You’re so lucky.  You’ve already got all your old-person hobbies figured out.”  In retaliation I poke him with my knitting needle and make fun of him publicly on my blog.  I’m excited about my first knitting blog, because I can try some cross linking between my Ravelry page and my blog.  If you aren’t a knitter just look at the pretty pictures and wonder why on earth I’d want to work with a toasty pile of of wool when it’s over 90 degrees out. The pattern is the Chevron Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, and I used Liberty Wool from Classic Elite Yarns.  It took  about 3 skeins of the light tone (color 7804) and 3 skeins of the dark tone (7898).   It’s a really long scarf.     I also have a shower to go to next weekend for a dear friend’s baby boy.  Well there’s nothing I love more than knitting baby hats, so I also started, and finished a baby hat this weekend.  I watched a Lynda course about design and by the time it was done my yarn had become a hat!   I have found that I can learn from those online courses if my hands are busy while I’m watching.  It alleviates some of the tedium.  I’ve yet to be brave enough to bring knitting to a meeting filled day at work, but I bet it would work in person too. Sadly I think knitting at work is at best weird and at worst rude.

This pattern is a modification of the Magic Coffee Baby Hat pattern.  I used three Debbie Bliss yarns; the brown and blue are cashmerino aran (300008 and 300005) and the red is cashmerino astrakhan (31006) which is a yarn with a little texture to it.  The cashmerino yarn makes the hat both not-itchy and machine washable, critical for a baby.  I did a slip stitch on the fourth stitch of the brown row to make the brown bump in the blue stripe.  I think it’s cute and should be a great first hat for a September baby.   We are supposed to bring a book instead of a card to this shower, and as the book lover in this group of friends, I picked out the books for three of us.  I’m like a kid’s book personal shopper.  I love all three of these books.  The hat is included in the picture so you can see how teeny tiny it is.     What a productive weekend!  Now I just have to wait two months for anything I created to get worn.  The best part is, now that I’ve finished two somethings, I can start something…or tackle that sweater that was under the scarf in the knitting basket.  Just one more sleeve!  Maybe I can get it done before winter.