Dishcloths and Frogging

knitted dishcloth

knitted dishcloth

You know you’re OCD when you’re knitting a dishcloth and you frog it 3 times. I mean really, a dishcloth? Who cares?

Apparently, I do. But I finally got it right and it’s almost done. I just need to learn to read (and comprehend what I’m reading.)

At any rate, if you’re like me and you can’t just knit, read, or watch a movie, knitting a dishcloth will keep your hands occupied while your eyes are elsewhere, if it’s a simple enough pattern.

Knit Picks has come to our aid with a year’s worth of free knitting and crochet patterns that will help you bust your cotton yarn stash while keeping your hands busy. Actually, we’re into Year #2 of 53 Weeks of Free Dishcloth Patterns.

Dishcloths are underwhelming until you’ve used a homemade one. I have a daughter in law that can’t get enough of them. I keep a pile of them around for gifts for house guests and for that birthday that creeps up on you before you know it.

If you’re really creative or if the pile seems adequate, you can turn a dishie pattern into a dish towel and voila, a gift set. Need some help finding yarn? Thrift stores are a great place to look for bags of cotton yarn — for once, partial balls are enough to finish your project.

Still looking for yarn? Shop online at Webs and you can search their Closeouts for fiber type (cotton) and get the best deals. Often you only have a couple of colors to choose from but so what? Dishies aren’t fussy.


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Knitting Our Way Towards Revolution

fist holding knitting needles

knitting as a political statement

I’m in the mood for redefining this blog. Why do I want to write about knitting? Why is sharing free knitting patterns important? Why do I knit? Can knitting be revolutionary, and does it need to be?

According to Chris Hedges [], change needs to happen. How? “It’s going to come off the ground, it’s going to come by stepping outside of the mainstream, it’s going to come by articulating a very different vision about how we relate to each other, how we relate to the economic system, and ultimately how we relate to the ecosystem.”

I can accept that definition of the change needed to direct a revolution, and with that definition comes my conviction that art, and knitting in particular, can be revolutionary.

Historically, women sewed directives into quilts made for the Underground Railroad. In literature, women solved murder mysteries by studying a woman’s needlework, inconsistencies being clues…and of course Madame Defarge wreaked revenge on the elite through knitting their names and death sentences into her needlework. In Greek mythology, the Fates spun, measured, and cut thread, symbolizing the creation of lives and the determination of their lengths. We can knit names, messages and slogans in intarsia and lace. The Iraq War saw protesting knitters constructing body count mittens.

During the American Revolution, boycotting British goods led to homespun, handsewn, and handknitted being marks of a patriot. And around the world, peaceful protestors have stood or sat at doorsteps to powerful places knitting. Knitters in Denmark knit a pink cover for a military tank.

Hand crafts have come to define women. In the book The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine, Rozsika Parker equates the separation of women’s crafts from the fine arts as the beginning of not only marginalizing their work, but their lives as well. Men’s work was more important.  I’ve become frustrated when someone close to me asks (repeatedly) “what are you sewing?” and I have to answer, “I’m knitting…” I see now that not even remembering what craft it is I’m practicing seems to trivialize it and, by extension, me. When he observes me knitting and says “ah, I see you’re knitting on my sweater in that beautiful tweed yarn”, I’ll know he appreciates what I do. (Sing that to the tune of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and dance around in your ruby slippers while your at it.) I’m working on my own revolution at home…

These may seem like insurmountable odds against being taken seriously while doing “women’s work”. My list of what I did today may be long and leave me exhausted, but if it consists of washing dishes and clothes and babies, vacuuming and sweeping, washing windows, baking bread, cooking dinner, and knitting for charity…it’s not as important or difficult or commendable as driving to work and bringing home a paycheck. Even being someone else’s housekeeper and nanny carries more weight than doing it all at home.

Knitters and other artists who want to be taken seriously often sacrifice some of who they are in order to commercialize and commercialize their art. Quantity becomes as or more important than quality. We knitters are fighting to earn a living against products with brand name tags that have been stripped of any relation to how, where, or why they were produced.

There are a few things we knitters can do to become revolutionaries. Think about the points Hedges made: the movement has to come from the bottom of society, not from politicians, presidents, celebrities, or pulpits. Yes, all are encouraged to participate, but unless there is a GROUNDSWELL, it won’t succeed in creating any meaningful change.

