My mood is like the weather, warm and fresh and full of hope. I felt utterly overwhelmed when I went to bed last night—the sort of overwhelmed where you start fantasizing about how great it would be to get sick because you’d have an excuse to stay in bed—but this morning everything seems perfectly manageable. Sweet little Sparky curled up next to me in the middle of the night. (I love snuggly, lap-claiming cats, but for some reason seem to raise very independent little beasts, so I’m always glad for their cuddly moments.)

I have been knitting washcloths in a take-no-prisoners sort of frenzy, so I’ll have lots of pieces to photograph this weekend, along with links to the patterns or notes on where the stitches can be found in various stitch dictionaries. I am just goofy for my cheap cotton yarn at the moment—can’t get enough of it. Colors that I might find insipid or glaring at other times suddenly strike me as refreshing or lively. I’m thinking of sharing some of my photos with the Walker Treasury Project, a great on-line project to get colored swatches of all the stitches from Barbara Walker’s various books.

Today is my last teaching day of the winter quarter, then I have a bit of a break (though lots of class planning and other work as well) until spring quarter starts April 2. On the 29th I’m doing a “How to Write the Perfect Love Poem” workshop for high schoolers attending a writing conference on campus. I always like to broaden the possibilities some by giving a wide range of potential recipients—including one’s self. Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” is a great I-love-me poem. Next quarter, I’m teaching a Composition class called “The Democratic Essay,” a class that aims to teach students how to write in the context of developing the skills they need to be active members of this democracy of ours. It’s a fun class because I try to follow the students’ lead in terms of topics. As a result, they’re usually quite engaged with the material and I have an excuse to spend hours at a time poring through the NY Times on line and finding other good source material from various educational and non-profit web sites.

Before all that work gets going, I’m hoping to update this blog (with Melissa‘s genius help, of course). I’ve got my eye on several web/blog rings I’d like to join. I’d also like to assemble a really good page of links, both knitting and non, to help people connect with blogs I particularly like and to try to entice them into some of my other areas of interest, like 1930s-style quilting, lemur conservation, and animal rescue.

I’ve just ordered a copy of Socks for Clogs and Sandals, which I found by way of the blog On and Off the Needles. This is the book for me, as I am a committed clog and sandal wearer. (If the shoe goes all the way around the back of my foot, it makes me sad. That’s just the way I am.) Wow, does that book open up some possibilities!


• Ouch. Today my wrists are stiff and achy in sympathy with my niece’s. I did far too much knitting of cotton washcloths over the weekend, and, as I’m a tight knitter to start with, everything below my elbows got a bit kinked up. Then, coming home last night in the dark, I tripped over a lawn chair that I’d moved that afternoon. I slammed straight into it with both shins and flopped over it, my keys, purse, and book flying, and landed hard, wrists-first. (Insert spring-forward joke here.) No permanent damage—but it’s been quite a while since my days on the junior high gymnastics team when we used to deliberately practice crazy falls like this so we wouldn’t break anything if we ever took a real tumble.

• Washcloths. I am in love with the one I’m finishing up now—so in love that I’ve kept going and it is turning into a hand towel. I’ll post a photo and pattern once I’ve finished it. I also knit up two circular cloths using patterns from the Dishcloth Boutique that CatBookMom directed me to. For these I used the Sugar ‘n Cream Landscape colorway, a mix of mint, pale chocolate, and white—a refreshing change from my hot pinks and oranges.

• Play Ball! Yesterday, I listened to my first ballgame of the new season on the radio. I was using my hand-cranked, battery-free radio and had to re-crank at every commercial break to keep the thing from dying, but I enjoyed myself immensely. The announcers were giddy as all get-out, joking, repeating themselves, commenting on things they were doing that they wouldn’t do once the official season began. I will have to end my Netflix  and ShowBox subscription. Who has time for movies when baseball’s on the air? I’ll be at the SF Giants’ Stitch-n-Pitch this year. Are any of you planning to go?

