The Welsh Gardener

I got up early this morning, determined to Be A Responsible Home Owner and do some much-needed weeding and shrub-trimming in the front yard before it got too hot. Quick but satisfying breakfast (Melody’s Maple Granola, yum), soul-empowering Morning Coffee, gardening clothes, and, because I like to sleep without my toes being bitten off, (somewhat abbreviated) cat worship x 5.

During the mainlining enjoyment of Morning Coffee, I wandered over to the window to peek at the outdoor thermometer:

IMG_3963 (1)

I do believe that thermometer reads about 110 degrees F. YIKES.

Oh, come ON, Mother Nature. Give a girl a break. It’s 8:30 in the morning, for dog’s sake.

Le Magnifique Gardinier Français across the street is probably peeking out her front window, shaking her head, muttering polite malédictions at the imagined scourge that is American laziness. Her Welsh husband, the embodiment of I Will Stop Doing All The Things When I Am Dead, will no doubt come knocking on our door, asking in his charming Dr. Who accent if he might help me out by trimming the Monster Sentient Shrubs by our front door.


Shamelessly cowering inside, I silently creep up to take a photo of the Monster Sentient Shrub from behind…

Yes, he is in his late seventies, if he is a day. Yes, I am sure he has arthritis/bad hips/bad back from the way he walks.

Yes, this is the same delightful Welshman who did not let any of that nonsense stop him about a month ago when I came home to find him mowing my lawn.

Oh, the shame of it. Here I am, at least twenty years his junior, married to a gal thirty years his junior, both of us more than able to mow a smallish lawn, and I pull into my driveway to find this gent halfway through mowing our lawn in the 80 degree F heat. To my chagrin, he wouldn’t let me finish the job; he shooed me inside, and proceeded to not only finish up the front lawn, but to mow the side lawns and the back lawn as well.

Oh, and he weed-whacked the edges so they were tidy as the TARDIS’s front doorstep.

I tried offering him cold water, tea (hot/cold), or juice to drink, and a fresh loaf of M’s trademark sourdough bread as a thank you. He politely refused all of it, and blushed at my stammered, repeated Thank You’s.

So you see, I really do not want a repeat of The Welsh Gardener Saves the Day. It is just too humiliating to think that we didn’t do the work ourselves simply because it was “too hot”. (Our Welshman is not stupid. He has lived a long life of farming and construction work, and looks spry enough to chase Tessa around the block. Methinks Not To Worry, as Our Welshman can clearly take care of his own lovely, generous self.)

I will let you know if I go out to fetch the mail and find my front yard suddenly looks like a cover photo for English Garden magazine. (OH FOR DOG’S SAKE, look at the headline smack in the center of this cover:)


The cover copy reads: “Hearts of Gold: Generous Gardeners who conserve, care, and share.” Good Grief.

Full disclosure: The thermometer in the first photo above is mounted on the wall outside the back patio doors. For part of the morning, it sits in the baking heat of the full sun. Thus, the temperature it gives is always several degrees higher than the actual outside air. Still: It’s somewhere over 90 degrees F. At eight-thirty in the morning. IT’S HOT.

Yarn, Anyways

I know that there are many spinners and knitters who prefer not to handle wool over the summer months (something about “sweaty palms”), but I am not one of them. I have been rediscovering the magic of wheel and roving, spindle and top, after not spinning much of anything for over a year (baaaad year, apparently). I am spinning for at least a half-hour a day lately, sometimes more than that. I’m also trying to knit a little each day as well.

I have a goal, you see: I want to Finish Something. I want to Own a Finished Object: Something that started out as a wad of fluff, perhaps, or maybe as glorified string. I want something to post on my Ravelry project page so that it doesn’t look as though I have abandoned the whole idea of making things and run away to Barbados. (Tempting, I admit, but knowing myself, I wouldn’t be able to bear the plane ride without knitting in my hands, sticky wool and all.)

