Big Day! Rowan publishes two of my patterns!

Big day.  
Big, big day!  
I woke up this morning to see that Rowan Yarns had published two of my patterns! 
 I'm walking on air! 
A lux ear warmer with large cables, named after a favorite Central California wine growing region.

 Mendocino, a gently shaped ear warmer with leafy accents,
perfect for the chilly, briny days of the beautiful Northern California coastal town.

Lovely Claire, modeling in her backyard next to her ancient California Live Oak.

This girl could not take a bad picture.

So, here's the story.  A few months ago Rowan sent each of the 15 ambassadors two skeins of their newest yarn, Kidsilk Amore and Kidsilk Amore Shimmer and asked us to design up to two patterns and enter them into a contest.  I love KSH and this is a bulky weight version of that lovely stuff, but only 40 yards per skein.  I was stumped and could only think of a hat or a cowl and was not feeling terribly inspried.  My son happened to drop by and after I showed him the yarn he immediately said, "Mom, make those ear warmer things the girls wear.  All the girls in San Francisco pop them on before going outside."  I thought, hmm, an ear warmer is perfect really.  San Francisco gets chilly, and maybe you don't want to mess your hair, but just keep your ears warm.

After that it was easy.  Paso is designed with a big cable with large button details, Mendocino is knit in plain stockinette stitch with leafy accents.  Each takes little more than an hour or so to knit and is a perfect gift.

I needed to get the pattern written and the ear warmers photographed pronto because there was an entry deadline.  Even something as simple as this took me ALL DAY to write up.  I don't think designing is in my future, but this was a lot of fun and I'm glad I did it.  My adorable young neighbor, Claire, came to my rescue and modeled for me in her back yard next to their ancient California Live Oak.  She was the most delightful and perfectly sweet model, and she's gorgeous, right?  She made the simple designs stand out.  Thank you Claire.

And I won something!  Something great!   I won one full bag of Kidsilk Amore in the color Chiarosuro, a blend of black, purple and blue.  The yarn is very easy to work with, has the same luxurious mohair/silk composition as the original KSH and has a lofty chain construction.  Even though it is a bulky weight, it feels very light.  I will let you know all about it when I knit it up.  Searching now for the perfect project.

Both Mendocino and Paso are part of an On-line Ambassador Collection by fellow Rowan Ambassadors with free pattern downloads of accessories knit with Amore.  Next week I'll share all the patterns with you and more about the yarn and the ambassador program.

Enjoy the links below!

Eclipse for the holidays

Kidsilk Haze Eclipse is what happens when you let Liberace loose on your chic Kidsilk Haze.  With the aid of a single metallic thread, KSH goes from her demure self to all shiny and shamelessly showy Las Vegas showgirl.  That's why I love it so much.  I like shiny.  In the past Rowan has reworked KSH into a few different incarnations, all the while keeping the original of course.  But it's fun to change things up a bit with a twist.  For those of you who remember Kidsilk Night, it's similar, but even MORE shiny.  I'm knitting Luna as fast as I can to get this done by December when I think shiny wear should be my daily dress code. 

Gold beading on the cast on edge gives the lacy ruffle a bit of weight.  The color is Virgo.

Luna by Kim Hargreaves from Cherished.

Lace detail with beading on hem ruffle and cuffs.

Kidsilk Haze Eclipse is a blend of Mohair: 66%, Silk: 27%, Polyester: 4%, Nylon: 3% and is hand wash.  It knits up similar to KSH as 18-25 stitches per 4 inches.  I don't have to tell my long time readers how much I love KSH in any form or fashion, because, oh man, I do love this stuff.  When I post my finished project I'll share some knitting tips to help you work with this fine yarn. 

Here's the links:

Are you knitting anything special for the holidays?
A half dozen inspired knits from the Rowan designers using KSH Eclipse.

fine fall days

While the rest of the world knows autumn through rakes and raincoats, my California fall is much too timid for any of that.  In my corner of the world, fall is very shy, she peeks around the corner and barely tiptoes in.  Here we are well into fall and we're finally experiencing some cooler weather.  But if we really want to fall into fall and feel like we're part of the gang, we have to use our imaginations.  So we knit wooly sweaters, light scented candles, wear boots, make pumpkin breads, yummy soups and sometimes bake pretty leafy shaped cookies! 

While I'm not the biggest fan of Halloween, I still love to use the spider web, scaredy cat and haunted house cookie cutters.

I have a collection of hundreds of cookie cutters, (I keep thinking I need to make that into a blog post).  For years I made cookies for every occasion and decorated them to the max.  Now, with more free time than ever, I find myself rarely making cookies.  I think it has something to do with me knitting all the time!

To decorate the cookies with royal icing I use the recipe on the Wilton Meringue Powder can, but halve it for one batch of sugar cookies.  I water it down to the consistency of lightly whipped cream.  I like to use powdered or paste colors to tint the icing as a little goes a long way.  As a piping bag, try cutting off a corner of a sandwich size zip-lock bag and insert a piping tip.  I like to use a size 4 round tip for almost everything.  With the zip lock sealed the icing is easily squeezed out and stays pretty tidy. To "flood" a cookie with icing, first outline, then fill it in. If your icing is the right consistency it will flatten and smooth out with no hills and valleys.  For the marbleized effect I put dots of color on top of wet icing and run a toothpick through it to swirl.  If I want to add another color on top of a color, like the leaf on the pumpkin above, wait an hour or so to dry out the first layer, then pipe the green leaf on top of it.  The icing will dry firm, but not rock candy hard.  If you want to top a cookie with another one, like the ghost on the haunted house, use a pea size bit of icing to glue them together.  In a few hours they'll be dry and can be stacked in a cookie tin with waxed paper separating the layers.

