Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Saturday, March 01, 2003  

What a wierd day. I've had the blues all afternoon - not deep navy blues, but certainly something darker than cerulian - perhaps a sort of royal blue. My Saturday classes ended today.

What tallented wonderful knitters they all are. My morning class was a make-up class on bead knitting for one girl who had had the flu a couple weeks ago. Everything went well enough except I had made her chart up wrong and we had to redraw it so she could finish up the monogram on the purse flap at home. Somehow I had never gotten around to teaching the purl stitch. There's so much you can make with just the knit stitch, as Sally Melville has so well demonstrated. So the last thing we did was practice purling. No big deal when you are 11.

The afternoon class was even more difficult to say goodbye to. These women are all so bright and dexterous and energetic. One student had knitted the most beautiful garterstitch in the round. They had knit up a sweater body for a 14" doll and fortunately one had knit up the sleeves. I had made 2 more pair of sleeves so everybody could attach the sleeves and see how yoke neck decreases worked. Then we went over the EPS formula for adult sweaters. I demonstrated short rows but now I think of it I wish I had actually made them put a short row in the sweater. ahh well. my next class I'll do better.

The real challenge for me is translating what I know into clear, concise language. I try hard to never touch students work beyond looking at a trouble spot and then handing it back to them to fix. I fail at that sometimes but each class I get better at it.

But now I have that "the guests have gone home" feeling. Now, mind you, I have


of yard work to do - 2 years of neglect, a once-in-a-century drought to recover from, and a complete redesign of the old beds. But I just didn't feel ready to say goodbye. That hollow feeling still lingers. Probably because I now have no excuses for ducking Goldie the tyrannical UFO) unless I decide to clean the house or something.


Ahh well



I'll think about it tomorrow.

At Tara.

But a couple of things besides knitting and general enui are still there in the brain and one of them is soundtracks. Movie soundtracks. I've been watching Band of Brothers and getting mighty weepy about my own WWII era dad and I think one of the most powerful things in that series was the music. It's been haunting me for 2 weeks now. Another really fine soundtrack is BBC's Pride and Prejudice. Each character had a theme - a little phrase - well suited to his personality. I'm too old, and too classically trained in music, to really enjoy heavy digital soundtracks, but these two stand out as almost worthy of independent purchases.

And now let us knit on.

posted by Bess | 6:40 PM


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Friday, February 28, 2003  

Bess' creativity is imprisoned by her UFO.

posted by Bess | 12:44 PM


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The world's best computerwizrardcodemaster fixed things for me. Yes, yes, it's easy if you know what you are looking for but I don't know what I'm looking for. But wize Todd did and now the blog works right.

Another happy camper 'round here is HeyBaby. I sat down with her yesterday and began practicing my spinning again. I say practice because nothing I spun was worth looking at. I had to think hard about what fiber I was willing to trash. I haven't been able to spin since early January, first because of serious burns on my fingers, and then because my knitting classes have taken up all my spare time. About 10 days ago I was rooting around in the den and I moved HB. I could feel how sad she was. I've pretty much out-grown anthropomorphizing things but once in a while an object comes into my life that animates its self, and HB is one of them. She was very cooperative but I did waste some good fiber getting my touch back. It wasn't just me, though. I bought some angora/ramboulet off e-bay and it's badly carded. there are so many neps in it I can't spin anything but bumpy yarns with it. Just before bedtime I got out the wensleydale I had been working on the day I burned my fingers and began the second bobbin-full.

HeyBaby is happy again.

Those who know and love me know I've been tracking down, finally successfully, Deb Menz' book Color in Spinning. It's OutOfPrint and not readily available on the used book mart. Interweave Press had a few slightly damaged copies and I bought 2 but they told me they were expecting a few copies back from distributors. It is absolutely my favorite of all books on dyeing fibers for spinning. It is not the only one, maybe not even the easiest one to read - but it clicked with me in a way all the other good dyeing books I've read have not. Her color theory section is quite solid but it is how she chooses colors and how she combines things to get bold effects, or subtle ones, or intricate or surprising or whatever she wants, that so excited me. I guess - I am glad for simple explanaitions, but by gum, I want power. I want to be able to move colors this way or that, too. And she goes into how that can be done in a very thorough way.

Well guess what? She has 2 videos! Yep - Victorian Videos sells 'em. and I got both - and watched the first one yesterday and it's a keeper. In fact, if you can't get the book, the video gives you the baisics of her techniques. The handpaint section was the part I was most interested in. Not only did she demonstrate how to do the dyeing but she showed how to combine many different handpainted rovings to obtain the different effects she wrote about in the book. It was as if the video reduced the book down to its essentials. I'm so pleased. Gonna go watch the second one as soon as I'm finished here.

I did some knitting too - working on stuff for the last classes on Saturday. My morning class will be a repeat of the bead knitting class and the p.m. class will knit a teddybear sweater. The pattern for this is cute and fast and it fits 14" dolls and bears. I devised it for a workshop last fall and I think it may be worth posting here - at least temporarily. The best thing is it will take these new knitters through the process of knitting a circular sweater.

