This, That, the Other

• 1.75 Down, 0.25 to Go
I finished the Plaited Cable Cowl for my friend Ellen a week or so ago and have been working on one for myself in utterly delicious Cash Vero. I knew I needed one of these cowls to keep me warm at Giants’ night games, but for all my love of knitting, I am fickle as all get-out about what fibers I will actually wear. Knitting with wool? Fun. Wearing wool? Right up there with sand in my socks. Hence my love of the softness that is Malabrigo and my predilection for alpaca or alpaca blends. Cash Vero is 55% extra fine merino, 33% microfiber, and 12% cashmere, but it miraculously feels like 55% cashmere, 33% microfiber, and 12% wool. Under appropriate temperatures, I could swaddle myself head-to-foot in this yarn and feel perfectly comfortable. It’s not cheap ($8-9 for a 98-yard skein), but there are a great many yarns out there that are even pricier and not nearly as yummy. The colors are deep and shiny, a real treat for the eyes. I get mine at The Golden Fleece. If you’ve never knit with this yarn, I urge you to find a local stockist and try it out.

• Raffle-Mania
Cathy-Cate at Hither and Yarn is hosting her own Blogiversary Raffle. She’s asking knitters to donate to their choice of Doctors without Borders, Knitters for Knockers, or The House that Yarn Built. You get one raffle entry for every $5 (on-your-honor self-reported) donation, and the prizes are dreamy!—amazing hand-dyed yarns, including two different Doctors without Borders special editions, and an autographed copy of the Yarn Harlot’s latest book. Go check it out right now and see if you can’t give a little something. All you have to do is redirect the cost of a single latte purchase (the world will manage to put up with you uncaffeinated for a day) to some folks who will do wonderful things with it—and you might even get yarn in the bargain! (And if you’re not a liberal, latte-sipping Californian like me, surely there’s some other small treat you could forgo just this once.)

• Going Batty
I have a particular fondness for bats. It’s not a creepy, vampire, blood-sucking type fondness. It’s a hearty, aren’t their-little-faces-lovely? and aren’t-they-just-amazing-in-flight? fondness. So you can imagine how delighted I’ve been to stumble acroos not one, but two bat-themed knitting patterns recently. First off, there’s Monica Gausen’s Bathat. The pattern is for a child’s size hat and uses sock weight yarn, so a little math and a heavier gauge should result in a lovely adult-sized product. Second, there are the bat wrist warmers from Reliquary Arts. I’d like to make these longer with—surprise!—even more bats.

What Else?

Since I have a huge stack of student papers to work through and my little house is a complete disaster, I have—what else?—cast on for a new sweater. This is, perhaps, not quite as foolhardy as it seems, since it’s just a child’s sweater: the Peplum Cardigan from Leisure Arts’ Daddy’s Little Girl.
Peplum Cardigan
I actually suspect there is a method to my madness. When everything else seems out of control, I take on a small, controlled knitting project. That way I can shelter myself on my little island of knitting sanity and accomplishment while the workplace and domestic winds rage just offshore.

I confess I have no idea whom I’m knitting it for. But that will not stop me! I will knit the cute little peplum. I will work the diamond-stitch pattern. Inch by inch, I will bring the ribbed body into being. And since this is a small sweater, I will do all this in a reasonable amount of time, thus providing a satisfying contrast to the slog that is student essays and a never-ending pile of dishes in the sink. I am not knitting for some child—I am knitting for me!

I am knitting this darling in some delicious, pumpkin-colored Highland Silk that I got on close-out at Elann. I realize it is completely wrong of me, but I can’t help doing a gloat-y bit of a heiner-wiggling I-got-the-last-of-it dance: life has been difficult, and snagging this yarn ranks as an important recent accomplishment. Please forgive me.

In other news, Kim Hargreaves has a new book out, Nectar, which is wonderful for her and for knitters everywhere, but completely unfair for me, since I haven’t even had a chance to knit anything out of her previous book, Heartfelt. The new book is slightly less my style than the previous one (by which I mean “more tight-fitting garments that look uncomfortable and would be rather gappy on my figure”), but it still has some beautiful knits. I particularly like


and Joy—

And with that I leave you. Papers and dishes—and a few rows of reward knitting—await.

Mmmmmm… Waffles!

Jean of Needles, Notes, and News is hosting a charity knit-along on her blog.

