Category Archives: Uncategorized

Coquille in Portuguese

Obrigada to Denise, who translated Coquille into Portuguese. See the little flags over in the sidebar? Isn’t that cool?

I’m so pleased that knitters are still interested.

This Old Horse

It’s been a sad few days here.  My beautiful mare Holley colicked and had to be euthanized on Monday night.  She was 27, which is a good long life for a horse.   She touched a lot of lives besides mine.  Here’s a few shots of her:

eating – her favorite pastime,

patiently modeling knitwear,

winning a medal at the Special Olympics,

and letting my nephew think he was leading her.

You never saw a horse more careful of children.  I loved introducing kids to the world of the horse with Ms. Holley.

I’m going to miss having her in my life.  It’s been a wonderful ride.


This Old Sweater

The gansey is at least 12 years old, to the best of my recollection.  This doesn’t make it eligible for inclusion in the registry of historic sweaters, or to be called vintage.  A gansey is classic, so it couldn’t even be considered dated.  (At least to knitters.)  I used to wear it frequently.  For whatever reason, I just don’t wear it much these days, and I think I’d get more use out of it if it were a cardigan.

The freezing drizzle and ice pellets today have given me the time and inclination to continue with the remodel.  I don’t have any burly guys with Boston accents giving me guidance.  I don’t have a Boston accent either, and my New Jersey only comes out when I’m home, visiting.  So this remodel will be accent neutral, but I hope it gives you, the sweater owner, the courage to remodel on your own.

Baste once, check about 4 or 5 times at least.
This is back of the sweater. Do Not Cut This.  Even if you were stoopid (that’s NJ) and marked it by mistake.

This is the front.

I checked.  I checked again.  Then I sewed down either side of the basting line with the sewing machine, using small stitches.  You could sew by hand, or make a crocheted steek, if you prefer.  In this case, because the steek is over pattern stitches,  I thought that machine stitching would be easier. Not to mention faster.  I used a thread that didn’t clash horribly, but was still visible to the aging eyeball.

Lay the sweater out flat.  Lay your scissors on the sweater.  Use sharp shears, of the quality you’d use for fabric.  You can use small scissors, but shears make it much easier.  Ponder the next step, take a deep breath and begin. Make sure you are only cutting the front layer.

Keep cutting, keep breathing.

Tah dah!  You have cut the front open, and the edges are still in place.

Pull out the basting yarn. Look, the stitches are holding.

Now I’m off to figure out how I want to make the button bands.  I think I’ll save that for the next episode.

12th Night 2012

I like putting all those matching numbers in there.  Happy 2012.  The tree came down tonight.  It was another small odd ball of a tree, but it fit perfectly in the bay window.

This little horse is intended to be on a candy cane,  making a hobby horse.  My 2nd grade teacher made one for each student in her class, every year, for many, many years.  He doesn’t really fit on the candy canes you find these days, but I love that I still have him and that he hangs on my tree every year. Mrs. Sutman would be proud.

No actual gift making action photos this year, but here’s a group shot, anyway.   Another crazy, last minute madhouse.  Like always.

I recently found a BBC podcast called Coast and Country.  I was sent a link to a horse-related story, then spotted this: 29 Dec 11: Gansey.  “Helen Mark looks at an unusual way of safeguarding Scotland’s fishing heritage.”  It was a bit disappointing from a knitter’s point of view, but still worth spending a few minutes listening to a non-knitter’s take on the project.

Listening to it reminded me of a project I’ve had in mind for a while – turning a gansey I made about 15 years ago  into a cardigan.  I know I’d wear it more if it were a cardigan.

The overall pattern I developed following directions in the excellent Beth Brown- Reinsel book on Ganseys.  I used Mrs. Laidlaw’s pattern from Gladys Thompson’s Ganseys and Arans, which I painstakingly charted from line by line instructions for the body.  No doubt it is readily available in charted form now, but it was a good undertaking for my early attempts at following charts.

I  have plenty of the yarn left. I ordered it from Bendigo Woolen Mills in Australia. I’m not sure why, but I do remember it was done using the internet before it had pictures multimedia graphical user interface .  (I’m not making that up, youngsters. Mosaic was around, but I didn’t have access to it.)  I overestimated, and ordered about twice as much as I actually needed.  I’ve made a few other small items and still have lots of this yarn in my stash.

So, if that sort of crazy cutting and sewing interests you, stay tuned.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year.