I've been swatching both the Brown Sheep handpaint yarn and the Ozeyarn boucle, and both of them have told me what they want to be, (I am BEZZ the great and knitterful. Do not pay any attention to the woman behind the curtain. Do not listen to what she said about anthropormorphizing stuff) but my fingers aren't cooperating. So I'm feeling scattered instead of energized. ... oh. i just realized what the problem is. It's that gold UFO from last year - a beautiful sweater that has got a hole in the sleeve now and I feel depressed about it and am avoiding finishing it - but I am supposed to finish it and that's why I can't get started on anything new.


I guess I have to finish that thing.


posted by Bess | 6:44 AM


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Thursday, February 27, 2003  

Whoopee. another day off. This snow is much prettier than the last one. It's more ChristmasCardLike. puffy white without any sleet - yet. They're calling for that later today. But for now there's beauty everywhere I look. We have a lovely trail between here and the tar road that winds 1/2 a mile through the woods and for years when DS and I would walk down it we'd try to see who could grab a snow laden holly tree, bent low overhead, and give it a shake ... just at the moment the other was positioned in the path of the plummeting heap of snow. We usually got home soaking wet. And we have had years of snow so deep that DH would have to shovel that whole path out - leaving a trench 4 feet deep. Well - we were younger then and thought nothing of shoveling 1/2 a mile of snow or hauling groceries and even laundry back down that path. Or carrying a snowsuit slippery toddler who was in no hurry to get home.

We’ve been living on this farm for nigh on to 30 years and I have a treasure trove of glorious memories. Many of them have to do with being outdoors. Sometimes I get a little weepy thinking about them. Like the time we were swimming one August, out in the bay and a flock of birds flew overhead and reminded me that one day soon it would be autumn and hot soup would taste good. Or the time DS and I got lost in the east woods and discovered the secret path home. My praying place just past the first sharp turn in the lane - the secret anniversary picnic spot DH found for me back in ‘94.

Someone once asked me what I hoped heaven was like and I said “It’ll be summer - early evening, with the sun down but plenty of color still left in the sky. The baking heat of the day will be gone and maybe a little breeze will kiss my arms. I’ll be walking down the dirt road that skirts the western fields. I’ll be barefoot with shorts and a tank top on, and my 2 year old will be walking with me, buck naked, and he’ll look up at me and say “Sing ‘Seein’ Nelly Home’ again for me, mama”.

Reindeer Cartoon

I realized maybe that cartoon of the reindeer who lost his antlers doesn’t make much sense to some, though I laugh every time I see it. See, my first ever picking up of knitting needles was when I braggingly promised to knit a sweater for a neighbor boy - if he paid for everything, which he did - but he chose an all over patterned Norwegian Sweater with reindeer and Christmas trees and stars! That’s right. First project. No scarf or dishcloth or hat. Jump right into a stranded color pattern sweater. For a 6 foot tall guy. It took months. The graph was dizzyingly complicated. It was navy blue and white. I hated it. It was of a hideosity so gigantic in my memory I sometimes wonder if it ever really happened.

Needless to say, the antlers frequently separated from the poor animals’ heads and the stars exploded. Trees fell from their trunks. It took up every moment of my spare time. My mama finally offered to help me knit the thing, though she had only ever knit one sweater herself - and she knits tight while I knit loose, so it ended up looking like wool seersucker. We sewed the pieces together on the sewing machine because I was so heartily sick of it I wanted it out of my sight, out of the house, out of my life! I can still hear Mama murmuring “I believe we could whip that up on the sewing machine.” Such a southern phrase - to “whip that up on the sewing machine.”

In true sweater curse fashion, though this fellow was not a boyfriend, we never saw each other again after it was delivered, to a chorus of chortles and laughter from his friends. And now I promise never to tell this story again. But if Kenny Mays who grew up in Richmond VA has any knitting relatives or friends who read this post, do tell him I’ve never forgotten him or his sweater and I appreciate his funding my knitting education.

Bess' first knitting project comes back to haunt her.

posted by Bess | 7:30 AM


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Wednesday, February 26, 2003  

Crazy day - it's snowing and nobody wants to be at work. We all feel like 5th graders staring at the windows and wondering how soon we can call it a day. It's worst for me since I live the farthest north - and it was pretty slick driving on the back roads around my place.

I had a bunch of knitting patrons in this morning, making sure they had eye candy in case they get snowed in again. I saw Lily Chin's urban knitter go out, and Vogue Knitting American Collection, Knitted Embellishments ... some happy folk. But this is what I wish I were doing:

Bess gets intimately involved with her knitting.

Oh - and I don't know what happened to my posts from 2/22 through today. I've asked admin about it and hope they'll fix it. They still exist, since I can find them in the code, just can't see them. Sigh. Such a loss to the world.

posted by Bess | 12:45 PM


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It is snowing again. Just a dusting of it right now but the forcast is for constant snow throughout the day and into the night. Happily, I am still enjoying all this falling stuff. We went so long without rain last year I haven't gotten tired yet of snow or rain. I think I will need another 12 inches before I might complain.

I've got a link over in my spinning section to Victorian Videos. It was a little difficult to decide where to put that link since it's not just a spinning site. They make some of the best craft videos I've ever seen. They produced Patsy Zawistoski's videos (see link under spinning) from which I learned just about everything I know about spinning. I'm a big fan of video instruction since I'm both dyslexic and an auditory learner. (put me in a lecture and I'll look like a genius - hand me a book and it better have pictures) But I'd recommend perusing their entire catalog because they have a wealth of offerings and the quality of their production is very high.

