Posts Tagged ‘luann’

Daisy chain

January 8, 2014

I am blessed to know fantastic women.  Smart women.  Funny women.  Talented women.  Above all, generous women.

I don’t know all of them as well as I would like.  In some cases, I simply know they are wonderful.

This story starts with L.  We have moved in parallel circles for many years, but we are barely acquainted.  Nonetheless, her recent cancer diagnosis caused me great sadness.  Word that she was leaving nothing to time and toxic medication, and instead, shaving her head clean of her long dark hair added to the shock.  I wanted to do something for this woman I hardly know, but it needed to be something worth doing.

Which brings me to Jane.  She is one of those very special women.  Being around Jane is like finding instant calm ~ instant transportation to a warm hearth somewhere you’ve not been to, but know you like very much to sit ’round.  Jane fought cancer and won.  She is comfortable discussing it on her blog and with others.  So I asked her, “What can I make?  What did you get, or wish you had, that made things one bit better?”

Jane told me of a cashmere cap knitted for her by Jennifer.  “It’s something no one thinks of – when you go to sleep at night, your head is exposed, and it’s cold.  I wore it to sleep, and around the house.  I still wear it.”  That cashmere hat is one of Jane’s most prized possessions, made for her with love from one of nature’s warmest and softest fibers by the hands of a friend who dyed it, too.

Of course, there was perfect symmetry in Jennifer having made it.  My good friend always overwhelms me by simply thinking of me, not to mention the unexpected gestures, big and small, that come my way from her Virginia home where Spirit Trail Fiberworks is located.  She does this while managing her business and raising two outstanding young people.  (Small wonder I stay up into the owl hours to finish booth samples for her.)

So I knew what to make.  Next, what yarn to use?

A harder question than it might seem, given that there are many colors one would not choose for a person who is not well.  Of course, one of the advantages of having a *cough cough* virtual yarn shop in your

Great Northern Yarns Chamonix - mink + cashmere

Great Northern Yarns Chamonix – mink + cashmere

house is that there’s plenty to shop from.  Which is where Luann comes in.  The skein of Great Northern Yarn Chamonix (color is true in project photo, not skein) was my “sherpa reward” for driving some of her stash to the Knitter’s Review Retreat last year.  Using yarn from the older sister I never had whose life and mine have been intertwined in more ways than coincidence could explain just fit.

Daisy Hat

Daisy Hat

The pattern marriage was simple: Daisy Hat by Irina Dmitrieva.  The pattern is written for a worsted-weight yarn on small needles.  I was knitting for a not-petite person, but one with no hair.  A head with no hair is far smaller than one with hair.

So I improvised.

Crowning the daisy chain

Crowning the daisy chain

The Chamonix – 70% mink, 30% cashmere – lacked much of anything in the way of natural elasticity.  It is a DK weight.  So I made the large size using this finer yarn and took the needles down to a US 1 and US 2 Addi Turbo.  It pretty much knitted itself while I got out of the way.  And after a bath, it softened and fluffed up just like Clara said it would.

Within a week of receiving her hat, L. was wearing it to work.  In addition to the most lovely note, she called me.  She talked about how good it felt.  The Yarn Goddess apparently smiled on the endeavor: my improvisation fit as if it was bespoken.

STF Elysium 100% cashmere in Ruby

STF Elysium 100% cashmere in Ruby

I asked if she’d like another.

It’ll be finished in the next day or so.

All because I know fantastic women.


Rhinebeck YarnoraMama!

October 24, 2012

It has been far too long since Luann and I have celebrated a YarnoraMama.  Life, work, kids, you name it:  It all gets in the way.  So when the opportunity arose to take her to her first Rhinebeck, it seemed like the right time to see if the cosmic forces would align to allow YarnoraMama IV to happen.

They did.

Dutchess County Fairgrounds – aka “Rhinebeck”

So I could allow her to experience this.  This captures what’s in my mind when I think of Rhinebeck.  I’ve been there in pouring rain, wicked wind and bright sun ~ sometimes several of those in one day.  But this is the quintessential fall-in-New-England event and it should look just like this.

