Monday, January 31, 2011

IBOL 3: Revenge of the Zombie Yarn

Okay, so I made that subtitle up myself. But you may remember me talking about "IBOL" last year. "IBOL" stands for "Iraqi Bundles of Love," a creative way that a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq managed to connect American sewers and knitters with their Iraqi and Afghani counterparts. The first IBOL took place in 2009, when Major Art LaFlamme leveraged the power of the internet and the enthusiasm of the crafting community to collect sewing and knitting supplies to distribute in Iraq. The first IBOL collected over 3400 bundles of supplies and distributed them in three Iraq provinces. Part of the charm of IBOL was that it was completely grassroots: the program wasn't technically sponsored by the Army, so soldiers volunteered to help with collection and distribution, and bundles were created and mailed by American crafters who relished the idea of making a connection to Iraqi women. Major LaFlamme also figured that a program like this one was a perfect way to implement the Army's desire to make greater connections with Iraqi citizens by providing a friendly reason for soldiers to interact with Iraqis.

The response was so great that Major LaFlamme coordinated a second IBOL, which took place in late summer 2010. This time the State Department did officially sponsor the program, but it was scaled down to match the more limited resources of the group distributing the bundles. Over 900 bundles were sent and distributed.

Now it's time for IBOL 3. The goal right now is to collect 500 bundles that will be distributed in a first "surge." (More bundles will be collected later in the year, too.) So if you've got leftover fabric, thread, sewing supplies, yarn, knitting needles, crochet hooks, buttons, or anything that an enterprising crafter can use in a world without a Joann Fabric or LYS or A.C. Moore nearby, please consider pledging to send a bundle or two. You just get a priority mail box (free at your local post office), fill it with fabric, yarn, whatever you're sending that's on the list, bundle it together and mail it out.

The IBOL blog is here, the IBOL FAQs are here, and directions for how to bundle your bundle are here.

Thanks for considering it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

VK Live: part 2

Saturday morning rolled around all too quickly, and we were up and at 'em again for the next day of classes. Once again, I was teaching morning and afternoon, and tried to dash up the room for a quick rest between classes. I know I said this in my last VK post, but the students in my classes were extraordinary. It makes such a difference when your students are eager to learn and so engaged in what you are discussing.

By Saturday night -- after teaching four classes in two days -- I was really starting to feel fatigued. However, someone had thoughtfully passed on extra tickets to the banquet to Kathy and me, so instead of crashing at 6 p.m. (which I was sorely tempted to do), we freshened up to attend the banquet.

Street sign

The banquet room was huge and jam-packed with people. There were two presentations made by the VK folks in between courses. Trisha Malcolm began with a charming overview of the history of Vogue Knitting, followed by a sneak peek at the upcoming issue (including showing us unretouched photos from the most recent photo shoots). It was fun to get an early look at the upcoming magazine, and there plenty of gorgeous garments in there. We happened to be sitting at the same table as the talented Brooke Nico, and were very excited to see one of her fabulous lace garments shown. We were also sitting with Ruth Garcia-Alcantud, who has a lovely sock design in the latest Twist Collective.

Radio City

The second presentation was for the winners of the Magic of Mohair contest, a competition sponsored by a nonprofit South African trade group designed to publicize and educate the public about mohair. We were treated to a fashion show of the finalists, and there were some absolutely spectacular entries. The competition was divided into a student category and a regular category. The young woman who won the student category was so visibly thrilled that she captured everyone's heart. Laura Zukaite (who designs a lot for ArtYarns) was the winner of the designer category with a gorgeous dress. I tried to take some photos of some of the finalists because the level of creativity and skill was so amazing, but only one of them came out (this was from my cell phone):

One of the mohair competition finalists

After the banquet, Kathy and I reconvened with our pal Sally for a sleepover in my room. We giggled, gossiped, read Tiger Beat and ended the evening with a tickle fight.

Purl Soho

Or at least a snoring competition, which I am sure I won. (Any time I travel and spend a lot of time in recycled air, it wreaks havoc on my sinuses. Getting old sucks.)

Kersti & Kathy

Sunday was another blur of classes (again -- super-amazing students who made the time fly), quick trips through the marketplace and saying goodbyes to the lovely people around us -- although I was very pleased that I managed to see the amazing Mochiland display in the marketplace. The level of detail was incredible. For some reason, none of my photos of it came out, but you can see a great shot of it on the Mini Mochiland blog here.

