My current work in progress:

Benedict, designed by Michele Wang, knit from Rowan Softknit Cotton in the Cocoa colorway, on a U.S. size 6 and 8 needle.

Archives for February 2007

Speed Kills

Suzanne left this comment on yesterday’s post and it bears repeating (my emphasis on the bolded bits):
I am so tired of everyone in our society putting such a premium on speed whether it comes to knitting or anything else in this world. In my mind, knitting isn’t about speed. In fact, I do it so that I can slow my life down a bit and focus on one thing at a time. What does it matter how long it takes as long as I am enjoying the process. I admire those who take time to retrain themselves in order to use another knitting style to improve their speed if that is a goal that they truly want to achieve. However, like you, I have been using mine too long (English style with yarn tensioned over the index finger, under the middle finger, and over the ring finger) to try to change now. I have practiced the traditional continental style in order to use it in two-color knitting, but it never feels right to me. When I sit down to knit, I am more interested in having that wonderful familiar feeling I have from my style of knitting than being a speed demon in my knitting. Besides, one of the fastest knitters I know knits using the English method, so sometimes it has more to do with the individual than the method.

Thank you, Suzanne, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The main reason I knit is because I enjoy the process. Having a nice garment upon completion of a project is a plus. I don’t need eleventy-billion lace shawls, but I love knitting lace, so I make eleventy-billion shawls. I do give shawls away a lot, often spontaneously, because I do have a large supply of them at the office. (This is a good thing, because the women in my office do some serious sucking up in hopes of being a recipient. Heh.)

That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes knit a pattern simply because I love the design and want the garment. But most of the time I knit for the pure joy of knitting.

Take Cromarty, for instance. I’m moving rather slowly on it because the knitting of it is such a wonderful sensory experience. The yarn is fabulous, and the act of creating cable twists from soft, squishy, sproingy wool is a sensory delight. I pause frequently to admire the three-dimensional nature of this heavily cabled knitting.

I still maintain that I’m not a particularly fast knitter. I give the impression of speed because I work on one big project at a time. Also, I have an extremely good memory for patterns so don’t have to keep referring to the charts or pattern. I can easily knit with my eyes closed, while reading a book, or watching television, so I do a lot of multi-tasking knitting. All of those things add up!

Today we are having an ice storm! It was sort of drizzling sleet all day and the government closed at 2:00pm because there is apparently a larger storm bearing down on us and they wanted everyone to get home before it hit.

In a sort of weather-related frenzy, I left Cromarty on the couch.


And I finished up the Bart & Louise socks.


I’m hoping for at least “unscheduled leave” tomorrow so I don’t have to venture out!

In other news, this came in the mail today:


Can you guess (or do you know) what that is?

This morning, like every morning, I get ready for work with the early, early, early news on my bedroom tv. When I’m ready, I sit down for a few minutes and watch the news (and knit) til it’s time to leave. Lucy is a big help in this process.


“What? You’d rather look at that stupid screen than at me? Inconceivable!”

(Those in the Washington DC area might recognize Andrea Roane of Channel 9 News on the television. The local news started at 4:30 this morning because of the weather.)

Video Killed the Radio Star

Hey, thanks for all the nice comments on our little Cabling Without a Cable Needle video. I’m glad that some of you found it useful. I’m a visual learner, so stuff like that would have been very useful to me when I was learning to knit.

Teej asked:
I have a question though about more complex cable crossings, like some of the center crossings in the Rogue knotwork where the middle stitch stays the middle stitch, but two stitches on either side of it cross (I think, at least; I don’t have the pattern in front of me). I managed to do it with a cable needle in one direction, but it was very futzy. Do you also do these more complex cables without a cable needle and if so, can you shoot another video to show us your technique?

I documented a complex cable without a cable needle as part of the tutorial on this site. Here is the direct link to the complex cable.

If you search through YouTube, you’ll find a whole lot of videos on knitting, by the way. Just doing a search on “purl” returned a whole bunch of results. Cool, eh?

A number of you commented on my odd knitting style. This video is not that best example of my “regular” knitting, because I was executing a cable, but at some point I’ll do a little video of me just knitting straight stockinette so y’all can point and giggle. Yes, I really do knit that way. (Told you it was not something you want to emulate. Told you.) It comes, I think, from learning to knit as a very small child and improvising to get what worked best for me. While it may look awkward, it works well for me, I can knit for hours without pain (unless I’m doing some very heavy cabling), and I can knit fast enough to satisfy the only one who cares — me. I’m really not a fast knitter, but I’m happy with my results so I’m not going to change how I knit at this point in my life.

I do like Operakatz’ idea:
How cool would it be for whatever bloggers who can shoot short videos with their digi-cams to shoot quick demos of their knitting styles? I think many of us have been told at some point that we “knit wrong” and I think it would be very fun and validating to see just how many different styles there are that still accomplish the same thing…

I think this is a great idea!