The project? This adorable child’s sweater, which she calls Waffles for Brunch.
Waffles Charity Knit-along sweater
As she points out, if you knit it for charity you don’t have to worry much about gauge, it’s sure to fit some child who needs it so you can dig in and just start knitting. Same principal applies if you are sending one year old boys toys to charity, you really don’t need to worry about what or how big it is. The pattern is simple, but interesting. I’m planning to work on one this weekend for my stop-and-knit-a-few-rows-after-marking-every-third-student-paper project.

If you decide to join in, I’d love to hear about it—and so would Jean, I’m sure.

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Tuesday Mewsday: Not Quirky, Merely Eccentrically Individualistic

Madam, I must reply to your assertion of last week that my three very fine cats, to wit, Archy, Maggie, and Damian, have “quirks”. I must point out that they are not guilty of this so-called quirkiness; they are merely asserting their individual eccentricities. Nonetheless, since etiquette demands an answer to your post, I will endeavor to paint a quick portrait of some of their more endearing qualities.

1. Archy has a habit of forming lasting relationships with pillows. His longest-lasting, and most tragic, affair was with the lime-green faux fur pillow known as Brigitte. Brigitte had a difficult life, having been orphaned at an early age and raised in a convent by heartless nuns. She ran away to Sweden, where she survived as best she could until she found a job with Ikea, and moved to Emeryville, California, and from there to my house. While Archy proved to be fickle in his affections, Brigitte remained true, to the point of sacrificing herself in the search for Archy when he went walkabout in 2006. Archy has since developed a relationship with the less flamboyant but no doubt more comfortable flannel-covered pillows on my bed.
2. Archy will do anything to get a taste of the treats known as “Temptations.”

1. Maggie also has a love interest: fleece-on-a-stick. She loves loves loves fleece-on-a-stick, to the point that if I cruelly refuse to play with her constantly, she takes it in her mouth and drags it along after me, pausing occasionally to drop her amour and meow pitifully: “Please play!”
2. Maggie is practicing to be a saint. She does this by rolling her eyes heavenward, much like the paintings of Murillo or El Greco. She believes rolling your eyes is all you need to do to become a saint…and since she is a divine kitty, I suspect she’s right.

Ah, Damian…so many eccentricities, so little time. Here are two.
1. Damian likes beer, but is scared to death of beer bottles. If I am drinking a beer, Damian will sneak up and lick the beer bottle or glass, thoroughly cleaning it to the last drop. Blow into the beer bottle, however, and the deep hooting noise will send Damian running, literally shaking like a leaf.
2. Damian wants to be a hairdresser when he grows up. He loves hair, and if given the chance, will grip your head in his giant paws and groom your hair right down to your scalp. He has been known to leap across the room onto the shoulders of complete strangers to give their hair a good working-over (not the best way to charm prospective collectors when you are having an open studio!).
Damian the hairdresser

Now my conundrum: I am not a blogger, do not have a blog circle. Who to tag next? I will leave that to Sarah-Hope.

[posted by Melissa]

The Santa Cruz Hat Pattern

This pattern originally appeared on the now defunct—and much-mourned—MagKnits. It’s a great spring/summer hat that will keep you hair off your face on a breezy day, but won’t be too warm. (If you’re looking for a warm hat, just knit it in alpaca—even with the open weave, you’ll find it pretty cozy). I had fun working through this pattern in multiple weights of yarn, so you should be able to knit it in just about anything in your stash, just choose the directions for your yarn weight.

The main piece of feedback I’ve gotten on this hat is that it runs a bit snug. This wasn’t my experience (Melissa and I both have large-ish noggins, and it fits us fine), but if you’re concerned you may want to go up a needle size. It is designed to be more of a skull cap than an over-the-ears hat, so, if you want to lengthen it, just add an additional eight rounds from the sixteen-round pattern stitch before beginning the decreases.

Sport-weight version
The Santa Cruz hat in DK weight The Santa Cruz hat in sport weight

Bulky-weight version
The Santa Cruz hat in bulky weight The Santa Cruz hat in bulky weight

Worsted-weight version
The Santa Cruz hat in worsted weight The Santa Cruz hat in worsted weight

Fingering-weight version
The Santa Cruz hat in sock weight The Santa Cruz hat in sock weight

Santa Cruz Hat
This lace-stitch hat with scattered cables works well in both solid and variegated or over-dyed yarns. Stitch definition will be best with a traditional, even-weight yarn, rather than novelty yarns, such as long eyelash, or thick-and-thin yarns.

