Thursday, December 31, 2009

Just barely squeaking it in

As part of my "if you pretend to have yourself together, eventually you will" method, I hereby announce the first official Black Bunny Fibers pattern download, the Faithful Companion Scarf. I designed this scarf with my friend Jim in mind; our annual pilgrimage to Rhinebeck has become a highlight of my autumn.

Jim likes to knit lace, so I designed a truly unisex lace pattern, using BBF Wool/Silk blend sock yarn (I'm adding more to the shop as soon as I get it photographed, but any BBF fingering weight yarn will do nicely). It's a nice way to ease into lace knitting, if you're new to it. No charts, and every other row is purled.

Right now it's available for PDF download on Ravelry, and I'm hoping it will be available on Patternfish soon, too. Since one of my personal goals for 2009 was to get my own pattern line started, I'm squeaking it in just under the wire... I've got some sock patterns and a hat coming soon, too, but not until after New Year's.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Crosspost: A look back at 2009 (knitting edition)

Hop over to the WEBS blog; before everything went haywire here, I did a guest-blogging post for my sweet pal Kathy Elkins, taking a look back at 2009, from a knitter's perspective.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Checking in

I didn't think I'd feel like blogging so soon -- Tom has to work today, so we returned from Wilkes-Barre last night -- but I've got so many thoughts running around in my head that I think it will help to get some of them out.

The services for my dad went about as well as these things can. My sister-in-law was a champ throughout this whole nightmare: her training as a nurse helped us navigate the medical stuff, and her common sense and caring helped take care of dozens of details of planning and logistics at a time when my mom, my brother and I were shellshocked and unable to deal. One thing for which I am profoundly grateful is that we all were on the same page when it came to making decisions throughout. It was a great relief to find we all agreed about the important issues that had to be decided.

In the past, I've never been a big fan of the open-casket "viewing." But after my grandmother's death a few years ago and now this, I can better understand why it's done. The last time I saw my dad in the hospital, he looked so jaundiced and so unlike himself that it freaked me out. There was something comforting about seeing him one last time looking like his normal self. (He would have been thrilled beyond belief by how elegant -- not to mention skinny -- he looked in his suit.)

The other thing about the viewing that blew my mind was how important and meaningful the support of those who attended was to my family and me. People from every phase of my dad's life came: a childhood friend who remembered playing baseball in the vacant lot with him, former students (one of whom brought me to tears by saying, "You don't know me, but many years ago your dad was my high school teacher and he encouraged me to go on to college and even helped me find a scholarship I didn't know about. Now I'm an engineer and I wouldn't be if it weren't for your dad"), fellow teachers and administrators from the school district he retired from, hunting buddies, dear friends of my brother's and mine from grade school, high school and beyond, coworkers of my brother& my sister-in-law & my aunt, my mom's church friends, friends of my nephews (teenagers in ill-fitting suits who took the time to come and say awkwardly but so sweetly, "I'm sorry for your troubles"), neighbors... the outpouring of support for us and love for my dad touched my heart. My dad would have been so proud to know that there was a line out the door of the funeral home for most of the afternoon, and he is probably bragging to St. Peter about the fact that the mayor (!) showed up, along with doctors, lawyers and even a judge, to pay their respects.

Apart from the love and support they offered us, and the memories they were willing to share, it did me a world of good to see how many lives my dad touched in positive ways. The teachers he worked with, and then supervised, loved him and how he always stood up for them. His hunting buddies told us how in the middle of the night, they would wake up to find one of the hunting dogs curled up in bed with my dad. Little League coaches told how he never missed my nephews' games and sometimes would act as announcer over the loudspeaker, leading to the nickname "The Voice of Lee Park". Cousins of mine who lost their dad at a young age sobbed as they talked about how my dad was like a second father to them. It did me good to see my own memories of my dad rounded out and edges softened by the memories of others. It made it easier and even more meaningful to deliver his eulogy the next day.

Right now a different phase of the journey is beginning. I have always been someone who finds comfort in routine, so I'm going to spend the next few days, until school starts again, easing back into some semblance of a normal routine (hence this blog post). I have so many kind and sweet messages to return, and thank-you notes to write (two breathtakingly beautiful flower arrangements arrived, reducing me to tears -- knitters rock!) so be patient as I work through them. I also want to get back to BBF as I think I will find some pleasure and comfort there.

