Sorry for the radio silence, but there hasn’t been much going on around here, knitting-wise. Going back to grad school in a new field while working part time has pretty much eaten up all of my energy this month, and Branden and I have been focusing hard on spending what little time is left doing things together. He’s having a really busy fall, too, as his startup pushes closer and closer to the do-or-die moment, and when we’re both this busy it’s extra important to find time to actually see one another in between.

With one thing and another, I have pretty much only knit at knit night (and have only made it to knit night about one week in 3), and on the occasional bus ride to school. I think if I tallied up the hours of knitting this month it would come out to less than 10, and possibly less than 5.

The second welted garter shawl is inching along (sorry for the terrible photos, but perfectionism right now leads very quickly to no blog, so here’s what I got in my dark office this afternoon). At about 30-40 minutes a row, this project is feeling longer and longer all the time. With no knitting time, the yarn balls are feeling infinite, but I’m pretty sure it’s getting close. Another stripe or two, and I should be into the garter stitch border and then done.


Which, of course, means that it’s time to start thinking about another project, because the end of projects always sneak up on me unawares when life is busy like this. To that end, I started a swatch.


Does it look more impressive if I tell you that this is the second time I knit it? Thought not. You know you’re scraping bottom when an inch and a half of swatch is worth a blog mention, but it did take me about 3 weeks to get this much done…

While not knitting, I have been very much enjoying the colors of fall. This year has been a pretty spectacular display; it came late and has just stretched on and on. I think we’ve had color for over a month now, starting with the maples, which lit the world on fire.


They are mostly faded out now, and we’re into the rusty reds and oranges of the oaks and the bright yellow of the birch trees. The green pines are really beginning to stand out from the crowd, and I just love the grays and beige that show up as the grasses die back and the bare branches start to show.



What a difference two weeks makes, huh? We’ve gone from fiery October into the depths of a New England fall. Suddenly it seems real that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Sometimes the change to deep fall happens almost overnight; this year, it’s been more protracted. It’s my favorite time of year, so I’ve been enjoying the long, sweet fade into gray.

The weather is getting colder and The Tired has come out of nowhere to hit me full-force this week and last, so I think our days of wandering in parks and going out and doing might be fading out with the season. Quieter weekends at home should be good for more knitting time, at least. Hopefully I’ll be back soon, with lots of knitting to show!

I’m puttering my way along on the latest welted garter shawl, and the rows just keep getting longer and longer. That’s entirely my own fault, of course, because not only did I design the thing, but I also couldn’t resist tinkering with the shaping just a tiny bit more in this version.

While I really like the purple version of the shawl, the wings are just a tiny bit too short to stay wrapped around my shoulders. That’s an important feature for me, so I thought I’d add a few more increases in this version to see if I could make them wrap more. This has two direct consequences: first, it is quite likely that I won’t love the new shaping and will end up ripping back and reknitting again (such is the life of a pattern-improviser). Second, it means that the rows get a lot longer a lot faster, and I’m getting a bit bogged down in the knitting of the middle portion.

To keep myself occupied, I’ve been dreaming up what to do with this yarn:


That’s the Shepherd’s Wool that I bought at the SPA knitting weekend in Maine last February. I really love my basketweave shawl, and am thinking that this yarn might just want to become another shawl along the same lines. I took out my stitch dictionaries the other day (for the first time in months and months), and had a look around. Nothing has solidified just yet, but I have some ideas floating around that need to be tested out.

Now, I just need to successfully finish the shawl so that I can start swatching!

About 10 days ago, I proposed a very ambitious project to Branden (not knitting-related). The deadline was tight, and the goal was set almost impossibly high, and for the past week and a half we pretty much threw everything over in order to make it happen (I’ve put in about 100 hours, I think, and 45 of them in the past 3 days).

I was half way through the bind off for my crescent shawl when we started, and I haven’t even touched it since. But it’s almost there.


I’m far enough along to say that the shaping seems to be working this time, minus some bunching at the edge that I think will work out with blocking.

We carried the other project over the finish line at about 2 o’clock this morning, and I’m hoping to finish the shawl bind off in the car on our way out of town today.

That leaves me with nothing on the needles, and no project planned. I’m thinking it might be time for another color?