How we relate to each other as knitters is revolutionary. We relate in online knitting and reading groups, as members of or visitors to a blog, as members of the queer community, stereotypical grannies, feminists, designers, yarn shop owners, authors, bloggers, pregnant women, yarn bombers, children, DIY enthusiasts, college students, and poor people dependent on an unsteady income from their knitting. All of the above in the same knitting group: chatting in the same online forum, working on the same knit-along projects, reading the same books while we knit, or sitting in a circle in a living room or in a yarn shop.

How we relate to the economic system and the ecosystem is more complex: we exist in it and at the same time outside of it. We raise sheep, process fleeces, spin, dye, knit; shop online for knitting supplies; shop online for ready-to-wear department store clothing; and make our own clothing, household goods, toys, and even pet clothing. We raise and buy organic fibers and we fall in love with a sparkly metallic polyester.

Ultimately, Michele Obama inspired me with her interview as part of the summit on working families in Washington. [] She nailed it when she told the story about how she found her voice; what situation empowered her to speak her mind as to who she was and what she wanted from a job. The point I carried away was that sure, now everything has changed for her and she’s living in the White House — but we all have to find our voices and speak up. It’s time. There needs to be a movement, Michele said.

That’s why it’s cool that she spoke up, as First Lady. That’s why it’s important that you and I speak up. There’s no right way to be, no right words to say. We each have to be genuinely ourselves and speak our hearts. Not some newscaster’s words, not some words we read in a book, but our words.

In the article “Knit and the World Knits With You” the author states, ” String, yarn, baking, whatever. It’s all women’s work, right?” []

Wrong. What we do matters and we aren’t all women: we are women, men, children of all ages and persuasions. Knit in public, so people see first hand your pride in what you do. When they ask you what you’re knitting (or crocheting, if they don’t know the difference), be ready to include words that make your statement. If you’re a gay guy, tell them you’re knitting a one-of-a-kind gift for your boyfriend, or your dog. If you’re a granny, you’re knitting an heirloom blanket that will become a shawl on your granddaughter’s wedding day. Or you’re knitting hats for the homeless; helmet liners for GIs; designing a new pattern by knitting it up in a washcloth first; knitting a pair of wool socks for your grandma who always has cold feet; knitting squares for a yarn bombing project your knitting group is planning; or knitting a toy for a child with cancer. Whatever project you knit, think of it in artistic/charitable/giving terms that will slowly change the world. We’re knitting up peace, joy, care, compassion, laughter, and prayers.

I offer links to free patterns here because turning everything into a commodity for sale really sucks. I don’t want to sell you a rainbow, an idea, a dream, or a laugh. You may find something to buy on these pages, and maybe I’ll get a little if you do. I may grow some of my own food but I still buy seeds and fertilizers, and buy food I can’t grow. I buy yarn and pay for spinning lessons. We all have to live through this transition towards — not self-sufficiency — better cooperation. Live simply, that others may simply live — that sort of thing. Sitting on my deck knitting uses only a little oxygen, leaving you your share. Knit, breathe, enjoy, and join the revolution.

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If they ever make Needles and Artifice into a movie

Christopher Walken knittingFor those of you who haven’t heard, Needles and Artifice is a book by The Ladies of Mischief. It’s an adventurous knitting story laced with Victorian/steampunk knitting patterns. I think the book should be adapted into a screenplay featuring Christopher Walken. He’s a natural.

A bit more about the book: the patterns are influenced by punk but even a slightly conservative grandma such as myself can find designs to love. The Revolution Shrug will find its way onto my needles soon, as will the chemise and bloomers (for bedroom only) and the bed jacket (in silk, of course). I love the brimmed cap, and the details of the overbust corset are too delicious not to knit — picot edge and cables up the front, oh my. How to accentuate the positive! The Gossip Stole will certainly get them talking, exquisite!

If what you’re after is some ideas for a great steampunk Halloween costume, you’ve come to the right place. Check out the Deviation Capelet and the Eccentricity stockings. Oh…and read the story while you’re at it. You’ll never look at knitting quite the same again.

“I certainly hope our trip to Shanghai is smooth from here. One crash landing was quite enough–“

Anna launched across the table and clapped her hand over Kristoff’s mouth, scattering her knitting and her teacup in the process. “Don’t!” she hissed, eyes darting from side to side as she scanned the dirigible’s galley for danger….

