Monthly Archives: January 2012

An updated poncho

I’m thinking about knitting a poncho. That word conjures up images of fringed-bobbled-acrylic-crochet monstrosities of the 70’s:

Yipes. There’s like five kinds of horrible happening at once there.

I want to make something simpler, in a nice deep olive green. Or maybe brown. Look at that nice cowl neck on the top one! And the middle one has this nice subtle herringbone stitch thing going on.

1. Easy Folded Poncho 2. Chaleur 3. Spine

Spine looks wild with all those rainbow triangles, but if you did the poncho in dark brown and all the triangle stuff in a solid color one shade lighter, it would be less kooky.

Before I get too excited I need to finish up the three or four things I already have on needles.

Convection Mittens: another free foxflat-illustrated pattern

Check out my guest post today on This pattern is a little project I’ve been working on and am so glad to team up with Whipup to share. It’s another illustrated sewing pattern, this one for Convection Mittens. They’re felted wool with full fleece liners…your hands will stay toasty no matter what!

Convection Mittens

Convection Mittens

Who wears your handknits?

You know what’s a sad sight for any knitter thumbing through the racks at Goodwill? Handknit sweaters. Poor sweaters! With their tagless necklines and lumpy seams, the hours of love and attention that went into their creation reduced to $3.49.

Some have obvious shortcomings: lime acrylic, stiff fit, gimmicky patterns. Others must have clashed with their owner’s taste: allergic to wool, hates pink, looks plump in cardigans. Were they ever worn?

The plan to keep my sweaters from living out their golden years at Goodwill is two-fold:
1. Try and knit classic shapes in practical colors.
2. Knit sweaters for no one but myself, with one exception: hypothetical future children who are too young to have a say in their wardrobe. I think of it as efficient use of my precious knitting hours. Better to make mittens, socks, or a shawl for others…something that if they don’t like, they can hide in some tall boots or take off when they get in the door.  A sweater has to be the right color and style and fit to wear around all day, which is much too much responsibility when trying to make a gift.

I suppose the second exception to rule #2 is my mom. She and I are both notorious for handing over a gift and saying, “If you don’t like it just tell me and I’ll wear it.” Which means, “I bought/made this with both of our tastes in mind.” It’s really a very handy system. This Christmas I gave her a shawl made from handspun, which she kept. She sent me this picture last month of her all styled up. I wouldn’t have thought to put the cowl with the shawl – nice, mom!

Who wears your handknits? Do you gift many of them? And only certain articles or everything from accessories to sweaters?


I pressed that spinning pedal so many times yesterday that my foot cramped. Here are the fruits of that labor: 200 yards of 2-ply black alpaca.

I have to take a break from spinning today for errands and Spanish homework. Hahaha…how weird does it feel to have homework? I enrolled in Spanish 101, which meets four times a week during my lunch hour. Read and I will probably live in a Spanish-speaking country while he researches for his dissertation, and knowing some of the language would help me make friends. I got through high school and college requirements with Latin – never a drop of Spanish – so I’m truly starting at the beginning.

It’s a room full of underclassmen, and I have to get over my fear of looking foolish in front of students who may come to see me in a professional setting. But the upside is that, maybe for the first time in my  life, I enrolled in a graded, credited college course with no related degree or certificate or requirement. Just a desire to learn the subject. It’s a good feeling!


The snow is falling, the coffee is made, the 3rd season of Sons of Anarchy is up on Netflix, and UPS delivered the alpaca/merino blend from the mill. My Saturday is all set.

The Shirt


This is one of my favorite shirts. There is a story that helps explain why, and I will tell it to you.

When my mom and aunt were in town they wanted to go shopping. So we spent an afternoon walking up and down both sides of Newbury St. There are a dozen second-hand and consignment stores on Newbury, and I think we went into every one. We tried on boots, pumps, jackets, jeans…everything. I made one purchase and it was this steel gray silk shirt with metal grommets. The back dips low and there’s an exposed zipper. It’s a cool shirt.

The next day I wore the shirt to work. I set down my bag, took of my coat, and walked into Natacha’s office to show off my $15 steal. Natacha is, besides my #1 office friend, my #1 Boston stylish friend (different wardrobe cultures in Ohio and Oregon necessitate regional frontrunners). The is our conversation…

K: Hey look at the new shirt I got.
N: Ooo that is so cute! Turn around…. huh that is so funny I used to have a shirt just like that.
K: Really?
N: Yeah but I sold it to a consignment store.
K: Um, I bought this at a consignment store.
N: The shirt just sold actually. It was at Second Time Around on Newbury St.
K: Are you telling me that out of 200 items I picked up that day, I bought YOUR SHIRT?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?? 

There is no moral to the story. Maybe that Natacha should let me paw through her castoff clothes before she takes them to the consignment store. But mostly it’s just one of those serendipity stories like, “I was traveling in another country and ended up on a train with my highschool classmate can you believe it.”