A Teeswater poses prettily

One cannot justify driving 100 miles to a sheep and wool festival without properly admiring the sheep, of course.  The young people, most involved in 4-H, work very hard to raise and show these animals when their friends are off doing teen

Everything you need to know … well, not quite

and ‘tween things.  They know more about these sheep than I ever will.  We owe it to them to start with a visit to the Breed barn to see their ribbons and displays.  After all, without them, there is no knitting.  And fact of the matter, if you were to break down my yarn purchases of the past three years, an astounding percentage come from small farms raising special breeds as I have joined others exploring what makes each special on the needles in the Knitters Book of Wool woolalong inspired by our fearless leader, Clara Parkes.

A Soay sheep from Ashford, CT

I suppose in some respects it’s not fair to take a first-timer on a guided tour of this mother-of-all-sheep-festivals (a superlative shared with Maryland Sheep and Wool, of course.  I’ll let the experts fight over the true winner there.).  There is something to be said for arriving and being immediately lost in a sea of jostling knitters with pointy elbows, all searching for that perfect skein.  Maybe it’s not fair to have removed the “overwhelm” from the equation.

Eight warm legs and eight socks displayed. Where’s Miss Muffet?

However, there is certainly much to be said for attending Rhinebeck on Sunday.  The crowds are significantly smaller, and it is a far more pleasant experience.  Fewer people dragging rolling suitcases indiscriminately over toes and strollers jamming up the aisles.  (I, for one, would never have brought Darling Bebe.  Nope.)  To be sure, there was still

Of course there were owls!

enough to look at to go into sensory overload.  From potters and button-makers to the incomparable Shepherd’s Flock slippers to LYS bringing their wares on the road and independent dyers like Spirit Trail Fiberworks, where we found our peeps with Jennifer’s

Gratuitous (lousy) shot of Mountain Ash shawl knitted for the booth last spring

gorgeous wares.

This was akin to having dessert before dinner, for we will all be together at the Knitter’s Review Retreat in a mere three weeks.  The friends who have showered me with virtual hugs over the past few months were generous with the real thing in person.  I have missed them so.

I would be remiss if I did not tell you about one “find” from one of

Cashmere Crepe by Still River Mill

my favorite luxury yarn sources.  I have written before about Still River Mill, which spins for many area farms and also produces small batches of its own fibers.  Meet Cashmere Crepe:  Fair-trade cashmere.  Cashmere Crepe is the result of a program by USAID to help develop the economy of Afghanistan.  As such, this NGO trained more than 200,000 goat herders on the value of cashmere from their flocks,

Cashmere Crepe – 120 yards, fingering wt, 100% cashmere

and how to properly harvest the fiber.  The result is this fingering-weight 100% cashmere in 25g skeins, with 120 yards.  It sells retail for $18.  That’s a little more expensive than the other cashmere SRM offers, but considering the goal of the project and the distance it traveled to get to here, it’s not an inordinately large price tag to make a pair of fingerless mitts or a sweet cowl from a single skein.   Cashmere Crepe is not on the SRM website yet ~ look for it at their booth at the Fiber Festival of New England (a terrific indoor event!) or drop them a line at and tell them I sent you.

At Rhinebeck, I reach a point of fiber saturation.  There is a moment where I can’t look at or appreciate another thing.  It’s the place Luann and I reach at the same time.

In all, Luann and I spent four glorious hours in the car together (how often do you say that about four hours in the car going anywhere?).  I took her to Owl Manor so she could see the world’s largest blue tarp ~ and bear witness that I am not having a bad dream that won’t let me wake up.  We saw gorgeous rolling countryside, glorious autumn foliage and bucolic Connecticut villages.  We caught up with the things that a couple of busy moms with “balance issues” need to do.

The only downside: facing work on Monday.

Countdown to the Knitter’s Review Retreat has begun!

* Apologies for lousy photography.  Leaving the plastic over the new iPhone camera lens and flash didn’t really help.


August 7, 2012

I hardly know where to begin.  In retrospect, the title of my last post was oddly prescient.  I just didn”t know it then.  I cannot bear to look at its contents now.

If you live near here, you already saw the news coverage ~ it was on every station.  You pretty much couldn’t escape it.  (I used to be one of those news reporters camped out near the carnage.  I got out of that business for many reasons.  But I digress.)

