Mastery…not so much.

I consider myself a confident, not cocky, but confident knitter. I have been a published designer for over 20 years and have taught knitting about that long. Malcom Gladwell in his wonderful book  Outliers defines mastery of a task occurring after 10,000 hours of practice. I am pretty sure I reached 10,000 hours of knitting in my late 20’s. Hey, I learned very young and grew up on an island with no movie theater for 9 months of the year, back in the days when you only got three TV channels. Do the math, it was that or drink.

My husband asked me recently if I had ever had a student at the yarn shop where I teach stump me in three years of teaching. I answered honestly,  no, I had never been stumped. I do not consider myself a knitting know it all but I knit for hours every day and like most knitters I know have an extensive knitting library. All that reading eventually sticks.

But this week it is all gone. I have completely lost my knitting mojo and to the most inconsequential of knitting projects.  I regularly cast on 500 stitches for very complex multicolor Fair Isle sweaters and then cut them open with barely a fair thee well. This little cowl I designed kicking me in the butt is humilitating on many levels. It is due in two weeks, (rather than two days) which is wonderful because I spent 10 hours casting on and ripping back 5 times in one day. It is a simple cabled cowl, in bulky weight yarn. I knock these things out in a day, usually.  Hubris gave me a smack down. Apparently I can’t count. I thought I had counting mastered pretty young too. But I have seen the errors of my thinking and now know that counting to 130 is beyond my capabilities. I can’t know that I can’t count until I knit 9 rounds of ribbing (each of the five times) on those 130 stitches and then set up for the cable pattern. Then it is blaringly obvious I can’t count.

So let this be a lesson…don’t count your cables before they are set. Or you’ll be tempted to start drinking, ask me how I know.

Now just because I think every post should include pictures… some gratuitous Thanksgiving photos.

 There were pies, apple and pumpkin…but man do those pans look beyond dingy. Yikes!

 There was a boat load of stuffing, really a boat load, that bowl is massive…

 There was a monster bird…

 There were handsome men and cute young women…they would like you to know that he came in 4th in his age group and 39th overall out of 630 runners, and Caty came in 6th in her age group in the Turkey Trot!!! (Macy very sweetly walked with her old mom and kept me company).

 A groaning board of food and family…

 And perhaps best of all… a husband who cleaned up my awful mess.

Oh, and Charlie was home!!!!

A Lovely Time was Had by All

So I just got the memo about November being Blog month. It’s the 8th and already I have missed 7 days. And I can guarantee I won’t be blogging everyday, but I’ll do my best.

The knitting has gone stealth again but I’ll see what I can find to share.

Not to worry there are many other distracting photos.

I was the Co-Chair of the Greater Latrobe Art Trust Gala this year. Greater Latrobe School District, where I am a school Board Director, has been collecting art for 75 years. Every year student leaders and art students scour the local area for paintings to bring back to the school for the entire student body to vote on. The student council then purchases as many of the top five choices as their budget allows. 75 years folks, this has been happening for 75 years!!! So you can imagine the collection that has been amassed in all those years. The art hangs on the walls in all the hallways of the high school. There are over two hundred pieces in  the collection now.

About 20 years ago the school districts solicitor and his wife spearheaded an effort to raise funds to restore and conserve the collection. The Art Gala raises funds for the ongoing conservation. The collection was recently recognized in American Profiles magazine (you know the magazine inside your Sunday papers). Ever since we have had people from all over the country calling and requesting tours of the collection!

Anyway, the Gala, was a huge success, with over 500 people attending. It was a long couple of days for our committee but isn’t it beautiful? I am sorry I don’t have any photos of the collection or after everyone arrived all decked out in their finery, but I was a busy girl.

 A centerpiece on the caterers tables.

 This area is the commons or central meeting area at Greater Latrobe High School. Through the distant windows you can see the courtyard.

 The desserts were served in the Center For Student Creativity (you can see some of the art behind the table)

 But what was most impressive to me was the cake pop centerpiece. I worked a while on this baby figuring out how to make it pretty and practical (isn’t all life like that???) The pops were dipped in white and pale blue icing, sprinkled with sparkles. And they really sparkled. We worried people wouldn’t know to eat them, so not a problem. They were gone in an instant.

The Center For Student Creativity is an amazing space. A collaboration between the school district and the Art Trust, the Center is a gorgeous facility outfitted with the latest in audio visual, art and performance spaces. It also functions as a community center as the community is invited to use it whenever the school is not. We show foreign films for seniors here, many people schedule bridal and baby showers here. It is a beautiful space and it is an extension of the art wing of our high school, between the art rooms and music rooms. Arnold Palmer and Mr. Rogers are both distinguished  alumnus and the Center is part of a beautiful neighborhood. Check out the article in the link above. It really is kind of amazing.


Cate came home last week and unbeknown to me set up a photo shoot with her little sister. They decided mom’s knits would be perfect for fall and I could use them for my blog and pattern photos. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Ooops, that took a while.