Sample Yarn: Knit Picks Essential
Yardage: One 230-yard skein makes one hat with yarn to spare
Stitches/Inch as Indicated by Manufacturer: 7-8
Needles (U.S.): Size 2, 16″ circular and double points
Cast On: 108 stitches
Ribbing: 4 rounds
16-Round Pattern Sets: 3 sets

Sample Yarn: Knit Picks Andean Treasure
Yardage: One 110-yard skein makes one hat
Stitches/Inch as Indicated by Manufacturer: 6
Needles (U.S.): Size 4, 16″ circular and double points
Cast On: 84
Ribbing: 3 rounds
16-Round Pattern Sets: 2 sets

Worsted Weight
Sample Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes
Yardage: One 110-yard skein makes one hat
Stitches/Inch as Indicated by Manufacturer: 4.5-5
Needles (U.S.): Size 7, 16″ circulars and double points
Cast On: 72 stitches
Ribbing: 3 rounds
16-Round Pattern Sets: 1 set, plus rows 1-8

Bulky Weight
Sample Yarn: Knit Picks Decadence
Yardage: One 110-yard skein makes one hat with yarn to spare
Stitches/Inch as Indicated by Manufacturer: 3-3.5
Needles (U.S.): Size 10.5, 16″ circular and double points
Cast On: 60 stitches
Ribbing: 3 rounds
16-Round Pattern Sets: 1 set

To Begin
Based on your yarn weight, cast the indicated number of stitched onto the appropriate circular needles. Place marker and close circle.

Work the indicated number of rounds of K1, P1 rib.

Body of the Hat
Work the indicated number of sets of the 16-round pattern stitch.

16-Round Pattern Stitch (repeat stitches as needed to complete each round)
Round 1: K4, (YO, K2tog) 4 times
Round 2 and all even rounds: K
Round 3: K4, (K2tog, YO) 4 times
Round 5: Place 2 stitches on cable needle and hold at back of work, K2, K2 from cable needle, (YO, K2tog) 4 times
Round 7: as round 3
Round 9: (YO, K2tog) 3 times, then as round 1, ending with YO, K2tog
Round 11: (K2 tog, YO) 3 times, then as round 3, ending with K2tog, YO
Round 13: (YO, K2tog) 3 times, then as round 5, ending with YO, K2tog
Round 15: as round 11
Round 16: K

Work decreases as directed for your yarn weight, repeating stitches as needed to complete each round. Switch to double-pointed needles when necessary.

Decreases for Sock and Worsted Weights
Round 1: YO, K2tog
Round 2: K7, K2tog
Round 3: K2tog, YO
Round 4: K6, K2tog
Round 5: as round 1
Round 6: K5, K2tog
Round 7: as round 3
Round 8: K4, K2tog
Round 9:as round 1
Round 10: K3, K2tog
Round 11: as round 3
Round 12: K2, K2tog
Round 13: as round 1
Round 14: K1, K2tog
Round 15: as round 3
Round 16: K2tog

Decreases for Sport Weight
Round 1: YO, K2tog
Round 2: K5, K2tog
Round 3: K2tog, YO
Round 4: K4, K2tog
Round 5: as round 1
Round 6: K3, K2tog
Round 7: as round 3
Round 8: K2, K2tog
Round 9: as round 1
Round 10: K1, K2tog
Round 11: as round 3
Round 12: K2tog
Round 13: K2 tog

Decreases for Bulky Weight Yarn
Round 1: YO, K2tog
Round 2: K
Round 3: K2tog, YO
Round 4: K
Round 5: as round 1
Round 6: K4, K2tog
Round 7: as round 3
Round 8: K3, K2tog
Round 9: as round 1
Round 10: K2, K2tog
Round 11: as round 3
Round 12: K1, K2tog
Round 13: as round 1
Round 14: K2tog
Round 15: K2tog

To Finish
After finishing decreases, cut yarn, leaving a 6” tail. Thread tail though a yarn needle and run the needle through the remaining stitches on needles in a counter-clockwise direction and remove needles. Pass tail through to inside of hat. Weave in ends on inside of hat.

