December 27, 2010


For me, the holiday season is spent alternating between two modes: revelry and crafting lock-down. I enjoy them both, but I must admit that I'll be relieved when January rolls around and I can operate on a less frenetic pace. The revelry is fun and offers a distraction from the cares and burdens of normal life, but the crafting provides me time to think, plan, mull and relax.  I relaxed so much this year that I couldn't seem to get off one project type: hats.  It's almost become an addiction, but one that's that's healthier than wine or bourbon or easy men.

Some of these hats were were made with particular loved ones in mind, but others came about only because I wanted to experiment with specific yarns or techniques.

Pattern: My Own
Yarn: Frog Tree Alpaca Chunky
Needles: 5.0mm/6.5mm
Started: December 23
Finished: December 24

What I've learned about alpaca is that it makes terrible pullovers (because it's super warm and gets itchy) and its really drapey, both qualities that I thought would make it suitable for a slouchy winter hat.  I really liked Kim Hargreaves Kat hat, but I wasn't in the mood to spend $26 on a pattern book, so I improvised this hat with the help of a stitch dictionary.  I used somewhere in the neighborhood of 120-130 yards of the Frog Tree Alpaca.  Love it!  Loved it so much that as soon as i finished, I whipped up another.

Pattern: My Own
Yarn: Rowan Rowanflek DK Tweed (held doubled)
Needles: 5.5mm/9.0mm
Started: December 24
Finished: December 25

While I'm happy with this project overall, I'm not great fan of the yarn.  It's a wool cotton blend, but it's oddly stiff and unyielding.  I had to use large needles to prevent knitting a super stiff, icky fabric that would result in more of a helmet than a hat.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but the yarn is tweedily flecked.  I wanted to make a black because so many of us have black winter coats and colorful scarves, it's sometimes helpful to have one accessory that can fade in to the background a bit.

Both the yarn and pattern for this next project were selected specifically for it's recipient.  David married one of my besties, Lauren, last summer.  He's a fun and handsome man who hails from Portsmouth, England who, more than almost anyone else I know, is always super psyched  to get a handmade gift from me, be it a cake, mix CD or knitwear. Since the UK is known for being damp and chilly, a hat was in order, and given this location, tweed seemed quite appropriate as well.  Cables don't seem like his style, so I decided to go with a simple ribbed hat. 

Pattern: Marsan Watchcap, by Staceyjoy Elkin
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed Aran
Needles: 4.5mm
Started: December 12
Finished: December 15

I modified the pattern so that I worked in a k1tbl, p1 rib, which results in awesome stitch def.  What makes this so neat, to me, is that when you've completed the brim, slip, turn, flip inside out move that results in your knitting in the opposite direction. This means that when the brim is flipped up, the visible rib is the same, not the reverse, of the rib on the body of the hat. Genius!
This next project started as something else entirely, and was, in fact, a completed project.  The first iteration was a slouchy beret that had no slouch. It was awkward, at best, so I ripped it out and started on a pattern I've been wanting to make for a a few weeks now.

Last Minute Slouch by Madelinetosh
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Silky Blend (held doubled)
Needles: 5.5mm, 6.0mm
Started: December 25
Finished: December 26

Not so slouchy, but I have a big head.  None of the photos that I took capture the depth and shine of this yarn.  If you've seen it, you know what I mean.  This hat is the polar opposite of the slouchy black beret, and by that I mean it demands a neutral scarf and black coat. Bright and shiny, this one would be good to wear to a parade (easy to spot).

 Pattern: Scarab, by Jane Richmond
Yarn: Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere 6-ply
Needles: I'm guessing 4.5 & 5.5
Started: December 8
Finished: December 11

I'm petering out here, so these last two will be brief.  This yarn is amazing.  I want pillows made out of it.  I want a hat out of it.  I want a bra made out of it.  This pattern utilizes a folded brim (attached to the body via  picked up stitches) for extra warmth around the ears, and extra luxe in general.  Faux cabling every 4th row meant an easy and satisfying knit.  The yarn was a bit of a splash out, but the recipient, Megan, has been a friend since 1985, so she's earned it.

This last one was the first of the holiday batch that i made.  Easy pattern that results in a well textured hat with a pattern that's noticeable yet subtle.  I really like the soft  effect of cabling without the use of purl stitches.

Pattern: Isotope Cable Hat by Tonya Wagner
Yarn: Rowan Lima
Needles:  didn't make note, but I'm guessing 5.0mm
Started: November 13
Finished: November 15

This really isn't a Christmas gift. I was a bit lax with one of my birthday presents last year, so this will be going to Lauren, wife of David of the green tweed hat as part of a belated anniversary of your birth gift. Lauren's lovely with long dark hair, and I'm thinking she'll look a little like Ali Macgraw back in the 70's.

