Archives for April 2012

Stash Sunday – Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light

This was given to me as a gift from Bobbi, of Covers and Soles.  It’s got a nice hand, and it’s Berroco, which is a solid company.  She said it was too bright for her, and while I admit it is bright, it’s perfect for me.  I like bright colors.  The only detractor is I had a hard time getting a picture that did the color justice.  So you’ll just have to bear with me.  I think this is intended to be a spring-weight pullover.  Something light with a fair amount of drape, but some shape to counteract alpaca’s tendencies.  I must do some swatching before I start.

The Deets:

Yarn weight

Sport / 5 ply (12 wpi)
Amount stashed

7 skeins = 1008.0 yards (921.7 m)
Purchased at

Dye lot



Crafting Spaces

UntitledInspired by a few people who where talking about their knitting nooks and where they work on the Three Irish Girls forum, and also a post or two that I cam across in the last week (which I now can’t find the source… oh well).  I thought I would share some pictures the new place Michael and I have moved into.

By new place, I mean we’ve been here for more than two months, but before now, it hasn’t really quite felt like home, just the place we crashed.  I’m starting to feel proprietary toward the place, which tells me that it’s starting to feel like home.

UntitledSo, my time is divided by two places.  Most of my blogging and pattern writing happens at the computer desk that I share with Michael.  However, since I spend more time there, I have my bookshelf right next to the desk space.  I do have to try my best to keep the desk space clean, because Michael also uses it, but now, after a few years of sharing a desk, he’s become quite tolerant of my mess.

When I’m just working on a project or a sample, swatching or doing other things, I’ll put a show I don’t have to watch on my computer (or put a book on tape on) and work at the couch.  I’ve got an ottoman where things get thrown into when I’m not working on them, so Michael doesn’t sit on them and they don’t get tangled or ruined.

UntitledStuff that needs to be blocked or needs to be spread out is put on the kitchen table.  I can add two leaves to it, and then stick my mats on it to block something big out.

Finally, if I’m just crocheting for fun I’ll settle into the comfy chair, but the comfy chair is only really for work that isn’t under a deadline, because most times when I’m in this chair?  I end up drifting off or falling asleep.  Also, this chair is comfy, but not so much when you are trying to get real work done… it doesn’t provide much back support.
 So now that I’ve shared my work space, what does yours look like?  Tell me about it, or post some pictures and link back.  I love to look at where other people work.

Stash Sunday – Anzula Sebastian Seacell/Merino

Anzula is one of the companies I think should get more love, and isn’t.  The colors they produce, all solids or semi-solids, are of a lovely drape, quality, and intensity.  To of my projects that I’m currently working on are done in Anzula Sebastian.  The brightness of their colors is really sweet.

The Deets:
Yarn weight: Fingering / 4 ply (14 wpi)

Amount stashed

2 skeins = 750.0 yards (685.8 m)
Dye lot


Color family

Stored in


Interview question

Michael and I were talking the other night and he shared with me his new favorite interview question. “You are being mummified but only have one canonic jar. What organ would you take to the afterlife?”

“My spleen.” I said.

 “that’s what I said too.”

 Both of us, in tandem “-because it would be fun to say.”

 “And,” Michael pointed out, “How great would it be in the afterlife to be wandering around with your spleen in a jar?”

 I have to admit I agree with him. That would be cool.

So I will turn the interview question on you… What organ would you bring to the afterlife?

Acrylic Hotpads… not a good idea. Let this be a warning.

This was my fault, really.  Michael and I inherited some really ugly hotpads from a friend a couple of moves ago.  They were the ones that make me wince – acrylic, with plastic in-between to hold it stiff.  Done is some ugly colors.

Now I’ve known from an early age that hotpads should never be acrylic, for the same reason acrylic isn’t good for anything that might be exposed to heat.  It melts, and actually can catch fire, and when that plastic gets on skin, it sticks, and melts into you.  I once actually got rather badly burned on my leg because I got a piece of burning plastic stuck to me.  It took a long time to heal.

