Friday, December 11, 2009

Twisted Tilda

A quick idea for a Christmas gift: grab some size 15 needles, some alpaca wool and get knitting. Henny Garfunkel makes and sells these shawls for $225 on her web site
modeled by none other than Tilda Swinton!
I saw a mention in the November issue of Paper Magazine. Photographer Garfunkel calls it "neck armor."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

All I Want For Christmas Is

I am in awe of the lovely camel-colored merino wool cardigan and strapless top Charlize Theron wears in the October issue of Vogue, hand knit by the Uruguayan Knitting Collective used by Lutz and Patmos. The cardigan takes 35 hours to create; the top, which doubles as a scarf/cowl/hood, nine hours. And, most beautifully of all, both are on sale for the holidays.

Only black and gray are available.
See it here:
And here:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pleasure Principle

When I used to care for elementary school children, I made friends with a precocious and inventive 7-year-old second-grader who liked to check in on my progress as her father dropped her off in the morning.
One day she had a brainstorm. “I’m going to buy you a knitting machine, Cassandra, so you can knit a sweater all in one day.”
“That’s so nice of you, Julia,” I said. “But the first thing I would do is knit you a really long scarf in your favorite color.”
To her, knitting was a means to an end — a finished sweater — and she wanted to give me a gift that would hasten its completion. Much like the reaction of many people uninitiated to the pleasures of the process, she misunderstood why I knit. Like a really engrossing book you don’t want to end, a knitter’s work-in-progress is to be relished, patiently and perfectly executed, to be unraveled many rows down or “frogged” (think rip-it, rip-it) when necessary, restitched endlessly if need be.

So it was with great satisfaction that I at last discovered a book full of patterns that shared my design aesthetic, simple yet substantial projects to be savored.
Flipping through a book on the library’s new acquisitions shelf, I came across “Simple Style: 19 Innovative to Traditional Designs With Simple Knitting Techniques” by Ann Budd. The cover has a mossy green, olive and earth brown variegated wool sweater with the sleeves knit lengthwise with a big seam down the center of the front and back, boldly joining the two halves.
Inside were a couple dozen sweaters, a shawl and two skirts, minimalist and quietly lovely, each in its own way.
A cream A-line skirt knit lengthwise in two pieces, front and back, achieves its modest flair with short rows and judicious placing of eyelets at the hem.
A mustard-colored man’s-style v-neck vest is knit generously enough to hit just at the hips and a coordinating tie drapes the waist. In the place of side seaming there is a generous band of ribbing, providing just the perfect amount of stretch. It’s the type of vest you see in the store and buy in every color available, and use to anchor your fall-into-winter-into-spring wardrobe, since it’s knit in merino wool, cool enough for spring with a tee underneath, and warm enough for winter layered over a turtleneck and under a blazer.
The most stunning piece, and equally ambitious, is the sleeved shawl, really a seed-stitched cardigan knit in burnt umber alpaca yarn, with a fat braided cable in place of buttons, placket and neckline. The twist is one side of the front is knit extra long, a rectangle meant to be tossed over the shoulder and to fall down the back.
The quandary is … which one should I spend the next few months fingering first?

Simple Style: 19 Innovative to Traditional Designs With Simple Knitting Techniques, Ann Budd, Interweave Books, $24.95.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Freshly shorn

The Coventry Farmers' WinterFresh Market is open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Coventry High School, 78 Ripley Hill Road, through Feb 28, selling the most amazing Connecticut grown and produced foods like honey and beeswax candles, farmstead cheese, fresh chevre, maple cream and so much more.
It also features yarn from Tuckerwoods Farm in Coventry, which specializes in alpacas.

Other participating vendors are Morning Glory Homemade Goods, which includes stitch markers, hand-knitted scarves and hats; Bethany Homecrafts, which offers felted wool, sculptures, wall hangings, clothing, accessories, braided rugs and felted wool; and Sankows Beaver Brook, which, along with naturally grown lamb, veal, pasture chickens and eggs, offers wool hats, sweats and blankets from Beaver Brook Farm wool.
For lovely free scarf patterns, see For information on the market, see and

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chunky New Knitting Shop

Wool and the Gang is an awesome new shop to visit or dream about.

Saw this tip on the New York Times fashion blog.
"Hello to funky, fun knitting, or simply chic and basic. Top quality wool, produced deep in the heart of the Peru’s Andean Highlands."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's Fun to Run and knit

The Hartford Marathon Blue Back Mitten Run 5K (3.1-mile) run and walk combines two of my favorite things - knitting and exercise. Donations will be accepted at the Dec. 6 event and at Blue Back Square shops in West Hartford.