The facts are rather straightforward: A bolt of lightning hit Owl Manor Sunday night while we were out-of-town picking up Darling Bebe.  On our arrival home, we had a waiting voicemail from a neighbor and Mr. Owl went to check it out.  He smelled something electrical inside on one end of the house … and then on the back stairs, smelled smoke.  The valiant professionals from our fire department were there within minutes, but fireballs were shooting out of the roof and windows by that point.  The fire had been burning in the attic and walls for hours and it was only through luck and timing that Mr. Owl was there to find and report it.

I was at home putting DB to bed.  Unable to leave the house, I watched the lead story on the late news, seeing flames in the graceful arched window that overlooked the park as my 98-year-old dream home burned.  And burned.

On the 2nd floor, daylight instead of a 3rd floor

Anyone who tells you things will look better by daylight is lying.  This is the door between Darling Bebe’s 2nd-floor bedroom and adjoining bath.  There should be a 3rd floor above. Not trees and sky.

I could only follow the fire marshal so far.  It hurt too much to look and I couldn’t see through the tears anyway.

The interior has been ruled a total loss.  Most of the details you saw previously are gone.

Yes, there are many ways we are blessed and fortunate: neither firefighter nor civilian was injured; we

A souvenir swatch from the grand foyer

have not sold our home; we had no possessions there; it was insured and can be rebuilt.  Wise Bullwinkle and Luann are right that perhaps the fire smote out the sadness and cleansed it of any remaining bad karma (not to mention dog smells).

All these things are true, but in all honesty, I am just not there yet.

I’m not anywhere:  I cannot process this.

It is grief, to be sure.  I spent more than a year of my life waiting and planning to be the next caretaker of this special historic property and within 72 hours of actually owning it ~ without ever spending a night under its roof ~ it was gone.


June 28, 2012

I generally avoid those, “If you were on a desert island …” sort of exercises.  Being asked to make choices in a vacuum seems a pointless use of time.

Then I started clearing out chez Owl to make the little box presentable for market.  In so doing, I reduced an entire bookcase of knitting texts and pattern leaflets down to bare necessities.  I didn’t like packing away old friends.  Maybe they’ll really like new digs if they don’t have to share space with anything as pedestrian as ~ fiction.

The former library

How did these end up staying shelved?  They are either go-to texts and reference manuals, or books I’m reasonably likely to need to put my hands on over the next three months.  Or they wouldn’t fit in the two three four boxes (and counting) that went to storage.

I am less than nervous about this one short shelf.  That’s probably because my vast electronic pattern collection is stored on The Cloud.  If there’s something I need, I can get it anywhere, anytime.

That said, the bare essentials are a trio:

  • I don’t go far without access to Nancie Wiseman’s Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques ~ still the most useful book of knitting choices I know.  Why use SSK vs SKP?  Find out here.  And do yourself a favor – do buy the hardcover with the spiral spine.  You’ll be glad you did.
  • EZ’s Knitting Without Tears always has a little nugget when I am in need.  (Funny, I have three copies of it and they all look different.  That’s staying power.)
  • Cool Knitters Finish in Style from Lucy Neatby has nice little details that make all the difference in a perfect finish – great gift from Luann.

I have a project going now (which seems to be going on indefinitely) from Melissa Morgan Oakes’ Two-at-a-Time Socks book, because if you really have to make socks (or anything else paired), you might as well make both simultaneously.  Others here hold current or likely little projects I could pick up.  You cannot live without at least one Barbara Walker.  Ann Budd’s Handy Book of Knitting Patterns will get you through anything in any size and any weight.  Kim Hargreaves’ Pipsqueaks (now out of print) is the single best children’s book I’ve ever seen.

And it never hurts to have a couple of skeins of a favorite yarn (Spirit Train Fiberworks Birte) ready to go for the next project.  As Luann puts it: “Break-glass-in-case-of-emergency knitting.”

Too many emergencies these days ~ not enough knitting, IYKWIM.

ETA:  Oh, and an update on our not-so-little Ravellenic kerfuffle.  Because it’s just bad form to denigrate people.  The USOC “apologized” to us.  Not really.  Hence the quotation marks.  They sent an intern to do a grown-up’s work.  Adding proverbial insult, etc.  Oh, you mean you invite us to spend our precious time and talent making things you clearly don’t want because you’ve already belittled the bejeebus out of them?