You can’t get much more mindless knitting than knitting the same stockinette and garter shawl three times in a row…

I’ve been fairly quiet about it here on the blog, but this year has been a time of big changes for me. I left my tenure-track position at the end of June. After much soul-searching, I came to realize that the realities of faculty life are not for me. Much as I like teaching and research, the overall environment just didn’t work well for me.

I told my department chair back in January that I would be leaving at the end of the spring semester, and since then I’ve been doing some pretty intense thinking about what comes next. I applied for a bunch of things, did an interview or two, talked to a ton of people, and spent a lot of time writing and cogitating. I’ve seen a big drop in my crafting productivity, mostly because that energy and creativity was needed elsewhere.

After many months (years, depending on how you count) of consideration, I’ve decided that I’m going back to school. The irony of that decision is not lost on me – I certainly haven’t made it very far out of academia yet – but I think that this is the next step I need to take to get where I want to go.

I’ll be studying Information Design and Visualization at Northeastern University. That’s a big name, often shortened to “infovis,” and basically it’s about telling a story visually using data. It’s an interesting blend of the hard-nosed, data driven science world and the art world, and the storytelling part ties in the teaching as well.  It feels like a much better fit than where I’ve been, and I am really excited about this new venture.

I’ve found that lots of people have a hard time figuring out what exactly infovis is (and it is many things), so it might help to have an example or two. I’m particularly smitten with the work done by Fathom Information Design, a design studio here in Boston. Their recent projects on global animal trade and gender equality are particularly good examples of the kind of complicated visual storytelling that they do.

I have a ways to go before I’m playing at that level, but I’m excited to take the first step. Classes start in just a couple of weeks, and it strikes me that I’ll need to come up with some train knitting soon!

In a move that surprises no one, I ripped back the shawl-in-progress and started again.

I haven’t had much knitting time this week, so the re-started shawl is still in its nascent stages, but it’s growing fast. So fast, in fact, that I can’t quite spread the whole thing out on the needles anymore.



From what I can see, though, this version is looking significantly more crescent-shaped, and I am happy. Basically, I just took the increases that I had worked at fixed intervals and made the placement random. Having one less thing to count and keep track of is definitely not a problem in my book!

So, presuming that some knitting time magically appears, we should be on our way to done again soon. I guess that means I should start planning my next project, before it sneaks up and catches me off guard…

I have thought for the past few days that I would have a finished object to show you if I just held off on posting for one more day.


Instead, I have a not-finished object to show you. In fact, I have an object that is very likely on its way back to yarn.


I have been motoring along on my latest shawl, which has miles and miles of stockinette and garter stitch. It’s been the perfect mindless knitting, and I made great progress on it at TwinSet Summer Camp. (Which reminds me…my goody bag was delivered to me yesterday, which means that I now have something to show you, and therefore another post that I can write.)

This week, I finished the main body section of the shawl and switched back to the dark purple yarn to finish the edge. I knit away until I thought it was time to begin the cast off, and worked a 3-stitch i-cord bind off all along the bottom edge.

Or rather, I cast off about two-thirds of the bottom edge, at which point I ran out of yarn. I muttered a bit, let it sit overnight, and then pulled back the cast off and tinked back an extra row of the border. I was pretty sure that would be more than enough to give me the extra little bit of yarn needed to finish the bind off.

Last night, I worked the cast off again. This time, I ran out about 1/5 of the way from the end. Sigh.

Fortunately, I got far enough in the cast off that I could lay the shawl out in full to see what I think of it. And, well, let’s say there are pluses and minuses.

The good:

– It’s almost done! Knitting has occurred!

– I like the raised welts in the contrasting color; I wasn’t sure about those at first, but I think they add nice texture to the main body section.

– I like the distribution of color in the shawl, and especially how the hem echoes the neckline. I was hoping for a longer purple section at the end, but I think that what I have is deep enough to balance the visual weight of the different sections.

– I like the tiny rows of yo’s that separate the shawl sections. I added these as a decorative effect, and also as a practical answer to small differences in gauge between the different sections.


….which brings us to the not so good:

– The gauge difference at the hem is big enough that the edging looks sloppy. I expected this to be a problem, since the main body section is stockinette-based and the neck edge and edging are garter stitch, but the transition was so smooth at the neck edge that I thought I could get away with it at the hem, too. Unfortunately, it appears that that’s not the case. I expect that this will get worse with blocking, not better. At the very least, I need to pull back to the yo line and decrease some stitches out of the purple garter stitch section so that it lays flat.


