The Knitter’s Handshake

You all know what I’m talking about, right? That moment when you spot someone wearing a handknit? And maybe she sees yours? You make eye contact and smile, and invariably someone ends up whipping off a shawl to show it off, or asking to feel the yarn. You share pattern and yarn information, maybe talk about your favorite designers. When you go on your merry way, you have a new warm feeling in your soul. Well, this happened to me a couple of days ago at a Starbucks. I was wearing my Miller’s Daughter and she was wearing a lovely tonal blue asymmetrical shawl (she couldn’t remember what pattern it was). We admired each others’ work and chatted for a minute about the beauty of mixing garter stripes and lace.

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My Miller’s Daughter

I find interactions like these to be truly lovely. It helps me feel connected to the knitting world and its own special culture. I also love getting inspiration from other people’s projects. It’s one thing to see pictures of things on ravelry, but seeing real handknits in the “wild” is something else entirely. That was one of the best things I took away from Rhinebeck last month: seeing so many beautiful handknits, and so many people wearing them with pride.

So, speaking of Rhinebeck…it was amazing! The weather was beautiful, the house we rented was awesome, the leaves were perfect, and the yarn! So much yarn! I actually didn’t buy a single thing. There were too many options to choose from! I did love getting the chance to see and feel beautiful yarns that I’ve only come across online. As you might imagine, there were tons of gradients and gradient mini skein packs, as well as speckled yarns galore. There were also a number of sellers who had lovely breed-specific wools (beyond the great but ubiquitous merino). I liked seeing the different wools and looking at all the knitted samples on display. It’s all food for thought that I’ve filed away for the next time I need to buy some yarn, ha ha.


Beautiful weather at Rhinebeck!

On Saturday evening of Rhinebeck weekend, my mom and I went to an open studio event at Jill Draper Makes Stuff. It was packed! Stephen West was there doing a book signing as well as Ann and Kay of Mason Dixon Knitting. And, of course, tons of beautiful yarns in breathtaking colors. We considered not going as we were both very tired from a long day of yarn gazing and toddler wrangling, but we decided to push through. I’m so glad we did!


The kidlet taking a break after looking at lots (and lots) of yarn.

A major highlight of that weekend was meeting up in person with some wonderful friends on ravelry. I got to meet Carol (cehermanator) of knit equals joy, as well as her friends Jen (jenb69) and Meg (stamura). They were just as lovely in person as they are online. I am so glad I got to see them!

Things have been quite busy lately, but I am managing to squeeze in some knitting time. I’m working on knocking out a bunch of commissions currently and am looking forward to having time to do some of my own knitting soon. I have two of three Christmas stockings nearly done:


And I’m about to bind off a purple alpaca Easy Folded Poncho:


I recently finished sewing together two sweaters, and I have a third that I’m starting on today. All are finishing jobs I picked up at my LYS.

I have so much more I could share, but I’ll save it for another post. In the meantime, my blog was mentioned on the ravelry front page yesterday! Thanks to FogKnits for letting me know. I will leave you with some more photos from our weekend in Rhinebeck. These were all taken by the wifey and are copyright Callandra S. Cook.


Lunch on the deck!



Taking a walk with Baby Jade



The State of the Knitting Union or My First Blogiversary!

WordPress will likely not recognize my blogiversary until tomorrow. The reason for that is that, one year ago today, I posted my first post…just on a different platform (blogHer, specifically). While that’s an awesome platform, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. So, one day later I moved that post to WordPress: And So It Begins.

Rereading that post now, I’m struck by a couple of things. First, why are the pics so small? Second, my year did not consist of nearly as much stashbusting as I had anticipated. Everything else seems pretty much on point!

I thought it would be nice to start something of a tradition for this day. However, since I like to keep my options open, I’m going to go on record and say that I reserve the right to change my own traditions based on my own whims, so who knows what I will post on July 4, 2017! What I do know is that for the past year, this blog has been very important to me. I’ve used it to build new community, talk (and talk, and talk, and talk) about all the nerdy little knitting details I want to discuss, and to channel my knitting mojo. By that I mean I’ve been able to gather up all the great energy and inspiration I’ve gotten from my interactions with people here and on their own blogs, and shunt it into my own knitting and back into my blogging. The knitting karma just keeps coming ’round!