The goal is to collect 1,000 items (new mittens, gloves, hats or scarves) for The Town That Cares charity.
The event includes a kid’s fun run (1/4-mile, 1/2-mile and 1 mile), refreshments, entertainment and awards. The 5K begins at 10:30 a.m.
To register online, see

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I've put a Hex on you

I'm drooling over the newest issue of Knitty, which marks a vibrant redesign. On the cover is a sunlit Malabrigo red-orange shawl knit, "Hex," in lace weight. It's as if the color of a orange-gold oak leaf in fall was captured in the skein.

I am especially obsessed with a crimson sweater called Ruby Red knit in merino superwash sock yarn.

It's a long cardigan with leafy wood hook-and-eye buttons designed by Anna Mikuskova of Maine. See it for yourself.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Gonna Be a Cruel Ride, Kid

Only a guy that’s ushered his wife through two pregnancies and births can look back at the absurdity of it all. Not the miracle of life, of course, (cue angels singing) but the cult-like devotion first-time parents hold for what’s considered the childbirth bible — What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff.
With more than 16 million copies sold, the guide, originally published in 1984, is to expectant mothers as Bibles are to hotel rooms, making it the perfect fodder for parody — everyone has either seen it, read it, can quote full passages from it, or avoided it like the plague.
Enter David Javerbaum, comedy writer and former executive producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, whose target audience for What to Expect When You're Expected: a Fetus' Guide to the First Three Tirmesters (Spiegel & Grau, $15) is the most underserved of literary audiences, “the little child in some of us.”
Mom’s asked for advice from every female within a 1,000-mile radius, including the bag lady who picks out the beer cans from the recycle bin before the sanitation truck makes its early morning rounds, and dad’s playing the “mmm-hmm” card from his “I’m feigning attention/agreement/deep interest” repertoire, but who’s Cliff-Noting the baby?
Don’t fear, Javerbaum’s here.
Some excerpts:
“Changes are Mommy will be taking it a little easy these first three months, going to bed earlier, waking up later, canceling all but her most essential triathlons … The household’s entire collection of cookware may soon form a giant game of Jenga in the sink that stands in silent condemnation of Daddy’s astounding selfishness.”
“For her co-workers, Mommy’s pregnancy is sure to unleash a welter of conflicting emotions. … Then there’s Mommy’s boss. He had a lot of faith in her. He thought the company meant everything to her. Now this is the thanks he gets for choosing her over that asshole Phil in sales.”
And advice for week 38 of gestation:
“This week, your body is producing a lot of surfactant, fluid that prevents the air sacs in the lungs from … oh, you don’t care about this stuff anymore. … Remember the time between Obama’s election and his inauguration? When no one gave a crap anymore what Bush was doing, even Bush? Well, right now, this pregnancy is President Bush.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oh potty, how I love thee

Its provenance was curiosity. Why are Nutmeggers so fond of these little houses with dollhouse proportions out back?
Leslie and Richard Strauss of Chester wondered aloud why residents of their 350-year-old village maintained their backyard latrines and stumbled onto a treasure of historical remembrances, anecdotes, lore, photos and even poetry — all centered on the most necessary room in (or out of) the house.
“Outhouses of Connecticut,” with photographs by the couple’s daughter Jessica Strauss Hunt, ($14.95, Strauss House Creations) offers a visual tour through colonial-era latrines lovingly kept up by their owners, but it’s also a repository of Connecticut history from the perspective of the people.
Some are miniature replicas of the main house, others have been repurposed as garden sheds, storage facilities, and a select few are still in use for the occasional hiker or during an unfortunate loss of water or plumbing indoors.
Read about the “Portland pooper,” three-seaters, the meaning of moon and star carvings which typically adorn a loo’s front door, the Moodus church pastor who conducts Sunday services while urging his parishioners to go light on the coffee before Mass, why many latrines have handles on the sides, and how one 90-year-old former project engineer neatly assembled a tiny carved outhouse inside a narrow-necked jug.
For information, see

wooly deeds done dirt cheap

Trying to unload some yarn 'cause I've been wheezing and sniffling while trying to knit a cardigan in what I thought was gray cotton, only to discover, halfway through the pattern, that the cotton was 30 percent wool, which I am allergic to. I have lambs wool and mohair:

Shorti Cardi

I have been working on a cropped cardigan pattern, The Spunky Eclectic Shorti Cardi, ever since I found it while browsing for simple yet beautiful sweaters online.

I think the color is what arrested me: it's a lovely shade of olive green.
While visiting Stitches 2009 two weeks ago, I bought a bag (10 skeins) of Di.Ve' Zenith in Cornflower Blue.

