Backlog of Christmas Knitting

Now that everyone’s opened their gifts I can post pictures of my Christmas knitting!

1. Natacha’s Gold Cowl

Technically this was not a Christmas gift but a birthday present for my kind, outrageous, Sagittarius coworker. She helps make the new job a place I want to go each morning. The pattern – Spiral Cowl –  is so easy and pretty.

When my coworkers saw the present they said, “Ohh you should sell those! You could be rich!” Rich??? I wanted to tell them how hard it would be to knit cowls en-masse and make a living from it…much less get rich. The yarn isn’t cheap. And then there’s the time. Maybe if I got into pattern designing. We don’t like to pay El Salvadoran or Guatemalan living wages for our clothes, so I’d be hard pressed to find people who want to pay an American living wage for the knitting. Besides, hobbies aren’t really for making money. They’re usually where I spend my money…making some gifts out of it is just a nice bonus! So there I am – standing in the office thinking about the global economy and my own destructive buying habits and the measure of a good hobby. But I forced a nice smile for my coworkers and said thank you that’s such a nice compliment.


Natacha's birthday cowl

2. The Sweater to Restore Hope

Read overheard a classmate in the student lounge lamenting a lack of good sweater options for her husband. He gave her my email. I spent a couple replies making sure she was not under any of my coworkers’ grand illusions (You realize buying a sweater is going to be a LOT cheaper, right?). Much to my delight, I discovered around the third email or so that I had a genuine lover of handmade goods on the other line.  She stole a sweater from the hubby’s closet and met me at Mind Eye Yarn in Cambridge. We picked doublestranded gray and navy wool, with a shawl-collared pattern from Rowan Knitting For Him (thank you Belmont Public Library).

She paid for the yarn and needles and on top of that I asked for $50. I agonized coming up with an amount (After all, we already established I’m not making a living off this knitting stuff!) I wanted to acknowledge my time, but also be reasonable for someone who lives on a student stipend and still wants to buy handmade with her money. I researched other made-to-order sweaters online and found similar amounts. If you’ve had to calculate a price for your knitting, let me know in the comments how you did it.

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His burgundy sweater functioned as a template

Commissioned sweater

My new book - Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques - was invaluable for things like adding the collar

Commissioned sweater

The gift was completed during my Christmas travels in Cleveland and mailed off to Boston

3. Mom’s Christmas Slippers

I’ve had a Noro sweater in my closet for a couple years now and it just never quite made the cut for What should I wear today? It’s too hot for indoors, the collar doesn’t lay right, and while the colors looked right at home in Eugene, Oregon, they’re a little kooky for east coast living. This December I finally made the call to frog it.

the Noro sweater that is no more

the Noro sweater that is no more

I love Noro in alternating stripes – a look made famous by Jared Flood’s striped scarf – so I planned for a pair of  felted Fuzzy Feet slippers for my mom.  That next week I unwrapped an ugly gray suede shirt in an office white elephant exchange, and everyone was shocked to see how excited I was over it. I explained that it would make the perfect soles for my mom’s slippers.

Christmas Slippers

Before felting

BEFORE and AFTER felting the slippers

Teddy oversees the felting process

Pre-punching the slipper sole holes

Pre-punching the suede soles with an old fashioned leather puncher

Suede sole of Mom's christmas slippers

I sewed twice around with extra-strong thread so that every space has a thread running over top and underneath

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Ta-da! Mom said she liked them a lot. Dad even requested a pair


The Ballad of Sam’s Coats

The First Coat: It was burgundy wool with a mock turtleneck. Very distinguished. The yarn came from a thrift store sweater that I unwound. On a hike up Spencer’s Butte in Oregon Sam ran off. I heard him howling and tracking something for a while…then nothing. Forty five minutes later he stumbled into the dark parking lot. Shivering. Soaking wet. NO SWEATER. He told a big story about how a raccoon accosted him in the woods, stole the sweater, and pushed him into a creek. Every time he tells it the raccoon gets bigger and the creek deeper.

The Second Coat: This one was a beauty. Cream-colored wool with dark blue and red stripes. Very collegiate. One morning Sam walked out into the yard with the sweater on his back, and when I called him to come back in, NO SWEATER. He played dumb this time, trying to make me believe that he never had it on in the first place. A month later I found it…snagged on the compost pile fence ala Peter Rabbit. I can only guess that Sam was elbow-deep in compost when he heard me calling him. The sweater was stuck so he had to wriggle out and leave it hanging.  Sadly, a month of Oregon rain had ruined it beyond repair and I swore I wouldn’t knit Sam another.

sam in bed

No really...and it wasn't just one raccoon. It was a gang of them.