Tuesday Mewsday: Six Quirky Things

Back in March so now what? tagged me for the “Six Quirky Things” meme, which I have been oh, so slow to get around to. But never fear, the Santa Cruz cats are stepping in to help with some quirky things of their own, two for each cat, which gives me a handy total of six.

Bea’s Quirky Things
1. Bea flinches when you reach out to pet her, unless you reach out with fingers gathered together in a sort of cat’s-head shape, in which case she will sniff them, then allow you to scratch her cheeks.
2. Bea has one (and only one) white whisker. Otherwise she is all black.

Sparky’s Quirky Things
1. Sparky is absolutely fascinated with smelling people’s breath. Let him do it and he’ll give you a head bonk by way of saying thanks.
2. Sparky is rather chubby, which means that he has a very comic run, with hind legs splayed to get around his belly. (Picture Tom Kitten popping out of his britches.)

Penny’s Quirky Things
1. When Penny is nervous, she makes vigorous chuffing noises as if to say “big cat approaching, be very afraid.”
2. Penny will lick your hand for as long as you will allow it. She has never been known to voluntarily desist in this activity once she’s begun.

And now Bea, Sparky, and Penny are tagging the Oak-Town cats. Melissa will have to help them write up their own version of “Six Quirky Things” for an upcoming Tuesday Mewsday.

New Knits at Caron

In the last week or so, Caron has added some great free patterns to their web site. I’ve put several of them in my Ravelry queue, but they aren’t showing up in the Ravelry pattern directory yet, so I thought I’d best bring them to everyone’s attention. This is clearly a new venture for Caron, and most categories have only a few patterns (some have none), but what’s there is quite nice.

I love the inset shawl collar in contrast yarn on the Toronto pullover.
Caron's Toronto pullover
The pattern calls for changing yarn colors every two rows on the collar, but I’d be tempted to simplify by using self-striping yarn. (What a great opportunity to use a special single skein of Noro or a hand-dye!)

I’m not sure what to call “Portland“: cardigan? vest? shrug? But it looks quite wearable—just the thing for a day with changeable weather.
Caron's Portland pullover

I’m also taken with the child’s Strawberry Hill cardigan.
Caron's Strawberry Hill child's cardigan
The cables on the top that work like smocking are cute, cute, cute and make for a loose-fitting garment that will give little one plenty of room for movement.


Now that MagKnits is no longer with us, I’ll be posting the Santa Cruz and Sandia hat patterns here soon. I also have a new pattern for a hat-and-scarf combo made from a single skein of Dream in Color Classy, which I’ll be posting. If you’ve been wanting an excuse to buy this yarn, go ahead and get a skein!

What I’m Loving…

Last night the San Francisco Giants got their second win of the season (woooo-whoooo) thanks largely to a pair of home runs by catcher Bengie Molina. (As a kid, my heroes were the outfielders; as an adult I’m all about the catchers.) I was lucky enough to be at the game, thanks to my BFF Ellen’s partner Georgine, who bought the tickets—which were third row lower boxes just past third base, by the way, and absolutely primo!

The Giants have been playing on the road for the past week and just had their first home game Monday. They go all gala at the start of the season and have a whole opening week full of festivities, so last night was “Opening Night,” (as opposed to Monday, which was “Opening Day“) with fireworks after the game.

(I’m getting to some knitting here—I promise. Just stick with me.)

Now in most MLB venues except the SF Bay Area (and perhaps Seattle), night games conjure up images of cold beer and a sinking sun, with the day’s heat simmering down to a more tolerable warmth. But here in San Francisco/Oakland, night games are the reason fans can never pack away their winter woolies. Even in mid-August, only the most foolhardy souls go to a night game without winter coast, scarf, hat, mittens, and an extra blanket. The fog rolls in, the wind kicks up and a simple sporting event becomes a textbook example of survival of the fittest. I was buttoning my coat as I stepped out of the car, had mittens on by the bottom of the first, hat and blanket by the third, and scarf in the fifth—which leans me to…

… the Plaited Cable Cowl. (Go look—I’ll wait.) It comes from the needles of Joanna Jongsma and is just what every Bay Area ball fan needs. Before my next night game I have sworn to knit these up not just for me but for all my ball-loving friends. Ellen wants her in orange. I’m thinking I’ll be understated and go with grey. What a brilliant little knit! And what a great excuse to buy baseball more tickets!