My current project is a test of my skills in spinning-to-spec: I have a hank of yarn that I bought in some fascinating locale, delicately scented (no doubt) with the aroma of Sheep, and it is gorgeous:


3-ply California Variegated Mutant yarn, by Mt. Airy Farm (and yes, there is a bit of blue sparkly spun into the plies!)

Naturally, I have no idea where I got this yarn. I do have the label, however, informing me that this luscious skein is from Mt. Airy Farm in Marshall, VA. A closer glance at the label, and I’m thinking, no wonder this is so lovely, it is 313 yards of smooshy 3-ply California Variegated Mutant yarn,  “from our flock located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains”.  Is it, now? (smush, smoosh, smooose)

In the same bag as the yarn I stored a bump of wool that looks to be a close relative of the CVM yarn: the same soothing light mushroom color, the same softness and smoosh. Unfortunately, it has no label, and as I have no idea where I bought it, I don’t have Clue #1 if the bump belongs with the yarn, or just got shoved into the same bag.


Mystery Bump of Woolly Virtue

That is a really magical bit of woolly, right there. And the yarn is really nice yarn. There is only 313 yards of it, however. But…I am a spinner. I bet I can make a yarn out of that bump of puffy fibre, a yarn that will be fairly close to the other in feel and grist. I snipped off a little sample of the yarn, so I could see what I might be getting myself into:

IMG_3970 (1)

At the top of the photo is a snippet of what the finished yarn looks like: plump, bouncy, smooth, with just a slight inconsistency in grist to keep things interesting. The three individual plies are immediately below the finished yarn on top, and above the loop of finished yarn at the very bottom of the photo. The first thing I noticed was that the three plies are different from one another: the bottom one is tightly spun and a bit thinner than the others; the middle one is super-lofty, and looks as though it has barely been spun at all. The third ply (second from top in the photo) is somewhere in between the other two in loft, grist and twist.

So. All I have to do, it seems, is spin three plies, each about the same in terms of number of fibers drafted, but different in terms of how loose or tight the actual spinning twist is.

(“All I have to do”. Sure thing.)

I started with what for me would be the hardest part: Spinning that middle ply, the lofty, airy, barely-spun ply. I can spin a fine yarn with a tight twist any day; but one with hardly any twist at all? That requires a level of skill in setting up the wheel and maintaining consistent control over drafting that I feared I did not have.

Aside from the bit of yarn at far right that needs to be put through the spin cycle again, well, it looks as though I am more or less in the right neighbourhood.


The actual yarn sample is draped over the bobbin at left–see the loop with the knot above the bobbin’s core?

Apparently, as long as I am present to what I am doing, and listen to what the fluff is trying to tell me, I will be (more or less) all right.


~ A River Is A Person, too…at least in New Zealand, it is.

~ This, from Ursula K. LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea… Haunting and wise and beautiful.

Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying, life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky.

Posted in Knitting, Recipes, Spinning | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Pattern #2 Posted: Baby Hat!

Hang on, folks!
Technical difficulties with posting the pattern…..
I will fix it asap.
The blog software sent this out a day early.
Life is soooo fun sometimes!



AAANNNNDDDDD…it should all be fixed now! Please let me know if you have any troubles downloading the Vine Lace Baby Hat II. (link repeated just in case!)
Thanks for your patience! 



Once upon a time there was an adorable tiny preemie who needed a baby hat, as do all new babies. I designed a pink lace confection for her, and  called it the Vine Lace Baby Hat.

Pink_Vine_Lace_Hat (1)


I put photos on my blog on Knitting Daily, and folks loved the wee hat! I wrote a pattern for it, but it was very basic, and Interweave asked me to write a “real” pattern for the  magazine.





photo by Joe Coca, I believe


I knit this one in a heavy yarn, and it was modelled by the new baby son of an assistant editor (at left).

Soon, I began seeing these little hats all over the place, which made me happy.

A few years later, and I started getting emails that the pattern was no longer available, could we please have more sizes, that sort of thing.


