March 29, 2008

Dear Mom

I know you picked out this yarn when we were vacationing in Oregon together. I remember how we both admired the colors, standing in the back of Websters by their tremendous wall of sock yarn. And it certainly was pretty...

Panda Cotton2

And I know you particularly chose this yarn because it was not wool, and I realize that “not wool” is a very good thing for socks destined to live in Arizona.

I also know I promised you a pair of socks knit from this very yarn. For, well, last Christmas. And I appreciate how understanding you were when your wretch of a librarian-in-training daughter instead sent you a photograph of said yarn, with a note saying “IOU one pair of hand-knit socks.”

I know all of this.

But this yarn is hiding a dirty secret. After a few inches of knitting, you can see it.


Yup, it's pooling IN THE BALL. Unsurprisingly then, it also pooled when it was knit up...


I tried out a few different stitch patterns, seeing what the fabric would look like and whether anything would break up the pooling (I settled on plain stockinette, the bottom part of the sock).


What think you? Are the colors just as delightful when knit up into a sock? Or do they clash and seem too blotchy?

Would you perhaps prefer something a bit more muted? More solid? Perhaps a nice pair of lace socks knit up in a whisper-soft merino-silk blend?

As you can see, there’s no shortage of options…




My sock yarn stash is entirely at your disposal, should the pooly sock not suit you. And I guarantee you’ll have them in time for the very hottest part of summer.

Much love and many apologies,
Your tardy daughter

March 26, 2008


Belated catch-up on my Arizona goodies. I hit two yarn shops while I was in Tucson (did I mention how extraordinarily nice my non-knitting mom is?). Purls and Kiwi Knitting Company.

Purls was nice, with friendly staff, a decent selection, etc. Not as much sock yarn as I might like, but I can see Tucson not being a big wool sock knitting town. The really mind-bogglingly awesome thing, though, was that they had all 100+ colors of Malabrigo laceweight.

I think my knees actually went weak when I saw it.

Small surprise then, that I came home with a few of these (thanks Mom!).


One of these is destined to be the "Easy Flame Lace Scarf" (pdf link), from Knit and Tonic. Because if I bitched about knitting a worsted-weight scarf, surely lace-weight is the way to go.

I thought Kiwi had a slightly better selection overall. And they were super-nice, even volunteering to order a pattern for me that I’ve been trying – unsuccessfully – to find everywhere. So should you find yourself in Tucson, you should totally buy stuff from them.

And in the DIY fiber category, I found these, A Dyer's Garden and locally grown brazilwood chips for dyeing.


Courtesy of a very cool organization in Tucson called Native Seeds/SEARCH, which is dedicated to identifying and preserving local plants and seeds, both wild and cultivated. You can grow most anything in Tucson outside of the really brutal summer months, but these plants are exquisitely adapted to desert conditions and represent a rich, diverse botanical heritage. Far more diverse than you would expect from a desert.

Incidentally, if you enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver’s recent book, Native Seeds co-founder Gary Paul Nabhan’s book Coming Home to Eat provides another look at eating locally, in much less verdant terrain.

Finally, I acquired what is possibly the coolest thing I own.


Not pictured are the foot-long gold and white wings that stick out of the sides. Or the fact that it LIGHTS UP.

Marvel at its sheer awesomeness.

Next up: we see what a bad daughter I really am, especially considering how very generous and pro-knitting my dear mother has been.

March 23, 2008

Why hike when you can slog?

With a sigh of relief, I present the Irish Slogging, er, Hiking Scarf.


Specs: 2 full skeins Berroco Ultra Alpaca, Size 8 Brittany needles, finished length 67 inches
The quibbles: I would have liked a longer scarf, but I used up both skeins and didn’t have room in the yarn budget to buy another. Also, given how long *this* scarf took me, longer probably isn’t the direction I should be moving in. If I ever knit another cabled scarf like this (please God no), I would probably go up a needle size too, as this bad boy is pretty densely knit. Not stiff exactly, just compact.

Lastly, the cast on and bind-off ends don’t match – one end is much frillier than the other. Any ideas why that happens? And what to do about it?


Quibbles aside, this makes a fine and cozy scarf.

Almost makes the slog worth it.

March 20, 2008

The way life should be

Signs of spring are everywhere in Boston. Maine, on the other hand?


Still winter. In a C.S. Lewis’s White Witch, spring-will-never-come-as-long-as-my-frosty-heart-still-beats kind of way.

This is winter like I’ve never seen winter. I saw a body of water so solidly frozen that not only were people out on it ice-fishing, but they could safely drive their TRUCKS out onto the ice to get there. In mid-March.

Nevertheless, Maine is where I spent last weekend, having a fantastic time with friends.

