Monday, April 25, 2011

Steller's Jay Shawl pattern now available!

The Steller's Jay Shawl pattern is available on Ravelry now!

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Worsted - 2 balls coal, 1 ball hyacinth, 1 ball sapphire heather. The total yarn cost is only about $8!

The pattern itself costs $2.99, making this an $11 project. Lots of knitting enjoyment and a lovely shawl for not much money!

This shawl uses both stranded colorwork and intarsia, making for a fun, interesting knit. There is also large swaths of plain Stockinette without any color changes, making it great in-front-of-the-TV or while-your-kids-are-still-awake knitting. I hope you enjoy knitting it as much as I did.

And we have to include a shout-out to the bird who inspired it all, Steller's Jay:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Nothing feels better than releasing a negative emotion through art. Nothing.

I'm sick of having credit card debt and hope to make it go away later this year. A lofty goal, considering how much there is, but hey, it could happen. It has been following me for a decade, much of it acquired when I was 20-something and stupid. It's time to shed that weight and be free.

Discover Card pissed me off recently and I turned my anger into a painting, using their stupid card.

It's called "Debt to Income Ratio."

I used a ton of interference paint, which unfortunately doesn't photograph well. The sky is done in an acid rain of interference green and red. The teeth are painted in interference copper. Where did I get them? Why, those are my impressions, leftover from getting teeth whitening trays made. The dentist gave them to me with the teeth whitening trays, once they were ready and I thought, "Why are you giving me these? What the hell am I supposed to do with them?" I set them aside, figuring I'd find a use.

The "VOICE" inside the mouth is comprised of letters from a cut-up Discover Card. The figure falling into the tornado/whirlpool/abyss is Botticelli's Venus with the head of "Blind Justice" from Metallica's "And Justice For All," one of my all-time favorite albums. I printed each image out, cut out what I wanted, taped them together, photocopied it and made an acrylic transfer.

It just sort of happened. It felt good to do and I had a lot of fun making it. I turned my Discover Card-induced frown upside down and made it into art.

Medium: acrylic paint, modeling paste (for the whirlpool), acrylic photocopy transfer, gel medium (to make the black at the bottom raised and extra-menacing) and dental impressions (some kind of plaster?) on Ampersand Gessobord

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Prism Pullover and a sad sock

I have the front and back of the Prism Pullover finished, and I am loving it! It's beautiful and really, really fun to knit. This is only my second "serious" lace project, and I am totally hooked.

That's what the front and back look like. It works up very quickly, being knitted in a worsted weight yarn on size 10 needles (the pattern calls for 10.5, but I got gauge with 10). I can't wait to wear it. Now all that's left is two left-sleeve halves and two right-sleeve halves. I'm casting the first one on in a few minutes. I can't wait to wear it. Since it's been in the 40s and has even HAILED this week, I should be able to wear it a few times before it gets too warm. Worst spring ever, I tell you.

Remember my self-imposed sock of the month club (a la Yarn Harlot)? Heh. FAIL!

There's March's pair. Er, the first half of the first sock of March's pair. As soon as I'm done with the Prism, I'm going to finish this pair of socks before I move on to the Rose Lace Stole. This self-striping sock yarn is boring the hell out of me, which is part of why this poor sock has sat this long. Apparently only hand-dyed sock yarn really does it for me. I'm going to make my next few pairs in Socks That Rock before attempting another ball of self-striping sock yarn from my stash.

I'm still working on the Steller's Jay shawl pattern. I hope to have it done by the end of the week!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New pattern available!

My first published pattern is out! The Cave Painting Hat and Mitts set is available at Knit Picks for only $1.99.

It's knit in Wool of the Andes Worsted and Chroma Worsted. With a total yarn cost of $14.96 and a pattern cost of $1.99 it's an inexpensive knit. With techniques such as Fair Isle, an i-cord bind off and a cable cast-on, it's also lots of fun! The Fair Isle colorwork is a very simple 4-stitch repeat, making this a perfect first Fair Isle pattern. As with all my patterns, I hope you enjoy knitting it as much as I did!