This once was a hotpad.

So I’ve always kept these “hotpads” away from the ones that you use to get things out of the oven, and in fact, had always stashed them away where someone wouldn’t get themselves into trouble using them.  I really couldn’t bear to throw them away… after all, they represented somebody’s hard work, but I really didn’t want to use them either.  However, in the last move Michael was the one unpacking, and he, unbeknownst to me, put them with the other hot pads.

You can see where this was going.
Melted.  Use wool, people!
Last night, he used one to put beneath a hot tray.  It melted to the tray and stuck, and Michael didn’t notice.  He put the tray, with the hotpad still stuck to it, back into the oven.

This is what happened.

So, let this be a warning.  Acrylic.  It’s plastic.  It catches fire, and has a relatively low melting point.  This is why you don’t want to use acrylic for hot-pads.  Or why you don’t want to use it for anyone or anything that might get exposed to extreme heat.  Or for people who might accidentally catch fire.

Use wool.  It is fire-retardant (why wool blankets are thrown over burning people), burns at a higher temperature, and if it does catch fire, stops burning as soon as the source of heat is removed.  Or use plant fibers, which will burn once the heat is removed, but at least char, and don’t actually melt into you.

Finally, it’s a really bad idea to throw an acrylic blanket over a person who is on fire.  Just sayin’.

Why I don’t Recomend Adults to take Knit/Crochet Lessons with their Children

Children behave better when their parents aren’t there.  I’m sorry, but in my experience, it’s true.  Children listen to me better when the parents aren’t there dividing their attention.

Adults are dividing their attention between their children and learning themselves.  It’s just gotta be said.  Knitting and Crochet aren’t easy.  You gotta concentrate on what you are doing.

And the final reason?

Adults get frustrated when their children learn faster than them.  And typically?  Children learn much faster than adults.  Children are hardwired to learn, and they do it well.  It’s hard for adults, who are used to teaching their children, to be the ones that are struggling beside their younger classmates.

And I know, there are exceptions to this rule, but… it happens often enough it bears saying.

Stash Sunday

Yarn Organization 025Today’s yarn is another handspun… I seem to be on a bit of a handspun kick here.  It actually makes sense, since I’m trying to get all my handspun labeled and organized.

I think I might call this one Fairy Wings.  Like Forest Path, it’s a by-product of overloading my carder so it was hard to spin.  Plus, the wool in this one seemed to want to felt just from the moisture on my skin.  It’s going to be a trick not to have this accidentally felt on me the first time I wash it after it’s knit up.

Deets: 160 yrds, 4.2 oz.  Merino and Glitz.

Chimney Corners Camp

I’ve talked a little bit before about Chimney Corners Camp, which is located in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.  I started going to the camp in 1995, when I was eight years old.  I continued to go until 2008, which was my last year.  I worked as the Assistant Waterfront Director.

CCC, as the camp is known to insiders, has been a place of incredible growth throughout my life.  It’s where I learned to get along with others, how to be a leader and a follower.  I learned that you can love a place without it being perfect.  CCC has been my home when my family moved several times.  It’s where my childhood friends are, and where most of my formative experiences have almost all taken place.

I’ve been thinking about doing a design series to talk about my process, from sketching, swatching, grading, the whole gammut.

My question is, what would you like to see?  If you wanted to know more about a designer, the process, etc, what would you like to know about, and what would you find most interesting?

Let me know in the comments.

7 Tips to Teach Adults to Knit

Continuing with my series on teaching various age people to knit and crochet, I bring you a new edition of Tips to Teach.  This one is about adults.

Give perspective.  First, remind your students what it was like to learn a new skill.  Have them think back to the weeks as a child they spent learning to ride a bike, whistle, or learn an instrument.  Adults often forget how long it can take to master a new skill, especially one that involves fine motor skills.  They might get frustrated or discouraged when their first project doesn’t end up like they expected.  By re-framing expectations you set them up for success instead of failure.