So begins the adventure.

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240 Days until Christmas

ugly Christmas sweater

Avoid mistakes like this ugly Christmas sweater.

It’s never too early – plan ahead because, trust me, no one wants a Christmas sweater like the one pictured above. No one. Ok, maybe to wear to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party and be in the running for 1st prize. Then all your hard work will be burned or sent to a thrift store. Where they will sell it as a dart board.

How to begin your Christmas gift knitting – gathering free patterns, of course. I’ve been gathering like crazy, downloading, bookmarking, filing away neatly. I’ll share some of my favorite places to browse:

1. Ravelry – mostly knitting patterns, but some crochet. Here is the place knitting designers can post their free patterns and links to patterns on their websites. There’s also an ample supply of patterns you can purchase. And if you crochet, there are all of the above there for you as well, just not in such abundance. Plenty to keep us all busy forever.

2. Knitting Daily – Sign up and receive access to free knitting patterns from Interweave; you also can subscribe to their email list and get knitting tips, notifications of workshops and all the goings on at Interweave Press, and more. Free knitting patterns and PDFs, knitting books, etc.

3. Paradise Fibers – This is an affiliate link, which, if you use it and ever buy something, it helps incrementally to support my yarn/knitting addiction. No, I’ll never join a 12-Step program, so you don’t need to feel guilty. I love these folks because they’re just folks – this is a family-run business in my home state. They’re quirky and knowledgeable because they do it all, raising animals, making spinning wheels, and just being happy yarn people. Yarn, knitting tools and supplies, spinning supplies, etc.

4. Knit Picks – Another Pacific Northwest yarn and accessories company who’s yarns are well known as reliable standards as well as always having a few delicious surprises. KP operates ethically and responsibly on an international scale while keeping prices reasonable. Knitting yarn and books.

5. Classic Elite – Their newsletter arrives with free patterns, can’t beat that for easy. Their patterns are usually uncomplicated, making them perfect for beginning knitters, and serve as a great springboard for creative experienced knitters. And they have yarn, of course.

6. Tahki Stacy Charles – Stylish and quirky, these patterns don’t always appeal to my more conservative tastes, but I love the accessories – scarves, knitted jewelry, slippers – they take me out of my comfort zone where you never know what inspiration may strike! Yarn and patterns.

7. Quince & Co. – Alright, these patterns are not free, but they are some of my absolute favorites, and the yarn is beautiful too. (See my Knit Kimono where I used Owl yarn from Q & C.) Since knitted gifts need to be fast and beg to be attractive too, these simple basic patterns satisfy both. Yarn and patterns.

8. Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? Then head over to Janice Phelps Williams’s blog. Be sure you’ve got a pot of your favorite beverage and plenty of time to kill, her list is incredible!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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How to Knit All Day and Impress the Boss

knitting-cat-badgeWho’s the boss in your family? In other words, who do you need or want to impress with your accomplishments when they come home from work or school? Do you have a hard time saying you sat on the couch all day knitting?

I can hear you already…you finished 6″ on your afghan and you are proud of yourself. Or you knit that pair of booties and a hat for the latest newborn grandchild, or the first of a pair of socks for yourself or Mr.

Unfortunately, Mr. may not be impressed, or you may still feel a bit guilty for having neglected housework or thrown together a meal at the last minute. So I’ve come up with an easy plan for knitting for hours while still getting a lot of other things done. It’s all about:

1. Studying your “flight pattern” in your house and planning efficiently;

2. Having food staples on hand at all times;

3. Having fun with your day.

My house is very small, maybe 1200 sq. feet, so planning my day is super easy. I also don’t have a large family to take care of, it’s just me and my partner. He works part time, so this schedule is for one of his work days.

He has gotten up before me, made coffee, and left the house by the time I get up.

Your Flight Pattern

I go from bed to bathroom, past the laundry area, and back to the bedroom in just a few steps. This is what I can accomplish in my first half hour out of bed:

I dump a load of dirty laundry on the dryer on my way to the shower, tidy up the bathroom (swish around the toilet bowl, wipe the sink and faucet, wipe the mirror, that sort of thing — just one or two things that need a spot clean and can be done quickly) — and put the laundry in the washing machine on the way by. I sort the whites and colored in two different baskets as they become dirty, so no sorting is needed.