So, let’s do a round up of sorts! In the past year, I have finished 68 projects. I did my first test knitting and completed 20 test projects. I knit with all different yarn weights and fibers, and made a ton of different types of things: my first knits for my daughter, my first shawls, my first socks, lots of hats, mitts and mittens, baby clothes, dresses, a few cowls…basically the kitchen sink. I did my second ever intarsia project and my first ever stranded colorwork projects. I even got almost all the way through my first original design. I grew so much as a knitter and, I think, as a blogger. None of this was based on goals or intentions as much as it was fueled by a drive to just keep knitting. Along the way, I felt compelled to talk about it, too.

Because of that, I hesitate to set hard and fast goals for my next year of knitting (and blogging). I value the rather organic nature that my drive to knit has: I do it because I feel compelled to, not because I have specific things that I want to accomplish. Even when I’m starting a new project I often find I end up casting on for something completely different than I anticipated, and I like allowing myself that flexibility. It does mean that sometimes things happen on a different timeline, but I’m okay with that. For instance, I’ve been thinking for a few months now about opening an Etsy shop. I have a list of things I intend to stock, an idea for a name and a banner, and a general idea of pricing and turnaround time. If I applied myself more to making the shop a reality, I could probably have it up and running by now. As it is, I haven’t made any of the stock for it yet!

So while I’m not setting specific goals, there are things I am interested in trying out sometime soon! Those things include (more) brioche and double knitting, for starters. I’m planning on continuing to learn more about sock knitting. I want to try TAAT and toe-up socks, and learn some more heel and toe constructions. Also, there are approximately 15 million shawls I would like to make. I think I need at least one for every day of the week, if not month! Lastly, I have plans to make my first adult-sized sweaters and vests. Things I want to continue to do are to knit from stash, knit for family and friends, and continue to connect with other knitters through this blog, ravelry and my LYS/local community.

I won’t bore you too much with blog stats. While every single like, comment and follower makes me (very) happy, it’s never been about the numbers for me. I appreciate it so much that people read and respond and that I have a handful of knitters I consider friends that I’ve just never actually met. That community was really what I was going for when I started this a year ago, and I haven’t been disappointed! I have some blog plans for the upcoming year, but I don’t think I’ll get into them yet…we’ll just see how things work out!

I will leave you with a brief update on my knitting progress at the moment: I’m almost done knitting my sword! At some point I will write up the pattern and publish it on ravelry, but for now I’m celebrating the fact that the darn thing is almost out of my hair!

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I’ve decided to call it Baby Broadsword

Hopefully I will have an FO Spotlight post up about it soon! Happy 4th of July to my US readers, and happy knitting! I will end with some joint Independence Day and 1st Blogiversary fireworks:


The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 29

So I’ve gone a bit out of order here. I’ve answered all the questions except day 29’s. I deferred on it the other day because I was playing catch up and putting multiple answers in one post. I found I wanted more time and space to answer this question, so here you go!

Day 29: Do you have any tips, or things that you’ve learned from knitting?

I’m tempted to break this down. I mean, what is the actual focus of the question? Is it referring to knitting tips and tricks I’ve learned? Or is it about a greater insight into life, myself and the world that I might have gained from knitting? The answer to that is, of course: my blog, my choice! And I choose both.

For knitting tips and tricks, oh man. I’ve learned a lot. I keep a list of things handy on my ravelry profile page. They’re in no particular order. There are patterns, techniques, tricks, tutorials, etc. I’ve copied and pasted it here in case any one item will prove helpful to someone:

Wiki tips and techniques
Techniques thread
Top Ten Knitting Tricks
Kitchener stitch
Grafting in pattern
Weaving in ends
TECHknitter index
Chain crochet cast on
Fiber burn chart
Tillybuddy’s very stretchy cast on (short version)
Grams to yards conversion
Knitting a chain edge on garter stitch
A giant list of sock techniques
Icelandic bind off for garter stitch
One stitch cable techniques
German short rows
Knitted cherries!
Judy’s Magic Cast On
Knitted strawberries!