• Daylight. I just want to say, “curse you daylight savings time!” I teach 8:00 classes, so get up at 6:00, and every year it’s the same thing. Just as we roll into March and I’m beginning to have the pleasure of waking up in daylight (sometimes before the alarm clock goes off, even), we spring our clocks forward, and I face another month or two of being cruelly jolted awake in utter darkness by that electronic beep-beep-beep-beep-beep. When I am retired and no longer have to put up with this nonsense we call civilization, I am going to keep my clocks on standard time year round.

• Socks. JayhawkKnitter of Knittin’ Honey just turned me on to this great on-line directory of sock patterns categorized by yarn weight. Oh, the possibilities! On the recommendation of Kelly B., who answered my query on the Knitter’s Review Forums, I will be knitting a pair of Fuzzyfeet slippers as a first “sock” pattern. I’ll be using the Lamb’s Pride I got from Discontinued Brand Name Yarn.

• Faultline. Melissa did a hike yesterday up Mission Peak—she wanted to sketch the faultline. If you’re interested in our highly mobile California geography, you can see some of her photos here.

• Splint Covers. The splint cover fits, but can be a pinch shorter on either end, so I’ll get going on version 2.0 now in bright green. I’ll also post that pattern (not that it’s very tricky) in the next few days.

Health care is dear, and sometimes patients cannot order the medicines they need. A review published by The National Institute of Mental Health states that impotence affects 140 million men worldwide. Cialis is an ideal medicament for helping men to sustain an erection. If you’re concerned about sexual disfunction, you have to learn about “viagra price 100mg“. What is the most great data you perhaps remember regard about this? What researchers talk about cheapest pharmacy for cialis? Several drugstores describe it as cialis price. Remember to diagnose a man’s sexual problem, the physician likely will begin with a thorough anecdote of diagnostic. Not to mention, if you have any other questions about this medicine ask your physician.

Worshcloths and Splint-Covers

These are the first two of my Mason-Dixon washcloths. Two lovely lovely washcloths in the sun

Aren’t the colors great?
Color and texture galore

I used their patttern for these two, but have been playing since with different stitches from the various Barbara Walker books.

When I was in fourth grade, my mother made me a sleeveless, dropped-waist dress with a little pleated skirt in a check (a sort of extra-loud gingham, if that makes any sense) in these colors. I loved that dress, and knitting something up in those same happy colors delights me no end.


My niece took a spill from her bicycle and broke her wrist. The good news is that it’s not a particularly bad break, but that’s also sort of the bad news. Since the break is minor, she wasn’t given a cast (which would be glam), but instead has to wear a splint for the next six weeks or so (which is anti-glam). My sister called me yesterday to ask if I could modify my wrist-warmer pattern to make a splint cover.

Well, of course I can, and I did. I knit up a version in the Denver colorway of Lion Brand Jiffy. I did the entire piece in 2×2 rib so that it would have extra stretch, and the colors cooperated, by winding up it candy-cane style, with no nasty pooling. The splint cover went in the mail today. Once I get a report on how it fits, I’ll be knitting up a couple more, so that my niece can have some choices. (Lime green will be coming up next.)

Stripes and Strands Hat Pattern (and One More Hat to Look At)

Behold my “Stripes and Strands” hat, knit from two skeins of sock yarn, one solid, one self-striping. This hat was inspired by my first foray into stranded knitting, the Semi-Norwegian Oak Leaf Hat (see below). I wanted to try a) mixing stranded and plain knitting and b) using a self-striping yarn as both “background” and “featured yarn” in the same project. The hat has a solid navy background with two bands of stranded work and a central band of the self-striping yarn in a simple knit stitch.
Blue hat, strands and bands
I’m including the pattern here, along with some of my thoughts about possible variations. I’d love to hear from you and to see the results if you try this pattern.

Stripes and Strands Hat

Yarn: One skein each of a solid and a self-striping sock yarn (a single-sock sized skein in each color will be more than sufficient). I used KnitPicks Essential in navy for the solid and Plymoth Sockotta in color 507 (45% cotton, 40% wool, 15% nylon) for the stripes. You can also, of course, use two solid color yarns—or, heck, two self-striping yarns if you really want to live dangerously.
Needles: 16″ circulars and double points in U.S. size 2.
Other Necessities: stitch marker, yarn needle.
(Note that I’ve used a paragraph break at each spot where you will be changing yarns.)

