Thursday, March 26, 2015


Pacific Beach blues, baby...

You can’t talk about San Diego—and most of California, for that matter—without mentioning the beach.  I grew up on the East Coast, so I get the lure of the water.  Granted, the lure isn’t quite so strong in February, but someone my age shouldn’t be spending many hours in public in a bathing suit anyway.  Just being near enough to see the Pacific is a sufficient treat.  Which is the perfect excuse for spending our morning in Pacific Beach.

Start with breakfast at:

Broken Yolk
1851 Garnet Ave, 
San Diego, CA 92109
858-270-YOLK (9655)

I don’t know if the “order online” feature will help you cut through the crowds that often frequent this true breakfast eatery, but if you’re inclined to do take-out breakfast on the beach, it might be worth a shot.  I’ve never quite understood the allure of chicken and waffles, but I understand banana Nutella crepes just fine.  If you’re feeling competitive, go for the “Iron Man” or “Iron Woman” special; a dozen-egg omelette filled with mushrooms, cheese, and onions while smothered in chili with home fries and two biscuits.  The thing is served on a pizza pan!  You’ve got one hour to put it all away and earn your spot on the Hall of Fame Plaque…if you dare.

You’re going to need to walk off whatever you ate, so spend the next hour on the walkway that runs the length of Pacific Beach.  Chuckle at the “Office” and “School” labeled posts that line the beach or play “I’d choose that house” with some of the fabulous beachfront properties you pass by.  When the wind and waves have wound you down, head for today’s fiber fix:

Needlecraft Cottage
870 Grand Avenue, 
San Diego, California 92109

This superbly stocked shop is a fixture in the Pacific Beach community. The shop’s been around for over 50 years, with current owner Liz Walters at the helm for the last 13.  “We want people to be happy,” Liz maintains, and with the depth of fabulous fiber and selection of classes, she’s clearly reaching that goal.  

Liz’s strong partnership with local yarn vendor Mira Cole of Baah Yarn means the store has the best selection of this exquisitely hued fiber anywhere.  The colors!  The kits!  The perfect yarn weights for the San Diego climate!  It’s all here.   And what isn’t here is in the separate building for classes and other events.  You owe it to yourself to check out the full range of classes in designer Marie Fisher’s “Knitting Academy”—there’s some great sessions in there.

There were loads of projects to catch the eye, but here are a few of my favorites:

That's Mira, by the way
Reflection Shawl
Pick a skein each of any two contrasting colors of Baah’s Aspen merino-cashmere-silk blend and Needlecraft Cottage will supply you with this clever pattern.  Basic and yet with a little flair, this would make an excellent first shawl for a novice knitter, or the perfect gift done up in school colors for your favorite co-ed.

LaJolla Shores Scarf
Indulge in the vibrant colors of Baah LaJolla with this versatile pattern by Marie Fisher.  You’ll get different results depending on what fiber you choose—fingering, lace, sport, or DK weight.  Everyone needs a good go-to lace scarf pattern, and this one could quickly become your favorite.

Woolworth Building Tee
A well-designed knit tee is a thing of beauty—something you can dress up or down and always be comfortable.  Eileen Adler’s design uses 2-3 skeins of Baah LaJolla to craft this tailored, textured top.  You can get the pattern either from Needlecraft Cottage or directly from Eileen herself.  I especially love the bottom edge—so elegant and yet you could match it with a pair of jeans just as easily.

Salt and Sand tank
Looking for some warm-weather style?  Consider this basic tank with a snazzy ruffle detail.  You could go neutral, but why would you when you can do this up in some of the spectacular colors Baah’s LaJolla offers?  You know this one’s well designed; it’s from Veera Valimaki—the designer who gave us the Color Affection shawl.

image courtesy of Marie Fisher
Uliuli Wai Shawl
Who could resist this beautiful, lacy shawl done up in Needlecraft Cottage’s exclusive, signature color “Pacific Beach Blue”?  Two skeins of LaJolla handpainted super wash merino in fingering weight is going to make this masterpiece an eye-catcher for sure.  Marie Fisher’s pattern blends a nice basic stockinette top with two panels of distinctive lace. I can hardly wait to cast this on!

Once your shopping bag is full, indulge in a DestiKNITions tradition:  desert for lunch!

Make the short drive to the Hillcrest neighborhood by Balboa Park to arrive at:

Extraordinary Deserts
2929 Fifth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103

There is another location in little Italy, but this one is the original, and has a intimate, romantic feeling that just ads to the gastronomic bliss.  Their website hails them as one of San Diego’s finest first date establishments, and it's not hard to see why.  Cakes, cookies, tarts, everything looked exquisite.  The Shangri-La and Passion Fruit Ricotta came highly recommended, but I went straight for the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” star the Chocolate Dulce de Leche.  This weighs in as the first slice of OMG chocolate cake I couldn’t bring myself to finish in one sitting.  Not cheap, but worth every single dime.  Don’t miss this place!