I get dressed and make the bed. Ta Da. Look what I did on my way to the coffee maker for my first cup ;-) But even before that coffee, I have a glass of water. Whether you know it or not, you got dehydrated overnight.

Food Staples + Online Favorite Recipes = Easy Meals

Then I sit down at my computer and decide what I’m going to fix for dinner. If anything needs to defrost, I get it out now. Here is my list of “almost always have them all” staples: olive oil, beans, potatoes, pasta, rice, bacon, sausage, Parmigiano cheese, eggs, tomato sauce, garlic, onions, and lemons. With these on hand, I can cook up a storm even during a storm.

I’ve spent some time looking for recipes online, and continue to do so. I bookmark them and sort them according to types of recipes (desserts, casseroles, condiments and sauces, etc.) or by ingredients (chicken, pork, seafood). I rotate them in my mind — we had fish last night and pork the night before, tonight is chicken night — and also the starches/carbs: rice, potatoes, pasta, repeat.

I’ve got my favorite places to visit online so maybe I do a quick search for something new *chocolate cake, Smitten Kitchen* or *quick meal Food Wishes*. I did that for tonight and here’s what I’m making: Black Bean Soup and, thanks to Marie Callender, yummy “just add water” cornbread. I’ll tweak the soup recipe just a bit because I often don’t have exactly what is needed.

While I’m sipping that first cup of coffee, I’m checking my emails and doing my daily 10 minutes of online work. Ten minutes a day earns me $50 a month, which I spend on yarn, of course.

Now off I go to knit for 45 minutes. Why 45? Because it’s good to get up and move for 15 minutes out of every hour. What do I do for those 15 minutes?

Here Comes the Fun

My house is small and open plan, so I can hear the oven timer loud and clear throughout the house. I set the timer for 15 minutes, and in 8 hours I can get these things done, in 15 minute increments. The timer makes it fun – I see how much I can do before the signal goes off that it’s time to knit again. I can be a wiping whirlwind or a dusting diva for 15 minutes. Procrastination is a thing of the past — I can do anything for 15 minutes, if I get to sit down and knit again for 45.

* yoga




*wiping countertops


*emptying the dishwasher

*mix up some No Knead Bread: so easy a 4-yr old can make it!

Don’t forget the laundry in the washer; when I have to go to the bathroom is when I’m passing by and remember to toss it in the dryer. And of course fold it and put it away when it’s dry.

That’s just what I thought of off the top of my head. Maybe there’s a closet you need to clean, maybe there is clutter that needs to be put away, and so on. You can’t vacuum your entire house in 15 minutes? No problem. Do some today, more tomorrow.

As spring approaches, there’s more to do if you have a yard, garden, patio, or balcony. And you can finally wash the outsides of those windows. Don’t be overwhelmed, don’t procrastinate, and by all means still spend most of your time serenely knitting.


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Busting down the stash

There’s nothing like knitting with super bulky yarn on big needles to make that stash fly off the shelves. A skein of super bulky takes up a lot of real estate, but it knits up oh so fast.

I’m knitting a throw rug for the foot of the bed in the master bedroom. I cast on 120 sts. and it’s working out to being about 44″ wide and so far, 16″ long. The width of the rug will lie along the width of the bed.

Here is the pattern I’m using, 2 simple rows that you can remember instantly.

Row 1 (wrong side): Knit across

Row 2: (Slip 1, knit 1) across.

I’m alternating stripes in 4 colors in various widths, being sure to change colors on the same side, an odd row in this case.

Do a small swatch first, both to check your gauge and to see which side you want to be the right/wrong side. The stripes look well defined on my “wrong side”, you may want to switch.

Since I have more white than any other color, I’m making wider white stripes. My stripes are 2, 4, 6, 8, and 14 rows. For each pattern repeat of 50 rows, my smallest amount of yarn is used for 6 rows, the next is 10 rows, then 14 rows, and then 20 rows of white.

I like irregular stripe patterns so I worked out my design on a piece of paper in 10-row sections, plus one 20-row section. So the colors go something like 2-8, 4-6, 2-2-6, 14-2-4, etc.