It was through their catalog that I discovered another fabulous craft/art teacher, Tory Hughes. What can I call her? Ms. Polymer Clay? My friend? Not that I've ever met her, but she is one fantastic artist and one fantastic video instructor. She is absolutely comfortable before the camera and her ability to explain a very tactile activity with language is right on target. There is an entire video on making buttons (to match your perfect handpaint cardigan?). Here is an interview she gave The Crafts Report in 2000.

And just in case you're curious, here's the tale of buying HeyBaby, my Ashford Elizabeth spinning wheel.

posted by Bess | 6:53 AM


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Tuesday, February 25, 2003  

Tossed off my lunch hour fiddling with this blog and here I am staying late to doodle on it some more. I must be nuts. And I can't seem to get any more .jpg files loaded. Soon to come:
Bess gets intimately involved with her knitting.
DH gets more confused about her obession.
Old memories come back to haunt.

posted by Bess | 6:27 PM


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Monday, February 24, 2003  

Bess looks on like a proud mama while her student blasts off.

So - what is the next best thing to knitting a perfect sweater for yourself? How about when your student calls you up crying "It fits! It fits! It Fits!". And I've seen it too. It's gorgeous. This woman is a knitting fool - with a color sense that won't quit, a sense of drama hidden in a cool head and passion to spare. I promise photos. I swear. Just can't give you a date yet.

My lace scarf is done and I began swatching with the Brown Sheep HandPaint I bought from when she was offering 10% discount to Knitters Review folk. That 10% grew into 30% so I bought way more than I intended to. It's 70% mohair and it is so much fun to knit with. I intended to do stranded colorwork with it but the more I swatch the more it whispers "texxxxxxxxxxxxture texxxxxxxxxxxxxture" to me. It looks a lot like Classic Elite's Lush and I'm thinking of that cabled cuff sweater pattern that is featured in Knitpicks catalog.

OH!! and I solved a sloppy rib problem I've had forever. My purl stitches are just so loose and the knit stitches in the rib look bad too - well, my ribbing just looks althewayround sloppy. So while swatching I decided to do all the knit stitches twsted, knit through the back loop. What an improvement. Tried twisting the purls snugged up against the sample cable and liked that a heap better too.

Well, knit and learn, hm?

posted by Bess | 5:23 PM


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Sunday, February 23, 2003  

Talk about so little time! whew. I did some knitting on the lace scarf - looks like there is maybe a yard or two of the yarn left so I'll wind it up in the a.m. I am a lark - a true dawn prowler and 9:30 is bedtime for me. So what am I doing here? ahh there is a pile of laundry on the stripped bed, (left so I would put the darn stuff away before going to bed tonight. Where do I get these stupid ideas?) and I've been to the city, to see a movie. at a theateor, as folks say it 'round here. And we stopped for barbecue at the Smokey Pig on the way home.

And I cleaned house today. The first fresh breeze of spring tickled the treetops this morning, shoving aside the blanket of storm clouds that shut down power in town yesterday. We had to finish up the adult class sitting by a window. These students are so good - they are ready for more sooner and with greater skill than any beginner class I've taught yet. So I gave them the teddy bear sweater pattern I developed for the Knitters Review retreat, and a lesson on using double points. They are to knit the body of the sweater by next Saturday and if they can, to knit the sleeves as well. I'll knit up a couple of extra sleeves just in case. Then we can start right in on joining sleeves on a circular yoke sweater and the concepts of phony seams and proportional shoulder decreases.

My little gjrls Kool-aid dyed their yarn and learned to knit i-cord. I gave them some rather challenging yarn - Patons Canadiana, a very stretchy acrylic boucle. I was a bit nervous about their handling it but they just whipped out needles, cast on and knit away.

and now it's even later and the laundry is still on the bed. best get to it or I will be the one thing that doesn't get to lie on the bed tonight.

posted by Bess | 9:38 PM


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Saturday, February 22, 2003  

"Did you hear they got married at the funeral home?"
"yeah. They figured most of the family was already there so they might as well take care of it then."

Snatch of actual conversation overheard while getting my nails done. This is not from a Jef Foxworthy tape.

God I wouldn't live anywhere but the south.

And my order from Ozeyarn was waiting in the mailbox when I got home. I mean - life doesn't get any better. I'm a sucker for excess - bold color, texture, glitter, and I'd ordered 600+ yards of mohair boucle (for about $33.00 - I am not kidding ) in a color called - bummer, I don't have the swatch card here and I can't remember - but something delicious like Tropical Surprise. It is several shades of rich peachy pinks with shots of a caramel and medium lavender. I've been swatching it in and garter on #8 and 10.5 needles. An alpaca and a merino wool comes in dyed to match shades. Delivery was 9 days after my order and 7 days after the shipment notice Juliana emailed me.

Today should have been the last day of knitting classes but we'll probably make up last week's class next Saturday. And next day I'll be going to the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Arts Fair VII, Fort Magruder Inn, Williamsburg, VA. I don't quilt but I can appreciate exquisite needlework. And there will more than quilts at the show - may types of needlework are on view and/or for sale.