– The overall shape of the shawl ended up much more like my Spiral Shawl than I had intended. I was going for crescent, not pentagon. The interesting thing here is that I increased even more per row that I did in the Passegiata shawl, but I changed some of the increase locations (in the Passegiata, all of the increases occur at the outside edge of the shawl; in this one, two occur at the outside edges and 4 occur in the body of the shawl). This seems to have moved me away from crescent and more toward pentagon, but it did smooth out the bump at the neckline that bothered me in the Passegiata. One step forward, two steps back, I guess.

– I was hoping that the increase lines would be more subtle, especially in the welted portion of the shawl. I noticed that the angles were more obvious than I wanted while I was knitting, but wanted to see how it looked when the final garment was laid out. For a more crescent-like look, I think I’d need to space those increases out more, and to distribute them more randomly throughout the rows.


Now, the question is whether to just pull back and reknit the border, or whether to reknit the whole thing and fix the bigger shaping issues. At this point, I think I need to stop and do some careful analysis of the reasons for the changes that I did (and didn’t) like in the shawl shaping, and then I’ll decide whether to head back to the drawing board or whether to just patch up the border.

My guess is that I will end up pulling out the whole thing. The pentagon shawl shape has a tendency to sit nicely on your shoulders but doesn’t wrap around nicely, and it’s the latter quality that I usually appreciate most in a garment of this type. Since wearability is my primary indicator of whether or not a design “works,” it’s likely that this difference will be a deal-breaker.

Still, I think I’ll give it a day or two to settle, and then I’ll do some thinking about the structural changes that need to happen in order to get the shape that I want. Reknitting does give me the advantage of not needing to come up with a new project right away, though I was looking forward to working with a different color of yarn!

I haven’t been making much progress on any one thing lately, but I have been working on lots of different projects! We took some pictures of the finished Passegiata shawl the other day. The colors really glow in the light from the setting sun.



This closeup also shows a little bit of the i-cord bind off that I used for the project. I’ve never tried one before, but am really happy with how it came out. I did just a three-stitch version, so it’s pretty tiny, but it’s very flexible and gives a nice finish to the very stretchy fabric.



I intended to make a second version of the same shawl, but the Passegiata has a bit of a hump at the center back that I wanted to get rid of. I did some poking around online looking for shawl-shaping strategies, played around a bit with different yarns, and before you know it, I’d gone off and designed my own shawl instead. We all knew the pattern thing couldn’t last long, didn’t we?


This is a photo of the new shawl from a couple of weeks ago. I was playing with different options for the color patterning in the main body of the shawl. The two yarns are almost too similar; you can’t see the stripes at all in the stockinette rows at the bottom of the piece, using either the solid pink or purple as the contrast band. In the end, I settled with the option that I tried first: four rows of variegated yarn separated by two rows of garter stitch in the solid color. That adds a little bit of extra dimension that helps the contrast rows to (literally) pop out a bit.

I’ve also been doing a bit of weaving, here and there. I cut this piece off the loom a couple of weeks ago, and gave it a good wet finishing last week. This is my first foray into using novelty yarns in weaving, something that I’ve long suspected I’d enjoy. The left hand side of the accent stripe is made up of 7 strands of novelty yarn – two of a bumpy-spun peachy rayon, and 5 of a black glitter yarn to give a bit of sparkle. It’s subtle and toned down, but the fancy yarns add a lot of interest to the piece. I also added details in the off-white background fabric by interspersing random threads of a thicker gauge to help give the ground fabric a more interesting texture. It was a little slower to wind the warp, but I really like the result.


Now that that’s off the loom, I’ve started working on the next project, a set of tea towels in summery teals and yellow.


This first one uses yellow as the weft color also – probably not my favorite combination, but it does make a nice greenish color for the main fabric, and I have a lot of yellow yarn and not as much teal. This project is just puttering along in an on-again, off-again way, but it’s nice to have something on the loom.

In keeping with that spirit, I’ve been planning a new warp for the big loom, too.


This one will be a more complicated project, with lots of different colors to mix, so it will take a while to get this one ready to weave. The main warp pieces (piled on the table in the photo) are a pair of warps that I painted in Madison at a guild workshop in 2010. I knew I wanted to make them into a wider fabric, so I held off until I got the bigger loom, and just haven’t gotten around to warping it up since then. I’m hoping that will actually happen this summer; I’d like to turn these into something I can actually weave!

