My current work in progress:

Tawney Sweater,by Jenni Barrett, knit from MadelineTosh Tosh Sock, using 3.25mm and 3.5mm needles.

Archives for May 2005

Insomnia. It’s a Good Thing.

Bad for one’s general health, but good for the knitting progress. Witness:


I have made some good progress, I think. (P.S. I don’t drink coffee during the week. Only diet cola, and only before noon.)

But L-B has made some good progress as well. She reported in the comments that she knitted two-thirds of a sleeve on Monday!!

By the way, it is perfectly acceptable — nay, encouraged — to cheer for both of us.

It is, however, not acceptable to try to convince Lucy that she should try to sabotage my knitting. She is on my payroll and knows on which side her Fancy Feast is buttered. Is this the face of a pushover?


Also by the way, I did use a long-tail cast-on for Inishmore.

While insomnia may be good for progress, a good memory is even better.

I might have mentioned before that I have a photographic memory about certain things. Knitting charts is one of those things.

Sadly, my memory is very selective. And my short term memory is worthless. I can’t remember the name of someone to whom I was just introduced, nor can I remember if I turned the lights off before I left home.

So, we go with our strengths.

Now, the charts for Inishmore look very daunting. But if you break them down into logical parts, you can breeze through them. Well, perhaps not breeze through them, but make things a bit easier.

The number of rows in one repeat of the largest elements is evenly divisible by the number of rows in each of the smaller elements. How I love it when the universe is in harmony.

Most aran patterns work this way. If the largest motif is, say, 24 rows per repeat, the smaller motifs will be 12, 8, 6, or 4 rows per repeat. So that after you complete the largest motif, you will not be in the middle of any of the smaller motifs.

Very rarely do I run into an Aran pattern that doesn’t work this way. When I do, I find it annoying.

Inishmore works.

The large zig-zag patterns are logical and symmetrical. Basically, all you have to remember is a couple of things — how the twists work, and when pattern reaches its widest point you have to reverse what you are doing to bring it back down to its narrowest point.

And cable twists? all you really need to do is remember on what row you have to do shaping and twists.

As easy as pie, right?

I mentioned that the pattern is symmetrical. The sleeves are mirror images of each other.

The last time I knitted Inishmore, I discovered when I was more than halfway done with the second sleeve that I had knitted the same pattern as the first sleeve, instead of reversing the large motif like I was supposed to. I had to rip the sucker down to the cuff. The whole time cursing myself for being such an Inish-moron.

Hopefully I won’t do the same thing this time. (L-B, I can hear what you are thinking.)

KIPping Yarns

I’ll be at Knit Happens tomorrow (Wednesday May 18th) around 5-7pm, madly knitting on Inishmore. Yeah, you can point and giggle, but if you are within needle’s reach, I reserve the right to stab.

Oh, and I made a page for the Aurora top and slapped the photo up there. The photo is kinda wonky looking but the sweater is quite nice.

And . . . They’re Off!


We have a fourth prize for the raffle, generously donated by Joanne Conklin. Joanne is donating a one-ounce ball of qivuit, in the color of the winner’s choice. You can see the colors that are available here. Wow!

Remember, you can continue to donate to the cause and get one entry in the raffle for each $1 you donate, up until the time a winner is declared. But as I post this blog entry, guesses as to who will win and when are closed. Don’t want anyone to have an unfair advantage because of the progress reported here. But you still have a chance to win wonderful prizes if you continue to donate.

So . . .

The Inishmore Challenge has officially begun.

L-B (who, as I have mentioned before, is blogless) will be emailing me with her progress, and posting in my comments as well. As she is travelling today, I don’t expect a progress report from her until tomorrow at the earliest.

Although I was awake shortly after midnight, I did not cast on until around 4:30 this morning, as I predicted. I knitted on the commute and during lunch. Here is a picture of my progress after a couple of hours of frantic at-home knitting.

I finished the ribbing and did one repeat of the body pattern.


Lucy, by the way, was remarkably helpful in the casting on process. She insisted on standing (not sitting) on my lap while I cast on. That’s not entirely accurate. She walked around in circles on my lap, ensuring that her long fluffy tail slapped me in the face on each and every circuit she completed. I think she must be on L-B’s payroll. I’ll have to ask her about that.


Of course, my prime knitting time is in the evening. I have very little time for knitting during the day. (No, I am not “sneaking in rows when I can at work.” I wish I had the luxury of enough free time at work to be able to do that!)

My day-to-day progress will be somewhat uneven, if past knitting experience is anything to go by. Some days I’m just “in the zone” and can make huge amounts of progress. Other days I seem to get nowhere. Today I have been “in the zone.”

Mahi Mahi Tank

Here it is, complete. I finished it over the weekend.


Knitted from just over 6 skeins of Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere, using U.S. size 5 needles.

On Sunday, I did a wee bit of spinning. The new wool/mohair roving I bought from Tintagel Farm at MDS&W was calling to me.


I also noodled around a bit with my handspun handdyed Cormo and started (just barely) a fisherman’s rib scarf.