We Have Winners

And the lucky CraftActivism winners are: The Book – Debbie in New York State, Yarn  Local Lucy, who has already picked it up, and Jessica from Kansas City.  Thanks to all for playing.

I have been working on some stuff for publication since summer.  The initial designing is fun, but I really don’t enjoy having to keep track of things, and figuring grading/sizes, stitch counts and yarn amounts.

Christmas knitting is a welcome relief, even though it’s small.  I made a stocking for Miss Minerva, my newest great niece.  One of my first two color knitting projects was for her mother, 30 years ago. I also made her a Christmas stocking.  This is when I learned that steaming and acrylic yarn doesn’t mix.  It’s a kind of limp stocking, and I don’t have a photo, thank goodness.

New baby Minerva needed one.  Her nickname is Squirrel, so she got some of those, and some cats for the four she lives with, and since her father is Italian/Sicilian, I put seven fishies swimming around the foot.  (For the Feast of the Seven Fishes, those of you in parts outside of Northern New Jersey.)

I had so much fun doing this.  I used whatever yarn I had, I made it up as I went along, and wrote nothing down. I did draw the charts, though.  I’m not that casual.

Of course, this type of knitting is not trouble free.  The first green I used was a dark spruce green.  Lovely on its own, but didn’t show up well with the red.  One of my students, an art major, explained how you need a green with more yellow in it, or the red pushes the green to black, its complement.    That’s why there are those rather unattractive greens on the worsted shelf – this shade of Naturespun is called Elf Green.   You can see it in this picture, the ribbing is the darker green and the tree between the squirrels is the new green.  I cut off the ribbing, picked up the stitches, and then re-knit it.

The squirrels looked, according to my husband, ‘enigmatic,’ so I stitched a little on their tails to make them fluffier.  Compare and contrast:

Much better now:

I tried to needle felt her name in cursive across the top.  I thought I’d write it with some tailor’s chalk first.  Check out this tailor’s chalk.  I think this box has been in possession of some member of my family since 1947.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of the attempt.  The pre-war tailor’s chalk didn’t work very well, and the actual needle felting was so lame I pulled it right out.  Back to duplicate stitch.  (The trees and snowflakes are also duplicate stitched – oh, wonderful technique of many uses.)

I have a few more gift projects to finish, thankfully of the quick and dirty variety.  Two pairs of sock/booties to be felted later, worked with doubled worsted weight should be doable by Christmas morning, don’t you think?  Off to do a little stash diving.

Happy Solstice to you all.  And happy birthday to my brother, who I miss every day.


Craft Activism Giveaway

Craft Activism was named one of the Top Ten Craft Books of 2011!  Yeah for Gale and Joan.  There are wonderful projects for recycling, upcycling, knitting, sewing, even granny squaring.  A few friends and I are planning a gathering to make the bags that use hardware cloth and plastic bags and pieces — no sewing required, perfect for imbibing while crafting.   My Sleight of Hand Mittens, which represented the Yarnery Mitten Fairy project, made it to the cover. (Yes, I keep saying that, it’s just so cool!)  I chose stranded color work mittens because they are a) warm b) fun to make c) let you use of lots of leftover bits of colors d) all of the above.  There are six charts, each chart is a four or eight stitch repeat  to mix and match. (I didn’t knit the ones below, a test knitter did.  Nice color stranding, there!)

  © Gale Zucker

Louet supported my design by sending a generous amount of Gems Sport, waaay more than I used.

In that case, it seems right to spread the wealth and celebrate the book’s success by having a giveaway.  First prize is a copy of Craft Activism.  Second and third prizes are a yarn pack of three skeins of Gems Sport –  enough to make several pairs of mittens. That’s three chances to win – the book, or one of two yarn packs. Leave  a comment by December 17, and make sure I have a way to contact you.  I’ll draw three lucky winners and get the package in the mail.  Anyone can enter –  I’ll ship overseas, I promise.   However, if one of you Aussies wins, there are no guarantee it will be there by Christmas!