I can’t stress enough the usefulness of the TECHknitter index. It’s my first stop shop for any technical knitting question. My second go-to is Over the years, knitty’s Techniques with Theresa column has helped me with tons of stuff. I prefer to learn from pictures rather than videos, so often the knitty articles work well for me. If I can’t find what I’m looking for from either of those sources, good old Google has yet to fail me.

One tip that’s not represented on that list (to my knowledge) is my newly discovered no-holes sock gusset approach. I mentioned this on my last Thursday Sock-Along post, but I’ll briefly restate it here: when picking up stitches along each edge of a heel flap (on cuff down, traditional heel socks), pick up as many as seems appropriate for the edge, i.e., one for each slipped stitch. This will typically be one or two more per side than the pattern calls for*. Then, work one round in pattern and start your decreases as usual. The trick is that instead of decreasing any extra stitches away on that first round, you just add an extra decrease round or two until you get down to the prescribed number of stitches. That keeps the fabric from getting pulled too tight at those extra stitches and making a hole.

One last knitting tip I will share is this: Just try stuff. That’s how you learn new tricks. Just trying things to see how they work, making adjustments, talking to other people who’ve done the same thing, making more adjustments, repeat repeat repeat until you have something you like. So much of my knitting prowess, such as it is, has come from just diving in and trying things that seemed over my head at the time.

Okay, this is really the last tip I’m sharing: ravelry is a great resource. I haven’t had a ton of luck finding tutorials and that sort of thing there, but if you have a question about a specific pattern, that’s the place to try. Check the pattern page first. There are sections for comments, forum posts and blog posts, and many times I’ve found the answers to my questions there. If that doesn’t work, searching the forums often turns up answers.


A rav screenshot showing the different tabs on a pattern page

You can also do an advanced search on all the projects for a specific pattern. I like to do that and filter to view projects with the most favorites or that were marked the most helpful. That way, I can look through project notes and often find the answers I’m looking for there.


A rav screenshot showing an advanced search filtered to show most helpful first

And now, on to the more existential interpretation of the question: What life lessons have I learned from knitting?

Interestingly enough, the answer to this question is, in a general sense, pretty much the same: use your resources. When something seems tricky or tough, poke around until you find someone else who has gone through the same thing, and then benefit from their experience. Try new things and new approaches. Don’t give up–it will make sense eventually!

I have also learned that knitting is a powerful tool. For me, it has been pain relief, a mood enhancer, a source of balance and perspective. It has provided me with community and support, good will and mojo. It’s been an outlet for me for when I just need to get my mind off things, or when I need to calm down enough to mull something over. It’s provided me with both comfort and challenge when I’ve needed them. Knitting is both a way for me to take care of myself and to give to other people, be it through community and connection or through gifting FOs, yarn, fiber or supplies. In short, knitting has saved me, over and over again.

What tips and tricks, technical or otherwise, have you learned from knitting?

So, this concludes my 30 day knitting challenge. I’ve gotten some really good feedback on these posts, and I’ve enjoyed writing them immensely. I’m toying with the idea of making it a yearly thing. I would write another set of questions as most of these are one time deals, but I haven’t worked out the details yet. I think it would be a cool June tradition for me. Also, it will segue nicely into July 4 which is my blogiversary! Stay tuned for that tomorrow!

I will leave you with a pic of another thing that is a constant source of both joy and challenge for me. Here she is when I asked her to smile!

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Have a wonderful weekend, and happy knitting!

*As far as I can tell, this happens because patterns usually say to pick up 1 stitch for each 2 rows knitted…but that total often doesn’t take into account a set up row or final row. So, picking up the number of stitches stated will often leave a hole in one or both of those places.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Days 25-28, 30

Let’s see if I can get caught up!

Day 25: Do you have a knitting book or a place where you keep patterns, ideas, size measurements? Post a picture of it!