It is washable merino wool and knits up so easily; knitting with it is like manipulating a softer version of cotton. I'm just about finished with the second sleeve and will soon start the body from the bottom up.
I'm debating whether I should make the body longer because cropped cardigans are difficult to wear for busty women like me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eye Candy: Fiber Vendors Show Off Confections

Indie film buffs have Sundance, graphic mag fans have ComicCon and fiber aficionados have Stitches — where all things knitted, woven, spun, crocheted or felted converge to entice crafters of all stripes.
Fine yarns by the truckload co-opted the Hartford Connecticut Convention Center last weekend for Stitches East 2009, a massive, vibrant showcase of fiber and accessories vendors, demonstrations, book signings and classes.

For those (like me) who list knitting among their Top Five Reasons for Living, Stitches events make you feel like a 6-year-old dropped smack in the middle of the world’s largest candy shop.
At the Kollage Yarns booth, Mark Moraca held out two yarns made from corn fiber. “Originally, we did a lot of market bags with this,” Moraca said, fingering Corntastic, because of the yarn’s elasticity.
It would be perfect for a sweater or tunic because when stretched, the yarn snaps neatly back into shape.

Moraca held up a harvest-inspired shawl, bands of coral, jasper, peridot, turquoise and citrine, alternating to form a wide-based triangle with swingy tassels.
At Universal Yarns, Michael del Vecchio slipped his hand inside a doggy sweater in pink ribbing edged in pink, white and lavender Rozetti Yarns “cocoons.”
“It’s been around for about nine months, but is getting popular now,” he explained, as his fingers made yapping motions. He then continued crocheting with the novelty yarn — skipping three cocoons, then chaining two. The resulting scarf was tendrils of tiny crescent-shaped lamb’s-wool clouds.
At Joe’s Fiber Tools booth, wood artisan Joe Hanes of Indiana pointed out his square knitting needles crafted from 100-percent reclaimed wood. Hanes, a self-professed Dumpster diver, salvages exotic wood scraps discarded by a custom woodworking business in his hometown.
He held up a pair of 14-inch Exotic Tinys, the square shaft carved from Osage orange wood, topped with bloodwood caps.
“If I didn’t take it, they would burn it,” Hanes says, referring to the shop’s precious discards, like tigerwood, ipe, cherry and mahogany. “I take the trash and embrace it.”
He finishes the needles with a rubbing of essential oils in lemon, orange or grapefruit, which Hanes says naturally cleans the wood.
His wife Kim calls her husband’s needles, which are not traditionally sized, but measured in widths — one-eighth, one-quarter, one-half inch — “knitting outside the gauge.”
The next Stitches event in Hartford is Oct. 28-31, 2010.
For information, see,,

New 'Knitting Club' Alert

Last week, Stitches, this week, it's a new Kate Jacobs book, just in time for the holidays. "Knit the Seasons," out on Nov. 3, follows the close-knit friends of dearly departed Georgia as they reminisce through the holiday season.

And the author is coming to RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison on Tuesday (, 800-75-READS) at 7 p.m.

Word is, they'll be a raffle drawing for a $50 gift certificate from Madison Wool that night.
Knitting and reading, my two favorite things.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stitches East is here!

Today through Sunday, Stitches East 2009 is at the Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Boulevard, Hartford, 860-249-6000. There will be classes, workshops, demonstrations, a fashion show, prizes, market daily and so much more. I'll be there Friday covering the event for the Hartford Advocate.

Look here to find information about the market and to sign up for one-hour workshops:
Guests include Anna Zilboorg, author of "Magnificent Mittens & Socks," Ann McCauley, author of "Pleasures of Knitting Together or Separate," Jane Slicer-Smith, author of "Swing Swagger Drape," Clara Parks, author of "Knitter’s Book of Wool," Cynthia Yanok Wise, author of "Knit It Your Way: Change the Yarn to Suit Your Style," and much more.
I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rosy ribs

I've begun work on a new project, a Rib-Knitted Mini Dress With Wide Straps.
You can find the pattern here:

Ever since I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Sherrybaby," I've been obsessed with knitting airy cotton tanks, so I happened upon this pattern designed by Hajnalka Lovrekovich. The dusty pink is lovely to look at, but I chose to go with Peaches & Creme double worsted weight cotton yarn in tea rose, which is curiously nowhere near the pink hue its name implies, but rather an electric orange.