Spend a little while wandering the fun and funky Hillcrest neighborhood—visiting Bread and Cie if you need even more baked goods, or enjoying Balboa Park (but that may need a day of its own).  When you’re ready head back downtown to

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
San Diego Avenue and Twiggs Street

A variety of small museums, shops, and restaurants make up this unique tourist attraction that has pretty much something for everyone. The site depicts the area’s transformation from Mexican pueblo to American settlement, showcasing how the cultures converged.  Sure, it’s educational, but it's also just plain fun.  I saw the best selection of Dover historic books and paper dolls I’ve seen in ages, some truly lovely sterling silver jewelry, and a tin Christmas tree I would have taken home in a heartbeat if it fit in my luggage (it didn’t).  Where else are you going to find a place like the Old Town House of Jerky and Root Beer?  If you want to grab something more substantial after our sugar-laden midday meal, I suggest a panini from Rust, the general store/eatery.   Don’t eat too much--a fabulous dinner awaits us at:

Miguel’s Cocina
2444 San Diego Ave
San Diego, CA 92110

Another joint upholding the “Taco Tuesday” trend, Miguel’s was a recommendation from Liz at Needlecraft Cottage and several other sources.  Offering their own parking is a big plus in Old Town, too.  I went for the fajitas—which were splendid—but all four diners in my party loved their meals.  Sitting outside on the patio beside the fireplace was the perfect atmosphere despite the “this almost never happens” rainstorm.  They let us linger a long while to chat after dinner—an atmosphere you can’t always find in popular tourist spots these days.  Knitting on the patio by the fire with an excellent margarita?  What better way to end a two-day whirlwind taste of SanDiego’s fiber offerings!

Up next, we tackle the Uliuli shawl—will another top down shawl get the best of me?  Only time and stitches will tell…

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Dipping my toes in...

Having a reason to go to San Diego in February is one of life’s great pleasures.  When my daughter moved out there in late 2014, my first thought was “beaches and nice weather.”  My next thought was, “I wonder how many yarn shops are out there?”

The weather was fine, and there were quite a few yarn shops, so these next two posts will just dip our toes into the water (pun intended) of two of San Diego’s fiber arts establishments.  It won’t be my last trip, I guarantee, so there will be more chances to explore further in the coming months.  Let’s get right to it, shall we?

LaMesa is an area slightly inland of the coast.  This isn't a touristy locale to be sure, but it is a walkable downtown with some rather fun spots along the main route of La Mesa Boulevard.

Every DestiKNITions adventure starts with breakfast and coffee, so pull up to:

Cosmos Coffee
8278 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA 91941

If it’s nice out, enjoy the patio seating and scope out the stores you want to hit after lunch. Wherever you sit, make sure you try the Mexican Mocha with your breakfast sandwich or bagel. It’s a house speciality. We weren’t there for lunch, but should you need to do lunch here the paninis looked yummy.  Not a huge menu, but nicely done and varied given the 6am - 8pm hours.  Their bread comes from Bread and Cie—a name I heard many times during my travels—and they locally source almost everything.  No big chain write-your-name-on-a-paper-cup here, people—I love that you get your mocha in a real mug.  It always tastes better that way, in my opinion.

Note:  If you want a full breakfast, my sources say to head to Swami’s, but I can’t give you a personal account since I didn’t have the chance to eat there.

Caffeine and carbs fully loaded, head on down the road a bit to our fiber fix for the day:

Yarn & Thread Expressions
7882 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA  91942
619-460-YARN (9276)

Sometimes you walk into a store and you just know you’ll be there a while.  The welcome hits the minute you open the door, and you see the telltale signs:  a cute dog, a table full of chattering knitters, color and texture and alluring projects everywhere.  

Carol and Squeaky
If the yarn-bombed tree outside wasn’t hint enough, each of these elements combines to achieve the inclusive, relaxing atmosphere owner Carol Fuller strives to create.  “There are no attitudes or cliques here—we want everyone to feel comfortable enough to relax and learn,” says Fuller, who left the high-tech world for something with a little more texture and friendships.  

Carol listens to what customers ask for in both selection and value.  “I look for real quality at a price point I know my customers want.”  The store boasts a huge selection of sock yarns because of that weight’s versatility in San Diego’s weather.  And it’s not just knitting; the store enthusiastically welcomes crocheters and weavers as well.  Local yarn companies and notions suppliers fill the shelves with US products whenever possible.   They are known for their Knit-Alongs, but if you can’t commit, Thursday night sit-and-knits should suit the bill beautifully.

Two things catch your eye immediately. One is Squeaky, the shop Malti-poo adored by staff and customers alike.  The other is the pair of knitted sock monkeys who have joined Squeaky as the shop mascots.  The monkeys get a complete range of seasonal outfits, and had a full-scale monkey wedding a while back that people are still talking about.

Some projects to consider:

Basic Dress Socks
The pattern from Unicorn Books and Crafts will take any good sock or fingerling weight yarn and whip up a really novice-friendly pair of socks.  You can never have too many solid, sure-fire sock patterns, and this one is one of Carol’s go-to resources.