But did you really expect any more?  C’mon.


August 3, 2011

Heavens to Murgatroyd!  Nearly a month since my last post?  My knee-jerk response would be, “I’m not sure how that happened.”  But to bring you up-to-date, it sort of makes sense.  Since I last wrote here:

~ I have been head-hunted aggressively.  It has been most welcome, and deservedly time-consuming.  If the stars align properly the pay-off will be enormous.

Digression:  Since you are all aware that my skill with a needle and thread is inversely proportional to my skill with knitting needles and yarn, you can make your own mental picture of me, the night before a Big Interview, hemming my suit slacks by hand, having discovered at wise KnittingKittens’ urging, that even with heels, they were too d*** long.  At least it prevented me from obsessing too much about other things.  And if it didn’t go well, guess who was going to get a wake-up call and an Owl on her door-step?

~ I have been successful in the first step toward (depending on your POV) owning a white-elephant money pit we shall refer to as Owl’s Folly OR preserving an incredible piece of my city’s history.  This first approval has taken three months of meetings with contractors, bankers and other involved parties as well as waiting, and then waiting some more.  The process promises more waiting yet to come.  That’s okay, I have all the time in the world.  If it works out, NutmegOwl shall have her own Knitting Studio in her own owl box.  There, I said it.

~ The at-fault party finally paid for the last bill related to wrecking my car on December 1, 2010.

~ I completed not one, not two, but three shawls.  You’ve only seen a glimpse of one of them.  The blocking runway has been hopelessly jammed up.  (Which will never again happen if I am living in Owl’s Folly where there will be dedicated blocking space.)

~  Darling Bebe and I discovered that not only do Amtrak riders loathe sharing seats with other riders, but also conductors refuse to use their authority to make passengers move so that toddlers can safely sit in seats – much less sit with their mommies.  Nope.  Instead, the conductor in question told us to stand in the space between cars until the next stop – a half-hour away – until some people got off and try to locate seats then.  No matter that this was the expensive train, the Acela Express, and that we paid for two seats, as opposed to those fellow passengers who paid for one seat but were taking up two.  D’ya really think that was the safest place to tell a three-year-old to stand?  May a special place in heaven be reserved for the mommy who witnessed our predicament, moved her husband and herself to allow us to sit together.  And if you ever see a mother and child looking for seats on a train, do the right thing.

~ I started completing my commissions for Rhinebeck for Spirit Trail Fiberworks.  Yes – in July for October.  I’m ahead in one tiny part of my world.  Stay tuned for pictures and deets.

~ I received a big national industry award for my work.  Someone thinks I’m good at what I do, if not the person who employs me to do it and routinely castigates me for neither doing enough, nor executing it well enough.

~ Most importantly, during the most historic sweltering days New England can remember, I was able to see not one, but two of my favorite women in the world.The aforementioned award meant a trip to Boston to receive it.  Which meant some free time, too.  And a truly wonderful meal at Sel de la Terre with Hipparchia.   Hipparchia is wise and funny and the most fearless

A s'more is a s'more

knitter I’ve ever known.  Somehow she manages to churn out lovely projects while lecturing all over the world, teaching, writing and raising amazing young people.  I should be so lucky when I grow up.  And I only have so many friends who appreciate fresh duck liver mousse and take me places where I can get it.  Which is not to say that being a foodie means taking ourselves too seriously.  I mean, “warm molten chocolate fondant, toasted house made marshmallow; graham cracker ice cream” is really s’mores deconstructed, right?  Bring on the campfire!

Gather Here

A mere day later, with my business completed and the car-mometer well into the hundreds, it was time to meet cyber-sis Luann on her turf at Gather Here in Cambridge.  It was easy to see the appeal of — sewing — (There!  I said it!) surrounded by bolt after bolt of fresh bright prints.  Then again, with the AC not functioning well, it had to be in the upper ’90s indoors, so the thought of knitting or spinning was a little, umm, unappealing to say the least.