I purchased it online. I've just come to the end of one 2.5 oz. skein, well into knitting the 31 inches that constitutes the body of the dress.
I only wish I could knit faster! When you see something luscious online, you want it then; but it takes a while to finish a pattern. I can't even imagine how many hours young women in earlier times sat, rocked and knit every day.
The solution? Much like my time in graduate school where five or six books were required reading per week, you spend every waking moment reading ... while making dinner, at family dinners, in the car (as a passenger!) -- so it is with knitting.
I got some kooky comments from my mother and sister during my sister-in-law's recent baby shower as I knitted a wool purse during the "present opening" portion of the event. They thought I was being strange, and in other circumstances it would have been rude not to help out, except for the fact I had fallen up the stairs the evening before and badly hurt the side of my foot.
There it is! Knitting's boon is the infirm knitter! I'm recovering from salmonella poisoning now -- a form of food poisoning more common than you think -- and as is my lot, I ended up hospitalized for an acute case and despite the queries of every person I've told of my ordeal since, I have no idea how I contracted it.
So here I am ... recovering, a state I often wished for (stupidly) to allow my frantic life some pause, with all the time in the world to knit.
And if you've made your way through this entry, you'll see I've all the time in the world to blog as well.
Happy knitting.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hopping right along

Ye ole Wonderful Wallaby is coming along nicely in salmon wool.
Yesterday was the first day that knitting merino in the near-summer became uncomfortable, which means one thing: It's time for full-throttle.
For the next several days, I'll be blasting through the yoke, ribbing the neck, stockinette stitching a hood, and sewing up the underarms.

There's an optional tie at the neck ribbing, with three choices: I-cord, crochet and twisted cord.
But that's thinking a little far ahead. I've set a goal: to finish the sweater by the weekend. Saturday and Sunday are forecast to reach a temperature high of 76 degrees. Wish me luck.

Dress up baby

Several months ago, I chanced upon a delicate little baby bib, flipping through a glossy knitting book among the new releases at the library. I have a little one, whose sloppy mealtimes are far behind him, and didn't know a soul with a baby; still I so wanted to try this intricate little pattern.
"Sweeten up baby's mealtime, at least until the creamed spinach starts to fly, with this pretty petal bib," the pattern says. "It's shaped with short-rows and fastens with an I-cord."
Beautifully knit in melon cotton yarn; I couldn't resist. I've an Achilles heel for anything knit in cotton - big, bulky sweaters, vests with large loopy holes; I've even kept the ecru crocheted sweater I wore in my college days; still in pristine condition, long-sleeved, crew-neck ... of course it needs an opaque shell underneath, which means any color of the rainbow can peek through each lacy hole, making it the most versatile object in my closet.

The first time I knit the bib pattern, I used a robin's egg blue, yarn from Wal-Mart, a place I rarely shop for yarn; but the best place for affordable cotton in 1-pound cones. I've knit a sweater dress from Wal-Mart's cone cotton, combining the pale yellow with blue.
That delicate little bib sat in my "finished bin," items I've knit and then put away; they're too beautiful to wear because once you wear them, there's the chance of stains, of fading in the wash, of ... gasp! ... shrinking them or discoloration with detergent. So there it sat, safe in a sheer orange plastic bin from Wal-Mart and every once in a while I'd pull it out and admire it.
Then my sister-in-law announced she was pregnant; due in August. Out came the bib and at our Memorial Day get-together; then I presented it to my brother by draping it around his neck. While I sat enjoying portobella mushroom burgers and homemade guacamole and hummus, I began knitting a pale yellow bib, foolishly thinking (hoping) I'd finish it at their home and present it to them; a gift hot off the needles.
It took me another couple days at home to finish it and now it awaits my sister-in-law's baby shower for its moment in the sun. That's the wonderful thing about knitting gifts for people, not only does the knitter cherish each stitch and - even more - the completed item, but the receipient does too.
On a telephone conversation last week, my sister casually asked if I'd made booties yet for the baby.
Excuse me while I exit left ... and begin the search for the most perfect tiny boots for my soon-to-be niece or nephew's feet.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

award winner

I am happy to report that my post, "Mouseke-toodles!" won an honorable mention at the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists award dinner May 21.

You can read the entry here:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wool days

On Memorial Day Weekend, May 23-25, at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Mass., celebrates “Wool Days.” Farmers will shear the sheep, and OSV historians in costume will demonstrate the wool textile process, from scouring and carding the wool to spinning, knitting and weaving the handspun wool yarn into blanket. Visitors can try hand carding the wool, and then see how the Village’s historic water-powered carding mill does the same job much faster.
When sheared, the OSV sheep each produce about five pounds of wool. They are a heritage breed descended from sheep brought by Spaniards to the U.S. Gulf coast in the 1500s and closely resemble the 19th century sheep breed commonly found on New England farms in the 1830s.
For information, call (800) SEE-1830 or see

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Twittering knitty

Just got the latest knittyreader, complete with two new patterns.
And, knitty has its own Twitter page at
And I'm still working on my Wonderful Wallaby sweater in salmon merino. The torso is done and I've moved on to one of the sleeves - and am one-third through. Right now it looks like a really thick sweatband for the wrist.

