More Is More; Less Is a Bore

For many knitters, that headline and sneak peek photo together are enough of a clue. For those still puzzling it out, never fear. Here’s the dynamic duo behind the motto.

Yep, that’s Stephen West s&sand StevenBe.

I took a much-needed vacation day and headed to the self-proclaimed “Glitter Knitter’s” Minneapolis studio a few weeks ago for the “New Perspectives on Knitting with S-Squared” class.

It was mid-February and I was in dire need of some fun and inspiration — and an explosion of color. The Steph(v)ens did not disappoint. It was a solid 3 hours of knitting tips & tricks combined with unfiltered creativity. My favorite moment? Stephen’s unforgettable take on short rows with eyelets, explained through interpretive dance.

What a kick to see so many of their great knits in person. I was particularly inspired by the color play in these shawls. Can you say, dreaming of spring?

westknit-shawlsI’ve been fascinated with the construction of the Enchanted Mesa sweater since it was published and Izzy eagerly assured me she’d like one of her own to wear — a statement sweater with an interesting mix of colors.

So I brought a hefty assortment of yarn colors and weights to the class so I could start on it. Stephen consulted on color and sizing. Then I headed home to cast on and sneak in a few hours of knitting. And play with yarn weights and colors I did — sparkle mixed with mohair, DK with lace-weight and fingering. I’d made it through the sweater’s yoke and was pretty pleased with the boldness. But then I came to halt, knowing it would never work…

mesa-cowlWhy? Well, because I’d decided to let Izzy get creative with her hair…

izzy-squareAnd I knew the choice she’d picked meant that it was time to tone down the sweater.

Don’t believe me? Take a look.

Yep, version 2 of the Enchanted Mesa is now in full swing with a mostly black, white, and gray assortment of yarn.

Who needs a statement sweater when you have statement hair?

Friday Finds: Jewelry Stitch Markers

Now that I’ve been knitting mostly with fingering weight yarn, I’ve found that I don’t have enough stitch markers — well, pretty stitch markers. Besides the lovely set Jane gave me, the only small ones I have are plastic. (Yes, #firstworldproblems.)

I was browsing the jewelry supply aisle at Jo-Ann’s a few weeks back (looking for some replacement wires to fix a few pairs of earrings) when I, excuse the pun, found these lovely silver findings. They’re the perfect size for needles up to at least a US 8 and since they’re completely closed, there’s nothing that snags. Best of all, I got more than 30 of them for under $5.

stitch markers

Avoiding Second Sock Syndrome

In response to my last post, Jane asked how I combat second sock syndrome. It’s a good question and one that I’m hoping will generate some discussion. Here’s the answer I gave her:

I’ve found I’m happiest when I’ve got two different pairs on the go at once — when I finish the first sock for pair A, I start a new pair. Then when I finish the first sock for pair B, I cast on the second sock for pair A, which I now want to finish so I can cast on pair C.

It’s my personal wooly version of Pavlov’s dog since I only own two pairs of 2.5mm small circulars. Plus, I always have two flavors of knitting to pick up depending on my mood — “challenging” (new pair) and comfort (second sock).

But I’d really love to hear other tips and tricks for dealing with this all-too-common malady. So I ask, “How do YOU combat SSS?”

"S" Is for…Sock!

As you’ll see, I was so happy to have this finished that I stuffed it onto the sock blocker before properly dealing with all the goo from the peeled off price label.


“S” Is Also for Sisyphus

What you don’t see is that this is the hundredth go at knitting my first sock. (OK, it’s actually the ninth. Just felt like the hundredth.) I scrapped the first try about half way down the cuff — couldn’t bear the ladders I was seeing. It was also a little tight. I cast on again with my trusty DPNs… And then ripped back.

I started reading anything and everything I could about how to avoid those tell-tale culprits. Yet, no matter how many times I went back to the ribbing and restarted, I couldn’t get it right. In fact, it got more wrong. Minor ladders became swinging bridges. I feared monkeys on the lookout for jungle vines were soon to be headed my way.

Knitting this sock became personal. In the worst sort of way.

Enter the sanity-saving 9″ HiyaHiya circulars. My fingers were cramped but those ladders were gone. Make that banished! Funny thing is, when I got to the instep shaping I used my DPNs and all was just fine. I couldn’t begin to explain why. Nor did I tempt fate with the foot, returning to the circulars.

With my first sock finished, I slipped it on my foot only to discover a flopping, too-long toe. Sigh. (OK, actually it was much cursing.) So I started and finished the second sock with the correct modification (shown above) and it fits. I feel like Cinderella!

Is “S” for Irony, Too?

The too-big first sock has been frogged and the yarn is now on its way to becoming my second sock. As I was working on it last night, a thought occurred to me:  “S” is also for slipper.

My tenacious Grandma would be so proud. (And this time, yes, I will make the pair.)