When I ran out of gray, I started using cranberry instead. I’ll stop when I either run out of colors that match the room, or when the rug is as big as will fit in the space.

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Kimono and Doll Clothing

[I found this post as a draft. Oh my. Forgotten since some time in early October. I’m bad.]

My kimono is done; knit with Owl Yarn from Quince & Co., I can’t tell you how much I love this. The pattern from Vicki Square’s “Knit Komono” was flawless, the yarn I chose was a perfect substitution, and I love the feel, the drape. It’s a bit heavy – those big sleeves take some getting used to and the entire garment is “oversized” by Western standards, but it is lovely. Pictures of me wearing it follow, I promise.

knit kimono

Here it is, the finished kimono

The two American Girl doll garments were also finished on time for the birthday girls, sorry but they left quickly, no chance to take pictures.

And a log cabin baby blanket was started and then abandoned. I just wasn’t clever enough to reconcile the various weights of yarn from my stash. The beauty of a log cabin design is in the perfect geometry of it, and this was so far from perfect, it’s embarrassing. Failures keep one humble.

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New Years resolutions

I don’t normally do resolutions this time of year, but since I also can’t do photo recaps of all my glorious knitting accomplishments I’d better at least start the year with good intentions, right?

Ok, here we go. I already joined a 2014 Stashdown project with my Ravelry/Goodreads group, so I’ll be doubly encouraged by repeating it here.

1. Keep track of my 128 skeins of yarn, bringing my stash down by half while knitting Christmas presents and a couple things for myself and my home. This mainly means using up my most unwanted yarns (super bulky and bulky wool for felting, acrylics for household items such as small rugs.)

2. Replacing those unwanted yarns with dearly loved yarn for specific projects: I want to dive into sock knitting this year, plus knit myself a hooded jacket.

3. Document all my knitting with photographs and blog posts.

4. Buy some books I’ve been holding off on until I had the money — thanks to an inheritance, this year is the year for yarn and knitting books!

5. Buy and learn to use a spinning wheel.

That’s it. Simple and doable.

Part of #1 means that almost half of my Christmas knitting for next year is completed already. How can that be? Well, my Toasty Toes felted slipper enterprise was a failure of sorts. I experimented with changing the original (perfect) pattern by knitting multicolor tops to the slippers, which for the most part made them impossible to put on. The tops felted more than the single-color bottoms. Ugh.

So I had the brilliant idea of turning them into Christmas stockings instead. I’ll fill them mostly with “Cuties”, those deliciously sweet little baby oranges that are in season in December. I’ll add toys, sachets, etc. and whatever comes out of my kitchen that time of year to top them off. I’ll need 17 of them, counting all the children and adults on my list; 8 are already made. This will use up all my bulky and super bulky yarns, plus some acrylics for the toys, sachets, and other little items.

I actually can’t wait to get started! Imagine that. Just when I’m recovering from such a hectic time of year, I’m full of energy to begin all over again.

knitted felted stockings

The Gang – can you see the stocking that isn’t felted yet?

And here’s the part of my stash that I want to use up:

bulky yarn stash

Bulky and super bulky yarns, minus that top section which is worsted yarns.

Have a happy, healthy, prosperous, and productive New Year!

What’s in your stash resolutions?

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Cubic Cats

knitted cubic cat

knitted cat cube

How can a little square be so cute?

Perhaps you have a granddaughter or daughter or niece like my granddaughter. She likes those little plastic critters that, to my eye, don’t look like anything real. Big eyes, some have bobble heads, and various appendages that I think makes them look like monsters, each and every one, but A. will come to me and say, “I can’t find Bubbly” (or whatever). I ask her, who’s Bubbly? and she’ll say, “he’s a dog.”

We go to her room and there on the floor is a mass of plastic blobs, dozens and dozens. Poking through them, I cannot find anything resembling a dog. A. is looking under her bed; “there he is!” and pulls out a purple and white…blob…with big eyes and something that must be ears, I guess.


I have yet to knit in plastic, but there has to be something out there in the knitting world that will appeal to her sense of cute – small, compact, and amorphous (leaves much to the imagination.)…

I found them. Cubic Cats. Think of how much fun it would be to have a whole herd of cats – you could stack them, line them up nose to tail. You can make them any color, striped, spotted, and so on and on.

Find the pattern here.

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