The Third Coat: Just finished it today. Felted handspun on one side and black fleece on the other. Very warm and washable. The style reminds me of those blankets horses wear in the winter. I was inspired to use up the first few skeins of yarn I ever spun – they’re lumpy and inconsistent and too weird for anything you’d wear in public. This coat is basically a big rectangle of garter stitch (sz 10.5 needles) tapered at the hindquarters. The neckband extends into a 6 inch tab and in the middle there’s a wide fleece belly tab. I sewed a piece of black fleece to the felted wool, then trimmed all the edges. For now safety pins will do as closures, but I put velcro on my shopping list.

velcro will replace the safety pins

the warmth of wool and the wind-blocking-power of fleece!

sam's new dog coat

the coat's colorful underside

wool lining of sam's coat

close-up of the felted garter stitch

sam finds our apt too chilly

I know Sam, I think we should turn up the thermostat too

Sedum sweater for my first autumn in Boston

It’s finished! I love this cardigan. Knitting the sweater body in seed stitch was time-consuming – I questioned its value at some points – but it made for an extra-squishy final product. Given that Jane Richmond seriously downplays her sedum sweater pattern (“just some notes”) I thought the pattern was helpful and easy to follow. The Green Mountain Spinnery wool/mohair that I bought for $6/skein at Soft Horizons’ clearance sale was more than worth the money. I would knit with it again. If you’re not a knitter, just enjoy the photos. If you are, keep scrolling for detailed pattern notes.

sedum sweater 005
Does anyone know the architectural name for these stacked row houses in Boston? I’ve been calling them “layer cake houses.” Descriptive, but likely not correct.


1. Body knit with 10.5 needles, bottom/top ribbing knit with 8 needles, and button band/wrists knit with 7 needles.

2. Gauge was 14-15 stitches per 4 inches

3. I knit the collar first, and then ran the button band up the entire vertical edge of the sweater

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The button band pulls together slightly with sz 7 needles, but it’s the lesser of the two evils. Larger needle sizes result in a less structured band that doesn’t provide enough stiffness to support the buttons
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Pulling up the collar against that Boston breeze

portrait of Edith the gray cat

Unrelated Edith portrait

These notes are intended for a small-size sweater (32″ bust) knit with sz. 10.5 needles at a gauge of 15 stitches per 4 inches.

Sweater body: CO 46.  Row 1:  seed stitch. Row 2: K1, pm, seed stitch 8, pm, seed stitch 28, pm, seed stitch 8, pm, K1. Row 3: increase at each edge and on either side of each marker. Row 4: Work seed stitch. Repeat rows 3 & 4 until 20 st. before first marker. Then repeat rows 3 & 4, but stop increasing at neck edge; only increase either side of markers. Do this until 30 st. before first marker. Put sleeves on scrap yarn (46 st. each). Continue working the body for 30 rows. Place a marker at the exact center of the back and decrease according to meganimal’s notes on the sedum sweater (see #3).  Knit 6-7 rows in between each decrease and increase row, or you’ll get some puckering. I started the bottom ribbing 80 rows after placing the sleeves on scrap yarn. Switch to sz. 8 needles for the ribbing.

Collar: Using sz. 8 needles, pick up 101 stitches. K4, work in 3 x 3 ribbing until 4 st remain, p4 (this extra edge stitch will preserve the look of 3 x 3 ribbing even after you attach the button band to either side of the collar). I worked the collar for 30 rows. I would’ve done a little longer if I’d had more yarn.

Sleeves: Using sz 10.5 needles, pick up stitches from scrap yarn (placing marker at center of underarm) and work about 22 rows. Decrease 1 st either side of marker. Work decrease round two more times, each one after knitting about 22 rows. After working 90 rows, switch to sz. 7 needles for wrist ribbing. I worked wrist ribbing in 2 x 2. The sleeves stretched 1-2 inches after blocking.

Button band: Using sz. 7 needles, pick up 135 stitches along sweater edge and work in 3 x 3 ribbing. I worked the button band for 25 rows before binding off.

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Hello autumn!

Knitters: 1 *** Google: 0

Last week I was reminded of technology’s limitations. That’s rare. Usually it’s me with the limitation, as I realize that the computer or software is obviously and unequivocally capable of much more than what I’m able to ask of it. I feel this way pretty much every time I attempt something on Adobe design suite. But having a computer mess up is a relief. I interpret it as proof that we’re not hurtling towards that creepy sci-fi world where robots do everything for us and then suddenly develop consciousness and take over the planet. Or not hurtling as quickly anyway.