It is mud season in upper tidewater Virginia and the real question will be "Can Bess get out of her lane today?"

Good knitting to you all.

posted by Bess | 6:18 AM


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Friday, February 21, 2003  

Woopee! Things are working again. I was sure it was something I had done. Will I ever be confident about computers? Probably not. This is one reason I'm nervous about changing the template. It sort of works, at least for me. But now that I've added stuff to it I wonder if I'll ever get the additions moved over to another template. Angst superior.

And yesterday morning I woke up with a glimmer of an idea of how to work the upper shoulder and neckline shaping for a seamless circular sweater with set in sleeves a la EZ's Knitting Workshop. I also discovered a HOLE in one of the sleeves. Apparently I’d yanked a pair of scissors out carelessly. What a lowering thought.

To balance that though, I taught someone how to do wrapped short rows and we made the neatest zigzag swatches with knitted short rows forming a triangle in one direction and purled short rows making a triangle going in the other direction. Now … just expand this idea and do color changes with each triangle – what a cool shaped scarf.

So many ideas
So little time

posted by Bess | 3:09 PM


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Bess makes her first call to SchoolHousePress and gets Meg herself on the line!

posted by Bess | 2:54 PM


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Thursday, February 20, 2003  

Man, this going to work is gonna wipe me out! I was so tired last night I didn't even snack when I got home from my class. In spite of schools being closed, or perhaps because of it, the place was packed all day with folk we don't usually see in the library till the weekends. And I kept forgetting it was Wed., one of the nights we stay open late. All day people would call and say "How late are you open? and I'd say with my singsongey-little-miss-helpful voice "Oh we'll be open till 6" and they'd ask "Till 6? ohhhhh". I don't work late on Weds, but was staying late to teach a make up knitting class. I'd gone to the gym at 5 and when I got back to the building at 6 I noticed the parking lot full and was all huffy about people imposing on my assistant, keeping her past closing time. "Well, I'll soon sweep them out of the building" I thought as I burst through the back door, only to see the calendar and realize I'd been thinking it was Tuesday all day long. What an idiot!

One of my young Saturday morning students has taken flight with her needles. With this long snow holiday, she's had time to experiment. Not only did she finish her beaded purse but she has created her own knitted dragon, complete with wings and long snout. Her mother was thrilled to see this burst of creativity, and you can imagine how my heart swelled. Good thing, too, since the class that followed this revelation was a lot harder for me to teach than I had expected, thus ensuring no swelling went to my head. Each student is doing something different, albeit within the framework of a sweater. I had to do a lot of mental gymnastics trying to meet everybody's needs and ended up feeling like I didn't quite make the mark. One student wants to knit a circular sweater but with set in sleeves and a high turtleneck. I have not yet successfully done this myself so it's a bit difficult to teach her what I don't know. I am almost there on a sweater I'm knitting, but not quite - and that particular project, I fear, will require serious frogging. I think I knit the sleeves too short and there is fancy cabling and i-cord on the cuffs. (this was last winter's UFO) Oh - we have the book, Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Workshop, but the instructions are modest in the extreme. We haven't decided yet, but my suggestion was that we knit up to the neckline and then call Meg Swansen at Schoolhouse Press and ask for help.

One thing I did decide, after discussing with class, was that the tightly knit sleeve on Sigvaldi was not so very tight after all. Perhaps it has relaxed over the past 24 hours. Perhaps it never was as bad as I thought. But when I stacked the two sleeves there was really only about 1/2 inch difference. That said - I will leave well enough alone - and leave the whole thing alone till the class is ready to join sleeves in 2 weeks. Besides - it looks like I have my next project all picked out - finish that dagummed gold sweater with the set-in sleeves!

posted by Bess | 5:53 AM


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Wednesday, February 19, 2003  

Remember: When it works it's called multitasking. When it doesn't, it's called ADD.

The Dream

The Reality

posted by Bess | 8:45 PM


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Today I must go be gainfully employed after this wonderful snowy hiatus. No more long leisurely mornings knitting by the fire, no more knitting videos before lunch, no more naps! How will I survive? At least I will have a knitting class tonight (last night’s sweater class postponed) and I’ll have access to a scanner at lunch so I can put up some sketches. Yes yes. In between naps and knits, I’ve doodled a few more views of Life of a Knitting Queen. :D

I’ve also had lots of time to read up on how to code with blogger - and still can’t find out why my blog is flashing on some displays, making it unreadable by some dear friends. Boo Hoo. And found lots of things that can $5 me to death, but make my blog fun. Anyway, also on said lunch hour over the next few days I will either find out how to stop the flashing (which I suspect is connected to the color changing properties) or change the template.


As for Sigvaldi, I’ve knit one sleeve and most of the other. But ... and here’s a rub I’ll leave to discuss with students tonight - I find knitting with 16” needles cramps my hand. The needle tips are just too short. So when I knit the second sleeve I just kept on knitting it on the double points. My hand never cramped, but the knitting is much tighter, making the sleeve a lot (like 3 inches) narrower!! The tightness of the fabric kept whispering to me as I knit it, but I didn’t really look till I had only maybe 25 rounds left to knit. (about 4 inches) I switched to the circular right away but I’m not sure if I want to go back and do all, or part of, the sleeve again to make it match.

