Wednesday, April 29, 2015

As I sit back to write this one, I am overly aware that I have about a thousand reasons to be grateful.  I'm happy and healthy and have a wonderful family and a comfortable home. I have a business doing what I love to do and a husband who supports me while I do it.  I've met wonderful people and have gotten to do incredible things through that business and continue to do so every day.   I am surrounded by friends and loved ones, and any minor complaint or problem I have is just that - minor.  I'm lucky, and I think that comes with a little bit of responsibility.

So pardon me if I use this last post to share some links for how to help out in Nepal.   What's happened there this weekend is just devastating and my heart goes out to everybody who's been affected.   And I'm grateful that I can help in some small way.

One of the amazing things about blogs is that they give us a voice that can be heard far and wide, and the best way I think I can blog about the things I have right now is to try and use them to make a difference.

Monday, April 27, 2015

I've definitely hit a shawl phase now.  The truth is that I am wearing these things pretty much every day and I can't get enough of 'em.  It's also been really fun to play with new construction methods without worrying about how they translate into 10 different sizes and thinking about the fit and grading for a change.  Shawls are fun and satisfying, I tell you. Plus, it turns out they go with everything.  Or at least, that's my policy.

I haven't taken this shawl off since we took photos last week.

Jill and I decided to name it Rum Daisy, which perfectly suits the bright, happy color and motif.  I love the lines and texture in this lace, which reminds me of a funky 70s crochet edging.  It's actually pretty simple to create, and when worked up, the "shells" really highlight the subtle shades of the hand dyed yarn beautifully.


The shawl is knit from bottom to top, with short row shaping to create a nice, long crescent.  The ends remain deep instead of coming to points, for a more scarf-like feel.  

Rum Daisy is knit in Jill Draper's Esopus yarn, which is a gorgeous, high twist, fingering weight, superwash merino that's 100% US produced, from sheep to skein.  The design takes two skeins - and you can play with more than one color if you like with this design.  A few of my test knitters opted to play with 2 and 3 colors, so if you want some fun ideas, check out their projects - here.

Jill's shop is stocked up with a ton of gorgeous colors right now, convenient, yes?  and if you don't see what you want, Esopus can be found in many local yarn shops, including Happy Knits, who just got a big shipment (a little bird told me...)

The pattern is available for $6 on Ravelry or in the patterns section of this website soon.  EU customers can purchase directly through Ravelry or find this one on LoveKnitting in a bit.

All the information can be found on the Rum Daisy Ravelry page, but a few details are below:

Size:  67" from end to end, 15.5" deep at center, 8" deep at ends.

Yarn:  2 skeins Jill Draper Esopus fingering weight yarn.  500 yds per skein.  Shown in Plum Jam.

Gauge:  5.5 sts/8 rows per 1" in both stockinette and lace, based on final blocked fabric. 

Needles:  US#6/4mm circular needles, or size to obtain gauge. 

As for the drink,  a Rum Daisy is fun, short and sweet.  
And an excuse to use my adorable cocktail glasses with daisies carved into the crystal.

1 oz fresh lemon juice
.5 oz grenadine
2.5 oz dark rum

Put 5-6 ice cubes in shaker with lemon juice, grenadine and rum.  Shake and pour over ice.  Add a cherry and a slice of lemon.

variation 1:   Instead of grenadine, add chambord.
variation 2:  leave the grenadine out .  Pour the shaken rum and lemon juice over ice and add an all natural raspberry soda.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

This week, the Playful Day Love Your Blog Prompt was "Ugly".

With that in mind, let's tour a few of my favorite pieces of art from my office wall.

I've always had a small collection of ugly art on one wall in my home.

The idea has lasted through college dorms, shared apartments, my own places, and now - each home I own.  A rich tapestry of velvet bullfighters, portraits of strangers, paint-by-number travesties, string-art sailboats, and thrift store finds have come and gone over the years, but the collection itself has never disappeared. 

It doesn't get bigger than one wall can handle, and as I said above, many pieces come and go - but there's been a steady grouping of about 5-10 things on my wall at any one time in my decorating career and they make me very happy.  And maybe they are kind of ugly, but I like how they look together and each one has a special reason for being kept. 


This came from my Grandma's house, and it's done by Morris Katz.  Morris Katz was an artist officially known as the "King of Schlock". He was also a speed painter who painted each of his pieces in less than 5 minutes, using a palette knife and bunched up toilet paper.  My Grandpa Irving met Morris at one of the hotels they used to go to every summer up in the Borscht Belt region of the Catskills and bought this directly from the man himself.  As other things rotate off the wall, this one will remain.  I may even buy a second Morris Katz someday on E-bay. 

The apples cost a buck at a yard sale and I love the colors and the frame, although I think my younger daughter can draw a better bushel. 