I made 4 dozen and took them to church last Sunday and they were gone in a heart beat!

Happy Baking!

Zip-lock bags are great to use as icing bags.

Little dots on top of the wet icing right before I run a toothpick through them to swirl.

knitting up a blue streak

In my basket of "almost finished objects" were three scarves in blue.  A few evenings spent in front of the tv turned my works-in-progress into tidy finished objects. 

First is the Cedar Leaf Shawlette from Alana Dakos of Never Not Knitting.  I've made at least a half dozen of these and it's a great pattern from such a nice young woman.   I used just under two skeins of Madeline Tosh tosh dk in the color Well Water.   The yarn is fabulous; it's bouncy, stretchy, soft, just about everything you want in a yarn.  It knits for me more as a light worsted.  The pattern and yarn was a great combo.  Machine washable.

Next is the Oaklet Shawl by Megan Goodacre.  I used one skein of Plucky Primo Fingering in "cryin' icicles" (don't you wish you could also have some fun and name yarn, ice cream and nail polish?)  I ran out halfway through the bind off but was able to substitute with a stash find that matched pretty well.  I enjoyed the easy pattern, and hey, it's a free download, and it would be easy one to modify into a larger shawl.  The triangular shaped kerchief will keep your neck cozy all winter long.   Primo is an extra soft blend of merino wool, cashmere and nylon, so think it's meant for socks.  I know many people love Plucky, this was my first time and I now love it too.  Nice yarn with a good twist an excellent stitch definition.  Machine washable.

The last is the Wurm Cowl, a modification of the Wurm Hat and is an amazing cowl.  I've made it a few times and love the way it can be wrapped twice for extra warmth or worn long when you don't need it.  Either way it's flattering and feels great.  Best cowl ever and I'm keeping this for sure.   The yarn is left over from a long ago sweater that was worn, loved then battered and finally donated.  I remember getting the yarn at Stitches West ages ago at a very popular booth called Tess Designer Yarns.  It is 100% merino wool in light worsted weight and was beautiful to knit and it's super soft.  As a sweater it pilled like the dickens, but won't have to worry about that with a cowl.


Many thanks to Sylvia for letting me photograph my knits in her lovely shop, Atelier Gray.  Come back on Friday and I'll give you the grand tour.  Here's a preview!

Hazy Mila

Oh my.  Angora Haze.  I don't think I've been more lovesick over a yarn since I fell hard for Kidsilk Haze, and I also don't think I have the vocabulary to quite express my affection for it either.  I always thought of Kidsilk Haze as being the Grace Kelly of yarns; elegant, beautiful and posh.  Now my darling KSH has a rival. 

This is my second sweater (and considering a third) knit with Rowan's newest,  Angora Haze.  The pattern Mila is from Kim Hargreaves new "Smoulder" book.  The project yarn was supposed to be Rowan Baby Alpaca DK which I know would have been absolutely lovely.  However, I was hell-bent on using AH again in this dainty pale beige/pink "Nest".  Plus I'm nutty for slouchy sweatshirty sweaters knit in luxurious yarns. 

If you've knit with angora before and had a bad experience (shedding during knitting and while wearing), well, I've had that bad experience too.  But this stuff is different, I had minimal shedding while knitting and wearing.  Angora does shed, and this does, but not much.  Do take that in mind if that sort of thing drives you crazy.  You can read about my modifications to accommodate for the gauge change on my Ravely page.

So, in conclusion: loved the yarn, loved the pattern, but mostly ~sigh~ I love feeling like I'm wearing a cloud.  As far as the knitting experience goes, it's beaut.  Angora itself does not have much give or bounce.  Rowan's Angora Haze is a blend of 69% angora with 20% polyamide and 11% wool to aid in stability and elasticity.  Angora is also warm.  Making AH a fingering weight yarn allows the fabric to be lightweight and fluid.  It's simply fabulous.  I preferred using my Karbonz needles as I like a good point, but I also tried it with dull bamboo needles and it was smooth knitting either way.

I'd like to add some practical advice:  I prefer to iron block my knits before and after finishing.  With Angora Haze you can use your iron to lightly block on the wrong side only, but do not allow the iron to touch the fabric, it will mat the fuzziness which is part of it's beauty.  My swatch washed well and blocked to size with no change in gauge and it retained it's fluff.  I haven't washed this sweater yet but I will report back and let you know how that goes.  I plan on being extra careful, it's worth the extra trouble.

I know that like me, you probably prefer to shop at your local yarn store.  I'm lucky that mine carries AH in every shade, but in case yours does not, here are some good links:

Until next time...xoxo

The Botanist

I've got pictures to share of a pretty new shop in town that I thought you'd like to see.  I can't seem to walk by without stepping inside, and cannot seem to step inside without taking something home.  Every display is like an oil painting waiting to happen.  Fall looks pretty darn gorgeous at The Botanist, don't you think? 

363 State Street
Los Altos, California
(650) 383 - 5464