Again, I completely re-did the pattern, find one major error in the middle of the lace pattern (apologies!). So, the new version had corrections, new photos, and new everything.

That new version is now up on Ravelry, Vine Lace Baby Hat II. Free, of course.

You can also download it here for free, clicking on the caption or the photo itself:


Thank you, Elwood, for being such a great model for my Vine Lace Baby Hat II.

As usual, should you feel inspired to leave a token of your apprection, the Tip Jar is open 24/7.

Enjoy. Send me pictures if you make something really cute for someone really cute!

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Newly Edited Versions: Comfort Shawl and Summer Shawlette

Way  back in 2007, when I worked for Interweave Knits, I designed a shawl for the Staff Projects section of the magazine. The challenge behind that particular Staff Project was to created something based on a particular lace pattern, Little Arrowhead Lace.

little arrowhead lace one rpt

I went overboard, as usual.

I had been fascinated by Faroese Shawls, the ones created by working women of the Northern Isles east of the British Isles. These shawls had shoulder shaping worked into them, and were knit with long fronts that could be tied in place. These two features allowed the shawls to stay in place on one’s shoulders as one moved through the many chores of daily life.

Remember that this was nearly ten years ago. Ravelry was still rather brand new. The knitting world was poised on tiptoe, ready to explode into the vibrant, world-wide community that we enjoy today. And what’s more: Not everyone had heard of Faroese Shawls. In fact, at the time, the one source I could find with authentic, researched information and patterns was Myrna Stahman’s Shawls and Scarves: Lace Faroese-Shaped Shawls from the Neck Down & Seamen’s Scarves.


Stahman’s Shawls & Scarves, by Myrna Stahman

This is a fabulous, well-researched book. It is also a rather confusing book, unless you are someone with lots of experience reading lace charts for fun. (Ahem.) But it contains so many wonderful photos and instructions that I bought two copies. (I have no idea why. There are just two copies in my house.)

Once I read through it for the first time, I was on FIRE. I wanted to knit a Faroese-style shawl of my own design.

Yup. Doomed.

There was no lace-charting software at the time, not unless you wanted to get extremely friendly with Excel. So I did what so many other lace designers of the time did: I taped together endless pages of graph paper, laid them out on a big table, and drew out charts in pencil, pencil decorated with many smeary erased bits. It took me freakin’ forever.

Somehow, I managed to finish charting, writing instructions,  and knitting the actual shawl before the issue in question went to press. I called that first shawl the Summer Shawlette; it became a free downloadable pattern on Knitting Daily.

That same year, my neighbour across the street was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. I wanted to make something for her, and I decided to make a slightly larger versoin of the Summer Shawlette for her, only longer, and no lace across the back.

That shawl became the Comfort Shawl.


Both shawls have been available on Knitting Daily for quite a long time as free patterns. I am making them available here in a combination PDF, one PDF for both shawls.

I updated this version with all the errata, re-did the charts, re-wrote the confusing bits, and in general, this is almost a new pattern. (You are welcome.)

I had a discussion over cost with my wife. She watched me put hours into this new PDF, and she thinks I ought to honour my work by selling the dual pattern PDF. I feel that the original versions of both shawls were free for a long time, so this ought to be free for a while, at least.

Here’s what I came up with:

The pattern is free for those who cannot afford it, at least until midnight December 31, 2016. If you have a bit of money now, and wish to help support my work on further patterns, as well as on this website, please use the Tip Jar (in menu at a top) to drop in whatever you feel the pattern is worth to you, or to express your appreciation, or what ever other reasons you may have. I hope that seems fair.

I will also have the pattern up on Ravelry as soon as I can work that out.

I hope the patterns bring you happiness, and comfort to those who need it. And don’t hesitate to let me know of any errors!


(Click on caption link or photo itself below to download.)

P.S. These photos, as well as the ones in the PDF, were taken last year, BEFORE I had made extensive corrections and update to the patterns. The new shawls have differently shaped panels, due to the new, improved shoulder shaping. New photos coming soon to a PDF near you.