FOs: Malabrigo Loafers

Somewhere between finishing the Transverse cardigan and knitting a pile of monster parts, I sort of lost my mind. That’s really the only explanation I can come up with for why it seemed wise to plan more holiday knitting at the end of November.

Um, yeah…

So I grabbed the Malabrigo and cast on slippers for my father and brother-in-law. Since it was only after I’d purchased the yarn that I got the pattern, I didn’t realize that short rows were involved. So, yes, I unwittingly queued up a new skill test for myself just to add to the Christmas frenzy. As I said, sort of lost my mind.

Pattern: Malabrigo Loafers by Julie Weisenberger

Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted (Marine & Red Mahogany)
Once I’d committed to the project, though, I went all in and decided to knit sole inserts for both pairs. If you’re going to wear Malabrigo on your feet, why not make it extra cushy? Both pairs were finished before we left New Mexico, but I didn’t get a chance to photograph the second one until we were in MN (hence the crappy shot on flannel sheets).

FO: Slightly Carnivorous Herbivore


Pattern: Herbivore by Stephen West


I’ve never really been a shawl person. Then I discovered Stephen West and his unisex designs. Nothing grandmotherly about them.

First up was the Pagona I knit a few months ago. Now the Herbivore. I love the texture of the twisted stitches, but must confess there were times I didn’t enjoy the knitting. It’s too intricate given the fingering weight yarn to be good TV/movie knitting. Yet, it’s just mindless/tedious enough to not be fun to knit for long stretches. If it weren’t for several sessions of “Knit Group of 2” with Jane while the girls were ice skating/hanging out in the pool, I might not have finished it for quite awhile. It proved perfect for rambling chats where you know the other person well enough that you don’t feel rude making infrequent eye contact.


Also of huge help was the KPPPM yarn: so soft, so squishy, such interesting color combinations that it was fun to watch the rows take shape. I was so worried after coming up short on yardage with the Pagona that I bought 3 skeins at the outset. I ended up using just shy of two. Now what to do with the other skein? It’s too lovely to return.

Go Heavy on the Greens

When it comes to the Pogona, load up on whatever color it is you’re using. Seriously. The two skeins I’d purchased had 24 yards more than the 380 the pattern called for, so I figured I’d be safe. I’m always under in yardage used.

Well, I was just hitting a center triangle length of 12 inches (far from the 15 called for by the pattern before the edging) when I pulled out the kitchen scale. At best, I could hope for 4/5 more rows. Frantic call to my LYS the next morning, followed by lunchtime yarn run for the one (and only) skein left in the dye lot.

This has me seriously confused. I had gauge. As did many of the others who I’ve since read about on Ravelry. But then there are just as many people who made the shawl with the called for yardage or even less. If anyone can explain this phenomenon, please drop me a comment. Best guess I can come up with is that it all hinges on row gauge (which the pattern doesn’t specify).







But all’s well that ends well — with another 162 yards. And Crystal Palace Panda Silk Print was a joy to work with (52% bamboo with merino and silk rounding out the 100).

I got to try out my blocking wires for the first time. So much easier. Terrific investment, I’d say, not that anyone asked. Only problem is they were so easy to work with that I overdid the blocking by several inches. But since I wanted this shawl/scarf for the summer, I guess airy is good?

FO: Citron with an Edge

I, like so many others, loved the Citron when I first saw it in Knitty. I watched it explode in popularity for the Ravelympics and then continue to be added to queues at a healthy double-digit/day pace in the many months since. (Any statistics junkies out there really need to check out this cool feature, if you haven’t already.) So by the time I got around to actually knitting it — not counting my first failed attempt with Classic Elite Yarns Silk Alpaca Lace (which is now taking an extended timeout in my stash bin, given that it was the second failed project attempt with said yarn) — I called it “Citron #1,000,001.”

And off I went, casting on with Malabrigo for the first time. What can I say about this heavenly soft, color-drenched yarn that hasn’t already been said? Sigh. Or about the mindless mindful knitting Citron‘s many stitches provide? (It was only that last 540-stitch ruffle that tested my patience.) Then I tried on my unblocked piece and, once again, was reminded that my neck is as short and stumpy as Ms. Callis’ is long and graceful. (This probably wouldn’t be such a sore point, but all my life it’s a detail that’s been rubbed in with silly zodiac descriptions proclaiming that as a Taurus I have a “swan-like neck.” No, I’m not bitter.)

So after scanning Ravelry to see how else knitters were wearing it, I found a kinder draping. Check. Then I decided that as much as I loved the ruffles, it was a little too girly for my wardrobe liking. How about mixing in a few hard edges? So I blocked it with some random, angular points. (Promise: It wasn’t just lazy pinning.) Must say, I’m pleased with the outcome.

And, for better or worse, so is Izzy.