But it is a perfect opportunity to talk with my adult students about fixing errors, perfection in knitting, compromise, and satisfaction with product. We’ll have the same discussion I had with my young student last Saturday, and then I’ll decide. Fortunately I’m a Meyers/Briggs ENFP helps, so I solve problems well in committee. (being a Virgo, this also means so long as I am boss.)

Also - we only just start on the sleeves tonight and I don’t intend to attach my sleeves till the class on yokes, in 2 weeks. The most difficult to explain, yet most fascinating part of yoke sweaters is attaching the sleeves and I have to have something to demonstrate on. So this means I really have to set Siggie aside and knit on something else. And I am as excited as if I were going on a shopping trip! In a way I am, though just into my stash shop. So - what shall it be? The Tibetan Gold waterspun with the multi-colored discontinued Ciao knit in quilted stitch in the shape of a sort of Chanel jacket? The Brown Sheep handpaint in Peacock with the stranded strawberries knit in BS handpaint Strawberry Patch? The funky greenygoldey color that looks like canned lima beans (yeah yeah, I’m southern, but my mama was from Pennsylvania) but also looks great on me - with the eyelash color and cuffs? well, probably not that one. It hasn’t lived in the stash long enough yet. Probably be the Brown Sheep.


In the mean time, while working on the Barbara Walker Afghan project I fell in love with one of the lace patterns. Really in love. It is the most soothing pattern - feels like a waltz as I’m knitting it. And I got to thinking about how this would look done up in something cobwebby. I had 2 balls of wonderful stuff, and no I haven’t any idea what they are since I’ve lost both ball bands, but I can track them down and will do so, one purple, one multicolored, and I began working on a scarf knit with both strands held together, on size 11’s. But! I switched the pattern from stocking stitch to garter stitch. Wow! It works! It never occurred to me you could do that, and over the years I’ve poured through BW’s 4 stitch collection books looking for garter stitch lace patterns. Now I can’t wait to look for more opportunities to make garter stitch lace.

Another neat thing about this scarf is how the multi-colored yarn is arranging itself in the pattern. It’s mainly shiny pink, shiny baby blue, shiny orange and shiny purple. The purple pretty much disappears into the purple mohairy stuff. The pink and blue are muted looking and the Orange is VISIBLE and it is traveling in a zig zag across the face of the scarf at the same angle as the lace patterns. This looks so cool and so deliberate, people will think I am the cleverest thing. (oh Dear Lord, please let there be enough yarn in these 2 balls to make a scarf I can really use)

Look for pictures later today.

posted by Bess | 7:52 AM


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Monday, February 17, 2003  

Finished up the first sleeve of Sigvaldi yesterday. made it 17 inches long. I want this sweater oversized but not enormous. I've started the other sleeve but it's still on double points. It's nice this sweater is growing on size 7 needles since I have dozens of 16" size 7 circulars around the house. I use them with my beginner's class and I always buy the students their supplies for this first project. Can't get 16" needles or anything much in the way of yarn around here, so I supply all materials and charge for it. The extra yarn goes into my stash and if I were ever to run short for a class - if that impossible possibility were ever to occur - I can raid my stash. But I always worry I won't have enough needles, so I tend to buy extras that get put into my yarn when they aren't used for the class. I've been glad for the extras, though, for I've given away several to young visitors who wanted to learn how to knit while at Bess' girls camp.

I bought the yarn I'm using for the Lopi design last fall at the Knitters Review Retreat. Carodan Farms was one of the Retreat vendors and I fell in love with their stuff. I didn't know what I wanted to make of the yarn but I knew I wanted it to be a color stranded garment. So I had to sort of wing it when guessing the ammount. I had 800 yds of the MC, and 400 yds of 2 secondary colors and 200 yds of a 4th color just in case. When I had knit up one skein of the MC I wasn't sure if there was enough. It looked mighty close.

So, of course I ordered another skein - which is not quite the same color since it is a different dye lot. The knitters eternal dilemma. But it is close and I will have enough yarn to get up to the yoke with the original stash. So much of the yoke is done in the contrast color that I'm not worried about changing dyelots up around the neckline. I'll just feign ignorance if anybody should mention it.

Actually, that is a boldfaced lie. I will probably point out the discrepancy to everybody who compliments the sweater. Don't you do that?

Anyway, while buying some yarn I figured I may as well buy some more yarn. One of the students in the sweater class is also using C. Farms yarn and she had bought the most gorgeous blue stuff. The color name is Blue Loch and while you can see it on their web site, I have yet to see the true, glorious beauty of that yarn show up on a computer monitor. You might even miss it's rich depth when looking at their free color sample card. It is a rich royal blue with enough plum red color carded into the fibers to give it a marled look. I look like I have jaundice when I wear blue, so though I like the color, I rarely buy it. But I had to have some of this yarn. DH would look fabulous in it, but I am thinking hard about how I could work it into something done maybe in a cream color with this as the surprise accent. But the odd thing about C.Farms yarn is .... there are no yellows - none - nada - no golds, no mustards, no lemons, no sunshines .... I have never seen a yarn company produce a whole line of yarns without some concession to the primary and secondary colors. I guess they just don't like yellow.