Posted in Knitting | 5 Comments

Wandering but not Lost

You folks are the best! So many great suggestions in the comments on my last post  for That Which “Shawl” Be Next On My Needles. (Heh) Your suggestions gave me a great excuse to go wandering around the Ravelry pattern database. (It is so easy to blame those who are not in the room, isn’t it?)

rav pattern DB sshot_

Thus, one day, I innocently opened the Rav pattern library to search out some of your suggestions…and that was my first and stupidest mistake. That database is one of the most dangerous places on earth. It grabs you with its amigurimi-shaped claws, and forces you to spend hours and hours wandering its maze of Entrancing Things To Knit (or Crochet, if that is your particular drug-of-choice).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Slideshow! I’ve never used a slideshow before! Coooool-i-o!

Cream/grey mittens on black background: villiputti’s prototype for Jatuli-Lapaset
Rust labyrinth panel: Walls of Troy / Chartres Cathedral Maze by Woolly Thoughts
Cream/burgundy mittens on white background: villiputti’s updated Jatuli, with pattern

Many a knitter has emerged from the clutches of the Library‘s labyrinthine claws stumbling and gaunt, hair in a tangle, sheep slippers on backwards/on the wrong feet, their cold, sticky, empty coffee cup in one hand—a hand that is piteously reaching forward as a trembling voice croaks out a plea for More Coffee, Please.


I have learned to set a timer.

That, or I know that it is only a matter of a few hours before I am encircled by Five Very Hungry Felines, felines who are not above knocking every single object off every flat surface in the house in order to get my attention and my acknowledgement that The Gushy Food Must Appear Now.


Does Zoé look hungry to you? How about impatient? How about angry, shall we go with angry?


Also, my bladder continues to insist that I tend to its needs and desires. What an uppity organ indeed.

I truly do blame the pattern library for the fact that this post is ten eleven days late. I wrote the first part on May 31, then stopped to find “just a few pattern photos in Rav”…and then I wasn’t heard from for days. With a nod to said uppity organ named above, I feel it is only right that I pass on a bit of important advice.

Hints for a successful journey through the Library

Before entering any keywords into that wee, innocent-looking Ravelry pattern search box:

Pee first.

And get comfortable. Maybe even make sure you have food and water nearby, and that the kids, the cats, and the hamsters are being looked after by someone who is not you.

Even Better: Don’t Get Lost in the Library.
Just in case, however: Be Prepared.

Many of the patterns you suggested were those with all sorts of amusing shapes, shapes created by short rows, and sometimes, augmented with gradient yarns. The keywords “Short Rows” plus “Gradient Yarns”, just so you know, equal one very wide, very deep, completely endless Black Hole of Wonderful Things to Make.

I realized that I was going to be a bit busy for the next few days. That is when I remembered that it is always a good idea to Pee First before embarking on any adventure.

Anyway. I voluntarily (and happily) stepped into the Minotaur’s lair, wandering the far corners of Rav, discovering oodles (“oodles”! Where does this girl get her vocabulary, you ask…) of neckpieces, shawlettes, wraps, and even skirts and tops featuring gradients and short-rows.

Tiny knitted monsters wander a wooden maze

Minitaurs by Anna Hrachovec

From what I saw, the best of them, or at least the most intriguing patterns for me, were those which combined short-row knitting with the use of yarn dyed in gradients (or other sorts of colour progressions, such as ombres).

Fun Colour Factoid: A gradient is a series of colours arranged according to their position on the colour wheel, where the series begins with one colour, and then gradually blends through steps on the wheel until it ends with a  different colour entirely. An ombre is a series of tints/shades of the same colour, going from dark to light hues, or light to dark. Examples: Crescent Bay, by Anniken Allis, is an interesting rainbow shawl–a rainbow is one example of a gradient. Twin Leaf Crescent, by Michele Berstein, demonstrates an ombre effect.

The longer I looked and clicked, the deeper into that particular rabbit hole I descended.