Cute, right?  Steve McQueen knew how to pick 'em.

I'm beat now.  Need a wee drink and then to bed.  Happy New Year!

December 24, 2010

December 13, 2010

Little Queen

There are a lot of chic people in New York City, and fall and winter are the chic seasons.  Spring is flirty and summer is sexy, but fall and winter are when style takes center stage.  Sweaters and tights and corduroy and boots and coats and scarves: there are a lot of elements, including textures and colors, to consider when dressing oneself for cold weather.  It's easy to look clownish, which I sometimes do.

Lately I've been finding myself enraged when I see impossibly chic women with gigantic scarves and cowls wrapped round their necks.  I want! I want! I want!  And sometimes, the best gift to give is one that you would like to receive (assuming, of course, that the recipient would enjoy it as well).

Pattern: Snickerdoodle, by Lindsay Ingram
Yarn: Quince & Co. Puffin
Needles: US 15/10mm
Started: November 22
Finished: November 28

When I saw this pattern, I freaked out a little bit because it was EXACTLY what I'd been wanting, and I also knew it would be perfect for my friend Amy. Initially I planned to use the yarn called for by the pattern (Rowan Cocoon) but in the end I decided to use Quince and Co.'s Puffin, a bulky yarn that comes in a beautiful variety of colors. Peacock is the one I selected.

Working on this was a little tricky, as the recipient is my roommate; I couldn't exactly knit it up while we were sitting on the couch watching 30 Rock.  Fortunately, some friends asked me to house and dog sit while they were away over thanksgiving, so I decamped to their home and knit this linen-like stitch demonically for four days. I was both sneaky and productive.

I was worried about blocking it, but she Amy was called out of town for work and I seized upon the opportunity to wetblock (I always wetblock) the 56" long cowl and dry it on the floor under a fan.  The stitch opened up a bit with blocking, but it didn't grow a tremendous amount, which was a relief, as it was sizable to begin with.  The yarn did soften a bit, though, which was nice.  It's soft and flexible, yet has good body.  There's definitely going to be more Quince & Co. in my future.  Amy's going to Minnesota tomorrow for the Christmas holiday, and since it's been blizzarding out there (I'm not joking; their football stadium collapsed under the weight of the snow), this should prove quite useful.

A few of my knitting pals and I got together on Sunday to say "Bye for now" to one of our ranks who is heading to India for two months.  It was a lovely afternoon and I took advantage of the daylight to snap these photos. I was excited to see the cowl (dubbed Little Queen", another homage to Heart) on women of different heights, sizes and coloring.

Thank you to all of my sporting models. And good luck with your holiday knitting!

December 6, 2010

On presents and scarves and 70s rock legends

I'm not a crazy Christmas nut, and I deplore much of the excess of the season, but I do really enjoy selecting gifts for people. Mind you, I don't give gifts to a ton of people, as that's not fun and makes each gift less special, but I enjoy the process of thinking about a person and what would make a nice present for them.  I like it so much that I considered working as a personal shopper at one time.  But that's another story. 

The key to picking a good gift is obvious, but often overlooked: what's important is the recipient, not the giver.  It's inevitable that the gift that I give will say something about me, but first and foremost it should be something of use to, needed by or desired by the recipient.  Or maybe something which the recipient has never seen, but which is so totally them that when they unwrap it, they can hardly stop marvelling at it. You know, cashmere mittens are luxurious and wonderful, but I would never give a pair to my Uncle Roger, a dairy farmer.  He'd smile and appreciate them and then they would sit on a shelf in his closet, never used.  Buy him a Thinsulate lined wool cap that would be useful in the barn during a Minnesota winter and he'd brag on that gift for weeks. 

Since this will be my last Christmas in New York, I've been giving a lot of thought to my friends and their presents.  This year's gifts will be equal measure Merry Christmas, I love you and I'll miss you. I've been busy making stuff, but I've purchased a few items as well, because while knitting brings me endless joy, there are only so many hats with which I can surprise someone. One of the most exciting gifts I've purchased so far is a flower pin from Emerson Made.  So festive, so femme and so her.  I'd love to have one myself  to jazz up my many all black, I've-lived-in-New York-since-1995 outfits. Someday.

I also received a package this weekend from Brooklyn based natural skin product maker, Soapwalla Kitchen.  I've been eyeballing her products for about a year now, and this holiday proved the perfect excuse to place an order for a couple of friends who, like me, worry about the preservatives and petrochemicals contained in so many bath and beauty products.  The woman behind Soapwalla Kitchen has Lupus (an autoimmune disease) and started making things out of her own need for healthier skincare products.  Right on, I say.  If you can't find what you want, make it yourself!