I'm so excited to be a part of the awesome Knit Picks Independent Designer Program and I hope this will be the first of many patterns available through them.

In other knitting, I've got two lace pattern repeats done of the Prism Pullover, and I love it.

I'm having so much fun with it. The pattern is complicated enough to hold your interest, while not being impossible to knit while your kids are awake. I use three Post It flags to keep track of where I am in the pattern: one for the cable pattern, one for the lace, and one to keep track of whether I'm on row one or row two of the pattern. So far that system has helped me stay right on track! The yarn is also fantastic. It's wonderfully soft! I hope to get a lot of this sweater done this weekend so I can wear it, and so I can get to work on the Rose Lace Stole. That pattern will take me a while. The Prism Pullover is only my second lace project, but I'm enjoying all that I'm learning from it and looking forward to knitting (and designing!) lots more lace!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I like birds. I never really noticed them much until I moved to Seattle. There are gorgeous birds everywhere in the Seattle area. Tons of eagles, which I never saw in person in Ohio. Cute little black capped chickadees (who always remind me of the executioner in my favorite movie, Blazing Saddles). Ravens and seagulls are everywhere, and in my yard, I am lucky enough to see many of this beauty, known as Steller's Jay.

I love these birds and their stunning, bright blues so much, they inspired me to design a shawl.

I like to hang shawls off of this branch when photographing them, for some reason.

Another view:

I like to photograph everything on this bench. I love that it even has some bird poop on it, possibly from a Steller's Jay!

Still another view:

Modeled by yours truly.

Here's a closeup view of the colorwork:

And a view of the wrong side, just for fun.

It's knit in Stockinette stitch, but has been blocked flat so it rolls only minimally. I find the little bit of rolling that happens helps it stay on. The colorwork is a blend of stranded colorwork and intarsia. It's shaped with a yarnover at the edge of each row. Super-simple, and the colorwork is easy and fun. It was actually the first time I'd tried intarsia. I have this bad habit of trying new techniques for the first time in my own designs!

The yarn? Knit Picks Wool of The Andes Worsted, 4 balls. Two Coal, one Hyacinth, one Sapphire Heather. That means this shawl costs $8 to make. Wool of the Andes, despite being $2 a ball, is a really nice wool yarn and surprisingly soft. I'd even use it for next-to-skin stuff.

Affordability is a big consideration for me when I design something. I hate designs in magazines that call for like 30 balls of a yarn that costs $15 a ball, or 8 balls of a yarn that costs $50 a ball. Those designs are just out of touch. It's as if the designer has to do something with this massive pile of yarn that they got from the manufacturer for free, and they don't consider that the readers will actually need to buy it, and to use that yarn would be as much (or more than) a car payment. Super luxe yarns certainly have their place, and I love many of them. However, the budgets of the majority of the people who would want to knit the design need to be considered. For my current budget, an $8 shawl rocks!

I love it, and I'm going to write it up as a pattern over the next couple of days. This will be the first of many bird-themed shawls. Next maybe an eagle, or a Northwest Native-inspired raven, or a black-capped chickadee, or a mallard duck, who knows where my imagination will go!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Knitting Today! April/May review... big improvements!

The April/May issue of Knitting Today! landed in my mailbox today, and when I saw it, I initially rolled my eyes, thinking "oh good, more inappropriate uses for acrylic yarn." Then I sat down and opened it, and was pleasantly surprised by lots of big improvements.

Someone other than me must have told them not to go so heavy on the acrylic. It has a far smaller presence this issue. They have also added yarns from Rowan! The Coats & Clark and Kertzer yarns represented are more often natural fibers than 100% acrylic, and when they do use 100% acrylic, with the exception of one vest pattern, it's used appropriately, such as for a blanket or a golf club cover. 100% acrylic does have its uses!