Thank you all for your support and friendship and love. If it weren't for the fact that I couldn't rest for eternity lying under a quote from a Jewel song, I think I'd want my epitaph to be "In the end, only kindness matters."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Requiescat in pacem John Walter Sulcoski July 1, 1934 - Dec. 23, 2009

This is one of my favorite photos of my dad, taken when he was young, and having fun, and when the infinite possibilities of life were stretched out before him.

I'm going to be offline for a while, so play nice while I'm gone.

Wishing you peace

I'll give you a full update soon, but my dad isn't doing well. He received a diagnosis of end-stage pancreatic cancer, and was moved to hospice care yesterday. His remaining life will likely be measured in days or weeks, rather than months. Needless to say, it has been very hard and there has been lots of raw emotion around here. I'm trying to maintain some semblance of a normal routine but in the words of your local mass transit authority, "expect some major service disruptions" in terms of blogging and the BBF website.

However, today is Christmas Eve, and it's time for me to put my game face on and help create some joyful memories for the kids.

If there ever were three kids who could bring a smile to one's face, no matter what the circumstances, I've got 'em, and it's time to enjoy them.

Have a happy Christmas filled with peace and joy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A detour

I'm taking an unexpected trip up to the Dub, Dub, Dubya-Bee (W-B) to visit my dad, who was admitted to the hospital this week. The doctors are in the middle of diagnostic tests to try to determine what's going on. From what I can gather, the range of possibilities goes from the low-key (a benign cyst) to the dire ("the big C", as my poor mother insists on calling it; like the name of that Harry Potter character -- or a certain litigious designer -- my mom believes that to utter the very word is to invite trouble). You may recall that I have a rather uneasy relationship with my dad and my family isn't terribly good at dealing with unpleasant realities, so all bets are off about how the weekend will go. If you've got any good thoughts to spare, I'd appreciate them. When I return, I'll have a shop update and the premiere of my first BBF pattern.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A difficult choice indeed

Which version is superior?


this one (sorry, no video)?


Monday, December 14, 2009

No-Bull Book Review: Rowan's Greatest Knits, edited by Kate Buller

How do you celebrate your thirtieth anniversary as one of the world's leading yarn and knitting design companies? One way is to issue a commemorative book. That's what Rowan Yarns has done. Recently Rowan's Greatest Knits: 30 Years of Knitted Patterns from Rowan Yarns
(Taunton 2009) hit the shelves, and if you're a Rowan fan, you'll want to put it at the top of your holiday wish list.

As someone who got hooked on knitting in part because I fell in love with the gorgeous patterns and beautiful natural-fiber yarns that Rowan has produced, it's hard for me to imagine a knitting world without them. But Rowan is a relative youngster compared to some of the other big yarn companies (several companies, such as Lion Brand, Briggs & Little, Dale of Norway and Sirdar, to name a few, have been making yarn for over 100 years). If you haven't read it already, there's a wonderful interview with founder Stephen Sheard here. It's fascinating to read how the company began and how it's grown over the years. More recently, Rowan was purchased by the large Coats & Clark corporation, and we are still seeing how corporate ownership of Rowan will affect the beloved Rowan.

Rowan's Greatest Knits is a celebration of the company and its patterns. The book, loaded with color photos of Rowan patterns and yarns, is divided into two sections. The first consists of forty-plus pages celebrating Rowan's history. After a one-page introduction by editor Kate Buller (Senior Brand Manager at Rowan), you'll find a brief summary of Rowan's history. The remainder of this section is divided by decades: 80s, 90s and 00s. I enjoyed reading the summaries for each decade, highlighting where handknitting fit into the larger fashion trends; using specific Rowan designs to demonstrate themes that predominated in those decades (for example, the use of highly patterned and brightly colored stranded designs in the 80s; the more muted, retro country phase of the 90s; and the trend toward urban, pared-down designs in the 00s); and analyzing the types of yarns that were especially popular or new during each decade. Each decade also includes a profile of a Rowan designer whose work typifies the decade (Kaffe Fassett, Kim Hargreaves and Marion Foale, respectively). As a Rowan freak, I have to say I was left wanting more of this kind of retrospective analysis, but of course, the heart of the book is the pattern section.