Yesterday's weather was perfect knitting weather and today doesn't look too different. I did take one vigorous walk with the dogs, through the woods, scuffling up the pristine snow blanket and making snow angels. Thank goodness PABDOS (stands for PerfectAngelBabyDarlingOnlySon) left one of his hunting coveralls at home. They are the perfect snow outfits. Feeling virtuous after my aerobic effort was just the antidote I needed after the cheese, sausage and egg breakfast.

posted by Bess | 6:23 AM


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Saturday, February 15, 2003  


Update on the Sigvaldi. I’ve been knitting on the body all this past week. The second skein of yarn ran out at about 3 inches from the underarm, and since I began the 3rd skein there have been several breaks in the yarn. Two knots I didn’t want in the sweater plus the original break caused by starting a new skein. This many breaks, in about 2 inches, really bothered me, though I am one of those fortunate who quite enjoys weaving in the tails. So I just set the body aside and began the first sleeve. And by gum, while working on the pattern of the cuff I remembered that I wanted to put in some short row bust darts - and - I like to put them in at 1 inch before the underarm seam! Whew! I guess the yarn was just reminding me to put them in. Or at least the knitting angel was looking out for me.

About bust darts. I never make a sweater for myself without them these days. They really do make my sweaters hang more attractively. I usually add one or two inches of them, the number decided largely by how big the sweater is and how bulky the yarn (big and/or bulky getting 1 inch of them, fine gauge and/or fitted may get 2). I use the row gauge to determine how many short rows I have to make. On this sweater I’m getting about 6 rows to the inch, so I will do 3 pair of them. I’ll knit across the front till I’m one inch (4 stitches) before where a side seam would be. Then I will slip the next stitch from the left needle to the right, bring the working yarn between the needles to the front, slip that stitch back from the right needle to the left, and take the yarn between the needles to the back. This is called a wrap. Then I’ll purl back to within 4 stitches of the other side seam stitch, wrap and turn and knit back to within 4 stitches of the first wrap, perform another wrap and turn, purl back to within of that side’s wrap, wrap and turn, and repeat this one more time in both directions.

So you see, short rows come in pairs. One lengthens only a part of a garment - usually over the bustline for a woman, over a tummy for whomever needs it, and across the back of the neck for everybody. I don’t knit all the way to the side seam for several reasons. First, I like to make EZ’s phony seam. Also, I want the side seam of the garment to hang straight. I have watched Meg Swansen put in short rows that covered more than 50% of a sweater’s circumference, but it was at the neck and I don’t remember the details.

I stagger the short rows, making the lengthened section narrower with each pair of short rows because Maggie Righetti told me to in her book Sweater Design in Plain English, AND because I have enough sewing background to know that’s what a real dart looks like. It’s just that in knitting we add the extra fabric in the center and in sewing we pinch and fold it out of the side seams.

Anyway - thank you knitting angel

And I am several inches along the first sleeve - finished the 11 row pattern and I’ve added almost all the extra stitches needed to reach the 33% Sigvaldi’s pattern calls for. One major change I made in my sleeve was to knit a much smaller cuff than the rest of the sweater called for. I am not using smaller needles to knit my ribbing. Partly ‘cause I’m too lazy to find the size 5 circulars needed, and partly because I like how the ribbing looks done in the same needle as the rest of the sweater. But when I cast on 48 stitches I got a cuff I could put my foot through!! It would gape open all around my wrist and completely defeat the purpose of this sweater, which is to wear outdoors doing winter garden stuff and walking through the forest. So I took it down to 36 stitches and increased to 48 when I finished the ribbing. This allowed for 6 pattern repeats. I’m increasing up to 60 now (have 2 more increase rows to go).

We had a lovely holiday weekend coming up and it began to snow today with a vengeance. What a waste of a good snow. I had to cancel my afternoon class. We’ll probably make that one up by having a class on March 1. I also had a funeral to attend, in the spitting sleet. But if the forecast is fulfilled, non-stop snow through Monday morning, we won’t be opening the library on Tuesday either. This would put my sweater class off schedule. I’ll survey the students and see what works for them.

My morning kids class turned into a private lesson since on of the girls was sick. We worked on beaded knitted purses. Way cool, if I do say so myself. It was an easy fun project. We used Woolease bulky and plastic pony beads with holes wide enough to thread the yarn using our tapestry needles. The girls are doing purses with monogrammed flaps. (or perhaps I suggested this to them and they liked the idea) One evening last week I charted out the layout for the beading on graph paper, using 2 colors, one for the bead and one for all the rest of the stitches. This chart made it easy for me to explain why we needed to thread the beads on before knitting, why we had to start at the end of the bead design and work back one row at a time. It also allowed me to explain how to read knitting charts. What a totally useful project for teaching kids complex knitting skills while making an easy, but hip-enough item.

My student decided to have a purple C in the middle of the flap with yellow, green and orange in repeating sequences down the edges. So we threaded our yarn and began.

Cast on 5 stitches
k 2, kb (knit a stitch with a bead on it), k 2
k1, m1, k3, m1, k1
k2, kb, k1, kb,k2

This is the basic idea of how the beaded flap will work. Following the chart we knew which stitch to make a kb stitch. We made some errors, and discussed all the ways we could fix them; from ripping out, to smashing a bead that was in the wrong place and just sewing a bead in the right place when we were finished, to just changing our mind about what we wanted the design to be. What a fantastic opportunity to go into all the ways of fixing things and deciding on just what level of expertise a person might want to apply to a given project.