The change is so dramatic, I think they must have fired some people and hired some people. One way or another, they got a clue. The first sign that this magazine had improved was seeing the brilliant Annie Modesitt's name on the cover. She has a cute hat pattern in this issue and there is also an interview with her. I, for one, cannot WAIT for her new book, "History on Two Needles." I'm going to grab that one the day it comes out.

Another one of my favorite designers, Wendy Bernard, has a pattern in this issue for a sheep golf club cover.

While with the previous two issues, I was rolling my eyes at terribly backwards style or gagging at a barrage of acrylic yarn being used inappropriately, with this issue, barring the one acrylic vest pattern, I found not one gag-worthy pattern. In fact, there's a little girl's dress and doll dress pattern that I just might make for my daughters.

I hope this issue is a sign of things to come. To help ensure that, I'm going to fill out the survey that they have on the last page. Now, if they'll just make their submissions guidelines friendlier...

What am I knitting? I just bound off and blocked the shawl that I have been working on. It turned out to be beyond my expectations, so I'll be turning it into a pattern soon! Pics once I've woven in the ends.

Now that the shawl is done, I swatched for Heather Lodinsky's Prism Pullover. Once the swatch is done blocking (yes, I block my swatches... I have been bitten by gauge one too many times, and now I'm totally anal about it!) and I'm sure I've got gauge, I'll get it started, hopefully tonight. I can't wait to get it started! It's light and airy enough to be able to wear it now!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Striped Kureyon E-Reader Cover

It's finished, it's lovely. My Kindle houses several free Victorian knitting manuals, so it's only appropriate that it receive a knitted cover.

Inspired by the super-popular Striped Noro Scarf by Jared Flood, the fabric is thick, cushy and protective, as well as being beautiful. It's knit in one piece, then folded and seamed. So simple you could read your e-reader while knitting it.

The finished cover measures 5 x 7.5 and fits my Kindle wonderfully. I hope you enjoy knitting it as much as I did! It's now a free Ravelry pattern.

download now

Friday, April 8, 2011

Totally utilitarian eco-friendly dust mop cloth

I finished it Sunday and used it Monday and Tuesday. It worked spectacularly well. I have a wood floor in 2/3 of my house, so I use my dust mop vacuum daily, sometimes multiple times in one day. That's a lot of dust mop cloths, so I was happy that I finally got off my butt and made my own.

You would not believe the amount of crap this thing picked up in two days. It picked up an absolutely unbelievable amount of dust, as well as plenty mashed Cheerios and Goldfish. I love it.

It was very quick, being just a garter stitch rectangle, and I got a bonus in that I made a swatch to figure out how many stitches to cast on to make the right size rectangle. The swatch makes an incredible kitchen scrubbie! I have been scrubbing pots with it (the ones that come out of the dishwasher still dirty... ugh) and it works better than any sponge I've ever used. I am going to make a whole lot more of both. With as dirt cheap as kitchen cotton yarn is, why not?

Here's how to make your own Totally Utilitarian Eco-Friendly Dust Mop Cloth:

Materials: 1 ball Lion Brand Lion Cotton (or Lily Sugar n' Cream, or another kitchen cotton). 1 ball will yield several of them.

Needles: size 8 or size needed to obtain gauge

Gauge: 15 sts x 26 rows = 4 inches before washing. I found that it shrinks lengthwise about 25%, but almost not at all widthwise.


cast on 40 sts, knit in garter stitch for 65 rows. Bind off. Throw it in the washer, then in the dryer, and voila, it shrinks down to about the same size as a dust mop cloth.

I'm all about the towels lately. Hand towels and now dish rags and dust mop cloths. Is everything that you make yourself better than what you can buy in a store? It's certainly looking that way. I wish someone had told me a long time ago how amazingly well a garter stitch square of kitchen cotton would clean a pot!