Fontaine by Marion Foale

Which brings us to the question that many Rowanaphiles will be wondering about: With thirty years of gorgeous patterns to pick from, what made the final cut?

If you're looking for a "what was the most popular" ranking, or even a top ten kind of list, you won't find them; the preface to the patterns states how they were selected:
The following updated patterns are a selection taken from the Rowan magazine during its long history. They include designs from a cross-section of Rowan's designers, with particular emphasis on those designers who have been closely associated with Rowan over the years.
It seems to me that instead of looking at this as a collection of the 30 "greatest" Rowan designs, it is more fitting to look at the book as a selection of 30 representative Rowan designs, patterns that typify the strengths of the designer (e.g., Kaffe Fassett's magnificent color sense) and the time period in which they were created (e.g., Louisa Harding's Russian Jacket, featuring bright colorwork and the very generous fit that was so popular in the 80s).

If you're curious about which designers are represented, I did a rough count and found the following:

I suspect that people will be able to debate the representation of certain designers and specific designs (I'd have liked to see a little more of Brandon Mably, and I love Martin Storey's elegant designs, to name a few) and each Rowan fanatic will have their own favorites. It's definitely worth noting that on Rowan's website, an extensive selection of patterns shown in the photographs in the book, but not included in the book's pattern section, are available for free download (link here). Let's give Rowan a big round of applause for being generous and sharing some of those oldies but goodies that are unavailable to those of us who would gladly purchase older Magazines were they currently available (unless you can afford to pay astronomical prices on Ebay).

Looking at it by the numbers, the designs are overwhelming geared at adult women: you'll find only one design, a lovely fisherman-style aran by Martin Storey, that is sized for men (don't worry, ladies: it's also sized for women, too).

Surf, by Martin Storey

The remaining 29 or so are all ladies' patterns -- about six pullovers, one vest (one of my all-time favorite Rowan patterns, I must say)

Electra, by Louisa Harding

two scarves, one lace stole, one non-lace stole, three summer tops, one poncho and the rest (a baker's dozen or so) cardigans. The patterns represent a variety of techniques: beaded knitting, intarsia, stranded colorwork (I wish there were more all-over stranded garments, though), cables and a bit of lace (not nearly enough for me). It's especially helpful that the yarn requirements for each design have been updated to call for current Rowan yarns and colorways, since over the years, various yarns and shades have come and gone. Indeed, the paragraphs discussing why particular yarns and colors are recommended as subtitutes are extremely thoughtful & helpful, and reading through them would illustrate for a new or tentative knitter some of the criteria in making successful yarn and color substitutions. (For more in that vein, the pattern section begins with a good explanation of how to substitute yarns, touching on weight, texture and color, and urging the knitter to do test swatches to determine if the proposed substitution will work.)

Beaded Cardigan by Kim Hargreaves

Of course, all the patterns are shown in lovely Rowan yarns. The vast majority of designs (about 14 or so) are knit in DK-weight yarns; by my estimation, about 6 are knitted in fingering weight, 2 in worsted weight, 3 in aran weight, one in the tricky denim (which is knit to one gauge and shrinks in the first laundering, rendering it particularly tough to substitute for), and 4 in Kid Silk Haze, which can be knit at so many weights that I tend to put it in its own category.

Anice, by Sharon Miller, knit in Kidsilk Haze

As for sizing? Some of the patterns come in S/M/L, calling for bust measurements of 34/36/38, while others go from XS to XL, with bust measurements of32/34/36/38/40, but pay close attention to ease in deciding which size to make. Ease is very tricky here given that the patterns are cherry-picked from thirty years' worth of changing design sensibilities. For example, one pattern may have 1 to 2 inches ease (so that a sweater sized for a 34" bust has an actual chest circumference of 35 or 36", a close fit) while another may have 5 or 6 inches of ease (so a different sweater sized for the same 34" bust has an actual circumference of over40 inches -- a very relaxed fit). Take a look at the schematic and do the math for the actual circumference before making up your mind about the sizing.

Turning to the more technical end of things, Rowan's Greatest Knits is a lovely hardcover book, about 150 pages long, full color. The front section of the book features lots of gorgeous color photographs of the designs, while the pattern section is laid out similarly to Rowan Magazine: a thumbnail photo of the design, (and unlike the magazine, some of the patterns also include inset photos of the pattern stitch or another important design feature of the garment), schematics, charts (some of the charts are black-and-white, others in color), and full directions.