Cat habits


Our Oregon roommate once walked in on Teddy peeing in the kitchen sink. He recreated the scene for us when we got home: What’s weird is that he was really chill about it. He just looked over at me like (*little cat waving*) “Hey man…what’s goin on?”

Recently he’s started doing it again, only in the bathroom sink. Or the bathtub. He waits until you’ve gone in for your own bathroom break and trots in to join you.  “Hey let’s pee together!”

It’s kind of cool that he’s figured out the whole drain thing. The pet voice he was assigned (you do this too, right?) was of the lovable doofus, and Edith got the snooty southern aristocrat. But so far he is turning out to be the brains of the operation.

Now you’ll never want to use our bathroom….unnnnnless you want to try and lure the amazing sink peeing cat.


43 ounces of alpaca fiber…

…cleaned, carded, and ready to spin. I picked up it up yesterday from Still River Mill, just over the Connecticut border. It’s the fiber shorn from Read’s mom’s alpacas that I brought back from Oregon.

alpaca fiber

The white fiber was too long for the mill machines to process, but it has been washed. I may hand card it. Or stuff a pillow with it. The black fiber processed just fine. Half of it I kept 100% alpaca, and half I’m having blended with merino to make a 50/50 mix. The merino will add elasticity and breathability (alpaca garments are almost too warm).

Here’s the bag of 100% alpaca:

I think it should become a blanket. Maybe a Quilt & Cable, a blanket-sized Kent Gent, or Elm Avenue. I need to make the alpaca’s owners something too.

Now for the big question. Was processing this fiber cheaper than buying roving outright?
I brought in 3.3 pounds of black alpaca fiber. For the simplicity’s sake, I’m keeping the merino blending out of the equation and assuming 100% alpaca for the whole bag.
It cost $12.50/lb to wash and clean it (12.5 x 3.3 = 41.25).
After the cleaning, 2.7 pounds remained. It cost $12.50/lb to turn it into roving (12.5. x 2.7 = 33.75).
So the bag of black roving, which is 43.2 ounces, cost $75.00.

A scan of google shopping results lists  $2.75/oz to $3.50/oz as the market rate for some alpaca roving. I like bargain shopping, so let’s assume I buy a few pounds at $2.75/oz.  A full 43.2 ounces would cost $118.80.

Throw in the half tank of gas it cost to visit Still River Mill, and I may have broke even. Breaking even is actually really good when it comes to this stuff. Of course the alpaca’s owners are my in-laws and they kindly gave me bags of fiber for free. But maybe you know some pet alpacas or sheep whose fiber isn’t being used. It’d be worth taking it to a mill.

Besides, DIY is not always a money-saving venture…which, if you like DIY, I’m sure you know. My friend estimates her chickens’ eggs cost at least 25 cents dollars apiece. Many of the drool-worthy sweater patterns on ravelry call for at least $100 in yarn. And there was that best-selling book called “The $64 Tomato”, the title of which is sadly not hyperbole. So yeah…breaking even is good. And it’s great fun (for everyone? maybe just for a fiber enthusiast) to see something through from animal to finished object.

Winter Walks near Boston


The big challenge of winter isn’t the cold – it’s the short window of daylight. If you work a 9 to 5, a walk to the store or to a friend’s house can still happen after work, but probably not a walk in the woods. Those are relegated to the weekends.

We’ve been trying to take advantage of our opportunities. The photos in this post were taken at Estabrook Woods and Mt. Misery. Both spots are beautiful, easy hikes. I’d describe them as dog-friendly alternatives to Walden Pond – they’re close to Concord, free, and feature little waterways and ponds. And I loved walking them in January.




I would like to nominate blue, underdog of the forest’s color palette, as winter’s winner. Summer is all about green. And gold, orange, and red get their heyday in autumn. But look at that icy cobalt water, and the cool blue shadows stretching behind the tree trunks, and all the sky visible behind bare branches.




Oh yes, and we walked past the most beautiful barn. Maybe it was the setting sun, or the quintessential New England stone wall, but the scene spoke to me. Among other things, wouldn’t it make the best wedding spot?


2011 in review

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Last night we were musing that since the world ends in 2012, we might as well live the next 12 months like there won’t be any after. But before we go wild, it’s fun to look back on the last 12 months…

There was the cooking. For the first time I tried tamales, scape pesto, fried green tomatoes, and fried rice balls. The best were the rice balls.

There was knitting and sewing. A few firsts: knitting a shawl, trying 2-color stranded, publishing a sewing pattern, and publishing a knitting pattern. In total, 19 finished objects, the 19th being a bear hat sent to Colorado for a very cute baby Nels…

Even more important than making objects and meals though, this year we worked at making Boston our home. Looking at a year’s worth of photos reminded me of all our explorations, adventures, friends, and visitors.

All of this making and adventuring wouldn’t be the same without a certain tall blond student and a graying hound dog….

…and without YOU! Thank you for reading, commenting, and offering advice, insight, and encouragement. I’m so thankful for the community created here and I look forward to another year.