Start small.  On the same vein of managing expectations, try to start your students on a smaller project, that has a defined ending.  I have a list of projects that are small.  Adults, just like children, get a nice bump of satisfaction every time they finish something.  Make sure as the instructor, you’re giving your students manageable goals.

Keep it under an hour.  Learning to knit is hard work.  Most people will be using fine muscles in their hands in ways they don’t normally do, and these muscles get tired.  People’s brains are also working hard, trying to grasp concepts and process them.  After an hour, people begin to get tired and their attention starts drifting.  Finish a class before your students get tired.

Have a worksheet or a diagram.  Knitting is not a skill that is going to be learned in an hour.  Most times when I teach people to knit, I’ll teach them the knit stitch and have them go home and practice, then have them come back to learn purl, increases and decreases.  People are more likely to go home and practice if they have something to look at and jog their memory.

Have students write it down.  Jumping off of the worksheets, having students write something down will make them more likely to remember it.  Have them put in their own words each step of doing the knit stitch.  Research has shown that students normally remember about 40% of what is said in a lecture.  However, students that wrote things down remembered more relevant information.  You can have them do it right next to the pictures you have on your worksheets.

Tell them to bring in their work next class.  When I first started teaching, I would tell my students to practice the skills they had learned and come back next week.  What I’d find is that they would come in the next week, saying they had practiced, but that they had ripped out their work because there were too many mistakes.  Now, I tell my students to come in with their samples and their mistakes.  This is because you can look at their work and see what they are having problems on.  If they don’t have anything to show you, you can’t give them any feedback.  Stitches uneven?  Work with them on tensioning their yarn.  Holes in their work?  Check to see if they are dropping stitches or creating new ones.  Use mistakes as a way to improve.

Keep them accountable.  In classes that are multiple weeks long, I will try and get students e-mails and will check in with them during the week.  I will check to see if they have any problems and if they are practicing.  This helps because if a student gets stalled, they don’t just give up until next week.  I try to problem solve so they can keep on practicing.

An Interview with Ellie

So Ellie, we’re both sitting here and I think you should let me interview you.

Ellie:  Okay.  You can write I’m fascinating if you like.  Let them know that I”m not a concieted ***hole…. don’t write ***hole.

Jen: Okay.  I can do that.  All right, most important question:  The first five cookies you think are the best.  The true cookies, if you may.

E: Let’s see… like, brand name cookies, or cookies I make?

J: Cookies, you make.

E: You really are transcribing everything?

J: Yes, I type fast enough.

E: Peanut butter cookies.  How vulgar can I be?  Do people with children read this?

J: Probably not now.

E: Okay.  *laughs*  I sorta think peanut butter cookies are right next to orgasm.  Umm… please don’t type  my umms.

J: Okay.  I can do that.

E: Lemon cookies.

J: What?

E: You don’t eat lemon cookies?  I made them for you once for your birthday.

J: Oh, those.  They were delicious.

E: Chocolate chip cookies.

J: Naturally

E: Grasshopper cookies.

J: Grasshopper?

E: They’re made with mint choclate.  Though I’d probably eat cookies with grasshoppers in them also.

J: I would too.

E: Oatmeal… not with raisins though.  Raisins are the boogers of the fruit world.

J: Really?

E: When I was a little kid, I’d used to call them weewees.  And one thime my mom got me a cinamon rasins buns with the frosting on top and I said to her, mommy there are weewees sleeping in my cake.  And refused to eat it.

J: I would too.  Though I like raisins, weewees would be just unnerving in cake.  I assume that means you don’t like rum cake with rasins in them, right?

E: By the time you put enough rum in it, you don’t notice the raisins.

J: I love you.

E: *Laughter.*  I love you too.

J: And that’s why I love Ellie.