Once the flap is finished the student can knit either in garter stitch or st. stitch, till she has a piece twice as long as she wants her purse to be. Then it’s just a matter of folding the straight part in half and stitching the side seams. the flap will fall nicely, without the need for a purl turning row, because the beads add enough weight to make the flap fall over the front.

I’ll photo or scan the finished purse next weekend and post it here. And I’ve promised the student who had the flu a private lesson too so she can make her purse.

I can’t think of anything more rewarding than sharing this glorious craft with a new generation. Next Saturday, the last class, will be about kool aid dyeing, making knitting needles, and anything they still feel confused about.

‘Course, this is a reeeeeeeeealy small community and I am easy to find after school. One student’s mom works in the building behind mine and the other lives only blocks away.

posted by Bess | 9:24 PM


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Friday, February 14, 2003  


If Bess gets 5 stitches to the inch and
She has a 24" circular needle and
She is subscribed to 4 knitting magazines then
How many hours will it take to explain the 10 balls of cashmere on the VISA bill?

I couldn't resist this one. Been thinking about it for weeks. But I must clarify one important issue. DH (yes, the one with the beard) is a darling and never, ever complains about my yarn expenses. Of course, he does have a sailboat that looks like, but is not, this. (His is green with the prettiest brown sails that he tells me is called tanbark.) But beyond that, I pay the bills. (OK, that's a second important issue.) He hasn't got any idea how much $$ I've got in my "savings account". It's all just pretty colorful soft stuff to him. And that's the story I'm sticking to.

Oh yeah. There's a third thing. I don't have any cashmere at all!

And do notice the shawl collared vest he is wearing. Yes. I knitted this and the blue one of yesterday.

posted by Bess | 2:16 PM


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Thursday, February 13, 2003  

Been trying to figure out the right caption here. I'd welcome all suggestions. Is that blue sweater familiar? Think Knitting the New Classics 60 Exquisite Sweaters from Classic Elite Yarns, by Kristin Nicholas.

Bess puts her stash into perspective.

posted by Bess | 5:08 PM


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Tuesday, February 11, 2003  

Barbara Walker

What a queen of knitting stitches. I am currently playing with stash yarn and her Learn to Knit Afghan . This is a serious fun learning experience. I never realized that if you knit into the back of the stitch that draws a bobble together when coming back down the backside of your work, you will tighten up the whole bobble so much more nicely.

I'm developing an advanced beginners class on different knitting stitches and there is no resource richer than BW. I am thinking of a bag made of sampler squares (thank you for the suggestion, Anne Modesitt ) put together with an interesting i-cord bindoff, interlined with plastic canvas and lined with fabric.

and then there is the idea of a striped sampler scarf.....

What would we do without our goddesses?

posted by Bess | 2:50 PM


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Saturday, February 08, 2003  

Just finished up the 2 Saturday classes. And they were just as much fun this week as last week.

My morning class with the young girls was bliss – Both of them had bought more yarn, more needles and knit more things all week. Little rings, another drawstring bag, and both had started scarves. Today’s project was a knitted bunny from a free pattern Jackie had on her HeartStrings Fiber Arts website last year. I wanted to be sure they could assemble the bunny so I had knit squares and they sewed them up. Then they knit the ears, which gave them practice in casting on and taught them the K2tog decrease. Then they got to choose a ball of yarn to knit their bunny’s playmate as a homework project this week. Next week they will knit small bags with their monogram worked in beads.

The adult beginner class finished their ribbing and began the color stranded patternwork on their hats. It’s fun to watch as they grasp each step, understanding what is happening and gaining confidence in their abilities. And as happens so often, one liked reading the chart, while another liked reading written directions.

And the weatherman says maybe more snow tomorrow!

posted by Bess | 3:53 PM


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Thursday, February 06, 2003  

As I said Tuesday, I found it easy to miscount the first row of the pattern in Sigvaldi. I've been wondering why it was so hard, since I only had to count to 7 and here's my take on it.

*The pattern is k7 in A, k1 in MC.
*The gauge I am knitting in is 4st=1"
*This creates a float almost 2 inches long
*To keep from catching every button, buckle and finger in these long floats I'm twisting the working yarn around the float in the middle
*The rhythm of K7K1K7K1 keeps getting interrupted with a twist or wrap and tangle
*I never did set up a happy way of twisting my float that let me stay in rhythm
*I miscounted

Lesson to learn:


Sounds like a nice research project.

posted by Bess | 6:22 AM


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Wednesday, February 05, 2003  

Bess follows a trail of scattered stitch markers, knit with Night Magic.

Check here too.

posted by Bess | 5:10 PM


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Thoughts on tactile pleasure.

I do the pre-school story hour at the library. It's a huge chunk out of Wednesday's energy level but I love it so much I haven't been able to give it up in 25 years. The utter chaos of pre-schoolers draws me. Their complete readiness to learn, to open, to share, to expand - seems to stimulate me to do the same. The program is extremely interactive and the only people who are not allowed to talk in class are the parents. And I have special clothing I wear on story hour day. Velvet pants and chenille sweaters in winter. Silk Crepe de Chine or Charmeuse in summer. Sometimes stockings and a skirt. Because these kids like to touch. They sit close and they cuddle. They want to shiver at the sensation of these luscious fabrics. It's our little tactile joy.

