Oh my, I do do do love this little cardigan so much.  Jill by Martin Storey is a free pattern download and is knit in DK weight yarn.  I first fell in love with the adorbs posie-in-a-basket pocket.  I'm especially proud of it as I incorporated a few new-for-me finishing techniques that I'll share here.

When Sarah Hatton was in town I took an Understanding Lace class at my lys, Uncommon Threads which I told you about here, but I also took a Professional Finishing class at Imagiknits in the city.  I learned so much and would really recommend that class if you should find Sarah teach it in your neck of the woods.  I brought a few things that needed finishing just to see what Sarah would suggest.  First tip, when attaching a patch pocket, do not attach it with a slip stitch, but instead use the mattress stitch.  Brilliant!  I use the mattress stitch for all my seaming but never occurred to me to use it with a patch pocket.  The pockets turned out beautifully and do look professional!  In the above photograph you can see the pocket on the left in finished.  The Rowan site has some tutes for that stitch here.  Do do do learn the mattress stitch for finishing, you will be so happy you know it, and perfecting it will ensure your seams always look neat and clean and professional.

The other tip is for the collar.  For this sweater and collar you pick up stitches at the neck and work stockinette out.  Sarah recommends that at the folding point of the collar, where you would fold the collar down, to add a few stitches to give the collar some extra room to spread out to flair and fold.  In other words, you would knit a little less than an inch to the point where you think the collar will fold.  The next row with RS facing, knit a third of your stitches, m1r, k1, m1l.  Repeat this at the matching 1/3 spot of left side.  At both sides of the collar you have increased 2 stitches, 4 stitches total.  Even if you are working your collar in rib she said that you can still use this technique as the uneven rib won't be noticed in the collar.  I hope this makes sense as it's a terrific little trick that professional knitters don't want to keep secret!  It's little tips like these that make a knitted garment go from ho-hum to fab.

The embroidery is very easy with the most basic of stitches:  a chain stitch handle, lazy daisy stitches for the petals and leaves, stem stitch for the stem and French knots for the flower center.  I used 6 strand DMC floss.  The pocket is a simple basketweave stitch, k3, p3 for 4 rows, then switch.  Excellent directions are on the free pattern.  I downloaded Jill from Martin Storey's Classic Babies Online Collection on the Rowan site.  Download ALL the patterns, they are all just completely precious. 

The yarn I used is the machine washable Rowan Merino Silk Baby DK.  Holy cow, I love this stuff.  It's super easy to knit and uber soft in the skein, it's hard to believe it goes in and out of the dryer.   The patch pocket was a scrap of Pure Wool DK, also machine washable.  When subbing out yarn to use in the same garment like I did, make sure it's the same weight and has the same washing care.  My Ravelry link here.

I have 2 sweaters I've been wearing all summer but haven't photographed to share.  One is in Rowan Denim yarn, one in a cotton blend and also another baby sweater.  Must get on that, hopefully next week I can start the FO parade.  So, how's your knitting coming along?  Are you thinking ahead and planning all the wonderful wooley knits to knit for winter?  Me too!  I'm hard at work already!



If you are a Kim Hargreaves fan, her new autumn designs in North don't disappoint.  Kim's trademark classic and simple style combined with a sexy twist and her impeccable choice of yarn has me queing yet again.  Here are some of my favorites.  Prepare to swoon.

I see Kim using this wide ribbed boatneck variation a lot in this book and in her last.  It's very flattering and think this will have to be a new sweater for me this year, because of that sexy neck.  Sway uses one strand of Rowan Fine Lace together with one strand of Kidsilk Haze.  I'm just finishing a sweater of Kim's using this yarn combo, it's divine.
Oh my gosh.  Here's the back.

Honesty, a classic v neck cardi using a new favorite fall yarn intro, Rowan Mohair Haze.  Love this color.

Touch in the great Felted Tweed DK uses a simple slip stitch with moss stitch to get this gorgeous fabric pattern.

Beauty also uses one strand of Fine Lace and KSH together.  What makes this great is the v neck front and...