Here’s Cromarty.


The current skein of Kersti I’m using has had two knots in it so far, so I’m a tad cranky.


A couple of you have asked about the Log Cabin Blanket I was knitting from leftover sock yarn. (“Was knitting” is the operative phrase here.) I’ve not worked on it in ages, therefore no progress to report.

Tracy asked:
I was wondering if you’ve seen the new Favorite Socks book from Interweave yet. I managed to get a copy yesterday and love it (and not just for the patterns, but it’s in a great spiral bound format). I was surprised to find it since it’s still listed as having an April 1 release date (maybe an April Fool’s joke?). 17 of the patterns are reprints though so this may be a book for new knitters like myself and not such a good bargain for people who have been saving sock patterns from Interweave over the last few years.

I’ve not seen it. I have very few sock books, because 99% of the time the socks I knit are plain socks from my own pattern. Socks are my mindless commuter knitting, so I’m not too interested in sock patterns.

This, of course, is subject to change at a moment’s notice.

Speaking of mindless socks, here is the state of my second Bart & Louise sock.


Lucy Sez


“I’m sure there’s something in this bag for me . . . “

Cable Madness

Yesterday the KOARC and I created a short video demonstrating how to knit a 4-stitch cable without a cable needle. Here it is:

Size Matters

In the comments, Tan asked:
Is Cromarty one of the sweaters with only one size given?

Yupperdoodles, it is. One size given: 45″ around.


But it occurs to me that it would not be too difficult to resize it. If you wanted to make it smaller, you could take out one or two of the smaller side motifs. Another cool way would be to reduce the 9-stitch plaited cable to a 6-stitch plaited cable.

To make it larger, add a smaller motif or two. Or make the small 4-stitch cable on each side a 6-stitch cable.

I’ve gotten a couple of questions as to where Lucy’s Cozy Cushions were purchased: I bought online from Drs. Foster & Smith. Here’s a direct link to the kitty Cozy Cushions.

Here is Lucy, excited over the prospect of a second, new Cozy Cushion!


Home Sweet Home

This morning I moved back into my newly renovated office. I have my window back! It’s 66 – 69 degrees in the office!

Life is sweet.

And because of down time while I was waiting for my stuff to be moved and the network connection to be turned on, I completed my first Bart & Louise sock.


I really really really like how this sock yarn knits up. Really.

And I started the second one.


This is your tax dollars at work. Me, knitting on the job. But seriously, there was not too much down time. Things went very smoothly, I must say. (Sorry, had an Ed Grimley moment there).

I sucked up to the movers so they were extremely nice and helpful to me. They stopped by several times while I was unpacking to see if they help me. (The baby lawyers started referring to them as “Wendy’s entourage.” Heh.) When I unpacked my pictures of Lucy, two of them stopped to exclaim over her beauty. Clearly, they are good people.

On to more important things . . .

Danielle asked:
How would you rate the difficulty level of Cromarty compared to other AS Arans? I’ve had the pattern earmarked for several months to try as my first Aran (but not my first cabling), and I hope I’m not biting off more than I can chew.

I would consider it one of the more difficult arans, because of the Celtic knot cables. There are instances in these cables where you have to make three stitches out of one, and it can be tricky to do this neatly. The center cable has a repeat of 40 rows, so it’s not something that can be easily memorized. Also, because the sweater is knit from DK weight yarn rather than worsted or aran weight, like most of her cabled designs, it’ll be a time-consuming knit.


Denise asked:
I know that you spin, too.
What would you do if you wanted to SPIN the yarn for Cromarty or another Aran?
Type of wool?
Style of spinning?
I spin, but I’m not that experienced. I have quite a bit of roving – I have a moorit merino/alpaca blend that I’d love to spin. Would that work for an Aran sweater?

Denise, you are giving me far more credit for experience in spinning than I deserve. I wouldn’t attempt to spin yarn for Cromarty because I don’t think that anything I spun would be good enough. I think an aran looks best in a smooth uniform yarn, and my spinning is not even enough for me to want to attempt it.

Any expert spinners out there want to answer Denise’s questions?

Rachael asked:
All this talk about Koigu Kersti makes me really want to try it. I am a fairly novice knitter though and have not done any cables yet. Wendy, I know you have a pattern in your book for a sweater knitted with Kersti, but do you know of any other sweater patterns or books that are simple and meant to be knit with Kersti? I don’t need anymore scarves, shawls, hats or socks–I’d really like to knit a sweater out of Koigu Kersti. I read Maie Landra’s book and am a bit intimidated by the modular knitting patterns–most of which are too advanced for my skill level. I was looking for something more simple. Anyone have any ideas?

You can use Kersti for a sweater that calls for DK weight yarn. If you use a variegated Kersti, you wouldn’t want a design with a lot of texture, though, because the variegation would obscure it. Anyone have any patterns they’ve knitted from Kersti that they love?