Recap Wrap Up Move on

I was so wrapped up in the last part of my visit home, that I forgot the first.  My trip happily coincided with an event for CraftActivism at the American Museum of  Folk Art, part of their “Make it Thursday” event.  I arrived very wet and late.  (It was pouring and of course no cab to be found.) The museum describes these as “Come to the museum each Thursday for hands-on workshops and discussions with leaders in the DIY community. Enjoy a glass of wine, meet fellow craft enthusiasts, and spend a creative evening with us!”  The wine was welcome, I got to meet Joan Tapper and Kay Gardiner, and best of all, expose my non-crafty oldest friend to the ways of  craft. The whole idea of yarn-bombing blew her away.  If you haven’t seen it, check out this video.  (Thanks, Kat.)
We spent a few days in Hoboken, my old ‘hood.  My buds have a new place and Guy helped to put up some pictures and planned bookshelves.  This required a trip to the hardware store.  Thankfully, there still is one in Hoboken.  The fiber obsessed notice strange things while standing around waiting.

I looked at this and thought, huh, wonder how that works, in the split second before I realized how my brain was operating.  My nephew-in-law, on the other hand, was spinning through my OWS photos and saw it.  “Lou, what the hell?  Were you shopping for plumbing supplies somewhere and decided to take pictures?”

It’s all in your perspective.  Speaking of perspective, I just have to say that when I got over to Zuccotti Park, the site of Occupy Wall Street, I was struck by how small the ‘occupation’ is.  First of all, it’s not really a park, it’s a concrete triangle right across from the World Trade Center site.  (There used to be a statue of a commuter there, I think.) This picture was taken from one side of the site, you can see the store across the street on the other.

I’ve been in State Fair food booths that seemed bigger and about as crowded.   Anyway, I just kept thinking that this very small group of people has a lot of powerful people very, very worried.  Here’s a knitter I spent a few minutes with at Occupy Wall Street.

Apparently, there is a New York Daily News Article about her now, as well.  They beat me to it.

Back across the river, we went to my friend Steve’s giant comic book/graphic novel/jewelry store, Traders of Babylon.

Comic books are a strange subculture to me, as yarn shops may be to the uninitiated, but I always enjoy wandering around.  Anyway, if you are part of that world, and not near Hoboken, he also has an online option.

I didn’t get a Remembrance Day post together.  If you are so inclined, there is an old one here.  May future generations  have no war dead to remember.


Happy to be Home

I am happy to be home after a trip to Victorian times.  While in New Jersey visiting family, we got walloped by a Nor’easter.  Snow in October.  Heavy, wet snow.  There were trees down, power lines down, phone lines down.  Crazy!

From Saturday, and still, as of this morning,   my sister has no power.  Fortunately, she has a woodstove, a gas cooktop, and gas hot water, so we were fine.  We were, however, all in the house for several days — everyone who had come on Saturday to see us.  My sister and her husband, my niece and her husband (I officiated at their wedding) and little Minerva (part of the impetus for the trip.) There was also a sister-in-law, and her 3 kids (7-year old twins, and and 11 year old.)  And three giant, smelly labs..  I don’t have many photos because my iphone wouldn’t charge in the gadget they had, so I kept it of most of the time to save it for emergencies. I did manage this one, though.

There were lots of tree branches down to be cut, and food in the freezer and fridge to deal with, and wiring to re-attach to the house. My job was child distraction.

After too many games of Sorry, they told me they wanted to learn to knit.  I had only some 2.75 Addi Turbos and sport weight yarn, not a great combo for the new knitter, especially kids.  A bit of rummaging in my sister’s craft stuff revealed some ancient worsted, one skein of white and one skein of black.  We made needles with chopsticks, sanding them down and polishing them with waxed paper.  (Very Little House on the Prairie.  If Ma and Pa Ingalls had ordered Chinese take out a frequently. )  Then we made bookmarks.

You cast on about 20 stitches, knit a row, have the kids knit a few rows, then bind off.  I taught them to braid and gave them some of my colorful yarn for the braid on the bottom of the bookmark.  It really helps if instead of a dumb little piece of knitting, their first project actually has an identity.  You could call it a doll scarf, as well, I suppose, but when you get to see it peeking out of Mom’s current book, it is really awesome.

The twins are a boy and a girl.  Nick was the better knitter and took to it with a great deal of enthusiasm.  After three bookmarks, Mr. Guy suggested we try a finger puppet.  Genius!  Nick knitted a small rectangle,  (surprisingly similar to the bookmark) and  we sewed up both sides and decorated it.  He bent some black pipe cleaner for a tail and we  clipped some bits from a little fireplace broom for whiskers.   Meet my newest knitting convert and his Kitty finger puppet.