Chart A, Stripes and Strands Hat

Chart B, Stripes and Strands Hat

Using the solid color yarn, cast on 128 stitches, place marker, and close circle.
Work 6 rounds of K1, P1 rib.
Work one round K.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Switch to solid yarn and K two rounds.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Using Chart A, work eight repeats of pattern stitch in stranded knitting, being careful to always pass yarn changes under the previous yarn and to stretch the work as you knit to keep tension loose.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Switch to solid yarn and K two rounds.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K until piece measures 4.75 inches.

Switch to solid yarn and K two rounds.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Using Chart B, work sixteen repeats of pattern stitch in stranded knitting, being careful to always pass yarn changes under the previous yarn and to stretch the work as you knit to keep tension loose.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Switch to solid yarn and K two rounds.

Switch to self-striping yarn and K one round.

Switch to solid yarn and K one round.
Work decreases as follows, continuing to use solid yarn and switching to double-points when necessary.
Round 1: K14, K2tog around.
All even numbered rounds:K around.
Round 3: K13, K2tog around.
Round 5: K12, K2tog around.
Continue working decreases in this way until
Round 27: K1, K2tog around.
Round 28: K2tog around.

Using yarn needle, run working thread through remaining stitches and remove these from needles. Weave ends in on wrong side of hat.

Thoughts and Variations
I was a bit disappointed that my stranded knitting design didn’t “pop” as much as I would have liked it to. It does show up, but it’s subtle—something a knitter would appreciate, but that others might not notice. To emphasize the design, choose a solid-colored yarn in a dark/rich color that does not appear in your self-striping yarn: for example, black with pastels would be ideal or you might choose a deep blue with an orange and yellow self-striping yarn. If your self striping yarn comes in deep colors and does not include white, then white or cream would also work well for the solid-colored yarn. Or, skip the self-striping yarn altogether and use two solids.

You might also enjoy playing with the two charts, substituting different designs or even words. As long as you keep the same number of columns and rows, the hat proportions will remain the same. Just remember that with stranded knitting you don’t want long runs of a single color.

This is the hat that started it all, my “Semi-Norwegian” Oak Leaf Hat.
Semi-Norwegian oak leaf hat
I’m still playing with both this pattern and the idea of Norwegian hats in general. My current mini-binge of washcloths is actually helping with this process because it’s giving me lots of opportunities to play with different combinations of variegated and solid yarns.

And then there are slip stitches and mosaic knitting. And socks—I musn’t forget about socks. The possibilities are deliciously endless!

Oak-Town Kitties

Warning: This post is 95% knitting-free, so if you don’t enjoy listening to the babblings of a besotted cat step-mom, feel free to wait for my next post. [Melissa is leaving her comments as well in brackets.]

I’ve been meaning for quite some time to give those of you who like cats a proper introduction to the feline members of our family. We’ll start with the Oakland cats—and promise to do justice to the Santa Cruz cats soon.

Behold Archy—
Archy looking up
a somewhat skinny old guy, with a croak of a meow that lets you know right away when the service isn’t up to snuff. Archy has been involved in several passionate relationships with soft green things over the years, including Brigitte, a lime-green fake-fur pillow from Ikea. Like all our cats, Archy was a rescue. Years ago, Melissa kept finding him perched on her motorcycle in the alley behind her home. He was hardly beyond kittenhood then and had little trouble working his way into her heart and in the front door. [Much to the disgust of Lulu, my extra-toed cat from the east coast, who was still with me at the time.]
Because of his early years on the street (at least that’s what we blame it on) Archy has a bit of the wanderlust. Last fall, while Melissa hiked the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain, Archy took advantage of an inattentive (I can think of other words, but I’ll just stick with “inattentive” for propriety’s sake) cat-sitter and went on the lam. The cat-sitter was fired, friends were called in to look after the remaining cats, and I found myself driving from Santa Cruz to Oakland 3-4 times a week to wander Melissa’s industrial wasteland of a neighborhood, shaking a pouch of Temptations and calling “Archy… Arrrchyyyyyyy.” I also made more visits than I ever want to remember to the Oakland and Berkeley animal shelters. I left with a broken heart each time, not just because of Archy, but because of all the marvelous cats so desperate for a home and a chance to share their love. [Sarah-Hope is a saint! as are my friends.]
In an amazing stroke of good luck, a couple in the neighborhood found him late at night three weeks after he’d disappeared and one day before Melissa returned home. He’d lost almost a third of his total weight and had an abscess in his mouth, but he’s made a fully recovery, as these photos attest.