I’ve been doing a major reorganization of my studio lately, which is how I came across those warps again and decided to pull them out. I also came across a bunch of fabric cut out for project bags, just waiting to be embroidered. Rather than sticking it back in the drawer I found it in, I decided to throw the whole pile of stuff in the middle of my office floor so that I’d be reminded to deal with it. (This is a favorite method of mine for getting things done that I never seem to get around to. If I can’t put it away, it will make me crazy that it’s out, and I will actually work on it. Making a mess is surprisingly effective at motivating me to get things done.)

I’ve been doodling a few accents here and there.




That last one is a deliberate attempt to do something completely outside of my comfort zone. It’s so easy to stick with things you know and like, and to shy away from things that feel gaudy or “too much.” I find that shaking things up a bit often helps to jumpstart my creativity in other areas as well, so every once in a while I’ll decide to do something completely unlike me. “Hideous” is the word I probably would have applied to this particular pattern through most of its evolution, but I have to admit that it is beginning to grow on me. It’s not my style – a bit too 70’s/retro for me – but it is starting to come together into a coherent design. Sometimes it’s fun to see where “I would never” can take you.

I’ve also been spinning a bit, after neglecting my wheel for too long. I didn’t want a big, long project to start off with, so I pulled out the braid of yak/silk blend that I bought at SPA in February, and started working on that. It’s hard to capture the luster in a photo, but it really does shine like gold. I must be in the mood for sparkly things lately, because this really appeals to me. (There were metallic threads in the embroidery, too, now that I think of it…)


And finally, yesterday a friend of a friend came over and taught a tatting workshop at my house. I’ve never tried tatting before, and it was fun to play with. I still need a bit of practice, but I ended up with something that looked almost like the butterfly in the pattern by the end of the day. It’s always good to stretch those learning skills and try something new!


Inspiration is a tricky thing. Sometimes it comes naturally, slipping in quietly and curling up against you. At other times, it pours in torrents too fast to contain. And sometimes, you just have to go and hunt it down, pounding the pavement in search of something that catches your fancy.

Lately, it’s been in the latter category for me, and I’ve simply been too busy to do much about it. But my student finished up her summer work in lab the other day, and things are beginning to quiet down. (Sort of. Or at least change pace. That counts, right? Often, a change of direction is as good as a rest. I’m hoping, anyway.)

Last Friday, Branden and I headed off in search of the ocean after work. It was a gorgeous day, but a tiny bit on the cool side. We decided to explore Wingaersheek beach in Rockport. I’ve never been to Cape Ann, but it’s supposed to be very nice. Despite being back in MA for three years, we’ve hardly even begun to explore beaches on the North Shore.

When we got there, the beach was deserted. It was right around dinnertime, and the cooler weather seems to have discouraged the usual summer crowds. The tide was out, and we probably walked for a mile or so each way. I don’t think we saw more than 10 people the whole time we were there; we had practically the whole beach to ourselves.

We walked along, finding tiny treasures


and admiring the wind patterns in the sand. (I could look at sand patterns all day.)






And then there are the tracks left by the water as it recedes



I see lightning bolts, tree roots, dendrons and axons. What do you see?

Then there were our own tracks, stretching back across the sand.


Even tire tracks took on a slightly magical feel. (Wouldn’t that look nice as a raised slip stitch pattern?)


As the sun got lower and lower, the sand sparkled like gold.


The sky above us was just as amazing.


And there is so much of it.


I love the sense of wide open space at the ocean. Some part of my just sighs with relief at the sense of expansion by the sea. (There’s a tiny person out on those rocks, to give a sense of scale.)







It’s hard to find wide open spaces in New England, except for these huge stretches of land that the ocean reclaims a couple of times a day.

See that tiny patch of marsh grass?


If you look a little closer, you might just see some of the colors from my Passeggiata shawl.



Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

The Tunisian crochet cowl lived a very short life, I’m afraid. The curling didn’t get any better when it dried, so I ripped it back and cast on for a Passegiata instead. (Please excuse the cat shadow…it was all I could do to keep her off the shawl long enough to take the picture.)


If you’ve been here for a while, you know that I’m not usually interested in knitting from patterns, but there’s a lot going on in the background right now (some of it hard, all of it voluntary, much of it good), and I don’t have the bandwidth to design things from scratch at the moment. There’s some comfort in knitting a gauge swatch and just casting on, and it was either that or not knit for another month or two until things settle down.