Yup, I finished up Aurora as well, but I’ll show it to you tomorrow. Gotta stretch out the blog fodder you know.

Okay, gotta get back to the knitting. Thanks to all for the generous donations you’ve sent!

Ladies, Start Your Needles!


Needles? Check.


Stitch Markers? Check.

(Please to note that my stitch markers now live in the tiny Spongebob lunchbox that dear Greta gave me last weekend. I went “Squeeeeeeeee!” when I saw it!)


Row Counter? Check.


Yarn? Check.


Cat? Check!

We’re cleared for take-off!

Yep, the Inishmore Challenge starts tomorrow, May 16th. Barring any unscheduled insomnia, I will be casting on at approximately 4:30 tomorrow morning. I will probably manage two or three rows before I leave for work, then I’ll knit on the train going in, at the office during my lunch break, and on the train coming home. I’ll take a photo at that point, before the evening knitting commences, and post it tomorrow.

We will gratefully accept donations for the raffle up until we declare a winner, however, your guess for who will win and when will only be considered if you get it in before 5:00pm EST tomorrow, May 16th. We won’t accept any guesses after this point because we’ll be posting updates of our progress that could give later guessers an unfair advantage.

To recap, for every dollar you donate (all donations will be sent to the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation at the end of the Challenge) you will receive one entry in the raffle to win one of the three prizes. The link to donate is over to the right in my sidebar.

And just for fun, I am offering a yarn prize to the person who guesses (before the deadline for guesses, above,) the winner and comes closest to the date and time of completion of her Inishmore (as indicated in the comments field on the paypal form you fill out when you donate).

I’ll be posting a page with the names of the donaters soon. Have a look-see and make sure your name is how you want it to appear in the letter I will be sending along to the Susan B. Komen Foundation with the check from all of us. I know some of you might have your Paypal account in your husband’s name, business name, etc., so just email me if you’d like to make a change to the name I use.

I am very excited about this! I can’t tell you how pleased and thankful I am for all your generous donations.

And Now For Some Q&A

Kim asked:
I noticed you have cast mahi mahi aside. At what point do you decide that you don’t really like working a pattern, or that it doesn’t suit you? Do you finish it no matter what?

Okay, I shouldn’t have said “cast” aside. I should have said “set” aside. For I picked Mahi Mahi up this weekend and finished it. I’ll show you a photo later this week.

But it’s a good question nevertheless. I very rarely cast anything aside completely. If I start knitting something and the yarn isn’t working for whatever reason, I figure it out early on and stop. Rip out, use the the yarn for something else.

I do sometimes get sick of something and set it aside. But I almost always come back to it. I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of knits I’ve abandoned.

On another topic, Donna asked:
I am making a sweater with a 12 st cable (6 over 6) in a worsted weight yarn that doesn’t stretch much. I am finding it impossible to get into the 2nd 6 stitches while leaving the 1st 6 on the needle. I tried pulling the 1st 6 off and pinching with my thumb and forefinger while going into the 2nd 6 stitches, but the last stitch keeps raveling down before I can get to it to pick it up. Any tips?

Another interesting question. I thought about this one for a while, because I’ve never had the experience where I can’t jam the tip of my needle into the stitches to cable without a cable needle.

But. I think this has something to do with how one knits to get gauge. I tend to knit loosely on smaller-sized needles to make gauge, while some people knit more tightly on larger-sized needles to achieve the same gauge. Know what I mean? In my knitting, I always have plenty of “give” in my stitches. But I’ve noticed some peoples’ knitting is much tighter on the needles.

That’s the best explanation I can come up with, anyhow. I think if you are having trouble getting the tip of your needle in the stitches, you are better off using a cable needle. After all, the point is to make the process easier. There are some situations where a cable needle will be easier. And faster.

P.S. to Polly: Yes I very well might start a lace shawl when I’ve got the Inishmore Challenge done!

A Tisket A Tasket

I knitted my Nantasket Basket.

Here it is pre-felting:


I used Lorna’s Laces “Bullfrogs and Butterflies” (wool/mohair belnd yarn) in the Somerset colorway, with some blue Brown Sheep Naturespun worsted for the edging.

Here’s a close-up of the knitted fabric before felting.


And here’s the basket after felting. I love it.


Because I used two different yarns, one a wool/mohair blend, and one 100% wool, they felted slightly differently, so my basket does not have perfectly straight sides. This occured to me before I started. I have no problem with the way it looks — I still think it is way cute!

Now I’m gonna go rest up for the start of the Inishmore Challenge.

Everything Under the Sun is in Tune

My real-life knitbud Shelley has come over to the dark side. She is now a knitblogger. Being a former space cadet, I love her banner!

Go say “hey” to Shelley and welcome her to the bloggie neighborhood!

Cabling Without a Cable Needle Redux

Patty asked:
Any yarns this doesn’t work well on? I’m thinking cotton and rayon?

The more slippery the yarn, the more hazardous this technique becomes. But as I pretty much never make cabled designs out of very slippery yarn, this is usually not an issue for me.