In other knitting, I am about halfway done with my striped Noro Kindle cover, and I love it. I hope to finish it this weekend, and then I'll post it here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Color me intrigued

A while back, Knit and Crochet Now!, which I love and DVR, did an episode all about hairpin and broomstick lace. Hairpin lace does nothing for me. I don't think it's that pretty, despite its romantic-sounding name. Broomstick lace, however, is GORGEOUS. I've been thinking about trying it, and this pattern in Interweave Crochet Spring 2011 ensures that I will sometime this year. To the Ravelry queue!

I also want to make the Zoe Cardigan for my daughters. I love granny squares, and this is a cool take on them. Adorable!

That landed in my mailbox a couple days ago, and then the very next day, the Spring/Summer Knitty came out. My Ravelry queue is starting to look like my wishlist... a long, varied, gluttonous list! To the queue goes this beauty, knitted using an intriguing colorwork technique that I haven't seen before, and in a very affordable, wonderful-looking lace yarn from Cascade.

I also love historical knitting patterns. Yesterday I just downloaded two public-domain knitting books to my Kindle for free, including this one. So of course Franklin Habit's beautiful Summer Neckerchief is in my queue now as well.

I have not yet cast on for the children's sweater yet, but I'm almost done with my shawl. Pics once it's blocked. I have been distracted by my new Kindle in more ways than one. I need a cover for it, and you know how I like to make stuff, so I'm knitting a cover for it out of Noro Kureyon, based on Jared Flood's pretty, pretty Striped Noro Scarf. If I like what I come up with, I'll post it here as a free pattern!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My open letter to prevent the closing of the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Baltimore

The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore is slated to be closed at the end of this year due to budget cuts. I love to write almost as much as I love to breathe, and Edgar Allan Poe is a big reason for this. Therefore, I want to do whatever I can to prevent this museum from being closed. So after reading this, I e-mailed the Mayor of Baltimore.

"Dear Mayor Rawlings-Blake,

It has come to my attention that the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum is likely to be closed at the end of this year due to budget cuts. I am writing to ask you to please reconsider this, to please prevent this from occurring. This would be a horrible loss both for the city of Baltimore as well as for Poe's legacy and the world of literature in general.

Poe is so quintessentially Baltimore. He left an indelible mark on Baltimore and is often the first thing people think of when they think of Baltimore. How can a city who named its NFL team the Ravens after his most famous poem close the Poe museum? It just doesn't make sense.

I read that the Poe museum has a budget of about $85,000. That is such a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things, especially when you consider the amount of tourists who come to Baltimore just to go to the Poe museum and grave. My father is from Baltimore and so were his parents and two more generations of ancestors. I grew up hearing about the Poe house and grave, and as a lifelong Poe fan, I plan to visit Baltimore someday solely to visit it. If this museum goes away, so does the only reason that I have to visit Baltimore. There are dedicated Poe fans all over the world, so I know I am not alone in this... the Poe museum is many people's only reason to visit Baltimore, and it is a big dream of mine to visit it.

I ask you to please prevent this tragedy from occurring. Please preserve the cultural and literary history of Baltimore and please preserve a tourist attraction that will draw many people to Baltimore, including myself and my family. I look forward to one day visiting Baltimore, visiting the Poe museum, and exploring and discovering all the great things that Baltimore has to offer.

Sara Wilburn"

If you, like me, love Edgar Allan Poe's work and want the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore to remain open, please send the mayor of Baltimore a respectful letter or e-mail making this request. Details on how to do so can be found here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Knitting Today! magazine review

I don't like to be negative. I review a lot of things here and I usually stick to things that I really love, that I want to sing the praises of. Occasionally, though, I run across something that sucks so much that I want to prevent others from wasting their money on it like I have.

I read several knitting magazines, so when I saw an ad for a new magazine called Knitting Today! that offered subscriptions for a mere $12, I subscribed. I got my first issue, the January/February issue, which is only the magazine's second issue. I was unimpressed. Never before had I seen a sweater pattern knit in 100% acrylic yarn in a magazine, and all the patterns called for Coats & Clark, Nashua Handknits or Kertzer (who I've never heard of outside of this magazine) yarn. Most of the patterns are very basic, which is good because there's a need for basic patterns in knitting magazines, but there was too much basic. It was boring. The styles are also dowdy and not at all fashion-forward. I hoped the next issue would be better, but when it arrived, I was disappointed.