In addition to prezzies, I've been busy shopping for holiday cards.  Some years I make my own, but last year and this, I decided to hand the reins over to talented letterpress artisans so that I can focus on under-the-tree items.  I won't give away this year's designs, but last year I ordered sweet New Year's cards from Ink and Iron, and some Christmas cards from Ruby Press.  I'm rather particular when it comes to stationery and I like to write, and receive, letters, and I like my holiday cards to express this (this is one part of my holiday season that's almost entirely about me).

One might get the impression that with all of this shopping, I've been left with little time for knitting, but that's not the case;  I've managed to work up a gift or two, including this:

Pattern: Quick, Easy-Peasy Scarf, by Nicole Okun
Yarn: Berroco Peruvia Quick
Needles: US 17/12.75mm
Started: November 20
Finished: November 21

Quick and easy is right.  I knit this giant in 2 days, and I'm not a particularly fast knitter.  The pattern as written called for a lopi style yarn and US 11/8.0mm needles, but I decided to follow Terezka's mods and use heavier yarn (held double), bigger needles and add fringe.  I wanted a warm and dramatic scarf for a tall and lovely friend who lives in Paris, and I could not be happier with the results. 

Thanks Amy for modelling!

I call it Barracuda, a wee homage to the Wilson sisters, Ann and Nancy, aka Heart. I don't "heart" heart, I love them.   Powerful, sexy, dramatic, talented rock and rollers. I mean, look at them!

I know they've rocked their fair share of loooonnnng scarves in their day, so the name seemed appropriate.

When Barracuda was finished, I decided I had to have something similar for myself, and while it was a fast knit, I couldn't stomach the idea of working that 2 row stitch pattern again so soon, so I went in search of scarves with similar vibage, and came up with this:

Pattern: Chunky Alpaca Scarf by Jane Richmond
Yarn: Malabrigo Chunky
Needles: US 9/5.5mm
Started: November 28
Finished: December 2

Your basic feather and fan stitch pattern got me what I wanted:  a cozy scarf that would fold and scrunch nicely around my neck while looking a bit more feminine than garter stitch.  This took exactly four skein of Malabrigo Chunky (colorway Glazed Carrot, although one friend labeled it Persimmon).

I wanted the scarf to be as long as possible, but I also knew that I wanted fringe, so when I finished knitting the third skein, I made fringe with the fourth skein, attached them to the cast on edge, made the same number of fringe (fringes?) for the other end then knit with the remaining yarn until I ran out.  Easy and stress free.  I call her Bebe Le Strange.

November 15, 2010

Orchids and Bunnies and Fairy Lights

This hat.  Oh, this hat.  I've been wanting to make this hat for more than a year now. Sometimes I worry things to death while other times I make super snap decisions.  One would think that picking up a pair of needles and starting on something as low commitment as a hat would be no big deal, but for some reason, I was hesitant to knit this one, even though I really, really wanted it.

A couple of weeks ago when I was at Rhinebeck, I saw a skein of yarn at a booth that I really, really wanted, kind of how I really, really wanted to make this hat, and it just kind of came to me that they might be a perfect match.  So I bought the yarn and now I have the hat.

Pattern: Orchids and Fairy Lights, by Tiny Owl Knits
Yarn: Jamie Harmon Merino/Angora 2-ply
Needles: 4.0mm & 5.0mm
Started: November 10
Finished: November 13

Tiny Owl Knits is the same person who deigned the Some Cloudy Day legwarmers that I made earlier this fall.  She's got a whole foresty, magical fairy vibe going on, and while I'm not really able to pull that off myself, I find myself drawn to many of her designs nonetheless.  For example, one of the things I love about this hat is it's softness, like the way the bobbles are set at the tips of the cables like buds at the tips of branches, and even how the cables aren't typical cables in that they never cross, so they're never cut off.  They just look to be stretching and growing like saplings.  So cute!  But not twee.  At least I don't think so.

Photos courtesy of Oiyi and Penny.

I'm not exactly sure how much of this yarn I had because it wasn't labeled, but as I worked, I realized I wouldn't have enough yarn to complete the hat as written, so I eliminated one pattern repeat from the length.  Still, it fits, so that's good.  For such a soft yarn, the Jamie Harmon produced great stitch definition; I'm quite pleased with how the bobbles pop.  It's super annoying to go through the work of making bobbles only to have then turn out flaccid receding.  Blech.