Rigoles, by maylin Tri’Coterie Designs


It is true, in fact, that the further you wander into the pages and pages of search results, the more complex and off-the-beaten-path patterns you will find, mixed in with the dozens of this-looks-familiar patterns. Try searching for “gradient shawl” and, once the results pop up, hop onto page 12-13 or thereabouts. That’s where the fun stuff really starts showing up. I found Rigoles (photo above) on page 19, near the bottom. 

My own adventures in colourful short rows

I have completed one short-row, gradient-yarn project, Spectra by Stephen West.


Sandi’s Spectra

I really enjoyed making it, even if it did take forever. On the positive side, my naturopath was so enamoured of it that he offered to buy it right off my shoulders. When I declined, he offered to pay me to make him another one. He even agreed to my (rather high) price. Unfortunately, lack of time on my part meant Dr. Fashionable never got his scarf. (He had GREAT socks, not handmade, of course, but still, GREAT SOCKS.)

I have another short-row project that has been on the needles for quite some time now: Leftie, by Martina Behm, whose designs many of you recommended. Leftie’s been in the meditation pond for more than a year; I can’t quite figure out why. I love the colors I chose, I love the yarn. Perhaps my brain is just in a different space now then when I wound all those cute wee colorful balls. Hm. It is pretty, and not very hard, and I am more than halfway done with it…

leftie colours

Yarn gradient for Leftie

Despite my failure-to-complete my poor Leftie, I was intrigued again by the short-row technique.

I am not one to fool myself: with respect to knitting, I am a Pefectionist. If I tried to get a gradient effect juuuuusst riiiigghhtt at this point in my life, it would consume far too many brain cells for gorgeous summer days.

I decided to begin at the beginning (shock and awe!), and try a project where there was no elaborate colour shift going on; where the short-rows were mostly there to create interesting shapes. I chose Wingspan, also by the clever Martina Behm.


Tease, tease, tease: yarn for my Wingspan

I like Wingspan’s simplicity and its quirky shape; I also like that I could, if I chose to, make several, using different styles of yarn (gradient, ombre, pooling, etc) and experiment with the different effects caused by different styles.



I am going to stop right there for today, mostly because I made a discovery during my lovely time strolling through the labyrinth that is the Ravelry pattern library:

I discovered that knitters on the other side of the pond (and north a bit) were playing with short-rows in ways that truly ought not to be allowed.

I will share some of those discoveries next time.

I can say this with some surety, as I have already written half the post, and have collected the photos to go in it. 

A bit of edit-and-polish, and then it shall be all yours to enjoy.

Namasté, kind readers.

Posted in Knitting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Yarn Revolt

Here is my current progress on the Serenity Shawl:


Yup. I frogged it.

Sometimes yarn can be very vocal as to what it wants to be and what it does not want to be. The yarn will express its thoughts through common signals, such as tangling, splitting, or having the ball fling itself off your lap and fly right on into the recently used fireplace, for example. When odd and slightly passive-aggressive events begin to happen in the vicinity of your work-in-progress, you know that your precious yarn is clamouring for emancipation.

In the case of my not-so-serene shawl, I discovered I was ripping back all the time. I have been knitting since my age was a single digit. I have been teaching knitting, and lace, and shawls, and sweaters, and fixing mistakes, for about a decade now. And yet here I was, with an admittedly easy shawl pattern, and for the life of me, I couldn’t seem to do anything right. I made little mistakes, counting mistakes, big mistakes, dropped yarnover mistakes, using the wrong slanted decrease mistakes, all of it. I valiantly kept trying, because I was enchanted by the idea of a shawl named Serenity being knit in a yarn hand-dyed by a sick friend. Also, I kept telling myself that this rip-out session would be the last time I ripped out, because all would, of course, go smoothly the next time.

Because, after all: This was me we were talking about. Sandi the Knitter. Able-to-knit-a-sock-in-a-dark-movie-theatre Sandi. Designer-of-a-rather-fancy-arse-circular-shawl-pattern Sandi. Sandi- who-has-never-met-a-lace-stitch-she-didn’t-like Sandi.