No, I really don’t. I track projects on ravelry and on the notes app on my phone.

Day 26: Have you ever been a part, or wanted to be a part of a knit-a-long? What was it? If not, why?

Yes, I have. I just recently participated in Melanie Berg’s Any Shawl KAL. It helped me knock out my Miller’s Daughter. It was really awesome to keep up with the thread on ravelry because I loved seeing all the color combinations people came up with. I also loved that it was for any shawl, not just one pattern. I took a second look at several patterns that didn’t really tempt me at first, and I think that has a lot to do with seeing how so many different projects turned out.

Day 27: How do you acquire most of yarn? Online retailers, local yarn shops, swaps, or large chain craft stores? What’s your favorite?

A little bit of everything, really. My favorite thing ever is to find awesome yarn at a thrift store. Otherwise, I’ve gotten a bunch of yarn from people who were destashing. I really seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time when it comes to scoring yarn. If I had a yarn shortage (and a job), I would strive to shop exclusively from local sources, my LYS and indie operations online. As it is, I love finding bargains online. I occasionally shop at a big box craft store, but only when I need supplies for a specific commissioned piece. Not everything can be made with merino!

Day 28: Do you do any other crafts besides knitting? What are they, and did learning to knit come before or after learning these other crafts?

Not anymore, really. When I was a kid I would do any craft I could get my hands on. I particularly liked counted cross stitch. I’ve done anything from making beaded jewelry to embroidery to macrame bracelets, latch hook rugs, etc. As an adult, I’ve tried a little spinning but I don’t intend to pick it up any time soon. I’ve also done a fair amount of sewing over the years. I would like to get back into that at some point soon. I have a handful of projects in mind that I want to work on.

Day 29: Do you have any tips, or things that you’ve learned from knitting?

I’m going to defer on this one for right now. I think this could be a whole separate post!

Day 30: What’s your name on Ravelry? If you don’t have a Ravelry account, why?

My ravelry user ID is alexand. I’ve been a member since it was in beta and you needed to get an invite to join (September 21, 2007 if you’re curious). I am raveler  #13148.

I cannot overstate how much I love being a member of ravelry. I’ve learned so much from the forums, from looking at others’ projects, and from just being exposed to so many awesome knitters, designers and patterns. I’ve found amazing community there that has supported me many times and in many ways. I’ve connected with people I otherwise never would have met, including some people local to me who have turned out to be wonderful friends.

So that I don’t leave you photo-less, here’s a shot of Kitten Man in his impromptu box fort the other day:


Happy knitting!

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.


The 30 Day Knitting Challenge – Day 19

Okay, I know I’ve said before that I don’t really want to get into politics on my blog. I mean, I don’t mind a good debate, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I want people to be drawn here by the knitting, the potential for a piece of the fiber community, and the sense of healing, not because of shared (or not) political views. I am hoping that much of that can be transcended by a mutual love of making, fiber and learning.

However, there’s been quite a debate that has touched my fiber community lately. I read a piece yesterday that simply blew me away and I imagine others would like to read it too. The controversy centers around the presence of the Pride flag on the ravelry logo. It’s now tradition for them to “fly” it during Pride every year and, every year, there is copious discussion about it on the forums. Recently, someone posted an open letter to ravelry in protest of the flag (to limit traffic to the author’s blog, I’m posting a link to the same content hosted on another site). The response that I found so moving can be read here.

So, click and read if you feel inspired to do so. You are welcome to leave comments with your reactions if you like–I just ask that you keep things respectful, regardless of your stance. It’s no secret what side of the debate I fall on. If you see things differently, that’s okay. I might not understand why but I would still knit with you. Once upon a time I was much more outspoken about my viewpoints and much less tolerant of different stances. In more recent years, I’ve started appreciating more fully that everyone has experienced a different walk of life, and that each person’s history will have shaped their thoughts and beliefs uniquely. I admire those people who take a hard look at their assumptions and strive to overcome shortsightedness, but I recognize that not everyone gets to that point.