Here we have Archy close up…
Archy is a moviestar!

…and in profile.
Archy has a handsome profile!

And this is Melissa’s portrait of Archy.
Archy captured in paint for posterity
He was younger when she painted this, but he’s definitely grown into the air of crochityness and gravitas that the painting suggests. [It’s rather like Gertrude Stein growing to look like the portrait Picasso painted…]
And, yes, he’s named after the literary cockroach.

We now have the honor of presenting Maggie Gloriana Moo-Woozle, the queen of the household.
Maggie does not like having her picture taken.
Maggie is stalwart in her affections. She spends a good part of each day looking after her “babies” (those stretchy, kind of terry-cloth-like pony-tail holders), moving them up and down stairs, lining them up at the water dish for swimming lessons and such.
Maggie was an unwed mother who’d just been quitted of both kittens and uterus when Melissa adopted her. She has a rather unusual build (short legs, long back) and favors dolman sleeves on her fur coat. [Maggie is very glamorous!]

Of course a cat as glamorous as Maggie is used to the paparazzi…
Get that camera out of my face

But she has to set limits sometimes, despite her public’s insatiable desire for her image.
Damn paparazzi!

I’ve already mentioned Damian. Now here’s the face to go with the description.
Damian trying to look innocent
Melissa found Damian and his brother “B” (who sadly did not survive) abandoned in broad day-light, miserable in the heat and sun with eyes still closed and bodies covered in fleas. His rough beginning has not, however, had any lasting impact on his growth. (You will note in the above photo his exquisite man-udder, which spills over his feet with great majesty. He’s frightfully proud of it.)
Because he was bottle-fed, Damian is highly interactive and always willing to pitch in with the project at hand. In fact, his New Year’s resolution was “Be more helpful”—and he’s stuck to it with a vengance.
[When I first found the kittens, the vet was not at all optimistic about their survival, but I brought them home anyway, determined to nurse them back to health. But just in case, I only called them “A” and “B” at first, so I wouldn’t become too attached to them. As if!]

Here Damian is helping with the knitting. (Nothing improves the quality of a fiber more than a bit of judiciously applied cat spit, eh?)
I can help with that!
He also likes to help with painting, cooking, mat board cutting, computing, and, of course, eating. His usual strategy is to leap onto the table, then keel over as if he is utterly weak and exhausted… which leads the poor boy to rest his frail head on the rim of any nearby dish… and then, even though he’s about to lose consciousness completely, he manages to find just enough energy to move his lips the least little bit—and you wouldn’t begrudge a dying kitty a last bit of food would you?
Actually, we do, so Damian often spends dinnertime in the bathroom. [The only room in the house with a door!]

When you come to visit, Damian will be glad to nuzzle you with his perpetually wet nose.
I am a handsome man

If you’ve made it this far, you must be as mad about cats as we are. Huzzah! for nature’s finest species.

Stitches West, Part II: The Yarn

Today, I’ve been knitting cotton wash rags, a la Mason-Dixon Knitting. Joann had Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn on sale for $1.50 a ball, and I’ve never actually knit these before—so it seemed almost like a sign or something. I find the wash rags inordinately pleasing. I’m using bright colors and every few rows I hold my work up so Melissa can admire it. Her comment: “There must be somethig really specal about those. These days, it usually takes more than a knitted square to get you excited like this.”

Yesterday, Melissa and I joined my mom to go to the musical at the high school I attended. While we were at my mom’s house, we shot pictures of my various yarn buys from Stitches West. So, here are the yarns I found most tantalizing, with my dreams about what they may become someday.