So, I am happy with my little luxury purchase and with the pattern it paired with.  This cozy little thing fills a "neutral headwear" void in my wardrobe.  Now, if the weather would cooperate and stay below 6o, I could bust her out.

November 11, 2010

The most wonderful time of the year

Some people say it's Christmas, but if you know me, you know that to my mind, the most wonderful time of the year is the first Sunday in November, or as I call it: Marathon Sunday.  Even writing about it gives me chills.

The New York City Marathon is an amazing event, the largest marathon in the United States, possibly in the world. This year, more than 45,000 met in New York City to run, wheel or walk 26.2 miles in a single day and, incredibly, thousands of New Yorkers in all five boroughs turned out to cheer them on.

My love affair with the Marathon began 10 years ago, when a friend invited me to a boozy marathon brunch at her home on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We ate bagels and lox and then ventured out to 1st Avenue to see the competitors in action. I was in tears within 10 minutes, no joke. Young people, old people, slim people, fat people, able bodied and disabled people. It was such an amazing sight, thousands and thousands of these people from all over the world doggedly working their way to that finish line.

So affected was I that the next year, my cousin Paula and I entered and ran the New York City Marathon together, which was even more fun than I'd imagined.  There's this tradition with the Marathon of putting your name on your shirt so that supporters can shout personal encouragements to you and damn if it wasn't unbelievably exciting to hear "Go Rebecca!  Looking good!" while we were running.  I could not stop waving and smiling, and it took my mind off of the long slog that lay ahead of us. 

Two years later, I moved in to an apartment that was right on the Marathon route, between miles 8 and 9. Right on, as in step out of my door and hit a runner on. I started hosting a brunch people who wanted to come to Brooklyn and watch the race.  It started small, but last year, at least 50 people passed through my door to enjoy Mimosas, coffee cake, strata and cheer for the racers. 
The true race enthusiasts would come early (8:30 a.m.) to cheer for the wheeled athletes, who are among the most inspirational.  They're followed in start times by other disabled athletes, the elite women, the elite men and then the masses. By 1 pm almost all of the atheletes have passed, but it's still hard to leave.  How can you turn your back on these people??? Especially when you know you;re leaving them to go stuff your face and have another drink.  Eventually the street cleaners would come by signaling the end of the race, but the eating and drinking would continue until the evening (last year's last guests left at 9 pm).  It was always a fun and exhausting day.

Since I moved two weeks ago, I no longer live right on the Marathon route and so, no big party.  I was a little sad about this for a bit, but I had something even better to get excited about: my friend, neighbor and sometimes running buddy, Dawn, was running the race for the first time. It's an amazing feat, but made even more so by the fact that she's a 40 year old mother who also has MS.  No getting her down.

You can see I wasn't her only fan.  Due to a wardrobe malfunction, we almost missed Dawn and Julie, but they were eagle eyed and spotted me bent down in the street trying to pick up a hat.  Squeals and jumps and cheers and waves, and then they were off to finish, and finish they did. Woot woot!

While they wound their way up to Queens, across the East River into Manhattan, up north to the Bronx and back to Manhattan towards the finish line, we kept on cheering and enjoyed some pumpkin doughnut muffins, inspired by my friend Little Bird, Big City.

No doubt about it


this certainly is the most wonderful time of the year.

November 9, 2010


In the words of Elvis Costello: accidents will happen.

This particular one involved a red onion, a sharp knife and the tip of my thumb. Later, some gauze, packing tape and a Bloody Maria got involved.

If you look closely, you can see the amputated bit about half way down the blade of the chef's knife.

November 2, 2010

Parting is such sweet sorrow

A while back I decided to make a big change, a big move.  Come next spring, I will relocate to Minnesota.  It's exciting, but, having lived in New York for 15 years, also nerve wracking. Big changes are sometimes easier to handle when undertaken in steps.  My apartment lease ended this fall and I had no desire to renew, but neither was I quite ready to say goodbye to my life in New York and head west, so Step One for me was moving out of my apartment and in with a friend whom I've known since our first day of college. 

For the past several weeks I've been preparing for the move: shredding old papers, wheeling donations to the Goodwill in my grannycart, reserving a storage space, packing, blah blah blah.  Rhinebeck, a wedding and a trip to Oregon all happened while I was trying to TC all of this B, but it worked out.  It's been all-consuming, and I've done very little socializing (or knitting) these last 10 days, but It's done. Step One was completed and I've moved (4 blocks away, but still).  

Oh, old apartment.  We've had some good times, you and I: the barbecues, the Marathon parties, the birthdays, the dinners, the cocktails.

My stuff!
I'll never forget you.