FAQs for the sweater:

And I found a Flickr site where you can upload your Wallaby photos.

Happy knitting!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Join us

The Russell Knitters meet on the first and third Saturday of the month at the Russell Library, 123 Broad St., Middletown Meeting Room 3 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Knitters are invited to bring their projects and join this group willing to share ideas and expertise. No registration is required. We welcome new members! For information, call (860) 347-2528.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Shearin' time

The Connecticut Sheep, Wool and Fiber Festival take place April 25 in Vernon. It features fiber, craft and equipment vendors; fiber arts demonstrations, shearing, skirting and educational programs, a sheep dog trail and animal exhibits at the Tolland Agricultural Center. For information, see

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Love that wallaby

Last week on the phone, I lamented to my knitting friend how I never seem to finish my projects in enough time to wear them - before the season changes. She suggested I start to knit for the opposite weather conditions - wool in the summer, cotton in the winter.
I weighed whether the uncomfortableness of knitting wool in spring/summer would win over the pleasure of working with Farmhouse Yarn Andy's Merino, which is hand-dyed and American grown.
Out came my 8 skeins of salmon.

Already, I've knit nearly 9 inches of Cottage Creations' Wonderful Wallaby in adult size large. I'm alternating two balls of the salmon because my stash has such varying colors. There's no such thing as dye lot for Farmhouse Yarns.
It's called a wallaby because of the amazing pouch you knit halfway through.

I used size 6 needles for the ribbing at the waist, and size 9 for the body. The only thing that keeps getting me messed up (and means lots of frogging until I stop doing it) is that when I come to the beginning of the round, I often pick up the wrong yarn, which will give me a strange round count.
Other than that, I'm just happily hopping along on this project.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nut-brown buttons a perfect finish

I finally finished my second Inca-Dincadoo Organic Cotton Baby Sweater. Although I forgot to make the buttonholes, I wanted to find some buttons that would give the sweater some character, so I headed to Old Wethersfield's Sit N Knit Too and their extensive collection of handmade buttons in all sizes and types.

I was drawn to the oversized wooden ones, and purchased three in a complementary nut color, sewed them on, and it was done.
Last Saturday over lunch, I presented the off-white and yellow sweaters to my brother for his August baby.
He loved them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

'The Most Easy and Graceful Employment'

This appeared in the Middletown Press March 19

By JENNIFER SHAFER WOOD, Special to Weekend
CROMWELL — Rebecca Bayreuther Donahue, vice president and longtime volunteer at the Cromwell Historical Society, has successfully combined her love of history with her love of knitting.
She recently gave a presentation on 19th-century knitting, "The Most Easy and Graceful Employment: Hand-Knitting in the 19th Century," in which the audience was shown patterns and articles knit from these 1800-era templates.
For her program, the use of the word "employment" is less of a modern-day connotation such as a "job" or "work," but more the original meaning, "an activity or the like that occupies a person’s time."

Bayreuther Donahue explained, "If you come in cold, knowing nothing about how people knit in the 19th century, hopefully this presentation will give you a start to do some more investigation." Her PowerPoint presentation ran through the social history of 19th-century knitting, to reading complicating patterns that are almost like reading another language to the uninitiated.
Her program is rich with pictures of original pieces of knitted garments from different museums. She also uses knitted examples that she knit herself using 19th-century patterns.

Bayreuther Donahue learned to knit in the seventh grade as an alternative to recess one rainy day. In college at the University of Connecticut, Bayreuther would knit through class. "I got some beautiful boat-neck sweaters done that way," she mused.
Bayreuther Donahue earned her bachelor’s from UConn in English literature/creative writing. She discovered a passion for history by reading historical fiction."The romance and the charm of an earlier day — that’s what got me hooked on history," she reminisced. While at UConn, she became one of four founding members of The UConn Civil War Reenactment Association, where she had her first brush with the world of living history. Bayreuther Donahue describes herself a living historian who is active in not only participating in historical reenactments, but also by knitting period clothing.
Bayreuther is the lead role-player (circa 1876) at Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and The Sea.
As a role-player at Mystic Seaport Bayreuther Donahue became active with the costume shop and began to contribute to period costumes by knitting from 19th-century patterns. She explored different collections of knitted items housed in different museums. That was her first introduction into classic knitting, or knitting from another time period, she said.
Bayreuther Donahue explained that in the 19th century, cotton was very popular; especially cotton stockings, for in all the museums she explored, there were tubs full of historical cotton stockings. Her personal preference for knitting is with wool, especially handwoven. "I like wool. I know that for the reenactment and living history community, people tend to spin, or have their own sheep and hand spin, or hand dye. So wool is more available for doing that stuff," she said.