Sorry folks, didn’t plan to be sooooo long between posts. Lots of secret knitting, so nothing interesting to show. But I have been informed I NEED to get back to my blog…so here we go.

All the secret knitting is now being published and I am pretty pumped. Four of my designs have been published in 60 More Quick Knits by SoHo Publishing with Cascade Yarns. These were knit so long ago I barely remember knitting them. Tell me what you think..

The Tasseled Ski Hat

Nordic Mittens

Baltic Mittens

and the Fair Isle Tam (front and Back)

These photos are all from the book 60 More Quick Knits. They were all knit with Cascade 220 Sport.
Copyright by Sixth&Spring/Cascade Yarns
60 More Quick Knits
Photography by Jack Deutsch

And to keep things interesting…

One of my very favorite knitting students has had a terrible diagnosis, so being a knitter, I knit her something to cheer her up. This is the lovely Aria Delicato Scarf by Anne Hanson. I am a huge Anne Hanson fan and stalker. I never miss her Knitspot blog posts and even found her in the wild once! I was too shy to approach her, but she was super sweet when I commented on her blog. So next time I will be more forward.

Yarn: Sea Silk (not sure of the color, it is more variegated that I wanted, but I think she will like it).
Needles: #4, 24″ circs.
No modifications at all, can’t play with perfection.
Best of all I finally sent it off in the mail today, it has been finished for over a month.

This little cutie is truly adorable, not because of my knitting but because of the size. Oh and I am in love with the yarn. Can we all say yummy!!!

The sweater will eventually have the little fellows initials duplicate stitched on the front of this size 6-12 mos. boatneck pullover. In the same color as the pom pom. Hat pattern is my own, simple doubled rolled back ribbing, 100 sts and off you go in fingering weight. The sweater pattern is from my friend Sheila from Flock on Nantucket. It is knit is a worsted weight and is just the softest wool cashmere combo. Sheila owns Flock (formerly Sheep to Shore). Sadly the website is not being updated too frequently, but the pattern is called Easy, Easy Baby Pullover.

This has been one of my favorite yarn shops since the day they opened. And yes, I may have stumbled in a few times while we were home closing up the cottage. I am not apologizing…it is a beautiful shop with the most Madeline Tosh I have ever seen in one place and a fantastic staff. So everyone who visits  Nantucket should go and see Sheila. And yes, I do work in a yarn shop, which I also love, for different reasons. Believe me there is plenty of yarn love to go around!

Size: Newborn
Yarn: Anzula Squishy, Color: Seabreeze
Needles: #2

Sweater Easy, Easy Baby Pullover
Size 6-12 months
Yarn: Anzula Cricket, Color: Seabreeze
Needles: #5
One skein of yarn was all it took. I didn’t have a 16″ needle or I would have knit this in the round. And it is sooo tiny it took no time at all. I think I knit it in one day and the hat the next afternoon. Thoroughly addictive knitting.

There was much knitting finished while on island. I think I need to head home every time I have a knitting deadline. The quantity of work I completed in 10 days is phenomenal.

Next we have the Caera Cowl by Lucy Sweetland.

Yarn: Highland Aberdonian Granite 2010, 100% Alpaca. Worsted Weight.
Needles: 6 (I think)

Modifications: I changed up the cabling a little, added some others and just had fun with it. Blocked the beegeebers out of it. I am sure I will have to make another one for a certain young lady. I think next time I would use Cascade Eco Cloud. The alpaca is not as soft next to the skin as I like and the Eco Cloud is like buttah, with great stitch definition.

This last little set is an original design of mine but was heavily influenced by Adelia from Tanis Fiber Arts. I won’t be selling this design or placing it in my designs for Ravelry. If you like it and would like something even nicer please order the pattern from Tanis. I fell in love with her color combo and then Madeline Tosh Vintage in Oceana and Flour Sack arrived at the store and resistance was futile. Really… go to Tanis’ website, buy her pattern. It is lovely.

I did have a very productive vacation. (This doesn’t even include the pair of socks I knit on the trip up, they are very pedestrian, get it…pedestrian, and I didn’t think you would be interested) They were knit with Aslan Trends sock yarn which I had never used before. It is a nice yarn, very tight twist but not hard and stiff.

I did get to the beach, rode my bike and walked the dog all over our end of the island, shopped, ate ice cream, made an apple pie with my honey’s apples, cooked bay scallops he caught, celebrated our 29th anniversary with  a yummy swordfish dinner, see… I didn’t just sit around and knit all day.

Time for some knitting

Much of the knitting I do now is stealth knitting I’m not at liberty to share until it is published, but I did finish some pretty things recently and thought I’d trot them out.

 This is a pair (technically, one glove) made with Malabrigo sock yarn. My riff on Selbouvettor patterning.