The latter clearly wasn’t an option, and so to Ravelry I went, where I reveled in the amazing variety of projects available to knit. I went with something simple – a garter stitch crescent shawl with increasing stripe width. Doesn’t get much easier than that. True to form, I’ve made a couple of minor, unintentional “modifications” to the pattern (mostly having to do with not keeping track of stitch counts) but the design is forgiving enough that it doesn’t matter.

It’s good to have something on the needles again. I’m kind of amazed at how fast it is flying along, actually. Having a project that pulls me in and makes me want to keep going makes all of the difference.

I love how the colors are working in the shawl. Having the two yarns separate lets them play off of each other really nicely, and I’m actually liking the bright green undiluted. There’s enough variation in the dyeing to keep it interesting but not enough to pool, and I think I like the green yarn better balanced but not subdued by the teal.

Of course, the fact that the pattern is flying along means that I have a new problem. What to knit next? I will be out of knitting again in a couple of rows, and need to come up with something else to cast on. I thought about going back to Ravelry for a second round, but I think I might play with color/stripe variations on this same shawl design instead.

I did some digging in the stash, and came up with a few color combinations that would work.




Based on yarn quantities, I’m thinking that the purple set in the middle will be the next one to go. Depending on how much time I get to spend on knitting this afternoon, I may even cast on tonight. It’s nice to feel some forward momentum again!

Sorry for the radio silence! Between the end of semester rush, a lull in my knitting, and the garden coming back to life, May has been a busy month.

I cannot believe how long it has taken, but I finally got to the end of the Tunisian crochet cowl. I added a little rib edging with an improvised slightly-lacy cast off, and blocked it last night.


Sadly, the edges are still showing a pronounced desire to roll after blocking, so this is likely heading for the frog pond as soon as it’s dry.


Good thing I love those colors, and will want to work with them again!


It was interesting to try a new technique, and I’m excited about the possibilities of Tunisian crochet for accent features in knitted garments, but it is not going to replace knitting for me anytime soon. The time it took to finish the cowl is a reflection of the fact that the crochet method just doesn’t draw me in.

Knitting also hasn’t been drawing me in much lately, though. This is by far the longest I have been without a (knitting) project on the needles since I started knitting again in 2008. It’s also only the second time in 8 years that I have had so little to say that I could get by on just one blog post in a month!

I have been petting a skein of Briar Rose Sea Pearl, and wound up a ball several weeks ago now to start a swatch. I started out with a simple knit-purl design, in my standard firm fabric for sweaters. (This is heading toward a rectangle sweater like the one my sister was wearing in the last post.)


I wasn’t loving it, though. I tried a bunch of things, and eventually ended up working the yarn at a very loose gauge.


I’m still not sure that this is “it,” but I do like the semi-sheer fabric it creates. For a scarf, I’d probably go with it, but I’m concerned that a sweater won’t hold its shape. I’m also worried that it will snag on things, because the fabric is so open. I’m not very good with high-maintenance garments, and anything I wear has to be pretty low fuss.

I do like how the garter stitch diamonds really pop when viewed in the right light, though.


So that’s still in the early stages, and I’m feeling pretty far from casting on. The swatch is now about 2 feet long, and is quickly heading toward being a small scarf rather than a swatch. I’m hoping that this idea gels pretty quickly, though…can’t leave those needles empty for too long!

I’ve also been doing a little bit of weaving. I warped and wove a project earlier this spring, but I’m not sure I ever blogged about it. It’s not terribly photogenic right now, so I’ll wait to take pictures when it’s off the loom. In any case, I finished it a month or so ago, and wound a new warp to put on in its place. I decided to try tying on the new warp this time rather than rethreading from scratch.  


Some people swear that tying on is the only way to warp a loom. I can see how it might be useful for a very complicated warp with a difficult threading (provided that you wanted to thread the same thing over again), but I think I’ll probably stick to threading from scratch for simple projects like this one. Tying 361 knots in the right order was a pretty fiddly business!

Now that the threads are tied, the new project is mostly on the loom. There’s a little more fiddling to be done with the setup, and I need to re-sley the reed, but other than that it’s almost ready to go.

Other than that, there hasn’t been much news in my crafting world. Hopefully June will be a better month for knitting!


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