...the matching v neck back.

More texture with Sense, combining one strand of Felted Tweed DK with Felted Tweed Aran.

Ahhh, Truth, with it's gorgeous off shoulder neck, is knit in super soft Lima.

Sweet and simple, in Captivate, Kim again combines Fine Lace and KSH. 

Here's that wide neck again, I really do love it.  Brisk uses Mohair Haze.

Maybe the best for last?  Lovely is indeed lovely in cables, bobbles and the new Rowan Finest, a glam fingering weight combo of merino wool, royal alpaca and cashmere.  To die for.

Links for ya!

Purchase North from Kim's site where you can view all 21 designs.

Check out the yarn!


we've only just begun

While on our family vacation in Sunriver, Oregon, my granddaughter and I went into the town of Bend to shop.  We stopped at a knitting store and while there we both fell in love with a shop sample, Zuzu's Petals, a lace cowl.  "Can I knit this?"  "Yes, you can", I assured her.  She is 13 now and has been knitting since she was 9.  "There are some new techniques, but they are easy to master.  You'll follow a graph, but I know you can do it.  Let's do a knit-along!  We can skype while we knit!"  (We live 500 miles apart.)  So we chose our yarn and I do have a recommendation for yarn shopping with a 13 year old:  She went through the shop and picked out her favorite colors.  We eliminated the ones that would not come close to gauge.  We then removed the ones that were itchy or difficult to knit.  We were left with one, one beautifully soft, easy to knit yarn that she was positively thrilled with.  We put it away and decided to start it when she visited us in August.

Now fast forward to August and she is having her last grammy and papa visit before school starts.  It's time to begin our knit-along, but I did start the pattern for her, it's much too fiddly at the beginning and not fun until the knitting really starts.  There's a few things for her to remember:  Garter stitch first two and last two stitches, the middle is stockinette.  Increase on the right side only.  Purl the wrong side and make no increases, but don't forget the garter stitch edges.  We are working on section one, which is just stockinette and increases.  The lace portion doesn't begin until section two. 

For a new knitter to avoid mistakes, it's best to look at your work on each row and correct mistakes before you go too far.  A new shawl knitter will want to make sure there are consistent eyelet increases so count often.  If you find yourself purling away and notice that you've forgotten to make a yarn over on the previous side, it's easy to fix, don't rip it out.  Just pick the bar between the two stitches up and around your left needle and purl it.  (I showed her how to do this, and I know there are youtube videos for this little fix).  She felt clumsy, but she does know enough about knitting and realizes that it will become much easier as she goes along.  There are 48 increase rows before we get to the lace part in section two.  It is charted and written, so it will be interesting to see which way she prefers.

We'll skype, I told her whenever she needs help, I'm available.  She starts 8th grade next week with all honors classes.  She's on swim team and in concert choir and then there's all the friends to keep up with.  I know knitting will not be a priority for this busy teen, but it's there when she has the time.  I told her we could take a year if we wanted to.  Even two years.  Knitting is patient, it will be waiting for us when we have time for it, and it won't matter one bit how long we take.  I told her I wouldn't go on ahead, but keep up with her pace so we could truly knit it together. 

Off she went on the airplane with her knitting in hand and loads of confidence.   Oh my gosh, it was so sweet, I'm tearing up now just thinking of it.

Annie is knitting with ToshDK
I'm knitting with Freia Ombre Sport

that time of year again

You'll never have to guess when it's time to dry hydrangeas, they'll let you know.  They turn from the brightest pink to dusty pink.  Maybe they'll go lilac, maybe lime tinged with pink.  As they lose their pigment, some may even go spotty.   But they will be a dusty version of what they were in spring.  The blossoms start to feel a bit papery, even a little leathery.  They're done growing and intend to show off their fall colors which makes it the perfect time to dry them. 

The time to pick hydrangeas for drying happened early this year, even in California when everything in the garden seems to happen at warp speed anyway, this is still extremely early.  Maybe our drought is the reason?  Maybe I need to remind my garden it's still summer.