With that, I’ll return to our regularly scheduled program.

Day 19: Do you watch movies and/or listen to podcasts while knitting? What are your favorite things to knit to?

Yes, frequently. I mostly watch Netflix but I will occasionally watch a knitting vlog if I stumble across one*. I mostly watch shows instead of movies as I find I don’t have to pay as close attention to them. The best options are ones that I can listen to and just look up at now and then. Shows that have complicated plot lines don’t tend to be good choices! I tried to watch House of Cards and knit but I just ended up completely clueless as to what was going on.

For whatever reason, I find police procedurals and shows about crime to be the most interesting. I also like things with a touch of the fantastic thrown in. Right now, I’m working my way through Star Trek Voyager. Things I’ve watched recently are Lie to Me, Lost Girl, How to Get Away with Murder (this one was really too complicated to knit to, so I just rewound a lot), Sherlock (which was amazing), The Returned and Person of Interest. I’m looking forward to watching season 4 of Orange is the New Black. If you have any suggestions for good shows on Amazon or Netflix, let me know!

I hate to leave you without some sort of knitting pic, so here’s the current state of my Wee la Nina. I wove in the rest of the ends yesterday while I was knitting in public.

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It’s size 12-18 mo and will be for our nanny’s 1 yo daughter. Just needs buttons and blocking!

*In fact, I’m interested in finding good knitting vlogs to follow. I’d love if you’d share your favorites with me! Kepanie/Stefanie, I haven’t watched yours yet but it’s at the top of my list!

The 30 Day Knitting Challenge is the creation of Meggiewes who blogs at Knitting in Wonderland.

Down the Ravelry Rabbit Hole

I’ve been getting tons done on my two main projects right now. My MO is to work on my giant blue rectangle aka Easy Folded Poncho early in the day. Then, once I’ve knocked out a significant chunk, I’ll reward myself by working on my Miller’s Daughter. That way, I make good progress on both of them and I don’t get too overwhelmingly bored.

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It’s getting giant-er!

I don’t have an updated MD pic because…well, it all kind of looks the same now. It’s bunched up on the needles in typical giant shawl fashion, so it’s tricky to see the shape or any change in size. However, as I might have mentioned before, I am madly and thoroughly in love with this thing. Unfortunately, the weather turned around today and it looks like we’re solidly in pre-summer mode here*. I just want to scrunch it up and wear it forever, but I would probably melt or catch fire or something.

On to the rabbit hole. Despite the fact that I’m “booked” several projects out, I keep getting lost in pattern searching on ravelry. There’s so much out there and I just want to knit it all! I keep adding favorites and adding things to my queue. I’m up to 16 items on my queue, which is kind of crazy for me. I don’t tend to queue things unless I’m 90% sure I’m going to make them. I use favorites to earmark things I’m interested in but might never get around to, or things I might want to look at later for inspiration. In particular, I’ve been bitten by the shawl bug pretty badly. Part of it might be the Melanie Berg KAL that I’m doing right now, but several of her shawls are really calling to me.


Photo copyright Melanie Berg. Via ravelry.

Meet Rheinlust. I didn’t realize how interesting this shawl was until I saw a bunch of close up pics on the KAL thread. The wave motif is worked horizontally and is made with twisted stitches. That gives each little wave a very crisp and three dimensional look and adds lovely definition. I think it looks best in a tonal, midnight blue shade. This one is going to have to wait until I’ve whittled down my stash quite a bit. It takes about 950 yards of fingering and I don’t have any solids with that yardage currently.


Photo copyright Melanie Berg. Via ravelry.

Another Mairlynd shawl that has tempted me is On the Spice Market. This one has a main color and six contrast colors. I’ve seen some really lovely color combinations on this one. Amazingly, I have enough stash yarn to do this one–all in Koigu KPM–so this one might find its way to my needles sometime soon! My MC would be this greyish lavender:

I have several choices on the contrast colors, so I’ll see what looks good together next time I dig them all out.


Photo copyright Melanie Berg. Via ravelry.

