Monthly Archives: August 2011

Scrap Lap Blanket

I’ve been working on a small-ish striped blanket whose stripes are devouring my stash of yarn scraps. In there so far are my first dyed handspun, the cuffs of a frogged sweater, and the remnants from stripey legwarmers. It’s going to be fairly narrow, so I might try knitting or crocheting a border just to add width. All of the yarns are natural fiber and somewhere in the yellow-green-blue-gray family, but they represent a range of lusters.

The devilish thing about scrap-busting projects is that I end up supplementing scraps with new materials. This pretty much defeats the purpose, but at least at project’s end I’m left with a new set of scrap skein colors to stare at. This time it was sale skeins from Webs. THE Webs…the ones that are so badass they own the rights to Heidelblogknits showed me the ropes a couple weeks ago. I’m the person who heads straight to the back of any store to check out the sale bins, and at Webs, the sale bins fill an entire warehouse. I was in heaven.

This is my inspiration board for scrap-busting projects. Beautiful and/or useful items…no chotchkies. Do you have any to add?

Beekeeper’s Quilt
– Sea Urchin Pin Cushion 
Scrappy Lengthwise Scarf
Ida’s Kitchen
– Mug and French Press Jacket 
– Pathways Blanket

Not so plain & simple?

The differences between Oregon professional dress and Boston professional dress are not subtle. The short of it is that all jeans-based ensembles have been relegated to weekend wear and I had to buy a few pairs of heels. Any new knitwear needs to be styled for the workplace, ‘cuz I definitely don’t need more casual outfits.

Here’s where I need help. How can I dress up my newest sweater, the Plain and Simple Pullover by Veera Välimäki? This is the sweater that I made from frogging, washing, and un-plying miles of triple stranded wool from a garage sale sweater. I finally sewed on those buttons and whaddya know, it’s pretty cute. Thin weight, which is great for our overheated offices, and a long fitted shape. What’s it need to be a step or two above jeans?

Plain & Simple Pullover

Pattern: Plain & Simple Pullover by Veera Välimäki
Yarn: Re-used wool from LLBean fisherman’s sweater
Needles: 3 for sweater and 2.5 for neck/armhole ribbing
Ravelry link

Plain & Simple Pullover
Plain & Simple Pullover
Plain & Simple Pullover

West coast knitting

This blog’s been light on the knitting lately, so here are some Oregon trip highlights from that department.

My airplane project was this Pinstripe Slouch Hat in some Widdershin handspun.

It looked great for about 3 inches. But then the colors started to pool and stripe, which interfered with the vertical lines of the pinstripes. It was a particularly hard one to frog because I think it ultimately could’ve been okay. But why put in all the hard work of handspinning for something that’s just okay. There’s 457 yards there, which should be enough for a shawl for my mom…something with longer rows to eliminate striping. Do you have any to suggest?

pinstripe slouch hat

In 2009 I wrote about my first efforts at carding, dyeing, and spinning a small bag of yarn from Read’s mom’s alpacas. There are many seasons worth of fiber stored high and dry in their barn, and Sally graciously said it could be mine for the taking. I picked through it all last week and with space bags and a vacuum, condensed two garbage bags full into three plane-ready parcels. If all goes as planned, it’ll be cleaned, blended, and carded at Still River Mill (and part of it turned into a Christmas present for Sally). I am REALLY pumped.

alpaca fiber

Alpaca Fiber

In Eugene we made a visit to Soft Horizons, my favorite little knit shop. They have this basket of mill ends in the back that always sucks me in. I picked out about a pound of different wools. I also bought a hank of Frolicking Feet in Navajo Sky – maybe it’ll work better for the Pinstripe Slouch Hat.


My homework is knitting Tami (of the Tulum trip) a new hat. She shrunk her last one in the washing machine (Tami!!!!). The shrunk one was awfully cute (see?), but Tami picked out a deep dark eggplant wool/yak blend that just might top it. And I do owe her a birthday present. In fact I better go work on it right now.

The Genesis of Samson

Whelp, I had to say bye to Oregon yesterday. Read’s staying one more week. I got in to Boston this morning after a long night of travel on a delayed red-eye flight. All that sleep deprivation, followed by rides on a bus, then the subway, then another bus, had me feeling nauseous. Like “start scoping the immediate area for a trashcan just in case” nauseous. But when the apartment door opened, there was Samson jumping and wagging. Not many greetings can compare to a happy dog. A Samson-lunch-nap trifecta cured me.