A local handspun yarn tends to have a few more inconstancies than a machine spun wool. A lot of knitters today really like that inconstancy, Bayreuther Donahue says. Not only for the feel of the wool, but also because the garment is made from an article handspun to one hand-knitted.

During the 19th-century, women had to provide the family with clothing. At the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the weaving mills for cloth and knitting were obsolete due to mass production.

Freeing women up from knitting as a necessity, during the Industrial Revolution, knitting became a pastime of the well-to-do housewife who had more time and domestic help to deal with the day-to-day tasks of life. The patterns and knitting needles changed to reflect the Victorian gentile, who sat in a silk dress knitting and sipping tea.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most books on domestic help and advice books of that period recommended that children as young as 5 should know how to knit their own stockings, hats and mittens.

Today, children and adults learn to knit as a hobby. The first stitch a beginning knitter will learn is the garter stitch, Bayreuther Donahue says, "which is the basic knit stitch, and you just knit, knit, knit. Without changing how you’re doing the stitch. The garter stitch is named such because one of the first garments knitted were garters, which would be tied around your leg to hold up your stockings up."

"Purling allows you to manipulate the yarn in a different direction and as the knitter gains experience, they can pearl. When you get the knit stitch and the purl, you can do basically any other stitch that there is."

Much hand knitting in the 19th-century mimicked what now is known as machine-knit, a fine-gauge pattern with small needles.

"The size of the needle determines the fineness of your stitch. For example, baby socks would be knitted with a small needle, like 000, and they come out to be a millimeter in diameter," according to Bayreuther Donahue.

The smaller the needle, the more the challenge, Bayreuther Donahue explained, because the knitting goes much slower and completing a project takes much longer. "But it’s all in the experience of the knitter," she said.

Knitting in the style of 19th century can be a lot of fun, especially knitters can get into the mindset of a 19th-century knitter. The patterns are much different to read than modern knit patterns. Knitters have to leave modern knitting behind by trusting the 19th-century patterns, Bayreuther Donahue says, "it was a much more organic process then we have made it today."
Modern patterns have all the materials at the top, such as gauge, yarn type, needles, special notions, ect., so knitters know what is needed before beginning a new project.
With the 19th-century pattern, knitters are likely to find surprises while working through it, as opposed to the surety of today. Bayreuther Donahue says, "modern patterns tend to be made by the big yarn manufacturers," who are interested in people buying their yarn to make a garment.
In the 19th century, patterns are written by people who weren’t interested in the success of the garment, therefore, there is no commercial tie and they were written with the idea of producing the highest quality garment rather the highest sales.
For information, visit Resources include "The Workwoman’s Guide By A Lady: A Guide to 19th-Century Decorative Arts."

Friday, March 13, 2009

I Am Allergic to Baby Sweaters

I enjoyed knitting the Inca-Dincadoo Organic Cotton Baby Cardigan so much in ecru that I started another in marigold — a vibrant yellow. I used the same Farmhouse Yarns I Am Allergic to Wool, 85 percent cotton, 15 percent rayon, hand-dyed, and omitted the buttons this time. I’d like to say this was a design choice, but I realized late last night after work that I had forgotten to make the five buttonholes (whoops!). No matter, my fingers said, calmly. Just keeeeep knitting. No one will know.
I’m nearly done now, just 10 more rows and then the side and sleeve seams have to be sewn up.

Stop the presses! I just read the last line in the directions and it says, “with RS facing and beginning at lower right front edge, work slip stitch crochet around entire front edge.”
Oops! Didn’t do that the first time. That’s what the crochet hook size I/9 is for.
Thank goodness this isn’t a recipe or anything irreparable.
Think what I’ll do is visit Sit and Knit tomorrow and buy some little kid buttons anyway to jazz it up.
After I dig out that crochet hook, that is.
For information on the yarn, see; Connecticut Yarn & Wool Co., 85 Bridge Road, Haddam; (860) 345-9300,

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Stories of knitting

Kathy Goldner, avid knitter and publisher of Knitting Out Loud, will speak on the history of knitting on March 19 at 7 p.m. in the Hubbard Room at Russell Library, 123Broad St., Middletown.
Any diehard knitter knows the demands of modern life often leave hobbyists with an agonizing choice - between reading about knitting - and knitting. Kathy solved the dilemma by producing audiobooks of the best knitting titles available.
This hour-long presentation, illustrated with photographs, knitted items and antiques from Kathy’s collection, explores the world of knitting past and present through stories. Grandmothers are a theme throughout this presentation.
Kathy’s knitting story began in pre-war Germany, where her grandmother learned to knit. She shed her Victorian upbringing to become a physician and psychoanalyst, ultimately fleeing Hitler’s Germany to immigrate to the United States.