After not seeing my kids for four days, I was very eager to get home and after my last class, I bolted. I got lucky: found a cab quickly, got to the station quickly, and grabbed the next train home.

It's been a week now, and I still feel mentally energized from the show and also physically fatigued! But I had a fabulous time. There is nothing more exhilarating to me then getting to spend a lot of time around other fiber-lovers, to see their knitted items, to exchange ideas, and just to be surrounded by people who love yarn and knitting as much as I do.

And getting to do it in the amazing city of New York was just the icing on the cake.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


One of the nice things about being a knitting designer -- especially after spending nearly a decade as a corporate litigator -- is that there is very rarely a true emergency. Yes, there are deadlines, but most of the time we know about them in advance, and there's often wiggle room of a day or so if you need a little more time. But yesterday I had to stop what I was doing to make these:

Two little pre-emie caps. My cousin and godson had his first child, a little girl named Lily who was born about 2 months early. She's only 3 pounds and change, and don't you think it was worth postponing the other things I planned to work on to give her some handmade, sized-to-fit caps?

left in Dale Svale; right in Crystal Palace Panda Silk

Welcome to the world, Lily. Maybe someday, when you're older, I'll teach you how to knit.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

VK Live Update part I

Whew. What a weekend. I got in Sunday night and basically collapsed: between all of the activity, the classes and the exhilaration of being around so many fiber people in one of the greatest cities in the world....I was tired to the bone. I'm starting to catch up, though, and I'll try to give you a recap of the weekend, although right now it kind of seems like a whirlwind.

I got up early Thursday, but before I could leave for the Big Apple, I needed to visit Elvis's middle school. Unfortunately his big band/orchestra concert was scheduled for Thursday night, and given the VK Live schedule (a teacher's meeting to attend at 7:30 a.m. Friday, followed by my first class), I was going to have to miss it. (This made me very unhappy.) But they were doing a short version of it in the morning, so I went and got a chance to see some of it, and it was wonderful. Then it was off to 30th Street Station, to catch a train to New York City.

the Big Board at 30th Street

I love riding the train; I find it very relaxing. The ride was quick and I caught a cab to the hotel, which was at 53rd and Sixth Ave. I was lucky in that even though it was before check-in time, a room was ready, so I was able to drop off my stuff and chill a little bit. I didn't see too many knitters milling about, but I knew I wasn't going to have a lot of time later in the weekend to take advantage of being in New York, so I decided to take a walk. My ultimate goal was City Quilter, a quilt shop all the way down on 25th St. It was a great walk, and it gave me a chance to soak in some of that unique New York atmosphere.

Including a run-in with Elmo and Cookie Monster right on Sixth Avenue.

It's hard to photograph yourself with large fuzzy monsters

When I arrived back at the hotel, my timing couldn't have been more perfect. For who was walking in but rural chicken-farmer and designer/author Melissa Morgan-Oakes?

If you are on Facebook, you may know that MMO and I have a running gag about me being her stalker. In the above photo, she had just walked in the door of the hotel, backpack still on, and it just so happened that I was in the lobby at the time. Pretty good stalking, no?

I was quickly joined by Kathy Merrick, along with Taiu and Kersti of Koigu fame, and Mr. and Mrs. Buffalo Gold themselves, along with Brooke Nico (lace designer extraordinaire). We took the subway downtown, and ended up at Purl's new store. I'm always knocked out when I go to Purl. Such a lovely selection of yarns, and this trip I was also enticed by the quilting fabric. I even stumbled over some Koigu Mori at 40 percent off (!). After that, we decided to wander around Soho. Miss Kersti was quite the shopper and eagerly checked out shops selling everything from Doc Martens to Chanel to chocolate-covered bacon. (To my knowledge, no one actually tasted the chocolate-covered bacon, although I offered to buy Kathy some.)

Back to the hotel, where we crashed. When I go to these fiber festivals, I end up practically vibrating in place in my bed. I was so hyped up that I could barely can get to sleep. I was so eager and nervous to teach my first class that I had no trouble waking up on time and getting down to the 7:30 teacher's meeting. All I can say was walking into that room was such a rush: so many dear friends were there (like Franklin) and so many of the amazing fiber people I've met through the years (like Kristin Nicholas and Melissa) and in addition, so many of my knitting heroes (Cat Bhordi, Meg Swansen, Debbie Bliss...).