Skye tweed in lovely shades of blue
Skye Tweed by Classic Elite Yarns, 100% wool, 110 yards per ball, US 7 or 8 needles.
This yarn has that nice, sort of crunchy feel to it that some wools have, but doesn’t feel scratchy. Last fall I knit up some ocean-inspired hats, using knit stitches for the first pattern set, purls for the next, etc. Now I’d like to try working up the same pattern, using color changes instead of stitch changes to make the pattern more striking. I’m hoping Skye Tweed will be just the ticket.

Pretty pretty malabrigo
Mmmmmmmmm…Malabrigo. They’re all 100% wool. In the back we have worsted weight (216 yards per skein, US 7-9 needles): 3 balls of Melilla and 5 balls of Col China. In the front we have a skein of lace-weight in Sealing Wax (410 yards per skein).
I love this yarn and its cotton-ball softness. I have a rectangular shawl pattern picked out for the lace weight. I’m not at all sure yet what I’ll be doing with the worsted weight, but I can tell you whatever I knit will be for me. Me. Me, me, me, me, me.

Noro in the hydrangeas
Silver Thaw by Noro, 50% wool, 25% angora, 25% nylon, 220 meters per skein, US 8-10 needles.
I knit a hat for Melissa in December out of a different colorway of this yarn and enjoyed working with it. The angora takes the edge off the roughness that that’s typical of Noro, making it more comfortable to wear against the skin. This colorway reminds me of fields of lavender or sage with its grey-greens (which didn’t show well in the photo) and purples. Again, I don’t know what I’ll be knitting with this, but the knitting voices in my head told me “Buy it! Buy two!”

Check out the colors!
On the left: Magallanes by Araucania Yarns, 100% wool, 242 yards per skein, US 6-8 needles. On the right: Caravan by Just Our Yarn, 65% wool, 35% camel down, 300 yards per skein, US 3 needles.
I felt compelled to get the Magallanes because of the color, which seemed simultaneously hideous and alluring: a melange of forest green, burnt orange, peach, and cream. These colors shouldn’t match, they don’t match, but they do—kind of like Peter Cottontail attending Octoberfest. This yarn will no doubt become a hat at some point, but I don’t want to reknit a pattern I’ve already written. I’m waiting for the right new idea to come along.
The moment I saw the Cravan I thought “stranded color-work.” I want to work with these separately, pairing each with a rich deep, brown or a warm gold. The skeins are big enough that if I make hats I can knit each pattern twice, once with the Caravan as the main color, then again with it as the contrast color.

Look what I found!
Cashsoft by Rowan, 50% merino, 40% microfibre, 10% cashmere, 142 yards per ball, US 6 six needles.
With these beauties I’m again thinking stranded color-work, but I also expect they’ll show texture nicely, so I may just opt for a nice complicated scarf with cables or bobbles or both. (The upper yarn is actually a yummy butter yellow, not the off-white it appears in the picture.)

If any of you have worked with these yarns before and have advice or project ideas, I would love to hear them. I don’t expect I’ll start knitting with any of them for a few weeks—I want time to think about the possibilities first. Meanwhile, I’ve got cotton wash rags to occupy my fingers.

Sock Fantasies

I’ve yet to knit my first pair of socks, but that hasn’t prevented me from starting to accumulate books about sock knitting and sock patterns and sock yarn. My first sock book was Sensational Knitted Socks, quickly followed by Knitting Vintage Socks. Since yesterday was pay-day, I took advantage of my momentary I-can-make-it-to-the-end-of-the-month hopefulness and ordered two more sock books: Knitting on the Road and Favorite Socks. (The sock yarn stash results from the fact that I like using sock yarn for hats because the small guage lets me fit more repeats of complicated stitches into a reasonably-sized finished product. )

When I started knitting, socks were nowhere on my radar, but that all changed when I got my first look at Sensational Knitted Socks. Not only are the patterns it offers beautiful, but the whole thing is written in a way that brings joy to my “what-if?” heart. What if I want to use a different pattern? What if I want to add colorwork? What if my feet are a funny size? What if I like part of one sock pattern and part of another? Once I get going on socks, this book will be suffering some significant wear.

My sock fascination was further stoked by reading Grumperina’s blog. She knits (and designs) so many pairs, and her beautiful work just makes me ache to go down that sock road myself.