Their big brother (he learned to knit from me about 5 years ago, and promptly forgot) also got into the act.  “Oh man, “ he told me., “This is totally addicting. Thanks for teaching me to knit again.”  It was really fun to see them help each other without fighting.

On Monday, which was Halloween, school was closed, trick or treating had been postponed, and the kids were really getting antsy.   Nick wanted to go to a yarn store for ‘better colors and real needles.’  We called a few, squandering the remaining power on my cell phone, but all their phones were out as well.  We told him the yarn stores were all closed due to the weather.  “But it’s a beautiful day today!”  Then we talked about not having power in the shop.  “They can open the doors for light.”  Then we talked about how probably only stores with things people really needed were open.  “But I NEED YARN!”  Yep, he’s a knitter.    I’ve promised a box of yarn.  I’d better go shopping.


At this price, I’d make you a Granny Square Skirt…

Seen in the New York Times on Sunday:

The skirt is a mere $2,100.  The vest is only $1,675, available at Barney’s.  Those who know me understand that I am not a fan of granny squares.   I was damaged by making too many of them in Wintuk in my high school years.  Or seeing too many of these images in McCalls or Family Circle.

And courtesy of Liz:

However, I’d make the skirt for you for,say, $1,800?

Raise Your Bodkins!

I will confess that I have spent most of my knitting life avoiding seams.  I discovered Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears in my university years at the Ottawa Public Library and never looked back.  Avoiding seams made sense to me.  It still does.  However, I have come to see that there are times when seams make more sense.

I was recently pondering this when someone linked to a Twist Collective article called ‘In Praise of Seams.”  I don’t know that I am praising them, but they have their uses, and it seems just as silly to avoid them on principle as to insist on them.  (I confess I haven’t read the article yet, but I printed it out and now I just have to find it…)   Perhaps there is an underground movement going on of secret seamers.  Or is it that sort of zeitgeist that results in 10 little girls showing up for kindergarten all with the same unusual name?

Case in point – my new pattern, the Avery Vest.  I called it Avery then after having it out for a while added Vest because I found another pattern just out called Avery.  Did they also name it for a cute 2 year old?

Remember the football zooming by the baby a few posts ago?  It was during this photo shoot, when a little football allowed me to keep a fussy 2-year  entertained enough to take his picture.

My recent conversion all began on the road to Damascus as I was knitting up a v-neck vest in Gems sport for a new nephew.  I wanted a vertical pattern but not a true rib.  I worked up a nice seed stitch-rib pattern that had you knitting and purling on one round, then a plain knit round.

The problem was, I kept zooming by the marker on auto pilot and would end up with several knit rounds I had to rip out.  The small size of the project certainly contributed to this problem, but I’m sure I would have done it several times in an adult sweater.

Would it really take me longer to sew seams than to keep ripping out the body because I am a space case?  The body would only get worked in the round up to the armholes after all.  At the same time, the folks at Frogtree asked me for a pattern using no more than two skeins of  Pediboo.  Sizing the design in the round and then writing it up in a clear and concise way was quite challenging.  It was simpler and more understandable to write it out as a seamed vest.  (My tech editor might not agree with this last part.) Certainly anyone who wanted to knit it in the round up to the armholes could easily adapt the pattern to do so. (And there are people who don’t like to knit in the round, or with circular needles at all, as odd as that seems.  Right TikkaGale?)

For me, the beauty of a seamless sweater is to simplify.  If being seamless makes the knitting less simple or straightforward then insisting on seamless is rather cutting off my nose to spite my face, as my grandmother would say.  (There is probably a perfect word to use, but I can’t think of it.)  Your preferences re. flat/seamed/seamless, fellow knitters?

I must confess that I am currently working on several designs with seams.  (Gasp!)  One benefit I continue to see is when I need to rip out.  Just this week I had worked the entire front of a man’s large sweater up to the armhole and then realized I hadn’t switched to the larger needle after doing the ribbing.  Another example of my auto pilot idiocy that clearly isn’t stopped by knitting flat. Ripping just the front instead of the left front/back/right front, however,  was a bonus.

So after all that, here is my concession to seams – Avery – a v-neck vest in 5 sizes.

Do you think he’s a little jealous of the new baby?

The baby kimono will be up soon.  It has seams, too.  I’ve gone to the dark side, forgive me EZ.  Off now to track down Sandi Rosner’s article and see if we agree.