View from the 20th floor of hotel

The teachers would have loved to spend the whole time chatting and catching up, but we needed to cover practical matters, and the Vogue staff was really concerned with making sure that things went as smoothly as possible so that students would have a good experience.

When it comes to the teaching, I can honestly say I was knocked out by my students. They were eager and enthusiastic. They asked great questions, often anticipating topics I planned to cover later, and offered up interesting and relevant experiences from their own knitting. There is something absolutely amazing and gratifying when you can actually see a light bulb go on in a student's eyes as something connects with them, and they understand stuff they hadn't thought about before. And in each class someone contributed something new or that I hadn't heard before, so that I was taking notes of things to remember to add to future classes.

walking down 6th Avenue

I had just enough time in between classes for lunch and a little rest in my room. After the second class of the day, I was able to attend the marketplace preview from 5 to 7. It was crowded, however, and I was so glazed over from teaching, that I didn't stay that long and left after ogling the new Koigu pure silk yarn at String's beautiful booth. (It's divine.)

That night there was a cocktail reception. It was fantastic, as I ended up meeting the amazing Sarah Hatton, Rowan designer extraordinaire, Josh Bennett (a.k.a. Foxy Knitman), and seeing Debbie Bliss, her adorable daughter Nell and son Will, and so many other fun people. We were having such a good time that the hotel people ended up kicking us out by blasting Chopin piano music and turning the lights up, as we just didn't want to leave.

Back to bed, and my first official day of VK Live was over.

To be continued

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two most important things you need to know about VK Live

1. There were no bedbugs at the Hilton.


Full recap coming soon...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Start spreadin' the news...

I'm leaving for NYC today and the exciting VK Live! I'll be teaching all day, every day, but I hope to see some of you when I get a chance to wander around the marketplace. Updates as I can do them...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No Bull Book Review: Nordic Knits, by Martin Storey

I'm trying to keep up some momentum, while the year is still fresh and new. We got more snow last week, and freezing rain today. So what better time to think about knitting cozy, warm projects, than when it's cold and gray outside?

Enter Martin Storey's new book, Nordic Knits: 29 Stylish Small Projects (St. Martin's Griffin 2010; MSRP $24.99, available via the link for $16.45 as of the time of this writing). Martin Storey is one of my favorites, part of that prolific yet always elegant set of designers who work with Rowan Yarns. In Nordic Knits, Storey focuses on projects inspired by the great knitting traditions of northern Europe. Storey notes in the introduction that his love of Nordic knitting, which he defines as knitting inspired by the traditions of Norway, Finland, Sweden, the Baltic countries, and Great Britain and the islands surrounding it, is based on:

firstly their inherent love of good-quality natural yarns, and secondly their abiding interest in textural stitch patterns, along with a great appreciation of wonderful rich yet soft colors.

Storey then goes on to briefly discuss stranded colorwork and cabled knitting, both hallmarks of the Nordic tradition (these are brief overviews, not how-to sections.) The book then moves right on to the patterns. A two-page section at the end illustrates the basics of colorwork knitting, and the book concludes with two pages of miscellaneous information (sizing, gauge, abbreviations and the like).

Folkie hot water bottle cover

What about the patterns, you say? Well, the patterns are all presented together, rather than divided into categories or sections. There are 29 total, and as the title promises, most are smaller items -- accessories, some vests, but no long-sleeved cardigans or pullovers (except for one cropped shrug).

Peppi socks

First up is a set of four coordinating patterns; I say "coordinating" because they all use the same or similar bands of stranded patterning. The Astrid hat, legwarmers, scarf and vest are all knit with Rowan Felted Tweed, with an emphasis on the warm red and lovely blue-green used as main colors.

Astrid legwarmers

Next is a set of four coordinating patterns featuring cablework. Mitten, scarf, hat and socks are all knit in creamy off-white Rowan Wool-Cotton.


The remaining patterns are about evenly divided, with half of them home dec items: including a large textured floor cushion, a two-color stranded hot water bottle cover, 2 cushions, coffee cup covers, coordinating placemats, table runner and coasters with a snowflake theme, and another cushion.