If you're a Rowanaphile like me, this book would make a lovely gift for you -- even if you have all or most of the Magazines, it's fun to read about the history of the company over the years, and it's helpful to have very straightforward directions on how to substitute yarns for the designs. If you don't know much about Rowan, this would also be a great book to add to your knitting library, as it contains a cross-section of versatile and time-tested Rowan patterns.

Friday, December 11, 2009

November Book Report

There's still a good selection of CashSock in the BBF shop

and I can assure you that the colors are much prettier than my photographs indicate. This time of year is particularly hard for me to capture colors because of the way the light changes (and there's so much less of it!). By the way, this update marks the premiere of my revamped store logo. I'm working hard to get my BBF pattern line going, too and am hoping to have at least one or two patterns ready for sale before Christmas.

In the meantime, here is my November book report:

Hurry Down Sunshine: A Father's Story of Love and Madness by Michael Greenberg. Greenberg is a free-lance writer who saw his fifteen-year-old daughter experience a psychotic break one summer in the 90s. With her permission, he wrote a memoir describing the experience from his perspective. The book is at its most powerful in describing Greenberg's shock and anguish at watching his beloved daughter behave in inexplicable ways, his fear that she'll never once again be the daughter he knew and loved, and his concerns that the treatments given to her are as bad as the disease.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is a book written for middle schoolers that was recommended for Elvis by a neighbor who is a teacher. Elvis didn't get into it (I think he gave up too soon) but I thought it was interesting and finished it myself. The book is a fictionalized account of a fifteen-year-old girl named Mattie living in Philadelphia in 1793. As the book opens, a yellow fever epidemic (which actually happened) has begun to descend upon the city; given the rudimentary treatments available at the time, and the lack of understanding about what causes the disease, the death rate was high. Mattie watches as the epidemic devastates the city and people she loves. I like the way that the book seamlessly integrates historical detail with an exciting first-person story. If you've got a middle-school-aged kid interested in science or history, they might like this one. Or maybe you'd enjoy it yourself!

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Bridget passed this book on to me (thanks, Bridget!). I agree with her that the book takes a little while to get going; in the beginning, it seems like an okay Victorian novel of manners and social class. But as you get further into the story, the suspense starts to grow. The main character is Dr. Faraday, a Warwickshire country doctor who comes from a working class background. At the beginning of the book, he has just been called out to see a patient at the Hundreds, a local manor house. Over time, Dr. Faraday develops a strong friendship with the inhabitants of the house: Mrs. Ayres, the widowed matriarch, Roderick, the WWII vet with what may be PTSD, and Caroline, the plain but charismatic daughter. A good bit of the novel has to do with the changing economic and social times in England after the second World War, in particular how those changes affected the landed gentry. But there are also the emotional entanglements that Dr. Faraday develops with each of the inhabitants of the Hundreds, and the steadily creeping suspense caused by what may or may not be a ghost in the house.

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. I've read and liked a lot of Sarah Vowell books and although this one has some good points, it was definitely not my favorite. Vowell is a contributor to This American Life and is known for her quirky essays that often touch on historical themes. The Wordy Shipmates is a lengthy meditation on the Puritans, Pilgrims and other English settlers who came to this continent in the 1600s. While there are flashes of humor, and Vowell obviously is intelligent and well-versed in Puritan history, I didn't enjoy this book as much as her others for two reasons: (1) I don't know that much about this period in history, and Vowell assumes the reader knows more than I did; and (2) I didn't find the subject matter that interesting to want to read an entire book devoted to it (my bad). Vowell is really interested in the philosophical underpinnings of the early settlers in this country -- why they decided to leave England, what they hoped to find here, the source of the so-called Puritan work ethic and "Puritanism", and so on. I am more of a fan of Vowell's pop culture ruminations, I guess.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith. This is a book I've been meaning to read ever since it got shortlisted for the Booker prize a few years ago. It's a thick book, and even though I finished it about 2 weeks ago, I'm still not quite sure what I thought of it.