Luann's prezzie for Owl

No matter, for as you all know, when we are together, knitting is the least of it.  Of course, she had to blow me away with her new seamstress skills.  To wit, my new knitting bag – which she somehow knew I needed.  The fabric from her stash from her days in Hawaii (I only hope the writing doesn’t say, This idiot

Look! It's nutmeg!

paid too much!), and look at the lining – NUTMEG! – and with a perfectly centered pocket and magnetic closure, no less.  If she is not careful, Luann and KnittingKittens are going to be sewing an awful lot of drapes for Owl’s Folly.

Shall we call ourselves caught up, then?

YarnoraMama III

April 18, 2011

It’s somehow not at all surprising that for both Luann and me, our periodic YarnoraMama meet-ups fall during what seem like the worst possible times ~ when the work schedule is out of control, home life is crazy and the last thing it seems one should do is take a day off.

Which is precisely why it is the absolute right time to do so ~ for two working moms to walk away from every responsibility for One. Precious. Day.  (Previous YarnoraMamas are here and here.)

Victoria Station Cafe

Her charge this time: Tell me where to be and I will get there.   “There” in this case, being the charming and friendly Victoria Station Cafe in Putnam, Conn.  Dubbed “The Quiet Corner,” northeastern Connecticut is home to agriculture and tiny towns.  Putnam is a town that has quietly evolved, with new life for old downtown spaces that have one foot in the past and another in the future.  Virtually every menu features gluten-free or vegan fare from in many cases locally raised produce.

Here, the mismatched furniture, exposed brick and original woodwork all make sense.  We parked on a couch in a front window as a steady stream of patrons made their way in for “the usual” or one of the too-tempting selections in the endless display cases.

What more do two gals need?

Funny, but even our food choices were rooted in fiber … The cinnamon rolag at left, being a term for a roll of prepared fiber ready for spinning.  Those are the remnants of a sfogliatelle at right, in the wake of a powdered-sugar explosion, in case you’re wondering.   (Pink boxes of treats left for home in both directions …)

MadelineTosh Pure Silk Lace in Lichen

And birthday presents, too!  Lucy Neatby’s terrific tome on fabulous finishing and a stunning skein of MadelineTosh Pure Silk Lace in the colorway Lichen.  Truly, it is the colors of an heirloom lilac in bloom.  Breathtaking.

It’s been too long since my cyber-sister and I were together ~ last November’s Knitter’s Review Retreat to be precise.  As efficient as online communication is, there is simply no substitute for sitting down, face-to-face, for hours of catching up about the mundane and the life-altering.  Among her many talents, Luann always serves as a (barely) older, wiser sanity check for me at a time when that sanity is in question every third minute.  And that’s before we get to the mommy advice I so sorely need now that we are immersed in the Tyrannical Threes.

How did five hours pass so quickly?


Other than meeting in a place with an endless supply of caffeine, YarnoraMamas must always include a yarny destination.  Woolworks fit that bill.  Tasha (sp?) could not have been more welcoming on the phone or in person.  The knitters inside were warm and friendly, and the reasons this shop has become a local destination were clear.  It made me long for the days when I actually had a local yarn shop in my world.  Sigh.

All too soon, the fact of rush-hour return traffic was all too real.  Time to separate again for our respective homes and uber-busy lives.  But I feel better ~ saner and clearer ~ than I have in a long time.

And that is what YarnoraMama is all about.


March 16, 2011

If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Kilkenny Cowl

That credo prevails in my knitting.  Thus, my recent frogging and complete re-start of the Quince & Co. Kilkenny Cowl.  I was not pleased at the Knitting Time Lost.  And having knitted what is essentially the body of a sport-weight sweater ~ twice ~ I was bored.

Chickadee in Gingerbread

When I was finished knitting, I liked it.

Now that it’s blocked ~ it is delicious.

The difference is all in the blocking.

I’m rather finicky about blocking cowls.  In order to get the shape I want without a crease, it involves working in three dimensions.  Often, inverting my trusty old tin vase works fine, but this one took a modicum of creativity.

I put a sleeping pillow into a large plastic bag, lining the inside with tall pieces of recycled cardboard.  After soaking the cowl in Eucalan, I blotted it, then put the bagged pillow/cardboard inside the cowl to hold it up.  I pinned the cowl into the plastic and cardboard where the ribbing and the knitting meet ~ not at the bind-off: I did not want the edge to develop points.  (Yes, I thought about photographing this, but it was not aesthetically pleasing and looked rather jury-rigged.)