Drying them couldn't be easier.  After picking trim off all the green leaves.  Place them in a vase less than half full of tap water.  Give them some space and leave them alone, they will look pretty as they dry.  In a few weeks the water will have evaporated and your hydrangeas will be dry and ready for fall arrangements.  They're pretty.


dainty lace in glossy mohair and a free gift

I recently took an "understanding lace knitting" class from visiting Rowan designer and teacher, Sarah Hatton.  To have her come from England to my lys was quite exciting and apparently others felt the same way because the house was packed.  What I like about lace knitting is that it looks complicated, but it's not, or at least it doesn't have to be.  Some of the most complicated looking patterns are actually simple to execute.  Lace is mostly some "knit togethers" or decreases, paired with some "yarn overs" that make a new stitch and form an eyelet.  There are a few tricks and once you understand them it makes lace knitting much more intuitive and less laborious.  In the next few weeks I'll be sharing some tips that I learned from Sarah. The first tip is the most obvious: every time you make a decrease you must pair it with a yarn over.  Take away one stitch, add another.  Perhaps evident, but for the beginner this can be a real aha moment.

Something else I found out about lace knitting; I've always know knitting to be naturally calming, an anti-depressant in a way.  The repetitive rhythmic motion has a soothing effect, and this is all done without drugs.  Knitting, this is why I love you.  With lace knitting you add memory and attention span, plus visual processing and problem solving.   Lace knitting is beneficial!  The brain can do all this great stuff so let's exercise it!  People, we must knit lace!  So to get you started I have a little gift for you.  This lace purse pattern is a handout exclusive to Sarah's class, but she has sweetly offered her adorable tiny lacy purse pattern as a free download for my readers (see below).  Thank you Sarah, I am thrilled.

It's just a tiny thing knit with simple lace motifs that are easy to execute and just right for the beginner.

I'm not messing with the color.  It really is this pretty.

Here you can see the pretty picot bind off.

I slipped a clear plastic bowl inside.  It may or may not stay, not sure.

The pattern starts center bottom and yarn over increases radiate out like a nautilus.
This is knit on two needles and seamed.

You're probably wondering about the beautiful yarn I used!  I had a ball of the new Rowan Mohair Haze to sample and review and I prefer to make something useful with my skein rather than knit swatches.  Knowing that night that this pattern was perfect for my sample yarn, I cast on the minute I got home.  The skein itself is soft and squishy, slightly fuzzy with a delicate sheen.  Mohair takes dye beautifully and my bright pink Caress is intense!  Mohair Haze holds color a bit like Kidsilk Haze, but I really wouldn't want to compare the two as they are really quite different in most other ways.  MH is a blend of super kid mohair and extra fine merino wool so it is extremely soft.  It knits up to a fingering weight at 28 sts. per 4 inches.  I'm a diehard fan of fingering weight and have always felt that Rowan does it best.  They understand what the tiny-needle-knitter wants from a fine yarn.  We love glamorous, but also make it easy to knit and easy care.  If we are going to knit thousands of tiny stitches the fabric must have staying power.  And then we want something that will look equally gorgeous in stockinette or patterned. 

Knitting up Mohair Haze was easy peasy, soft on the hands with an easy glide across the needles but I think it might be too slippery for anything other than wood.  I wouldn't say it has bounce exactly, but it does have give and it was very easy to maneuver the stitches into lace.  The stockinette is pretty and semi-even and looks truly lush with it's glossy furry halo.   MH is one special yarn that I'm convinced will be cherished for decades.  A garment will be lucky to be knit in this.  Yep, there's a new yarn in town and I love it.

As far as care for this yarn, it is hand wash and I think it will be similar to the care of KSH:  Gentle swishing with mild soap in cool water.  With KSH I roll up my wet knit in a big terrycloth towel then pat to shape to dry in the shade.  After washing, mohair needs a little brushing up to fluff up the halo.

The color palette consists of pastels and jewel tones and includes a pure white and a black.  I've got my eye on that turquoise Tumble and the red Kiss. 