The last Melanie Berg shawl I’m going to talk about today is The Love of Spiders. Just look at it. Really, need I say more? It’s got gorgeous texture, shape, contrast and structure. I love it!

What are your favorite shawl patterns? Have you knit any of the ones above? What pattern bug has got to you lately? I’d love to know!

Happy knitting!

*I’d say spring, but it’s too humid for that shit, yo.

Hey! I Got Spotlit!

So, you know how ravelry started putting project spotlights up? If not, here’s how it works. When you go to a pattern page on ravelry and click on the “projects” tab, you’ll go to a list of all the ravelry projects that were made from that pattern. Somewhat recently, rav started putting three projects at the top that are labelled “project spotlight”. It’s a way of highlighting projects, I guess. I’m not sure how they’re chosen, but I know they rotate periodically.

I was glancing at my projects page a bit ago and realized my Honey Cowl in Manos had a couple more favorites than it used to. I’m not sure what made me think of it, but I checked the pattern page and, sure enough, my project is in the spotlights! How cool is that?

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I’m super stoked about it because that’s one of the projects I’m most proud of. It was one of those things that just sort of came together. I blogged about it here. I love how the two color version turned out, and it was a fun and easy knit. I used up almost every inch of three skeins of yarn, which always feels good! The yarn I used (Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend) was luscious and lovely to work with. Plus, it was a gift for a very good friend, so it was a rewarding project all around.

It was a little tricky to photograph, but I was able to get a couple of decent shots:

I especially like how both sides look cool:

Happy knitting!

Ten Mile Milestone

The other day, my ravelry yardage knitted total surpassed ten miles. I wonder how many stitches it takes to knit ten miles of yarn? 17,600 yards. How big would that skein be? It’s pretty crazy to consider. It’s also crazy to consider that I’ve knit a lot more than that but didn’t record the yardage, even after I joined rav.

Where has ten miles of knitting gotten me? On one hand, I think I’m a pretty experienced knitter. I’ve made a ton of different kinds of projects (ie, I’m not a “niche” knitter), some on the complicated side. I’m not afraid of lace, seaming, socks, doing gauge swatches, picking up stitches, dpns, blocking, intarsia, etc. On the other hand, there’s a number of projects and techniques I’ve never done that I’d like to try, like Fair Isle, adult sized sweaters, double knitting, more complicated brioche, steeking and knitting on a border, to name just a few. And more socks!!

My flurry of test knits continues. I’ve really enjoyed doing them. For starters, test knitting pushes me to choose projects I might not otherwise have picked, just by virtue of what’s available. Also, it’s a really good outlet for the detail oriented side of me. I love editing and proofreading, and test knitting is like the yarn-based version of those. As my daughter would say, “win win window”!

The last test knit I completed was my Caput Snood (not available yet) by Gabrielle Danskknit. This is the third test I’ve done for her. The others were the Tunbridge Hat and Vik Beach Hat. I made the child size out of two colors of Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick that I had on hand from a thrift store purchase. Total yardage for the snood was 99 with an additional 20 yards for a giant tassel. I added a button at the front of the neck to help keep it snug. It’s for my daughter’s bestie but I tried it on my daughter in order to get some pics.


I also finished the other hat for the same recipient. At long last, the Pretty Crabby hat is done and gifted! Again, I had my daughter model it so I could get pics. I used aran weight stash acrylic, none of which had any ball bands. I used the Jumbo Crab Cap pattern from Baby Beasties: monster mittens, hats & other knits for babies and toddlers by Debby Ware but I modified it heavily. My notes on that are on my ravelry project page, linked above.

It was such a tedious knit that I wasn’t expecting to like the finished result much. However…how cute is that?? I think it’s awesome! I would not recommend the book the pattern came from, though. I didn’t find the patterns to be well written or the finished items pictured to look very, well, finished. I like my version much better!

I guess that’s where ten miles of knitting gets you: to the point where you can use past experience to improve current projects. My modifications to the crab hat relied heavily on the Earbud Pouch pattern as well as’s Kureyon Kozy pattern.

Here’s to the next ten miles. Happy knitting!