The central characters in On Beauty are the Belsey family: Howard, the fifty-something, white art history professor who grew up in a working class part of London; his wife Kiki, a plus-size (I mention her weight only because it's germane to the plot) African-American hospital administrator; and their children Jerome -- a newly born-again Christian, Zora -- trying hard to make her own mark at the college where her father teaches, and Levi -- plagued by the sense that he's not "black enough," he adopts hip-hop music, rapper clothes and a tough-guy accent. The characters are real and engaging, but there is just so much going on! Howard is having a mid-life crisis, looking at his failure to get tenure and his unfinished book on Rembrandt, while Kiki tries to cope with his infidelity, torn by resentment that she sacrificed some of her own goals to raise a family while at the time she is bursting with pride and love for her children.

In addition to the Belseys -- and they alone would be quite enough to fill a book -- are the other characters, notably the Kipps family, who are a sort of counterpoint to the Belseys. Where Howard is flamingly liberal, Monty Kipps is rabidly conservative. Howard is an atheist, Monty a devoted Christian. Howard is white; Monty is black. Monty's wife is languid and sickly while Kiki is bursting with energy and life; yet Carlene seems more content with her life whereas regret seems to eat away at Kiki. Even their children are opposites: Zora Belsey is an earnest scholar, almost chaste in her crush on a fellow collegian, whereas Victoria Kipps uses her sexuality and seems much less reverent about academia and her family's conservative viewpoints. Michael Kipps is a buttoned-down London financier, whereas Levi Belsey wears droopy-drawer-jeans and ends up working on the streets with a band of Haitian street vendors.

I haven't even gotten to the some of the other characters in the book, but you can see how maybe there is just too much packed into this book. I would have found it less overwhelming and more meaningful if Smith had focused on fewer people and plotlines.

That being said, there are some wonderful things about the book. Its irreverent look at academia, in particular the left wing/right wing "culture wars", is at times hilarious. Howard -- who prides himself on his liberal sensibilities -- ends up sanctioning the muzzling of speech for fear it is politically incorrect; Monty lobs an intellectual hand grenade at the college by promising an address called "Taking the Liberal out of Liberal Arts." Both are skewered deliciously and repeatedly. Other aspects of American culture are skewered, too; the Belsey family's frustration at Levi's attempt to look and sound like a gansta are met with bewilderment (Kiki wonders why her child keeps affecting a "Brooklyn accent" when he lives a hundred miles north of Brooklyn). Zora's dead earnestness and indefatigable attempts to make her mark at the college, Howard's adherence to a perceived liberal party line, Monty's right-wing bloviations made me chuckle and I read portions of the book out loud to Tom at frequent intervals.

So that's November... and don't worry, bleak Scandinavian mystery fans: Anmiryam lent me a good one that'll be in my December book report...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The domino effect

It's the domino effect that's going to kill me. My every attempt at efficiency, at getting stuff done, is thwarted by the domino effect.

I go to write out an invoice, and it takes me twenty minutes to find the checkbook. (On the piano, where I wrote out the check for the last piano lesson.) I write out the check, find an envelope, and can't find the stapler. I finally find the stapler (on Elvis's desk) and it has no staples. I know I've seen a little box of staples somewhere because one of the kids spilled it recently and I stepped on a staple, but now it's nowhere to be found. I run around the house looking for it, yelling the word for staple in French because it's galling (gaul-ing?) that I can remember the word for staple in French (it's "agrafe") but cannot remember where the damn box of staples is. And so it goes. A five-minute task takes an hour.

I have given up on the staples and stolen a paper clip from somewhere, and now I'm going to wind some yarn. I've got more Cashsock, that luscious blend of cashmere, merino and nylon, and I'm doing a big update tomorrow on BBF.

I've done a bunch of colorways in batches of two skeins, just in case you decide you want to treat yourself to a shawl's worth...I'm going to bring back free shipping through Christmas, too, so use the code "STAPLE" for free shipping on orders over $25.

P.S. Has anyone seen the stamps?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Blog Tour/Book Review: Reversible Knitting by Lynne Barr

UPDATE: See the entire blog tour schedule, with links here, and enter to win a free copy of Reversible Knitting... Wednesday's post by Grumperina is here.

I'm very happy to be a part of the Reversible Knitting blog tour, and it's nice to be able to tell you about a lovely hardcover book, with interesting techniques and designs, available just in time for the gift-giving season. Reversible Knitting: 50 Brand-New, Groundbreaking Stitch Patterns by Lynne Barr, with photographs by Thayer Allyson Gowdy (STC 2009), just arrived at a bookstore or yarn shop near you (or at, for $18.48 via the link as of the time of this writing; MSRP $29.99).