The dog art was a present from my friend Gabriella, who knows that I am not overly fond of dogs.  Or beige.  So she found an image of as many dogs as she could in a beige background and gave me this housewarming gift for our new place.  She informed me that her feelings would be hurt if it were not prominently displayed in my home for the rest of my life, and she's written a lovely,  heartfelt note on the back of the frame full of friendship and meaning.  Note that it is not on the wall, but has a place of importance on the cabinet.  I love Gabriella and I am obedient.

A bullfighter in velvet needs no explanation, right?  

This was my Grandma Edie's clown. He's not too big, not too doe-eyed, with just the right amount of velvet on the matting.   And he's happy, as opposed to creepy - which is hard to find in clown art.

My neighbor was throwing this out before she moved.  I kind of like the mix of colors and the urban scene - and after seeing it in her discard pile all day, I decided to run across the street at night at grab it off her curb.  Turns out she was the artist.  The shapes and details are pretty bad but I love the colors and the street scene and the weird little Lego-esque people she uses.

The Devil Seated on Toilet is a new one.  I really don't have an explanation for it besides the fact that I found it while looking for something else (a gift for a friend) in the velvet painting arena.  As soon as I realized what I was seeing, the E-bay bid went in.  Surprisingly, I was the only bidder so it became mine - for about $7.   He's smoking a cigarette, crying, seems exasperated, and is holding his tail out of the pot while taking a crap.   I'm not sure who the artist might be on this one, but he deserves a little credit for putting it all together.

Anyways, I think that about covers this week's prompt.  Sometimes ugly can be pretty awesome - and I do think each of these are more interesting than some poster I would have picked at IKEA because it matched the drapes.

I'm betting you know of an ugly painting you're drawn to? 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Good News -- Casey created an early option for VAT handling on Ravelry, so there is no need for me to wait until June 1 to move sales back into my Ravelry shop. 

As of this morning, EU knitters CAN purchase BabyCocktails patterns through Ravelry again. 

This means that this week's accessory sale coupon code will now work for you.  

I will also remain with LoveKnitting, as they have been great to work with and have a very useful website full of resources that make it easy for UK knitters to find the correct yarn substitures and size information to adapt an American-designed pattern.  Plus, it's always good to be in more than one spot.
Happy Monday!  I'll be back later in the week with this week's "ugly" post for A Playful Day's Love Your Blog Challenge.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

25% off all my accessory patterns...

I'm looking at Clara's Event schedule, and there are a TON of spring knitting events coming up.  New Hampshire, Stitches South, Maryland, Massachusetts, Okanagon Valley WA, Albequerque NM, Flagstaff AZ, and Woodstock, IL -- just to name a few.  I'm guessing many of you will be going, and I'm also guessing you'll be wanting to shop.

So how about some ideas to guide your shopping?  I always think accessories are the perfect way to try out new skeins - quick, easy and they won't break the bank.   Plus, I like having a mission at those events - it keeps me from coming home with beautiful things I will never use.   

For those of you not heading to the show,  I'm still thinking it 's time for accessory knitting.  Spring creates a little knitter's block for me - a sweater is too big and the thought of snuggling up in it is too far away.  Accessories, however, get me over the hump.  A cold morning walk for coffee means I can still put on a hat or cowl or mitts with my jean jacket - and they're the perfect size on my lap.

Plus they fit into my bag now that I'm moving around outdoors again. 


So, with that in mind -- 

from now until April 26th, all my self published single accessory patterns and accessory collections are 25% off on Ravelry with the code StitchesSampling. 

 including the Hudson Bays....


all the Tikis, my "Splash of" designs and Bourbons, Scotches and Beers.  
(You can get the collections or the single patterns) 

 I included all my old and new designs, some of which you may have missed,

And nothing uses more than 3 skeins.

 It's the perfect excuse to make a small purchase and ease into those deck chairs, isn't it?

Happy Spring!  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

So this week's prompt is "Beginnings" and I have to say that it's not coming to me so easily.

There are the obvious directions - and honestly, tons of them!  I have been expanding my base of yarns and my connections outside of the US in the past year, which has created wonderful "beginnings" associated with the new people and yarns in my world.

Projects and new yarny relationships with Julie Asselin, Victoria at Eden Cottage Yarns and  Ce of The Uncommon Thread are already underway.  I've got a package of gorgeous Sweetfiber skeins in the mail, Lakes Yarn and Fiber waiting patiently in a swatch, and 13 Mile waiting to be loved.  Those are all wonderful beginnings I'm right in the center of, but I keep trying to write a longer paragraph about them and it's not happening.  

If this writing thing was yarn, I'd keep swatching.

I think the interesting thing about beginnings is that sometimes you don't know that they ARE beginnings until later.  When something grows out of an otherwise mundane moment or a missed bus leads to an adventure or a problem shuts one door and you end up finding another.

Maybe I'm in the middle of a more bloggable beginning right now and I just don't know it?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

It's finally here.  After a long TEN weekends of snow and sleet and hail and whatever other crap can possibly fall from the sky, we had actual sunshine this Saturday and Sunday.  And it felt amazing. 