           Gauge: 9 1/2 sts to the inch (perhaps a PR)

I love this glove and hoped to finish the second before the end of winter, because they are for me. I think a knitwear designer should have a pair of fancy pants hand knit gloves. Just seems right.

Now this is a hat I designed to keep DD#1 warm in chilly VA. I had some leftovers from this pretty and I love working with this yarn so much…it wasn’t too much of an hardship. So she got a hat which is lined with alpaca and a pair

of pop up mittens for walking the grandpuppy.

She received them and loves them.

Also I have been absent so much that there haven’t been any winter pictures of Touchstone Farm. I know you were wondering how much snow we got this winter. This isn’t even the worst if it. Just what we had laying around after a particularly snowy evening. I love this last shot. The whole mountain looked like it was dusted with powdered sugar.

We have had a few days of above freezing temps so much of this snow has melted, but I hear more is on the way.

Major Surgery

I had a great day teaching at Knit One today. All my students were exceptional and I enjoyed everyone. But the end of the afternoon was special. (Unfortunately, I have no photos, don’t usually photograph my students) Elizabeth was a lovely woman who brought in a beautiful, simple mens crew neck sweater she had knit five years ago and was unhappy with. She also brought in her husband, Joe, the intended recipient. He was a wonderful fellow. Turns out the sweater never fit him, it was just too short. She had knit the sweater from the hem up and wanted to lengthen the body but didn’t want to tear out all her hard work. We tried it on Joe and determined the exact length he wanted. He left the shop and we scrubbed for surgery.

I have done this procedure in the past but it still takes your breathe away when you take scissors to knitting, especially someone else’s knitting. Yes, I cut the ribbing off the bottom of her sweater and then we pulled out all the little pieces of wool and gently found all the stitches and slowly placed them on a new needle. I did run a lifeline about 2″ up from the cut edge, which luckily was not really necessary, but made me feel more confident. It worked and she was thrilled.

This is knitting mojo at the Phd. level, and it looked great when we were finished.

But what was astounding were all the life connections we discovered while I cut her sweater apart. She worked with Fred Rogers for 30 years. Mr. Rogers is considered a saint in our town, where he grew up, graduating with my husband’s uncle. His presence is felt every day by the students in our schools and everyone in our community. We swim at the McFeeley-Rogers Pool. The high school includes an unparalleled art collection funded with significant donations from the McFeeley-Rogers Foundation. Many good works. His sister “Lady Elaine” still lives here.

Elizabeth grew up in the town in Massachusetts where I went to boarding school, just down the street to be exact. Her brother and sister went to the same small college as our youngest. Her sister owns a house on Martha’s Vineyard, arch rivals and next door neighbors of Nantucket, my home. We decided we were destined to meet one day as we seemed to have zero degrees of separation.

Elizabeth is a true lady, full of calm and grace. It was a treat to spend this afternoon with her.

Wish I had pictures of the surgery, you would have been impressed.

Here We Go

I have been scolded by both daughters to write a new post, so here we go. (The fact that the Steelers are in the Superbowl and everywhere in Steeler Nation you hear refrains of “Here We Go Steelers, Here we Go” maybe on my mind).

I have been knitting, but many are stealth projects which must not be spoken of. Makes the blog sooo boring. And we have had mountains of snow so the garden is a little laconic and equally boring.

Christmas seems ages ago but there was a little knitting for DD#1.

 The first two shots were taken by my architect daughter and her well instructed fiance. Notice the arty pose. And yes, she worked on the lighting.

 These last two were taken by me Christmas morning. Let’s just say there was bed head and low lighting, but you get the idea.

Needles; #7 circs.
Worked top down. Mods: None. Love this pattern and worked it exactly as written. She loves it and  shares the many compliments she receives at work. A complete success.

I loved this one so much I made one for myself. I made mine a little longer and changed up the cable patterns. I ran a Saxony Cable down the back book-ended between symmetrical 4 st snake cables on either side. On the front I added a more complex A-symmetrical cable with the snake cables on either side of the front button bands. I would show mine, but because I lengthened it I ran out of yarn. I have ordered more. It is in MadelineTosh Vintange, Well Water. another gorgeous color of MadelineTosh.

Before Christmas I knit a pair of cashmere socks(Sorry, looks like Carol at Black Bunny Fibers is out of the Cashmere/wool blend. But there many other yummy yarns in her shop. Go ahead, have a look, I’ll wait.) for my biking buddy and a ski cap for her husband out of the new Jared Flood Shelter yarn. The socks have not had their close-up yet, but the hat saw a little camera action.

Pattern: My own design
Yarn: Shelter, various colors. Lined with alpaca from stash.

I ride all summer with Kelly and her husband George does all our bike mechanics. It is important to keep George happy and warm. He wears this hat all the time so I think it is a hit. Always warms the cockles of a knitters heart to see her woolies worn.

It is very late and I have a running date early tomorrow morning, so this will have to do for now…


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