Reindeer Cushion (Stripe Cushion peeks out on the left)

The other half are garments and accessories, including a simple shrug in Kidsilk Haze, two colorwork bags, a stole with heart motifs, a stranded vest (Mr. Go-Knit-In-Your-Hat likes this one),

Hans Vest

a coordinating pair of slouchy socks and a snood (or circular scarf/wimple), a very traditional-looking poncho or wrap, a messenger-style bag, a pair of stranded socks, a second pair of legwarmers (these in one color, with textural detail), and a scarf.


For those of you keeping track, there's only one pattern that specifically is called a man's pattern (the vest), but some of the other garments are shown being worn by both male and female models, like the Astrid accessories. That leaves open the possibility that male knitters could make and wear a few patterns other than the vest. Nine patterns are for home items, with the rest for the ladies. (Sorry parents: no kid stuff, either.)


Sizing for the Astrid vest goes from small (finished circumference of 35.5 inches) to large (finished circumference 43.5 inches); the shrug goes from small (35 inches finished bust) to extra-large (52 inches finished bust) and the men's vest ranges from 44.5 to 53.5 inches finished chest. The remaining garments are less size-conscious, either one-size-fits-most accessories or home items that don't require sizing.

The projects are all shown in lovely Rowan yarns, with the vast majority in Felted Tweed (and a few in Wool-Cotton), both of which are worsted-to-dk gauge; there's one item knit in fingering weight yarn (the stole), one in Kid Silk Haze (the shrug); and two patterns in Felted Tweed Chunky and one in Felted Tweed Aran.

You'll find schematics for the garments; black and white charts for the stranded colorwork; lots of enticing photographs (shot by John Heseltine); and an attractive layout that suits the Nordic theme.

Summing up, then, Nordic Knits is a very attractive book inspired by both the stranded and cable traditions of northern Europe -- and, it seems, by the rich colors and gentle flecks of Rowan Felted Tweed. You'll find smaller accessories and lots of home items here; not much joy if you want to knit full-size sweaters, knit lots of stuff for men, or are looking for children's items. But if stranded patterning, tweedy cables and small projects entice you, you'll want to take a look.

Need stash?

If you're in the mood for yarn, I've just listed a new base at the BBF shop: a luscious blend of 55% superwash blue-faced leicester and 45% silk -- fingering weight, with each skein a generous 430 yds/100g. Here are some teasers:




Magic Carpet


Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy MLK Day

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

-- Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2010: My Reading Year in Review

I love to take some time in December or January to look back and think about the past 12 months. That includes the books I've read over the past year. 2010 was a particularly good year for me, readingwise. I'm not thinking of numbers (although I did read over 90 books this year! which may be a record for me) but in terms of quality and enjoyment.

For some reason, I really made an effort to expand the type of books I read this year; instead of mostly escapist mystery novels, I read lots more fiction (contemporary & classic), some memoirs, nonfiction, even some science fiction/fantasy stuff....and I found that reading a wider variety made me enjoy everything more. Note to self: don't get stuck in a rut.

I also made an attempt to read some of the books that I'd been meaning to read for a while but never did, for no apparent reason. Again, I found this very satisfying. The vast majority of them were books I really enjoyed -- books like My Antonia, Cold Comfort Farm, Wolf Hall, and Fahrenheit 451, to name a few. (Interestingly, a few that I thought I'd enjoy -- The Time Traveller's Wife, and The Glass Castle come to mind -- left me cold. You never know.) Note to self: stop procrastinating.

I also learned to keep an open mind about books that I didn't think I'd like. The Hunger Games trilogy comes to mind; I really didn't find the premise of the books appealing, but once I started them, I raced through them and heartily enjoyed them. Ditto for The Graveyard Book and Olive Kitteridge. Note to self: don't judge a book by its cover.

One development which I enjoyed a great deal was bookswapping with Elvis, my thirteen-year-old. When his English class read The Outsiders, I decided to read it myself on a whim. It was excellent, and it was fun to have that point of commonality with my kid. He read The Graveyard Book and highly recommended it, and I loved it, so when he assured me that The Hunger Games wasn't too bloodthirsty for me, I followed his advice and, again, really enjoyed it. Note to self: the kid's got good taste in books.