You might remember that Lynne Barr wrote Knitting New Scarves: 27 Distinctly Modern Designs just about two years ago; although I don't think I got a chance to review the book, I really liked the way that it presented some interesting and novel variations on the humble scarf. So I was pleased to see that Barr has published a second book. Reversible Knitting is quite different in several ways from Knitting New Scarves; it's bigger, for starters; instead of focusing on just one specific type of garment, it focuses on a knitting technique; it features both stitch patterns and patterns for finished designs; and it features the work of multiple designers, in addition to the original patterns of Barr herself.

Folded Scarf, designed by Lynne Barr

Why reversible? and why present both stitches and patterns for finished garments in this format?

Barr explains in her Introduction:

[W]hen my editor mentioned the possibility of creating a book of new reversible stitch patterns and projects, I was intrigued. Certainly I had thought about reversibility while I was working on the scarf book since reversibility is a relevant issue when creating scarves, but I wondered at first if I could come up with enough reversible stitch patterns to fill a book without relying on those that already appeared in other places. . . . Ultimately, my goal in writing this book is to add something different to the stitch pattern references that many knitters may already own, and offer exciting new patterns with a reversible twist. And as with Knitting New Scarves, I hope that what I offer here are some new ways of looking at knitting that will inspire you to explore and create unique designs of your own.
You'll find that Reversible Knitting is sensibly constructed to help you achieve these goals. The book begins, after the brief introduction, with a large variety of reversible stitch patterns -- fifty in all. The stitches are organized loosely into several sections, based on their structure: Faux Crochet (stitches that mimic the look of crochet stitches); Rows Within Rows (motifs that build vertically before moving to another motif or row in the pattern); Openwork; Divide & Combine (stitches are worked onto separate needles, then worked separately before the stitches are combined again onto the same needle); Picked Up (using picked-up stitches for decorative, rather than functional, purposes); and Double Knitting (creating colorwork patterns simultaneously on front and back sides). There are lots of clear, close-up photos of swatches, most showing both sides of the swatch, and additional charts & photos where necessary to illustrate a technique.

The remaining portion of the book is devoted to designs, a total of twenty, including designs by Barr herself, but also a cross-section of interesting designers: Pam Allen, Véronik Avery, Cat Bordhi, Teva Durham, Norah Gaughan and others. Reversible or two-sided stitchwork lends itself naturally to items like scarves and stoles, where either side may show in the wearing, yet you'll find only two scarf patterns and one wrap-shrug-type garment. Here are some of my favorites: the elegant simplicity of Véronik's reversible cardigan:

Lice Jacket

Norah Gaughan's funky & striking reversible cardigan;

Reverse Me

Eric Robinson's cap;

Flip Your Lid

and Teva Durham's Geometric Dress, a knockout for those with the figure to wear it (she said wistfully).

Geometric Dress

Other designs feature cut-out panels and other unique design elements, like these sock-thing-a-majigs:

The total breakdown of patterns is:
  • 2 scarves
  • 1 wrap/shrug
  • 4 cardigans/sweaters
  • 1 belt/sash
  • 1 hairband
  • 2 socks and 1 pr. thigh-high stockings
  • 1 bag
  • 3 vests
  • 2 sleeveless mini-dresses
  • and 2 caps.

All of the patterns are for adult women -- no kids', men's or home dec patterns here. Yarns mainly fall into the chunky and worsted range, along with wool/nylon/elastic sockweight yarn (used for all 3 footwear patterns), a lighter mohair blend, one sportweight, and some polar-weight. Sizing varies depending on the garment; scarves are obviously one size, but the bigger garments range from S/M/L to XS to XXL, with the size range depending in part on the method of construction, but several garments have sizes up through the mid-40s finished bust, with one of the dresses (not shown here) going up to a size with a 52.75" chest.

Two-Tone Vest, by Lynne Barr

The book itself is high quality: hardcover, lovely photographs (as usual, Gowdy does a great job creating photos that show the garments clearly and without a lot of distraction, beautifully lit, illuminating the textures and stitchwork of the various yarns and patterns), simple but classic styling, a nice section of additional techniques in the back that will help newer knitters, all the amenities we've come to rely upon with a STC book.