Kathy also looks ahead to the future of this craft and the unusual and inspiring things people are knitting today.
For information, see

Friday, February 27, 2009

All things sheepish

Motherhouse in Cornwall is offering a number of "back-to-the-earth" workshops - called "traditional arts" - the next of which is on wool gathering. Demonstrations will be offered on carding, spinning, knitting, weaving, crocheting, and felting with natural wool.
There is also a Sourdough Starter Course April 11, Organic Gardening May 9 and many others.

Save for visiting Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, I've never seen carding done. I do remember going many years ago, when my first child was very small, and being utterly drawn to the process, even pinching a little piece of carded wool to take home.
It's ironic I'm allergic to wool. Maybe I was a shepherd in a past life.
For information, e-mail, see or call Debra Tyler at (860) 672-0229.
The posting caught my eye in the Edible Nutmeg winter 2009 issue (

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Crafty mamas

The new March-April 2009 issue of Mothering magazine ( has just arrived.
Inside, there's a big feature written by Jean Van't Hul (who blogs as the Artful Parent) about five creative women across the country who use homespun crafts as a way to stay close to nature.
Some are mothers, even a stay-at-home (called "unschooling")who sews most of the clothing her husband and four children wear. She's decorated her workspace with vintage smocks and dresses, which give it a sense that the items lovingly created by women in the past hold court with her newly inspired ideas.

Some of you may already be familiar with the immensely popular Amanda Blake Soule's blog, SouleMama, who lives on the Maine coast.
The inset photo of the crocheted beginnings of a ecru-colored recycled fabric rug has even got me thinking about picking up my own hooks again.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

At the crossroad

The town known at "Connecticut's Crossroads," because it sits at the crossroads of Route 9 and Interstate 91 in the center of the state, has a knitting club that meets on Friday nights.
I haven't visited yet, but I wonder if someone who has would fill us in.
The Cromwell Belden Public Library, 39 West St., (860) 632-3460, Adult Knit Club meets on the second Friday of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Arch Room.

Knitters are invited to join other fiber enthusiasts and bring what is on their needles or a completed project to share.
Enter through the Town Hall entrance since the library is closed Friday nights.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


My sister-in-law just announced she's having a baby.
Congrats! I told her.
Then thought: Oooohhh! A chance to make quick, tiny sweaters!
I picked up Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders and found just what I was looking for in Inca-Dincadoo Organic Cotton Baby Cardigan designed by Sarah Keller. It calls for medium-weight yarn knit. I had at home already Farmhouse Yarns' I am Allergic to Wool in Ecru and spent most of the day Saturday knitting it up.
I got three-quarters through the project.
It's so delightful to knit, I think I'll do a pair.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Knitting in 19th century

A program, "The Most Easy and Graceful Employment" Hand-knitting in the 19th Century, will be presented by Rebecca Bayreuther Donohue Feb. 22 at 3 p.m. in the Music Room of the Stevens-Frisbie House.
The Cromwell Historical Society talk will offer period photographs and engravings, instruction books and period patterns, original pieces and reproductions to illustrate the depth of the art as it became associated more with leisure than with necessity. People may bring questions, comments and knitting.

Admission is free and refreshments will be served.
For information, see or call (860) 635-0501.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Big and bold

Tanis Gray designed the bulky lace scarf on the cover of the new issue of VOGUEknitting, winter 2008.
Anyone who reads fashion magazines is familiar with these Gulliver-sized sweaters, scarves and shawls — and if you’re a knitter, you’ve undoubtedly yearned to make one, if only for the rapid results size 19 needles produce.
The only problem is that luxury yarns are expensive, and you need an awful lot to complete these projects.

In fact, the instructions call for 20 100-gram hanks. At an average price of $10.80 per skein, you can really rack up quite a bill.
The bold pattern is knit in Blue Sky Alpacas’ Frost — the perfect robin’s-egg blue. (
In my newfound spirit of making do with what is at hand whenever possible, I opened my stash to find a bulky substitute.
I discovered six 60-gram skeins of Plymouth Yarn Yukon, 35 percent mohair, 35 percent wook and 30 percent acrylic, in beige, cream and rosy pink, then alternated the 24-row pattern blocks. The result is the warmest of neck coverings, more a cowl than a full-on scarf, due to its final length, 42 by 13 inches.
I downloaded the instructions to block the scarf, as I have never done it before (
I think not using a single color really affected the three-dimensional effect.
Tonight, I’ll be turning my king-sized bed into a blocking station.
For information, see