Having had such a good book year, and being the kind of person who thinks too much, I started wondering what influenced me to pick this crop of books to read, and to finish and enjoy so many of them. I got a Kindle for Christmas last year, and perhaps the novelty of reading books on it gave my reading a kickstart; I also believe that being part of the Amazon Vine program (where Amazon sends you free advance reader's copies in exchange for doing reviews of the book on its site) gave me the luxury of picking books that I might not have purchased for myself (i.e., books by authors I wasn't familiar with, or with topics/plots I wasn't sure I'd get into). Finally, I think that belonging to helped. It provided lots of suggestions for books from friends, and keeping public track of what I was reading encouraged me to stick with books and finish them (unless I absolutely loathed them). Who knows: maybe knowing that other people would see what I read also provided a subconscious boost to expand my reading choices.

We're well into January now, and I'm keeping the lessons I learned last year in mind as I pick books to dive into. Just this week, in fact, I read a young adult novel that my kid read and liked, on his recommendation -- and once again, I heartily enjoyed it.

Here's to another year of good reading. I'll keep doing my monthly book reports and I hope you'll keep chiming in with your opinions, suggestions and recommendations.

Friday, January 07, 2011

No-bull Book Review: Stitch N Bitch Superstar Knitting, by Debbie Stoller

My pile of new books is growing, so let's get the New Year started with a No-Bull Book Review.

I can only assume that the pesky litigation between that NYC fabric store and Debbie Stoller has been resolved favorably, because fresh off the presses, with the phrase "Stitch N Bitch" in the title, is Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar Knitting: Go Beyond the Basics (Workman 2011; MSRP $17.95, available for $10.33 via the link as of the time of this post). It's been a little while since the last SnB book, and Stoller-ites have been eagerly awaiting this installment of the very popular series.

Recognizing that her audience has undoubtedly progressed in skill since her first book -- which was definitely intended for readers who had never knit before -- Superstar Knitting is aimed at introducing advanced techniques: lace, cables, short-rows, double-knitting, adding beads, embroidery, and instruction in skills like increases, decreases and various bind-offs and cast-ons. All of these technical skills are supplemented by over 40 patterns, in Stoller's trademark funky style. Let's take a closer look.

Superstar Knitting is the same format as the other SnB books: paperback, a hefty 356 pages long, although unlike the earliest book, this one's got color throughout. The first half of the book -- approximately 164 pages -- is dedicated to technical instruction; the remainder is devoted to 41 patterns for women & kids.

Sheepy Time by Laurie Undis

Superstar Knitting starts with knitting in color: Chapter 1 covers knitting with one color at a time (stripes and colorblock), and thoughtfully includes instruction on finer points (like the Fibonacci sequence and how to change colors in ribbing) as well as slip stitches and double knitting. Chapter 2 addresses intarsia, again covering a lot of ground: selecting a good yarn for intarsia, using bobbins, making color changes neat, even how to fudge knitting intarsia motifs in the round. Chapter 3 is devoted to stranded knitting, including steeking, floats, and various ways to hold the two yarns in use. Lots of good technical stuff, there.

Chapter 4 turns to cabling and twisted stitches. Stoller covers cabling with and without a needle; traveling stitches; crosses and twists; Bavarian twisted stitches; mock cables; how to fix mistakes in your cables; bobbles; briefly touches on cabling in color; and addresses the issue of fabric distortion caused by cabling.

Gretel Tam by Ysolda Teague

Next up is lace: chapter 5 covers selecting needles and yarn, then goes over the stitches most commonly used in lace knitting (yarn over, single decreases, double decreases, purl decreases), how to read lace charts, a brief explanation (using photographs of swatches and accompanying charts) how yarnovers and other stitches create lace patterns; how to prevent mistakes or fix them; shaping in lace knitting; cast-ons and bind-offs; Estonian nupps; and blocking.

The last two chapters deal with odds and ends that are helpful to know once you've moved past beginning knitting skills: knitting with beads, duplicate stitch, embellishing knitted fabric with embroidery, a selection of cast-ons (including provisional and tubular, as well as more traditional methods), a selection of bind-offs (including how to do a picot-edge bind-off), a summary of increases and decreases (including whether they are left- or right-leaning), kitchener stitch, buttonholes, types of cord (e.g. I-cord), and short rows.

As you can tell, Stoller covers a hell of a lot of ground in those 115 pages. There are lots of diagrams and some photos to help it all make sense, and if it seems like a lot of material to cover, well, this book is designed to help intermediate knitters learn a host of new skills; of necessity, it can't cover every single topic and subtopic in great detail. Readers who become infatuated with one technique or another will undoubtedly want to delve deeper into these topics (and with topics like lace, you can delve awfully deep; ask Joe the Niebling-obsessed if you don't believe me), but this provides a good overview of the essentials in a readable, clear way.