Double-Wrap Stockings by Debbie New

So if you're an adventurous knitter, or are seeking to expend your repertoire or play with some new techniques, Reversible Knitting is a worthwhile addition to your knitting library. It's not a typical pattern book, since it contains unusual methods of construction and less conventional designs, and it's not a typical stitch dictionary, since it focuses on some novel and admittedly more fiddly techniques. But the marriage of technique with some patterns illustrating them, with the ultimate aim of inspiring the knitter's creativity, works well. I'm glad there are designers like Lynne Barr out there willing to take us in new directions, and I'm glad that there are publishing companies willing to put out books that are a little different, that push the knitted envelope a bit.

All photos copyright 2009 Thayer Allyson Gowdy.

For more info on Reversible Knitting, see the STC blog.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Happy 8th birthday, Twins!

Yep, yesterday was the twins' 8th birthday.

So it's time for the baby pictures.

The past eight years have flown by...

so we all ate some Chinese food and then cake.

Happy birthday, Twins! and many, many more.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I'm proud

First of all, I'm proud of my husband, who got all he-man

to cut down the Christmas tree (living room version) himself. He of course had help on this gorgeous day from the kids

who helped pick just the right one.

Isn't life grand when you are able to look cute for the camera in your new pink corduroys while your dad and brothers do all the work?

While the tree was being taken off the car roof and put in the stand, I took the opportunity to examine the new Interweave Knits. Which caused me to swell with another burst of pride at the essay in the back, wonderfully written by Ms. Bridget Arthur Clancy herself. Well done, missy.

Now that the BBF Open House is over (but the on-line shop still has some clearance items -- and through December 1st, free shipping for orders over $25 with the code "THANKS"), I am knitting like the wind on a sample sweater for one of the spring magazines. But I have a bunch of books I'm planning to review, along with my usual end-of-the-year retrospectives and a few "best-of-2009" lists. So I'll try not to neglect the blog for the next few weeks. . .

Monday, November 23, 2009


A huge thanks to everyone who stopped by yesterday to the BBF Open House and Sale! We had a great time. My kids were so sweet. Elvis came down at 7 a.m. and said "Mom, no arguing -- just put me to work." So I did. He and the twins made bunny signs based on my logo to help direct cars, and they made labels and filled bins and made sure the inventory looked good. Meanwhile, Mindy was in charge of quality control; she examined each and every hank of yarn and bundle of roving by hand to make sure she had first dibs it was of the finest quality. Here is my ragtag band of helpers:

and here is what some of the inventory looked like, when artfully arranged:

and here is the "buffet" full of snacks and wine (Anne Marie thoughtfully brought two yummy bottles of wine, which we promptly polished off).

I was happy to see so many good knitting friends -- Knitty D and her lovely mom (who does NOT look old enough to have a grown daughter, either, thank you very much),

Allison, Sherry, Robin,

the Norristown SnB gang (A-M, Liz, Sally, Aileen, Maria, and newcomer Delores), Anmiryam, Joanne, Jody & Christy, Linda, Elizabeth

and Kathy (once again, I was not able to adequately capture Kathy's loveliness on film, which is the only reason there are no photos of her) and I met some new knitting friends, like Uncle Lori and the lovely lady from Wayne whose name I am blanking on (see, Heather, I am bad with names!). Some folks very kindly brought their BBF projects, like Anne Marie's gorgeous soy silk scarf, the yarn for which was one of the Yarn Club Shipments this year:

It's the perfect marriage of pattern to yarn and it's extremely gratifying to see my yarns knitted up!

I was so happy to see customers and club members, like Heather (sparkcrafted), who brought her portable wheel and proceeded to spin one of the rovings she purchased on the spot:

Heather did some Navajo-plying which looked a little like the cat's cradle games we used to play as kids. Heather's hands just flew over over the wheel and in short order, she'd produced a beautiful bobbinful of yarn from a roving called "Mudslide". There was much browsing and fondling, and speaking of fondling, rumor has it that one enthusiastic knitter wanted to know if my husband was for sale (he won't tell me who said it, though....)

So it seems that the BBF Open House will have to become an annual (semi-annual?) tradition....

To all of those who came, thank you so much! And to those who couldn't make it -- I promise there'll be a next time!