No WAY that Sandi would make that many mistakes in an 8-stitch lace repeat pattern. (Oh. Wait. It’s only a 6-stitch pattern. Even more embarrassing.) And so The Great Knitter Me would rip back, carefully put all 200 or so stitches back on the needle, and begin again. I knew what I had done wrong, so no more problems, right?

No such luck. I just kept flailing, not only in the lace parts, but in the stockinette parts as well. (I can’t bear to tell you that I messed up the garter sections. I purled. Yes, really. Oh, the shame…)

At some point, I held up the in-progress shawl, and realized with chagrin (and perhaps an extra-spicy word or three) that my shawl-in-progress had earrings.

mistake with stitch marker.png

See the charming wee shawl earring? Silver ring, with a shiny blue bead, just left of center at about ten o’clock. Lovely.

Such lovely shawl jewelry!

Except, of course, they weren’t earrings, they were two of my favourite stitch markers, knitted right into the work, securely strung onto the yarn. I love my little sparkly markers, so no way I was cutting those suckers apart to get them out. That’s when I admitted that I could hear the yarn screaming, and decided to put all that lovely yarn back into the ball. The yarn clearly wanted OUT, so I released it back into the wilds of my stash.

IMG_2160 (1)

A handy reference photo, which ought to help me avoid permanently adorning future lacework.

Ripping it out was quite a relief, actually. I found that I would rather work on projects that do not annoy me. Go figure.

This, of course, begs the question: What would I rather be knitting? Turns out that, even when I have all of my stash to play with, even though the internet is my oyster as far as shawl patterns go, and even though I have spent an unconscionable amount of time on Ravelry staring at pretty stitches, I am stumped. None of the patterns are reaching out their greedy little grabby hands from within my screen. All the patterns look more or less the same to me at this point. I find myself looking more at the photography background, the lighting, and the model’s hair than I do at the actual Knitted Thing.

That was last night. Today, I would love to say “All Better now, look what I have knitted overnight!” but I am still stuck. My usual solution for stuckédness is to Just Do It. So I picked the #1 sock pattern on Ravelry, Hermione’s Every Day Socks, grabbed Random Purple Yarn, and cast on.

hermione socks dreamsinfiber

These are by Dreamsinfiber on Ravelry.

*Tolerable. However, my hands positively ITCH to be working on a shawl.*

What do you knit when you want to knit everything? Have any pattern suggestions for me?

Random Cute Internet Animal

puppy with jammies and duck slippers

It would appear I am not the only one who loves being in their jammies and duckie slippers…


Posted in Knitting | 14 Comments

Three Bags Full

Hello, Spring!

Spring is gently sneaking up upon us here.

front flowerbed spring

It snuck up so gently, in fact, that I have not had a chance to whack back the rose branches overhanging the walkway. (The post person is not amused.)

This is our first spring in this house, and it seems as though every day or so, we get a new Garden Surprise: flowers, or buds, or simply leaves which I know will become flowers.

I had no idea that these would be blooming under the vent:

rock w redwht tulips

As for surprises, I got another surprise this week, in form of a quite-full grocery bag.

little bag

One of my fellow choir members at church (let’s call her Mary) came to Sunday warm-ups with a good-sized grocery bag, stuffed to the gills. Mary asked me if I “did weaving”, and I replied with a puzzled “Yes…?” She looked down at the bright yellow bag in her hands, and told me that a friend of hers (“Agnes”) had been given a bag full of “weaving materials” by some generous soul. Agnes doesn’t weave, however, and in fact knows nothing about weaving. Nevertheless, someone had given Agnes the bag of weaving materials, as Mary said: “Because Agnes was so crafty” and because Agnes “would surely know what to do with it”.