Sydney asked:
Do you always cable sans cable needle? No matter how itty bitty the stitches? I’ve tried it on various different projects, and I can sometimes make it work, but for smaller stuff I find I tend to drop stitches more often than not.

I have not used a cable needle for 20 years, apart from when I taught a class on knitting cables. So, yup. No matter how itty bitty the stitches.

And on the subject of arans, Cynthia asked:
What would you suggest as a first aran for an otherwise experienced knitter?

If you have access to a copy of Alice Starmore’s Aran Knitting, I’d suggest Na Craga. It’s a lovely design, and the pattern consists of just a few elements that work really well together. Check my knitting gallery here for a couple of the Na Cragas I have made.

Fickle? Me?

Look what I’m working on now.


The second sleeve for Aurora. I’ve cast the Mahi Mahi tank aside.

I’ve got three more days til the Inishmore Challenge begins and two of them are weekend days. I figure I ought to be able to finish Aurora and Mahi Mahi and I may even have time to start a widdle Nantasket Basket as well. Whaddya think?

I’ll let you know how I do when I return here on Sunday.

Speaking of the Inishmore Challenge . . .

A bunch more contributions to the cause today! Thank you!!

Last But Not Least


For my fellow purse-lover, StitchinGirl, a photo of my new purse.


Meow, baby!

We’ll Be Cabling at the Speed of Light

Well, perhaps not at the speed of light, but at least not at a snail’s pace.

Heidi asked:
I am wondering, Wendy, if you use the “cables without a cable needle” technique when creating such beauties as the Inishmore? That would certainly increase the speed!

Why, yes, I do. And so does L-B.

Cabling without a cable needle. One of the most useful techniques I ever learned. The concept was first introduced to me eons ago during a class at a TKGA convention. It was one of those “duh” moments — how come I didn’t think of that myself?

Since that time I’ve been cabling without a cable needle, even on complex multi-stitch cables. A while back I worked up a tutorial on how to do this. It is available here. In fact, one of the cables that I give step-by-step instructions for in the tutorial is a cable that looks suspiciously like one that is part of the Inishmore pattern.

If you’ve never cabled without a cable needle, I encourage you to give it a try. Start simple with a small cable and work your way up to the more complex stuff from that.

(P.S. to Teri: I’ll only be casting on for Inishmore at 12:01am on the 16th if I have insomnia!!)

How Much Yarn Do You Need to Knit a Sweater?

Kristen asked:
When you buy yarn for a top or sweater do you buy a certain standard amount if you don’t have a set project in mind? I know it must depend on the fiber weight and such, but do you have safe “amounts” that you try and buy?

Ooh! Good question!

The amount of each yarn I purchased at MDS&W was based on a very simple formula: in most cases, I bought all that there was of each of the different yarns.

1000 yards of lime mohair. This looks about dk weight to me, and I know (from my Grape Arbor Shawl experience) that I can get a good-sized triangular lace shawl from well under 1000 yards.

The 1100 yards of a wool/mohair/silk blend in worsted weight. I do need to swatch this to see if it really is worsted or could be knitted at a larger gauge. Not sure if I can get a whole sweater out of this, but upon thinking about it a bit, I think it would make a lovely shawl as well. I like the idea of making an office shawl out of this: neutral color, and it feels so nice and soft!

1000 yards of a wool/mohair blend from Tintagel Farm. Once again, looks like dk weight. This could become a vest or a shawl.

1500 yards of laceweight natural Cormo. Yup. You guessed it: shawl.

As I said the 270 yards of handpainted handspun Cormo will become a scarf or a hat. Should be enough left over for some mittens or fingerless mitts.

510 yards of Cormo/silk blend? Possibly enough for a short vest, if not, a scarf & hat & possibly mitten set.

If you do a Google search on “how much yarn do I need” you’ll get links to a number of sites that have charts for basic yardage requirements for different sizes in different gauges. If you are making a cabled sweater, the rule of thumb, I think, is to add 20% to the yardage needed. If the sweater is seriously kick-ass cabled up the wazoo, I’d add some more.

Inishmore Challenge Charity Raffle

We went over $1000 in donations today. All I can say is something I’ve never said before (so you need to understand the amount of emotion I’m putting into this pronouncement):



I finished the front of the Mahi Mahi tank.


Happy Lucy-versary to Us

Two years ago today Lucy came to live with me. I must meet her minimum requirements, because she is still here.

Her Auntie L-B very kindly knitted her a new catnip pillow.


Said catnip pillow is L-B’s gauge swatch for Inishmore! On one side is the large center diamond from the pattern, on the flip side, moss stitch. Wow!


When your office is in Washington DC, adjacent to the U.S. Capitol, the last thing you want to hear is airplanes overhead.

I had all these philosophical things to say, about fearing that this is your last moment on earth when you hear aircraft fly over your office. But I’m tired and battling allergies so I’ll just sum it up as eloquently as I can at this moment:

It sucks.