This just in:

Lucy still loves her Cozy Cushion!


Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna take some naproxen and lie down. Moving day is so taxing!

Good Info!

There was some particularly good information posted in the comments to yesterday’s post. Most of it in answer to the question: “What’s a good dk weight wool for cabling?”

A synopsis of some of the suggested dk weight yarns:

Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool — 65% wool, 35% silk. 192 yards/50g ball. Gauge is 5.5 sts/in on size 6 needles

Black Water Abbey yarn — 220 yards per 4oz. skein, 2-ply worsted weight wool yarn, 4-5.5 stitches/inch

Knitpicks Merino Style — 100% Merino Wool, 123 yards/50 gram ball, 5.5 sts=1″ on #5 needles

Filatura Di Crosa Zara — 100% wool, 136.5 yards/50g skein, 23 stitches over 4 inches using stocking stitch and US 4 – 5 needles

Gems Merino Opal — 100% Merino Wool, 225 yards/100 gram skein, 5 – 6 stitches per inch on US needle size 3 – 5

Debbie Bliss Merino DK — 100% Merino Wool, 122 yards/50 gram skein, 22 stitches to 4 inches on US needle size 6

Jaggerspun Zephyr DK — 50% Wool/50% silk, 5 – 5.5 stitches per inch on sz 5 or 6, 1120 yards per pound

Shelridge Soft Touch DK — 100% wool, 22-24 stitches over 4 inches using stocking stitch and 4 mm (US6) needles, 100 g/250 m skeins

RYC Cashsoft DK — 57% extra fine merino, 33% microfibre, 10% cashmere, 142yds/50g ball, 22 sts/4inches on US 6

Chester Farms 3 ply — 100% wool, 290 yds/4 oz. skein, 5.5 sts/inch on US 6

Lily Chin Gramercy — 100% wool, 127 yds/50g, 22 stitches/4 inches on US 6

Jaeger DK yarns — you can check out the specs for Jaeger’s DK yarns on The Knitting Garden website.

Jo Sharp DK wools (check out the specs for the different yarns on the website)

Thanks to everyone who offered a suggestion!

Out-of-Print Knitting Books

I ached a little when I read this comment from Jane in PA:


I have absolutely fallen in love with the St. Brigid sweater! I never expected to knit an aran sweater (socks and quick projects are more my style) but now I CRAVE that sweater.

I immediately Googled the book title and…

JUST ABOUT CHOKED! There’s one on (out of print bookseller) for over $600!!! Amazon has one for – a real bargain! – $463.94.
There are three on ebay, for a good bit less, but who knows what they’ll be when the bidding ends.

Alas, my love will remain unrequited at those rates.

Kristin posted this comment a little while later:

To Jane in PA who was lamenting the price of Aran Knitting: your local library can be your best friend! Most libraries have an online search, look for Aran Knitting. You can check out the book and knit the sweater. That’s what I had to do with Pacific Coast Highway. Can’t find a copy for under $300. So, when I want to make anything from it, I check it out from the library. You usually get it for 2 months and can extend your use until you’re finished for a whole whopping 50 cents 🙂

Excellent suggestion! I hope your library can get it for you, Jane.

I’ve been a fan of Starmore designs since the early days, so I bought her books as they were published. Who knew back then that I’d be able to sell them and retire on the proceeds of the sale?

Not that I’d ever actually sell any of them.

Hot and Cold

We got a couple of inches of snow last night, and is my habit when the streets are snowy, I leave extra early in case of delays. So I hit the office at 5:45am. (Sick isn’t it?) When I opened the office door, a blast of hot air greeted me. I checked the thermometer on my desk. 84.5 degrees.

The office suite has central heat that we can’t control, plus radiators under the windows that the office inhabitants can turn on and off. Some moron had turned all the radiators on full blast and left them on overnight.

The good news is that we are moving out of this temporary location into our own suite because the renovation is complete. They were moving the computer equipment this afternoon and all our boxes o’ stuff are supposed to be moved in the morning. Yee-haw! Our office is on the chilly side, and I love it. I might actually be able to wear a wool sweater.

That’s the way this lovely building is. Some offices are freezing, some are boiling hot. Gotta love federal buildings.

Sweater Storage

Dave asked me how I store all my wool sweaters. You know, the ones I haven’t been able to wear this winter because I’ve been stuck in a tropical office?

I’ve got two very large closets in my master bedroom, so some of the sweaters live in those closets. I also have a cedar chest. And to top things off, large plastic stackable storage drawers. They don’t look terribly elegant, but they hold a lot of handknits!

Anyway, I’m plugging along on Cromarty and making a wee bit of progress each night. This is a very labor-intensive knit — lots of cabling on every right side row, and the rows are long. I can’t knit on it for too long at a time because my hands get sore. Still, it is great fun to knit so I’m happy.


Lucy Sez


I’ve got this catnip mouse right where I want him!