August marks the 7th anniversary of this Katie-Samson partnership. I’ve been meaning to type out the story of our meeting, and today was the lazy kind of recovery day for making that happen. Previously this story has existed only as oral history, and if you’re a non-blog friend you probably know it, but for all others, I offer The Genesis of Samson.


I spent the summer of 2004 as the live-in Art Lady (official title…just ask someone from camp) of Oty’Okwa. The camp introduced city kids from Columbus to the wilds of Hocking Hills State Park in south central Ohio for 7-10 days at a time. The job was 20% art education, 30% mentoring, and 50% disaster cleanup. It was exhausting and crazy and easily one of my favorite jobs ever.

Sometime after we’d started painting a spectacular 80 ft. camp mural, but before I got a raging case of conjunctivitis, the youngest cabin announced there was a Rottweiler puppy living in the forest. I was intrigued. Really? A dog? What’s it look like?  Their responses – like a Rottweiler! – left me unconvinced. Maybe they’d encountered a loose dog from the state campground, or maybe they were bonding over the fun of telling all the staff a tall tale.

Days later they brought me the sorriest looking dog on a rope. Oh god he was ugly; bloated with weight, no fur along his back. His tail was tucked, his head down. He winced when anyone raised their voice or raised an object.

“We caught him with hot dogs, Miss Katie!”

“That is one horrible looking dog. And it’s no Rottweiler puppy, I can guarantee you that.”

“Nu-uh. It’s a Rottweiler! He’s going to get HUGE. Can you watch him?”

Then they went on a hike and left me standing there holding the rope. I like dogs, but this dog was pitiful. He was skittish and meek, fat but malnourished. His body was all out of proportion, which would be forgivable if he had a cool personality…but he seemed very dull. He dutifully followed me into the art room and stared from the corner while I set up the day’s projects. He sat, then laid down, then fell asleep. That night I walked him to my cabin and patted a bottom bunk. He hopped up and slept all through the night curled into a little fox ball. The dog was pitiful, but he was housetrained. I soon realized that there was no point to the rope leash since everywhere I went the dog was right behind.

I don’t remember the how or why, but the kids started calling him Samson.

That week the camp janitor, Scotty, provided some backstory: Sam and a little white dog had been at camp since fall. Whether runaways or cast-offs, the dogs spent the winter gorging on dumpsters and sleeping off their trash hangovers in the camp bathrooms.  More than once Scotty found the pair passed out in pools of their own vomit and had to chase them back into the cold. The white dog was hit by a car in the spring, and ever since Sam had been wandering the woods by himself. Scotty had seen Sam fighting raccoons for trash outside the dumpsters.

Hmm…a lonely, depressed, trash-addicted raccoon fighter?? Yeah, I was starting to like this dog.

Gorge trip

Samson worked to reverse his reputation as a wayward drifter. Counselors told me he was tagging along on overnight hikes and protecting the little campers from raccoons. When he wasn’t hiking, he slept under my table in the art room or waited outside the mess hall for meals to end (and the inevitable handouts that followed). When I was ready for bed I’d just stand in the middle of the field and whistle. Out of the dark corners of camp a little black form came running, and together we walked to our cabin.

One afternoon in late summer I was cleaning the artroom when across the field I spotted a familiar portly shape. Scotty’s truck was parked out front of the mess hall, and Samson was approaching it with purpose. What was he doing? I watched him sniff the air. He looked left, then right, then strode up to the back tire of Scotty’s truck and watered the entire hubcap. One wheel wasn’t enough though…no, not for all those cold winter days getting kicked out of the heated buildings. He trotted a few feet and peed all over the front tire too. An entire state park to pee in and Sam randomly chooses Scotty’s back AND front tires? I don’t think so. I’d just witnessed canine revenge, and I loved this dog for it.

On a two-day break between camp sessions I took Sam into the city for a vet visit. My coworkers tried to prep me for what they thought would be bad news: that dog is old, he’s sick, he’s old AND sick, etc. But after a thorough check-up the vet said that Sam was only 4 or 5 years old. “He’s just had a terrible life is all.” I was told that the nicks on his ear, the ones I’d assumed were from fighting raccoons, were actually from frostbite. Poor Sam…no wonder he hates being cold. He’s now 11 going on 12. Hopefully he’s got a few more years of adventure in him.

Oregon, I’ve missed you

Oregon Coast