And a friend’s dog.


Much fun was had, including stumbling into a wee yarn shop completely by accident (honest! We were shopping for souvenirs and oops - There it was! Yarn). I escaped with my credit card unscathed, though I almost convinced myself that I was fated to find that shop and who was I to deny fate.

We also saw the world’s largest snow woman.


Because I’m essentially a twelve-year-old boy at heart, the first question I asked when I heard about the snow woman was whether she had snowboobs. As you can see, the answer – sadly – is no. But you can still tell she’s a snow woman because she has eyelashes. Made out of skis.

The snow woman was built layer by layer, with volunteers shoveling and packing snow down into successively higher metal rings. As supporters of the communal snow woman effort, a lot of the local businesses have miniature snow woman displays out front.

And many of these snow women do have snowboobs, so I really think the snow woman engineers missed an opportunity there.

As if *that* wasn’t enough excitement, I also found the world’s best souvenir t-shirt.


Because everyone knows Drinking + Weaponry = Big Fun.

I even had time to finish up a little something…


March 14, 2008

You can thank me at your leisure

Walking home from work yesterday, I noticed that not only had someone’s dog crapped next to the sidewalk, but that someone had taken the time to create a little hand-lettered sign pasted to a popsicle stick that said “I miss your Ring-Ding eyes more than your Pixie Stick lips.”

Which they had stuck IN THE POOP.

The best part? I stood there debating whether to take a picture of it. You know, for the blog. Because a crazy sign stuck in poop is totally what everyone comes to a knitting blog hoping to see.

I finally decided I didn’t want to be Crazy Poop Lady trying to take a cell phone picture OF POOP in fading light on a busy sidewalk.

It was a near thing, though.

March 10, 2008

A far away city with a far away feel

When my Mom’s family originally moved to Tucson, my Mom was certain she’d been sent to hell. No trees. No running water. Just sand and rock and cactus as far as the eye could see. She came to appreciate the desert eventually, but I think her true love will always be for greener places.

I was born in Tucson and the desert still looks like home to me, in a way that New England probably never will. Perhaps that's why it never really struck me as a barren place. Barren or not, it is most definitely a desert - grey-green and brown and so dry that I resorted to using heavy-duty body lotion on my face after three days in the desert air.


But coming from grim late winter in Boston, it seemed positively bursting with life and greenery.


It’s just a prickly kind of life. And being a little prickly myself, I can respect that.


Adding to the impression of vigorous life, my aunt’s house was full of lively animals, much good conversation, and a lot of laughter. In my unbiased opinion, my aunt and uncles and family friends rate quite highly on the awesomeness scale.

I made sure to acquaint myself with their goats (non fiber-bearing, alas, but still awfully cute)…


And (from a respectful distance), their horses…


I also spent a lot of quality time with assorted dogs. This upped the ticking on my puppy-ological clock from a faint “someday” to an insistent “NOW NOW NOW RIGHTNOW.” I think I’m going through some sort of withdrawal now.

As for knitting, I spent a few nights doing this…


Why yes, that is the Irish Hiking Scarf. And no, I haven’t finished it. And yes, I am beginning to lose hope that I ever will finish it. Though even hopeless feels a lot less hopeless in front of a crackling fire, I must say.

I also finished the first repeat of the Twisted Flower sock, and I really feel like I accomplished something impressive.


Admittedly, this represents an entire cross-country plane ride, with layover, as well as two evenings of knitting, but I’m exceedingly pleased with my ability to sort out the mysterious twisty cable chart symbols. To the point where I may have crowed “Take that, bitches!” when I successfully executed the most complicated row of the pattern.

I even got some important shopping done. Tucson has the best thrift shops I’ve ever seen (I love you, Savers!). Plus there are excellent bookstores and charming Mexican import shops and a vigorous local foods initiative. We even had time to hit a few yarn shops, including one shop that we stumbled on entirely by accident.

My Mom and I are both fine shoppers on our own. But when we team up, we become an Unstoppable Shopping Machine. Thanks, Mom, for being such fabulous company (and for enabling me to give such a goodly boost to the Arizona economy).

More details on the Unstoppable Shopping Machine (Malabrigo! Folk art! Locally grown dyes!) when my camera cooperates by taking a picture that is both in focus and somewhat resembles the actual colors of anything I acquired on my trip.

March 1, 2008


I'm headed to Tucson, AZ for a week of lounging in the sun, spending time with my family, and eating Mexican food until I rupture something.

I'm crossing my fingers that the snow here in Boston lets up soon. Though I do have a seriously kick-ass sock pattern and a good book to keep me company, so I'm well prepared for travel delays.

Trip photos and Tucson yarn shop details when I return next weekend!