Baby Corn, by Jane Pihota

The next 40 pages or so address designing your own sweater. Again, Stoller covers a lot of ground in those 4o-or-so pages: Chapter 8 urges the knitter to plan out the project, including swatching, measuring, sketching and calculating gauge; Chapter 9 walks the reader through drafting a drop-sleeve pullover (including a discussion of ease); Chapter 10 walks the reader through raglan and circular yoke sweaters; Chapter 11 does the same for set-in sleeves; and Chapter 12 covers necklines, special issues for cardigans, button and neckbands, picking up stitches and calculating yarn quantities. Entire books have been dedicated to knitwear design, and certainly it's not possible to do in forty pages what, say, Shirley Paden did in her recent knitwear design book, but that's really not a fair way to look at what Superstar Knitting is intended to do. What Stoller does well is cover the basics (adding some very helpful tips that experienced knitters swear by) in a clear and simplified way. A knitter who may occasionally want to design her own sweater will likely find all she needs in Stoller's book, and if the designing bug bites, she can immerse herself deeper in the topic later.

The Life Aquatic by Serena Murphy

The final section of the book is the pattern section. The book contains a whopping 41 patterns, mainly women's and babies/kids items. If you are a fairly experienced knitter and are considering buying the book for the patterns, you'll want to know what you're getting, so let's take a closer look.

The patterns are divided into five sections, organized to correspond to the techniques introduced in the first half of the book. The first section is devoted to "Color Basics and Stitch Witchery," and includes six patterns: a baby dress, a sideways-knit skirt, a short adult dress, the awesome Tulip Top

Tulip Top by Laura Grutzeck

from Philadelphia's own Laura Grutzeck (yay, Laura!), the Rococo Shawl and a pair of striped toe socks.

The second section features stranded and intarsia knitting. From the mittens with a squirrel motif at the cuff,

Squirrelly Mittens by Elli Stubentauch

to the steeked kids' skull sweater

Steeks & Stones by Mandy Powers

to the fish-yoked sweater (shown earlier in the review), stranded motifs are prominent.

Hip-Hop Blanket, by Jennifer Lippman-Bruno

You'll also find Charcoal's favorite, an intarsia bunny blanket (let me clarify: it is a blanket with bunnies on it, not a blanket for a bunny to lay upon chew), skull-themed socks, two bags, a little kid's sweater with a button-on panel, a sheep-themed kid's sweater and an argyle women's cardigan.

Bookish, by Emily Sessions

The third section is devoted to cables, twisted stitches and bobbles, and includes a textured short-sleeve sweater, a cap with colored cables, Ysolda Teague's Gretel tam (interestingly, this appears to be available simultaneously on Ravelry as an individual PDF from Ysolda's shop), a doggie coat, a bag with a textured leaf motif, a cabled hoodie, a short-sleeved lattice sweater, the "Fertility" blanket (an afghan/throw), thigh-high cabled stockings, and a pair of socks with twisted stitches and a lacy motif.

Little Red Riding Hoodie by Kate Chiocchio

The lace section features an airy mohair scarf, a market bag, a shrug, a short dress with a vertical cable motif, a cap-sleeve top, a mesh-stitch skirt, a cardigan with leafy lace motif, a boat-neck sweater,

Sweetheart Sweater by Karissa Watts

a cropped sweater and a pair of knee-highs.

English Mesh Lace Skirt by Suzi Anvin

The last section is devoted to patterns using beads and embroidery: a long pair of beaded gloves, a cardigan with beaded edging, a sweater with beads at yoke, cuffs and hem, beaded wristwarmers, and an adorable stuffed tiger.