Curious what sort of “weaving materials” the bag might contain, I opened it and found this:

little bag insides

That is about 2 lbs of beautifully carded (if slightly matted from being in the plastic bag for a while), hand-dyed wool and silk, with bits of silk noil and wool tweed mixed in. If I had to guess, I would say that the fibre is either BFL (Bluefaced Leicester, for those who don’t know) or something close. The blend is about 80% BFL, and 20% silk, somewhere around there.


Bluefaced Leicester lambs

In other words, this is two pounds of truly gorgeous fluff. (And m&th-free, fortunately.) I just sort of stood there with my mouth open, fondling the roving. Mary asked, “So, is this something you can use? Like in your weaving?”

I struggled not to laugh too much. “Oh, yes. I can definitely put this to good use. But it’s not weaving stuff, it’s wool for making yarn, using my spinning wheel.” (Spindles seemed just too far outside her fence, I could tell.) “This will make lovely sweater yarn, and there’s plenty here to make enough for a sweater. Would your friend like me to spin the yarn and then give the yarn back to her so she can knit with it?”

Mary: “Oh, Agnes doesn’t knit, or do anything like that. She wouldn’t have a use for the yarn. She’ll just be happy to get rid of it, to give it to someone who will enjoy it.”

I began to thank Mary for the bag of lovely fluff, and she put a hand on my arm, smiling at me.


Rosie, age 7, thinks her year-old sibling Naboo makes a perfect pillow. Both are BFLs.

“Well, yes, I am pleased you want this bag, but this isn’t the bag I was talking about. Sorry, I must have been unclear.”

“What do you mean?”

“This isn’t the bag Agnes wants me to give to you. It’s just a sample so I could show you without having to drag in the rest of it.”

(A bit of worry creeps into my brain.) “The rest of it?”

“Why, yes, that’s what I was trying to tell you. There are another two bags, bigger bags, of this same stuff. Agnes says you can have the whole lot if you can use it.”

(carefully:) “How big are the other bags?”

“Oh, Agnes figures if she packs it firmly, she can get those two bags stuffed into a bag the size of one of those 32-gallon trash bags, just so it is easier to carry.”

big bag

(Easier to carry a 32-gal stuffed-with-fluff bag? Easier than what, exactly?)

Patiently, Mary asks, “So…do you want the rest of it? It is quite a large bag, perhaps even one of those giant leaf/yard bags.”

A bit shellshocked, I answer with the only sensible reply possible: “Of course I want the rest!”

I think the big garden bag full o’ fluff weighs about 10 lbs.

big bag insides

Give or take.

Next Question

What the heck am I going to do with about 12 pounds of lovely BFL/silk roving?

I don’t know yet, but methinks it will be great fun to figure that out.

Suggestions, of course, are more than welcome.  🙂

Until Next Time

I know, no chispas, boooo. (“Chispa”, for those new to the blog, means “spark” in Spanish. Over the years I have regularly posted a few links to articles or images which I hope will be “little sparks of inspiration” for you.

Coming up: New Patterns in my Rav store! I am pretty excited about this. I just put the finishing touches on my new template, and will be formatting PDFs and posting them soon. I will also post them here, of course, so you get the first look!


Tessa says:
Don’t let all those sweet breezes, bright flowers, and sunny blue skies get you down, you hear?

Posted in Knitting | 10 Comments

In search of Serenity

This ought to look familiar if you’ve been following along lately:




Yes, that is the Serenity Shawl. And yes, it is STILL the Serenity shawl, despite its first appearance way back when.

Author’s Note: It is 5:28 PM Monday night, and I am just about to publish this post. I went back in search of the first post about this shawl, which I figured ought to have been out around November 2015…only to find that, although I had written the post, I had never finished it and pushed Go. Thus, there is no previous, information-rich post to link to with things like the pattern name and What In Heck Is That Gorgeous Yarn.

I am really, really tired. I shall amend this egregious error in the next post. Promise.

Right after I fire my editor.  😉

From the looks of things, it does’t appear that I have made very much progress in the intervening weeks. This is not for lack of trying, mind you. This is one of two projects I carry with me everywhere, and work on in odd moments. It’s easy, and the pattern is pretty enough to make other folks think I am quite clever to be knitting it.