My mom knows how to knit socks and would gladly teach me, but whenever I’m at her house, we always seem to have too many other things to do. One of my LYSs, The Golden Fleece, has a $10 sock clinic on Mondays, so I’m thinking I should just cast on a pair and knit until I’m confused, then head over there.

What brought up these sock thoughts? The March issue of Mag Knits, which features three sock patterns, including my favorite: the Rainy Day Socks by by Yuliya Sullivan. (Aren’t they gorgeous?) I’ll probably start with something simpler, but I want to commit to beginning my first pair of socks before this academic quarter is over. That way, I can go to the sock clinic over spring break.

P.S. If you’re looking for free sock patterns try here and here and here. That should keep you busy.

P.P.S. If any of you who are more versed in the art of the sock than I am have words of warning (or encouragement) to throw my way—go for it! I’d be glad for the help.

Word-Hats (Picture-Hats to Follow)

Let me tell you about hats. I can’t show you hats (because they’re in Santa Cruz and the camera is with Melissa in Oakland), but I will eventually post photos.

I finally finished my semi-Norwegian hat. I’d gotten quite comfortable with the whole stranded knitting thing and was zooming along, needing to pause less and less often to untangle my yarn—then the decreases hit, and I found myself switching from circulars to double-points. Ack!

At the same time that I began with the double-points on Friday night at Melissa’s, her cat Damian began a game of “Cannot-Touch-Floor-Evil-Floor-Must-Jump-Climb-Flop” and things went something like this—

Whunk! All 18 pounds of Damian came flying from the floor to my chest, obliviously landing on my work, to which I clung desperately hoping to prevent a needle-dropping, involuntary-frogging catastrophe.

Bamp! Bamp! He whacked his forehead against mine in greeting, giving me a nice rub with his wet nose (wet nose? isn’t that a dog thing?) in the process. Then he pirouetted a time or two, balancing himself on my knees, my shoulders, purring the whole while.

And finally—Oof! He bounced off me onto Melissa or whatever unfortunate person/object lay in his trajectory.

Now, reread the previous three paragraphs several times because Damian never settles for doing something once when he can do it repeatedly. I believe I got exactly one round done before giving up and hiding my work at the back of the closet.

On Sunday in Santa Cruz, I did get those last rounds done. I found it particularly helpful to distribute the stitches among my double points so that the first stripe of the three-stipe divisions between panels ended the stitches on one needle and the remaining two stripes began the stitches on the following needle. This strategy prevented any long bits of yarn jumping the break between needles, allowing me to maintain my tension more easily.

While the hat isn’t perfect (I did the SSKs wrong on the first 2/3 of the rounds, and my two yarns don’t stand out as distinctly from each other as I might like), I’m quite pleased with it as a first attenpt. And, having finished, I came up with a whole new set of “what if?” questions.

1. What if I use the variegated yarn for backgound instead of for the pattern elements?

2. What if I limit the double-stranding to the body of the hat and switch to a single yarn before beginning the decreases?

3. What if I alternate bands of double-stranded knitting with plain knitting?

After digging through my stash to find some appropriate yarns for answering these questions (a skein of navy wool-nylon Knit Picks Essential and a skein of denim-colored self-striping sock yarn in a cotton-wool-nylon blend), I got to work. So far the hat goes like this: navy ribbing; alternating rounds of the two yarns; an eleven-round band of stranded work; more alternating rounds; a nice wide stretch of just the self-striping yarn; more alternating rounds; and a five-round band of double-stranded work. I’m planning to finish up with a few more alternating rounds and will then end the hat using only the solid navy yarn. If you can’t picture this, don’t fret. Like I said, photos are coming.

Free Point Lobos Hat Pattern Packs

I have some leftover sets of 25 of the Point Lobos Hat pattern printed up on nice postcard stock to give away. If you know of a knitting guild or a LYS that would like a set to share with knitters, please let me know by dropping me a line me at shparmetATucscDOTedu with the appropriate mailing info. I don’t want to send out individual cards because the postage will quickly get prohibitive, but I’ll be glad to share full sets with people who can distribute them.

Stitches West, Part I: The Classes

I’m going to write about Stitches West in two parts, focusing first on the classes I took, then later on the yarn and other sightings from the market.