And they'll be here in 15 minutes. Off to work with you, Bess

posted by Bess | 9:52 AM


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Too tired to post last night, but the class went well. One student was sick with flu but the other 2 figured up the number of stitches to cast on for the body and jumped right in. Both are using pretty blue yarns. Both chose not to put stranded colorwork in after the ribbing (as one said "I don't need a band of color around my hips.") So - with 2 weeks to work on things, their assignment is to meet a goal of knitting one inch a day, with a little extra effort thrown in if their chosen underarm length (measured from bottom of ribbing to where sleeve joins) is more than 14 inches. The average length for most people is between 12 and 16 inches. The nice thing about designing a sweater this way is that you can make it the length that is most flattering to you. I've chosen 16 inches because I want a pretty big sweater.

This makes me ponder the importance of choosing a wonderful yarn. If one is going to knit plain st. st. over 150+ stitches for 14 inches, a glorious yarn is really important to keep boredom at bay. If one is constantly holding something luscious and beautiful, it is a whole lot easier to do the same thing with it for hours and hours.

Another tip I gave them was to put a marker at the halfway point of the round. I find it keeps my enthusiasm up when I can say "oh look - I'm over half way around! - maybe I will knit one more round after this." My markers are always little loops of contrasting yarn that I slip from one needle to the other. I'm always losing them anyway so I may as well lose free ones. Of course I don't have puppies or kittens so the pockets full of scattering yarn loops are only a nuisance. and Yes - I leave a trail of them wherever I go. Like Hansel and Gretel.

The flu lady will get a private lesson at lunch on Thursday so she can catch up. I can always be persuaded to talk about knitting.

posted by Bess | 7:22 AM


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Tuesday, February 04, 2003  

Tonight my “Make Your First Sweater” class begins actually knitting their sweaters. The students should have done the following:

bought yarn and needles
knit swatches in the round
gotten the gauge on a fabric they like
measured the chest (or a favorite old sweater at chest) of the person the sweater will be for.

They’ll get my worksheet for knitting an EPS sweater and we’ll fill in the numbers for their sweaters. Then it’s time to cast on.

I began Sigvaldi with 167 stitches + 5 for the steek and ribbed for 9 rounds. This is about 1.5 inches, just what the pattern called for. I don’t want a band of white ribbing around the hips and wrists so I knit that in the Main Color, (MC) a dark brown as well as one plain row of knitting to put in the 12 increase stitches. I’m using a cream for the first Contrast Color (A) and a rust for the second Contrast Color (B). I had a lot of trouble counting on this first row and made lots of mistakes. I believe I had to rip the whole thing out at least once. After that, though it was plain sailing through all 11 rows of this pattern.

Or so I thought.

Click here

I didn’t discover this error till I’d done 3 rounds of plain knitting in the MC. There were 6 pattern repeats where I had miscounted, putting a rust stitch where a brown one should have been, destroying the V design the rust stitches were making. That’s what happens when you are knitting in a car, talking volubly to your girlfriend about visiting great yarn shops. Fortunately, the pattern repeat was K3 in MC, K1 in C, so there were only a few stitches that needed switching. I corrected some of the errors by knitting to the stitch with the error in it, dropping that stitch down to the mistake, picking up the right color and crocheting back up to the needle again. I left some of the mistakes, though so that I can show the class how to repair this type of mistake in their own knitting.

A word about knitting with the Carodan Farm's wool. It’s a rugged feeling wool – no cushy soft merino. It doesn’t glide across your fingers. The first few rows of the color pattern did not knit up quickly, though not unduly slow. But the longer I work with it the more fun it is to knit. Great elasticity. Rich and complex color. It creates a fabric with a sort of pebbly texture, not smooth but not scratchy at all. It’s had the neck test and the belly test and there is no itching, although it does feel textured. I am very pleased with it.

posted by Bess | 6:33 PM


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I really do have a garden. This is what it looked like a few years ago.

posted by Bess | 9:57 AM


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Monday, February 03, 2003  

Bess needs help with her stash. What can she do? Click HERE

Yep, friends, although I have enough yarn for 6 sweaters, and enough wool to spin for 3 more - Although I was able to resist the trunk show of Mountain Colors (hand dyed angora to dye for) at The Knitting Basket and the Classic Elite Lush at The Knitters Cottage, I succumbed to a temptation beyond human resistance yesterday and bought this!

What is it? It's Copenhagen, by Lana Gatto. And it is a nylon mycrospun yarn that beats out every other fiber I've yet touched, for softness and loft. Nylon! From the wool lady. Just had to have it - 1 skein for $11.00, knitting up around 2.5 stitches to the inch. I'm making a detachable cowl collar to pop over other sweaters. Cast on 60 stitches on a circular needle, join and knit till it's long enough to look like a collar. I'm thinking maybe 10 inches long. Probably going to flare it out every 10 stitches over the last 2 inches or so, so that it will lie flat around my chest and shoulders.

And then there were the sale bins. I'll think about that tomorrow - at Tara.

posted by Bess | 11:19 AM