I've never been so excited to rake my yard, scrub my deck stairs, clean off the cushions and empty dead plants out of pots.  The basement was cleaned, the yard was cleared, the dump was visited, bikes and kayaks were unearthed and general happiness ensued.  

And once all the chores were done, drinks were made. 

This is my first new favorite warm weather beer, a wheat one with watermelon.  

And before you squnch up your nose, know that I was unsure as well.  But it's goooood - and it comes in a can so I can bring it to the beach when I meet my buddy Ellen. We're lucky enough to have a specialty beer store a short walk from the house and when we stopped in on Saturday,  they had a rep from 21st Amendment offering samples.  I probably would not have chosen this one otherwise, but it's light and crisp and not really sweet at all - the watermelon is pretty low key, but it's there and it does add a little something to the can.  

 Plus, in the sun, on the back deck, this stuff just feels like summer.

Along with my warm weather beer, you may notice a matching project?  This is the Annapurna yarn I picked up back in November at A Verb for Keeping Warm.  It was waiting for the sunshine.  I am in love with everything that Kristine Vejar does, and I am so excited to be working on a pattern in her yarn.  Don't fret if you look in the shop right now and don't see any Annapurna though - I've spoken to her and more is on the way.  Both pattern and yarn are expected later in May. 

I had a few lovely hours with both beer and yarn, but then my family returned and it was time to make something that my husband was excited to drink, as the watermelon beer was not manly enough to grill with.  

So, we mixed up Round Two -- rum and tonics with lime and pineapple. 

A few oz of rum, a splash of pineapple juice, and a squeeze of lime.  He was happy and the sun was still out.  My knitting was put away this time though, since lace and second drinks don't mix.  

Monday, April 06, 2015

If you haven't heard about the Love Your Blog Challenge, you can read more about it here, and if you haven't heard about Kate, you can read about her here.   She's a creative inspiration, a connector of makers, a wonderful storyteller, and a British knitter and blogger.  And she's asking a number of us to sit back for a moment and think about our blogs, to revisit the craft of writing them, and to take a little time to be mindful of them again - giving us a new topic each week.

It's kind of appropriate that Kate's first topic for me to write about is Interactions and Community, since she's she's somebody the internet has just recently brought to me.  Or more accurately, she's the latest person that I've connected with through these years of Blogging and Raveling and Tweeting and such, and she's part of a group of new friends - for me - that has just been coming together through the screens. And I know they would not have come together as easily and as seamlessly if it wasn't for my blog in the first place. 

I don't think the blog can actually stand alone and create a community - but it serves as an introduction in creating one and makes these interactions possible.  In our online world of makers, we begin to get to know people by reading their thoughts and seeing their work, and it's the blog that replaces the awkward small talk and starts the conversation for us.  The reader has the choice to sit back and just read, or to choose to participate in the dialog. 

As soon as I begin anticipating the next post from someone, I know I've found a good blog, and whether the writer knows it or not, I will be back to visit again.  There are blogs I've been reading for years where I don't say a word, there are blogs where the conversation led to a real person who I've met, and some where we have talked online for years and may never meet.  I love reading all of them.  Some of the blogs are funny, some are thoughtful, some are filled with beautiful photographs - and each one is a reflection of the person who writes them. 

It was through blogging that these lovely ladies ended up in my life.  They arrived on different paths and at different times - but each of our relationships can be traced back to this blog - or to me reading one of their blogs - and they are some of my favorite people in the knitting world. (Other favorite people are missing in the photo and loved just as much.  And note that baby Louisa is conveniently not looking at the camera because I met her in the hospital.)

For these guys alone, I should thank the blogiverse and keep this space filled with entertaining anecdotes and cocktails and knitting forever. 

However, my blog is a bit quieter these days, because I am/we are interacting on so many other platforms - and there's the time excuse.  But it's not really gone, is it?  I don't think I'll ever let go of this space.  And that's another benefit to the blogging community - it's something you can do on your own terms.  As much or as little as you like, but the more I think about it, the more I want to do just a little more.

It may be easier to pop a photo on Instagram or post a sentence on Twitter, but that's not exactly the same.  The blog is the spot where I can share more than a short paragraph or a single photo.  It's the place where I can actually define a thought or tell a story, should a good one come my way.   A one-liner is great, but it's through a real paragraph that we get a sense of each other. 

I may have 200 likes on an Instagram photo, but I don't have any connection to probably 180 of those little hearts and I may not even see the name of the likers.  Don't get me wrong --  I do love getting them, but it's quick and impersonal and we often just see a number.  In comparison, I usually recognize the names above most of my blog comments, because those are people I've been hearing from for years.  Maybe there are way less of them, but they're a bit more real to me.

Sometimes I'll also see those same names on Ravelry, and again on a button at Rhinebeck, and maybe at a event when I teach a class - and that's when the blog has led to an actual person who I got to meet.  And I never would have connected with them otherwise.  So there it is, right?