Increases and Decreases (326) taught by Elizabeth Fallone
The increases and decreases we covered could, of course, be applied to any kind of knitting, but in class we focused primarily on how to use them in constructing garments. Since I’m more interested in applying these to lace designs, I had to keep moving mentally from the work at hand to my own purposes, but this wasn’t hard. The class covered many single and double decreases/increases, and I particularly liked some of the increases, which I hadn’t encountered before (most directions for M1 call for knitting through the bar between two stitches or knitting front and back into a single stitch; the instructor included some other possibilities that produce a much smoother finished piece).
We knit up whole handfuls of little triangular swatches so we could see how the different stitches looked. I realized quickly that I wouldn’t remember what each swatch contained without some sort of system, so I tied knots in the ends of the cast on thread quipu-like. I now have pages of notes reading more or less like this: “one knot in cast on thread, wide base = K2tog on R, SSK on L.” I’ll have to spend some time counting knots and adding proper labels to all those swatches, but the swatches will be an immense help later when I’m working on designs. In fact, I’d like to add to my swatch collection, working up samples using simple lace stitches to compliment the stockinette ones I’ve already made.
My main concern with this class is that the handouts briefly described in words most (but not all—and that’s another problem) of the stitches we convered, but included very few illustrations, so I’m a bit nervous about whether I’ll be able to work these stitches correctly in the future. I practiced with one of the increase techniques last night (on an adaptation of an ear-flap hat pattern that I finally gave up on—the yarn apparently had no interest in becoming an ear-flap hat). At first, my increases were a bit hit-or-miss, but they looked quite nice by the end, even though I wound up frogging the whole thing.
If you’d like to see more of her work, Elizabeth Fallone’s designs are carried by Shelridge Farm.

Chart Reading and Writing (544), taught by JC Briar
This was by far my favorite class, which I hadn’t anticipated, as I’d figured it was the class most likely to cover things I already knew. In fact, much of the material was familiar to me, but the systematic way in which the instructor laid it all out (wonderful handouts!) helped me mentally organize my own knowledge. In the future I’ll be able to approach charts with a set of questions in my head to ask and answer before I begin knitting. Yes, I would be able to follow charts without these questions, but I would wind up having to do more problem solving as I went along.
By the end of the class, the teacher had us working on a set of exercizes translating written instructions into charts. These grew increasingly complex and really forced us to apply the full range of material we’d covered in the first part of class. When I write up my own patterns—particularly more complicated lace or cable patterns—this practice will serve me well.
If you ever have the chance to take a class with JC Briar—do it! Her organization is impressive, and she anticipates and provides answers for many questions, rather than waiting for these to come up on their own.
As an aside, the instructor was wearing a gorgeous short-sleeved cardigan and tank set of her own design that features all sorts of slip stitch patterns. This pattern is for sale at her web site, and I’ll definitely be ordering one. If you don’t want to knit a whole ensemble, but want to practice slip stitches, you could order this pattern and use the cardigan front pattern to knit up some really beautiful throw pillows. (Note that the picture on the web site makes this set look as if it’s knit in sort of deep, dusty pastels. the actual colors are brighter and more autumnal, a real visual feast.)

Hole-Istic Lace (529) taught by Maureen Mason-Jamieson
The class provided a clear, useful introduction to lace knitting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really looking for an introduction to the topic. Still, I enjoyed playing with the class project (a lacey bookmark/bell pull), which gave me a chance to see several different decreases worked with lace stitches.
I would recommend this class for anyone who feels uneasy about taking on lace. The handouts offered a clear, detailed approach to the topic, leading students through a variety of single and double decreases. I particularly appreciated this instructor’s explanations of running markers (a sort of basting strand used instead of ring markers) and safety lines (a strand of yarn or thread run through the loops of a row to “lock” the knitted work once you’ve verified that everything up to that point is accurate). I’ll probably stick to my ring markers, but will definitely use a safety line when working on complicated patterns.
Besides knitting lace, Maureen Mason-Jamison designs lovely, colorful garments, including the Marmalade Sweater, which is as yummy as its name implies. I fell madly in love with it in the market.