Uh, no. No cleverness here. I am not sure there has even been much Working on the Correct Side of the Piece, as lately, I have found odd holes and bits that look suspiciously like short rows in places where no short rows ought to be. And certainly, there has not been much Careful Reading and Following of the Pattern, because I sometimes wonder if I have gotten my knitting projects mixed up and am knitting the chart for my socks onto the shawl, while my socks are turning into very pretty lace floral accessories.


Unfortunately, I have been rather mindlessly repeating my lack of clever over the past bit of time: pick up the project after a few days; study it for a few minutes to see where I think I might be in the pattern; figure out where I think I might go next; knit, yarn over, decrease, and purl for a while; stuff the thing back into the bag when Life or dinner intervenes; and rinse repeat. Eventually, after working a lot of promising-looking rows, I lay the shawl out on my knee to admire the pattern, only to find little or no relationship between the Real True Chart and whatever my stitches are up to.

I knew I had hit a crisis point when I finally, FINALLY thought I had my groove down, only to be brought back to earth with a most ungroovy thud. Attempting to thwart my overblown Knitting Ego  (“oh, THAT? That’s only seven rows and eleven stitches wide, I can remember that, no problem.”), I made a wee copy of just the chart and pinned it to the inside of my project bag, thereby, I hoped, putting said Knitting Ego in her place.

To my credit, I actually did manage to set aside Le Ego long enough to check the wee chart copy now and then. However.

I found, after one particularly curse-filled inspection session, that I had been looking at the wee chart copy Upside Down.

It might not have mattered. I badly wanted it not to matter, in fact. Except that, of course, in this case, it did matter.

K2tog upside down? Is an ssk.

Rippity rip rip rip.

I have not yet found my serenity. There is still hope, however. I redid the little chart for my project bag, this time writing TOP in red ink across the appropriate side of the paper.

I will finish this shawl. Whatever, and I do mean whatever, it takes.


Author’s Note The Second: I already told you about knitting from the upside down chart, didn’t I? Well, well. Um. Sorry. I hope that I at least told the story better the second time ’round.

Here, let me distract you with photos of adorable fibre animals…

Alpacas Disguised as Chispas

It was a gorgeous sunny, if bitingly cold, day last Saturday, and Melody and I could not bear to be inside another minute. We bundled up in our adorable matching down coats (they had purple, black and brown, what colour would YOU pick?) and drove down the road to the 15th Annual Alpaca Ontario Show, which bills itself as the largest Alpaca show in Canada. Given the sheer numbers of alpacas in attendance (over 200), whose owners brought them from places as far away as Vancouver and Alberta, it would seem the billing may have been a tad modest, perhaps.


This little one looks just like my Ravelry ravatar!

What I did not get were photos of the alpacas being shown in the arena. I’d never watched alpaca judging before, so I sat for a while and quickly became fascinated, pulled in by the personalities of the people as well as the animals. I rooted (quietly) for my favorites, and was glad when one of them won first prize in one of the categories.


While trying to take a photo of this young lady…


…it appeared someone else wanted their photo taken, too.


Here’s your own solo portrait, my friend. Smile for the camera!

One of the folks showing an alpaca was a small lad of about five. His alpaca, a small juvenile, towered over him, despite Young Lad’s swanky, too-large cowboy hat and authentically dusty boots. I do wish I had gotten a picture at the end, when the top judge asked everyone to give the little fellow a special round of applause for his showmanship and accomplishment at this, his very first show!


The Spice flows strongly through this one…

I am so glad my iPhone cannot talk. If it could, it would be mocking me: “Enough alpacas already! You’ve filled up the entire cloud with pictures of the beasties, and they all look the same! C’mon, admit it: You’ve taken at least two photos of every single alpaca in the barn.”

I can neither confirm nor deny this remark.


There is one in EVERY crowd.


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