Tiger Lily by Barbara Prime

For my statisticians, that's a total of 28 patterns for adult women; 5 for babies and young children; 1 for older kids; 1 home dec item (the afghan); 4 bags; and 1 stuffed tiger. Of the women's pattern,s you'll find this breakdown:
  • 2 skirts
  • 2 short dresses
  • 4 short-sleeved pullovers
  • 4 cardigans
  • 4 pullovers (one is very cropped)
  • 1 shrug
  • 1 shawl
  • 1 scarf
  • 3 pairs mittens/gloves.
Sizing tends to run S/M/L/XL, with the Small approximately 30- to 32-inches finished bust circumferences, and the X-Large ranging from about 43 to 46 inches finished bust (in one case, the argyle cardigan, the XL goes up to 53 inches finished bust), which means the plus-size knitter will have to check the sizing for the specific garments she's interested in or else be prepared to alter. Yarn weights are all over the place, from laceweight (for the floaty scarf) through heavy worsted/chunky, with a lot of worsted and DK-weights used. You'll find schematics where appropriate; charts, including color ones for the color patterns; clear photos of all the patterns (taken by Gabrielle Revere), with close-up shots of most stitch patterns and other details; and mini-bios of the individual designers included with each pattern.

Summing it up, Debbie Stoller has selected a good-looking group of patterns, with a lot of new and lesser-known designers included along with more established names. I personally liked this batch of patterns the best of all her books, although of course it doesn't matter what I think -- it's what the reader likes that's the determining factor in purchasing a book. I will point out that while conventional wisdom suggests that buying individual patterns is cheaper than buying books, that's not always the case. At the current price, with 41 patterns included, Superstar Knitting works out to be around a quarter a pattern -- an exceptional bargain. (Even if you assume that you won't make all the patterns in the book, if you made, say 20 of them, you'd still be paying only fifty cents or so per pattern -- a fraction of the cost of buying 20 or even 10 patterns individually.)

So check out Superstar Knitting. You'll find a wealth of technical information and tips, as well as a large selection of patterns. Deb Stoller has brought a whole generation of young knitters over to the dark side, and I like knowing that her army of knitters is eager and ready to take their knitting to the next level.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Happy birthday, Elvis!

Thirteen years ago yesterday, Tom was driving me down Montgomery Avenue while I alternately panted, and yelled annoying things like "PASS THAT CAR!" and "BLOW THAT YELLOW LIGHT!" I had gone into a sort of lightning labor -- from mild cramps to water breaking in about an hour -- and I was terrified that I'd have to pop out my baby in the middle of Fairmount Park. Worry not, for we arrived at Pennsylvania Hospital in plenty of time. My first words to the nurses were "Give me drugs" and the next were "GET IT OUT!"

Thirteen years ago last night, we were watching "Melrose Place" and "Ally McBeal" as I dilated. I'd had plenty of pain relief and was surprised at how relatively pleasant the process had become. Later, after a few hours of pushing, I was less chipper. When the baby's heart rate started to fluctuate, our OB (who had been called in from a dinner out, and was wearing the most darling burnt orange suede shoes) called for a C-section.

Thirteen years ago this morning, our petite OB had to call for a strapping resident to help yank out my baby, who was firmly wedged between my cephalopelvic disproportion due to my vigorous pushing. (I half-expected him to put a foot on my face for leverage, but thankfully, he did not.) All was well and the baby was healthy. That was really all that mattered, anyway.

My OB had been worried that I was growing a large kid, and she was right: he weighed in at 8 lbs. 13 oz. and he was two weeks early. I was a bit worried for a little while, since my unplanned c-section edged out Skinny Joey Merlino's wife, who was scheduled for 6 a.m. that morning. Although we saw lots of swarthy, beefy guys talking on cell phones (and, oddly, the nurses didn't seemed inclined to remind them that cell phones were prohibited in the hospital), no adverse action was taken against us for making Mrs. Merlino wait. Maybe my husband's Italian last name helped.

Thirteen years ago today, I was stitched up, loaded with morphine and gazing adoringly at our son. Even though I felt like I'd been run over by a truck, I was deliriously happy.

It blows my mind that our kid has just officially become a teenager. Those thirteen years, from where we stand now, seem to have flown by in an instant, even though they weren't always easy years, and our family has been through a lot.

I'm so proud of my kid (by the way, his name really isn't "Elvis"; we just call him that because he thinks he's The King).

He's taller than I am, wears shoes sized larger than his dad, and his knowledge of electronica puts us all to shame.

(Although it is nice to have on-site troubleshooting assistance with one's cell phone.) He's an amazing musician, playing cello, oboe, piano and sax,

and gets terrific grades. He's developed quite a hilarious sense of humor, full of irony (where'd he get that from, I wonder?) and, with very rare teenage-angst exceptions, is a pleasure to be with.

Happy birthday to my giant old baby. He will always be my baby, and I hope he will always be my friend. I love him more than words can say.