So last week I was performing my favorite pattern search on ravelry – cardigans – and I came across this beauty. Simple but clever construction. More torso coverage than most shrugs. Repeating radial lines and a reversible collar. YESSSS

copyright: Pitsikuduja

But then I saw the pattern only came in Finnish. I tried running it through Google Translator, thinking that it wouldn’t be perfect, but there’d be enough coherence that I could make it out. Here is an excerpt:

Always lift the right hand edge first layer of knit stitch.Note. when you knit 3 rows: ta, start with the condensed layers as follows: * Knit the next layer of the right side of chassis 34 (37) 38 (41) 42 (45) s of patients continue to pattern by. Turn the work, please yo needle and knit 34 (37) 38 (41) 42 (45) s of patients continue to pattern by.

Holy smokes, what a mess. Sometimes partial sense is even worse than an entirely different language. It’s a false promise of getting closer to making sense of the thing. On a whim, I wrote to one of the knitters who had posted her completed project on the pattern page. Her project notes were written in English, so I asked if she would be able to translate the pattern…or if she knew of an English translation anywhere. One hour and 59 minutes later I received this reply:


I don’t know what got into me, but I started translating next minute after reading your message. Check this out 😀 Enjoy!

Cheers, Lilia

copyright: Lilia (aka the most generous, kind, and amazing ravelry user I've met)

I could not stop smiling all day. This random gesture of generosity from a stranger was just awesome. A few years and I’m sure Google Translator will branch out for specific sectors and their specialized jargon. But until then…KNITTERS: 1 *** GOOGLE: 0 !!!!!!

Sedum sweater cast-on

Before I left Oregon, I had to spend a yarn store gift certificate. They happened to be in the middle of a big inventory reduction sale (eee!), so I bought up seven or eight skeins of a squishy soft gray wool. Just this past week I cast on the Sedum sweater (ravelry link). So far I’m feeling good about it…

Sedum sweater WIP

Sedum sweater progress

Sedum sweater WIP

You're jealous of my bathroom, aren't you? Floor to ceiling pink tile baby.

I’m knitting at a slightly tighter gauge than the Sedum pattern – about 15 st./4in. on 10.5 needles. It’s been relatively easy to adjust the instructions if I keep a little pen and paper nearby for arithmetic. After the Snowbird Cardigan, I see the beauty in top-down raglan design since it allows for adjustments as you knit along.

Snowbird cardigan unexpectedly wearable in late May

I started Heidi Kirrmaier’s Snowbird cardigan (ravelry link) in March, never thinking that I’d be able to wear it upon completion. But Oregon’s been extra rainy and extra cold this year (we had the heat on last week! terrible!) and so I’m wearing my finished cardigan to work today. I love it. It’s just what I wanted, and I’m so glad that I redid the sleeves.

It’s not as long as the pattern calls for, and there aren’t any pockets, but I ran out of yarn and I think in the end…I like it shorter and simpler. The pattern is very good – I would purchase more from this designer. I did a lot of edits since I started with thinner yarn that required smaller needles. I plan to make another cardigan with gray yarn, only this time I’ll use thicker weight so it’ll knit up faster.

snowbird cardigan FINISHEd!!


it's shorter and pocketless compared to the pattern


seam detailing

This cardigan should be useful in Boston. We finally broke the news to Samson that we’re moving to colder country. He took it pretty hard…insisting that we practice a bedtime routine that allows for maximum bed-heat-retention.

Sam has two epic fears ruling his life: hunger and being cold

Cast On: Snowbird cardigan

Late last week my friend and coworker had some crowns put in, a root canal, AND her wisdom teeth removed…all in one fell swoop. Talk about pain meds. I took work off to spend the day with her. I knew I’d be sitting in the waiting room a while and maybe watching tv while she slept. This all led me to one important conclusion—I needed a big new knitting project. And not a stash project. One where I pick out a pattern and go buy the yarn and everything.

Snowbird photo by PiPiBird on ravelry


I’ve been wanting to try a simple open cardigan and this post from barefoot rooster pointed me towards the Snowbird cardigan from Heidi Kirrmaier. I picked out a silk/wool blend and bought the pattern off ravelry (username=foxflat). That marks the first time I’ve bought a pattern online – it was really easy. I’ve never knit a raglan-type sweater in the round so I’m looking forward to it. I may shorten it up some – depends how quickly I go through the skeins I bought.

My other big project this week was trying to figure out how to keep the cats out of our roommate’s houseplants. Their litterbox is upstairs and amazingly, they seem to be too lazy to walk up there. Read says it’s because they probably prefer real dirt to litter. Either way…poor plants. We need to fix it. Do any of you have tried and true strategies? This is what we’ve come up with so far: 

Kabob sticks, planted sharp side up


more cat traps


Hope you had an enjoyable weekend! I’ll leave you with two bits of Oregon-themed happiness.

The first is a link to one of my favorite songs–Loretta Lynn is one classy lady.  Portland Oregon w/ Jack White

The second is a photo from a warm afternoon walk around the Portland Rose Garden yesterday. No roses yet…but all of the fruit trees were in bloom. So pretty.

Portland Rose Garden in March