Monday, February 9, 2009

The baffling resiliency of little ones

Last night at about 2 a.m., I heard my bedroom door squeak, then open slightly. What always emerges in the wee hours is a sleepy 5-year-old who scrambles into my bed, settles himself under covers, then falls asleep. This time I wait.
Then hear that sound parents know all too well: the splattering of stomach contents onto the floor. The reaction is instantaneous: the mad search for a receptacle of any type, then something to wipe the face afterward.
I expected to touch burning skin at his forehead but found none. Strange, I thought, drifting off to sleep; kindergartner glued to my left side. In the morning, I thought for sure I’d be trying to juggle a little boy home from school with my and my husband’s work schedules, but the sun rose and ... T was fine. Screaming obnoxiously for no reason, bugging his brother, doing cartwheels on the bed.
I’d been through this phenomenon with his older brother many times, yet every time it leaves me shaking my head.
It feels so ... expeditious. Expell offending substance, resume life of constant fun. Mom cleans it up.
I did try to get dad to help, once morning arrived. (Yes, I covered the soil with a towel, hoping it would disappear by morning).
“I was up all night with T,” I moaned. “Will you clean it up? It’s all over the door, walls and floor!”
Dad: “No, I’ll let you do that.”
The silver lining? I did get T to finally change those black jeans with the tattered hems he insists on wearing for days at a time. (He’s convinced he’s a skateboarder).
I told him he threw up. And it dried overnight.
It worked.
Sort of — off into his bedroom, T leaped, changing into his other pair of black jeans.
Hopefully the teacher won’t notice.

Friday, January 30, 2009

New York nod

A reader generously tipped me off today that this little Middletown, Connecticut, blog is mentioned on Page 18 of the Winter 2009/09 VOGUEknitting International magazine under Cyberstitches in the Extras Extras section. It details how newspapers have gone online and knitting blogs are among the offerings.
See for information.

Scenes from a madhouse

Scenes from a mother determined to eke out a few rows
10-year-old sitting on mom’s bed. Needs socks. Mother suggests he try on a pair of wool ones she just completed. Son inspects them. “You pull it on for me,” he says. Mom obliges, thinking, “boy, his toenails are sharp.” Second-guesses idea of giving away socks to kid who won’t appreciate them for an instant while repressing urge to suggest nail clippers. Sock fits perfectly. Mom: “These are very special. They took me a real long time to make.” Son: “Mom, do I have to wear them to school?” Mom grabs socks back, rolls up, places in her drawer. Leaves room.

Mom trying to complete knitted rectangular washcloth on Saturday. Just golf ball-size of yarn remains in project. Eighty stitches in each row of basketweave stitch, eight per section. Mom barely completes eight stitches before she’s interrupted by 5-year-old asking her to “look it.” At him maneuvering Tech Deck minature skateboard over miniature stairs, down railing. “Now you do a trick, mom.” Run back to knit a few more stitches. “Mom,” 10-year-old yells from kitchen. “Where’s the Ovaltine?” Down goes the knitting, into the kitchen mom walks wordlessly. Grabs Ovaltine from shelf, puts on counter. Hears 5-year-old running toward couch, then sees him flipping over it into headstand, landing all over washcloth, knocking stitches off needles. Sighs. Puts project away.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stash Swap

The Knitting Nook in Coventry, 3466 Main St., is having a unique benefit Jan. 31 from 4 to 6 p.m.
The Stash Swap is a fund-raising event to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. A minimum $5 donation is requested for participation.
Swap yarn will be collected from 4 to 4:30 p.m. and put in one of three different bins according to approximate quality and price range. Colored tickets will be issued equal to the number of skeins.

At 4:30 p.m., knitters can choose the same number of skeins from the bins.
For information, see, call (860) 742-0300 or see

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lap of luxury

I found out about a brand new knitting book last week, "Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders," ($18.95, Storey Publishing, edited by Judith Durant. I flipped through the pictures and couldn't believe my eyes - as if Durant could top "One-Skein Wonders" and "101 Designer One-Skein Wonders," but she certainly has.
Cashmere, alpaca, silk, soy, linen, bamboo, corn, mohair, qiviut (Musk Ox yarn) ... all these lovely little hats, scarves, necklaces, baby sweaters, shawls, gloves, socks are luscious. I can't wait to begin a project with the alpaca yarn I already own.

I have about 1/3 remaining on my sock project and every day I furiously knit as fast as I can to complete it.
Meantime, I carry around this new book in my bag and sneak a look every time I have a free moment.
See for information