Sarah has kindly offered her Lace Project Bag exclusively to my readers
as a free download, click here.  Enjoy!

I used approximately 100 yards of fingering weight yarn.  My mohair left a fuzz around the stitches, and while I think this is beautiful in lace, if you want to really get the stitches to pop, you can use a merino or cotton or a blend.  The pattern is really a study in lace and doesn't have gauge.  When you choose a yarn, either fingering weight or possibly a sport weight (your bag will be a little bigger with sport weight) use the smallest size needle suggested on the ball band.  Don't you think this would make a beautiful wedding purse?

I hope you can find Mohair Haze at your lys, but if not,
it's available online with these direct links:

John Lewis
Black Sheep Wools
Laughing Hens

As it's just new and absolutely gorgeous, I'm certain more and more shops will be carrying it.

you are beautiful

Growing a pear in a bottle has been one of my most fun garden projects, ever!  They are so beautiful!  It's a little miracle each time you look at that pear.  In a bottle.  Right there in the bottle.  There it is.  I can't get over it.

It's typically not a super highly successful venture to grow a pear in a bottle.  We actually started out with 3 hoping to get one.  But we are now proud parents of two lovely pears snugly submerged in spirits!  Early this spring, just when the blossoms were falling off the tree and the little fruit was starting to form, we set to work.  Please don't be put off and think this is a big undertaking, it's not.

Select a sturdy branch and remove all but the strongest pear.  Remove foliage as well.


 Scrub well your prettiest clear glass bottles.
These are single malt bottles and once held 750 ml. of Balvenie.

Carefully insert the branch into the bottle placing the little pear about halfway in the middle.  Support the bottle by tying or hanging from a sturdy branch.  We used strips of old sheets, but twine will work just as well.  It's important that the neck opening is facing downward so rain water won't get in.  If your bottle is not protected from full sun by the leaf canopy, give it a sun shield by draping the bottle with a thin layer or two of cheesecloth.  Now it's just watching and waiting.  I rarely had a day when I didn't walk over to take a peek and see how my little guys were doing.  Early on we lost one but the other two thrived.

Fast forward a few months!  Pears don't ripen well on trees and it's best to pick them hard and ripen them in a paper bag.  So knowing that, when the pear is ready, cut the lashings, give the bottle a slight tug, the pear should come off easily.  Bring the bottle in and wash the outside with warm soapy water being careful not to get the soapy water inside.  I had very little debris inside the bottle but still rinsed it well several times.  To do that, fill the bottle with water, swirl, dump and repeat several times.  I read about doing a citric acid wash, but they were selling their alcohol, and I'm not, and I feel perfectly safe with my method.

So now here's the part where you fill the bottles with either clear brandy or vodka.  It's not likely the pear will truly flavor the liquor, it's there just for show and you need to use pear brandy in the bottle.  If you were a purist you would make your own pear brandy or pear flavored vodka.  There's lots of info on the internet about that, possibly next year for us.  But we didn't really plan too much ahead, just doing this for fun because we had a tree and it actually worked!  We went to the liquor store and bought it.  The eau de vie de poire that has a pear in it is TOO EXPENSIVE and of course you don't need that because you have your own pear in a bottle.  Buy the bottle without the pear of course and pour it into your pear bottle.  Because it's so expensive we bought pear vodka for the second bottle, it's much cheaper.  Attach pretty labels, cap it, you are done.

Now for the best part!  Drinking it!  I have never had pear brandy or pear vodka before now.  The brandy was great on it's own but I actually preferred it on the rocks.  The vodka was sublime with tonic.  We've only just begun and I'm sure there's many ways to enjoy this lovely stuff.  I found this recipe for a Sidecar.  I'm thinking of doing something with a dessert, maybe a chicken or pork dish? But mostly I want to just look at it.  Eau de vie de poire, you are beautiful!

If you have access to a pear tree or apple tree I hope you'll give this a try next year.  It's really not difficult at all.  I'm going to scout out some thrift store decanters and try for a few more next year.