On the cover, there's another 100% acrylic sweater, which just makes me shudder. The only acrylic I can stand (and actually like) is Lion Brand Vanna's Choice, because it doesn't have the unholy, nails-on-a-chalkboard squeak-factor. Inside, all patterns once again call for Coats & Clark, Nashua Handknits or Kertzer yarn. Nothing else. So the magazine is basically a vehicle for pimping those three companies' yarn. Yarn from only three yarn manufacturers, combined with strictly basic patterns, makes for one desperately boring magazine. In two issues, I have found nothing that I want to make.

If Nashua Handknits and Debbie Stoller's awesome Stitch Nation line weren't represented in this magazine, it would consist strictly of acrylic yarns, so thank goodness for them. The March/April issue even has a baby onesie pattern that calls for a nylon/acrylic yarn. Blagghhh!! Why would you do that to a baby?

As much as I love to knit, there are two things I hate: vests and cozies. This magazine features a lot of both. Aside from tea cozies, which really make sense, most cozies are pointless. There is none more pointless than this Jump Rope Cozy.

I thought, I'm a new designer, maybe I'll submit a pattern or two and help them out, get their style out of the worst of the 50's and help them liven up a bit. I Googled for their submission guidelines and found this unbelievably unfriendly document. As I read, I was totally, 100% put off by the tone.

"Excited about sharing a project with us? Great. Just please follow our submission guidelines, which will help us respond to your inquiry much quicker.

Be warned though: Because we work far in advance, our selection process may take up to six months. Due to the large number of submissions we receive, we ask designers to refrain from calling or e-mailing us about the status of submissions. Thanks for your patience!"

They could just condense that down to "Want to submit a design to us? Don't. In fact, f*** off."

For a budding, new magazine to be so utterly off-putting is astonishing. You'd think they'd be welcoming all the ideas and innovation that they can, but they're not. Interweave Knits, the crown jewel of knitting magazines in my humble opinion, has a submission guidelines doc that could not be more friendly or more helpful. THAT is how submission guidelines should look. That openness and willingness to look at new designers, instead of relying strictly on in-house designers from yarn companies, is why they are on the cutting edge. Same with Knitty, who has similarly friendly, helpful submission guidelines, and who are also on the very edge of the cutting edge.

The only thing that saves Knitting Today! from total and utter worthlessness is the great Shannon Okey's monthly column. That column will ensure that I'll at least read the thing until my subscription runs out.

Like I said, I try to be positive all the time, but Knitting Today! is such an obvious, lame attempt at exploiting and cashing in on knitting's current popularity without offering anything worthwhile, it actually managed to piss me off. If you look at this magazine on Ravelry, you'll see that there are hardly any projects from it queued or actually in progress, so apparently others see through them, too. If they want to survive, they really need to get with the program, get their style into the present day, and have a far friendlier submissions policy that allows for fresh ideas and innovation.

Moving on...

While Knitting Today! has not shown me a single pattern that I want to knit, they did give me an idea with this one, a Dust Mop Cover. I have no idea why anyone would want to knit one in 100% acrylic yarn and fur novelty yarn... the idea horrified me, imagining how it would squueeaaaaaaak across my wood floor. However, this pattern reminded me of the fact that I need a box of dust mop cloths and was dreading spending another $7 on them and sending them all to a landfill after one use. Mason Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines has a better pattern for a dust mop cover, made in cotton like it should be. I'm too lazy to make a pretty one with buttons, though. I'm working on making some totally utilitarian ones using a leftover ball of Lion Brand Lion Cotton. It's going to be a garter stitch (for extra dust-grabbing grip!) rectangle the same size as the cloths you buy at the store. I'll post it here when I finish the first one.

In other knitting, I'm still at work on a shawl and plan to start a baby sweater design tomorrow. Fun!