Toasty Gingerbread

This allowed the cowl to dry quickly, suspended gently, with no creases.

The Quince & Co. Chickadee in Gingerbread blocked out wonderfully without any special pinning out ~ the lace sectioned opened nicely.  The yarn bloomed and softened a bit.  The colorway looks a little washed out in these photos ~ it is richer IRL.

For the record, although I did not stretch this in any way, the yarn did relax for a much larger circumference after pinning.

Finished dimensions:  Height: 14.5 inches   Circumference: 38 inches.  Used 3.5 skeins.

Project marriage score: 9.5

No cable needle needed

This version of the cowl includes eight chart repeats, not seven, so that I can pull it up over my head in case of need.  (Thanks for that suggestion, Luann!)  My row gauge tends to always be shorter than my stitch gauge, so the additional repeat compensates, too.  And, BTW, I knitted the whole thing without a cable needle.  About time I learned how to do that …

I am rapidly entering the WIP wilderness where it may be awhile before I have much to show you.  There’s a little personal designing going on for this month’s Babydoll Southdown wool-along.  We’ll see where that goes.  If it’s worth looking at, I’ll show you.  If it’s not, I’ll probably show you anyway.

Who killed (Kil)kenny?

February 11, 2011

Sometimes a mindlessly enjoyable/enjoyably mindless project brings inattention.  Knitting auto-pilot.  The results are usually smashing.

Last night, I was thinking about Luann’s advice to add a few repeats to my Kilkenny Cowl.  At this point, there was far more yarn left than there should have been.  Suspiciously, I brought out the tape measure.

Nearly complete? I think not.

The project is four inches shorter than it should be.  Let’s check that gauge.  You know, the gauge you never bothered to check as you knitted and knitted and knitted …

For finer gauges, I know I tend to knit loosely, so I always start a couple of needle sizes below what a pattern calls for.  And for an accessory like a cowl, if it looks okay, I just keep going.  Repeat after me:  “Mistake.”

Lousy close-up

I’m getting 6.2 st/in versus the intended 5.1 st/inch.  That’s a mega-difference in the final circumference.

None of this is the fault of the very versatile Quince & Co. Chickadee, which has gladly produced the cables and lace throughout this sampler pattern.  The texture is certainly sproingy.  But perhaps too dense.  In fact, it could use some drape.  And some circumference.

In spite of being nearly finished, I know I can’t be happy with it leaving it be.

Decision made.  You know what comes next.

In lieu of lunch

The ball-winder joined me for lunch.

And I killed Kilkenny.  Only to cast on, again, of course.

This is only regrettable tragic in that it represents Knitting Time Lost.  KTL cannot be regained.  Battling a wicked case of start-itis (when I would like to start five new things this very minute), this development is most unwelcome.  But the pattern is wonderful and the yarn, more so.

I killed (Kil)kenny

At least with knitting, we get do-overs …

The mittens, shawl and mitts can wait. Really, they can. The yarn is not going to go bad waiting.  Really, it’s not.

You know you want to wrangle the WIPs to a minimum.

Stand firm, Owl!

It’s not like spring will be here any time soon.

Karma earned

January 20, 2011

Good things go to those who create good things.  Smart LYS owners know this.  Create a friendly, happy place and you’ll be graced by same.

I was delighted to see this op-ed from the New York Times.  And the follow-up letter to the editor about joyous knitters.

If you regularly browse here, you might recall that the LYS described was the destination for YarnoraMama II with cyber-sis Luann.  I miss her dearly – and the lovely day we spent there.

Warm thoughts during what seems a vicious winter of discontent – at least weather-wise.

Would you believe that having had snow days twice in the past two weeks, my office is already opening late tomorrow ~ before a single snowflake flies?



January 3, 2011

The mystery package arrived before Christmas, from Serpent’s Dance Designs in Shepherdsville, Ky.

I love surprises.  So I left it in its postal package under the tree.

It held this.

Copper owl shawl pin

A copper nutmeg owl for Nutmeg Owl.

Sent by my cybersister, Luann.  I never cease to wonder where she finds the time …

What's inside?

On the other hand, this little package arrived chez Owl recently.  Inside the perfect pale blue paper, limited-edition goodies some of you will see at a later date in 2011.  Keep reading.

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