Wonderful Wallaby Sweater
I’ve see this Carol Anderson pattern before and marveled at how customizable it is.  With no seaming and fully scalable to a host of sizes from baby to linebacker, this pattern should be in every knitter’s toolbox.  How much yarn you’ll need will depend on your chosen size, but a standard woman’s version requires 12-1400 yards of worsted weight wool.  collar or no collar, pocket or no pocket, hood or no hood, casual chunky or tailored dk—the possibilities are endless!

Flutterby Hooded Blanket
James C. Brett yarns designed this adorable, super soft double moss stitch baby blanket to whip up in two skeins of Flutterby.  I can’t think of a new mom who wouldn’t just love something this soft and cuddly for their new little bundle of joy.

Celtic Princess Braided Scarf
Our Knit-Along from Yarn & Thread Expressions is this exclusive shop pattern.  If you want an eye-catching set, get the matching hat (a separate pattern) and a third skein of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, but two will be enough to craft this pretty scarf.  As with most cable projects, make sure you stick with light or bright colors and just a hint of variegation if not a solid.

With all your fiber goodies firmly in hand, it’s time for lunch.  Head just down the street to:

Tamarind Thai
7970 University Ave 
(at the corner of LaMesa Blvd)
LaMesa, CA  92942

This cozy little place offers a neighborhood atmosphere with a touch of the exotic.  For a small shop, they offer a large menu—and my favorite is that they’ll tailor the spice level to your preference.  You tell them on a scale of 1-10 how much you want your tongue to burn.  Spice wuss that I am, I truly appreciate that ability to say “0, if you can go that low.”  I asked for a recommendation of the house specialities, and was very pleased with my crispy duck salad.  If you need dessert, go for the mango with sweet sticky rice—a unique treat.

After lunch, let yourself wander farther down La Mesa Blvd until you reach the town’s center—called La Mesa Village.  Look around, and you’ll spy a collection of thrift stores like I have never seen before.  If you’re into thrift shops, this is the place to have fun.  If not (I’m not), there are plenty of other places to get your commerce on.  My favorites were:

8219 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA 91942

I loved everything about this charming studio of card and book creator Chris Shea—most especially that it is “closed on Tuesdays for inspiration gathering.”  A selection of thoughtful little gift books, and gift cards for many occasions can be found both here, at the website, and a nation-wide collection of retailers.  It thrills me when artists like this succeed!

Maxwell's House of Books
8285 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA  91942

Because independent book stores always deserve your patronage!  As in most great bookstores, this one has a cozy attic/library feeling, thoughts, recommendations, and quotes tacked to the walls and shelves—and a charismatic owner. Evidently Craig Maxwell is as much appreciated as the stock. This quote I found on Yelp summed it up:  “The owner is like Mr. Rogers meets boot camp. A patriot of reading and community!”

Handful of Wildflowers
8323 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA  91942

Little artsy gift shops are a personal favorite of mine.  When I’m looking for a gift, I’m extra-pleased to find something no one else has.  Fresh and friendly, this store has unique items including lots of artisan glass.  I became a fan of Trapp Candles during my visit to Kansas City—nothing else smells as good—and you can get them here.  The shop hosts classes, too.  My favorite touch?  The website counts the days SINCE Christmas!

Volunteer Walk
How can you not love a town that gives its volunteers their own walk of fame?  Spend a few minutes in this cozy little streetside garden appreciating all the good people who give of themselves to make the world a better place.

Mostly Mission
8360 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA 91942

I’ve long been a collector of mission furnishings—the arts and crafts style championed by Frank Lloyd Wright.   There wasn’t a single thing in this store I wouldn’t take home immediately.  Stunning , quality pieces of furniture and artwork, home accessories and even textiles.  The clocks alone had me salivating.  Tiles, teapots, prints, lamps…it’s all here.  

Shopping at Mostly Mission, we kept hearing all this loud chatter, and asked what was going on.  Here’s what we heard:

The AubreyRose Tea Room
8362 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa CA  91942

There was so much laughter and fun being had in this room!  I would have loved to stay and have an elegant high tea, but there wasn’t an empty table in the place—you may want to call ahead.  Delicate, delectable goodies, oodles of china worthy of Downton Abbey, linen napkins, doilies—the whole atmosphere perfectly combines fun and frill.  It would be the perfect place to cap off your trip to La Mesa.

Hop in your car and drive the twenty minutes or so to downtown San Diego for rest of your day.  You’ll have a chance to walk off those scones and clotted cream as you wander: 

San Diego's Embarcadero
Stretching down toward the Broadway Pier, this waterside walkway houses several museums, restaurants, and a lovely view.  Spend an hour in the various ships of the Maritime Museum of San Diego or the USS Midway Museum, sip a cocktail as you watch the sun go down at Anthony’s Fish Grotto, or nab some souvenirs and really good fudge at Seaport Village.

When you are ready for dinner, you owe it to yourself to make a stop at:

Rockin' Baja Lobster
3890 Twiggs St
San Diego, CA 92110
This crazy-happy Old Town cantina serves up literal buckets of seafood with a Mexican flare and a contagious party atmosphere.  We scored a table easily early on a Friday night, but if you plan to get here later you should be prepared to wait a bit.  And there’s Taco Tuesday—a $2 taco this good sounds too awesome to miss!  Massive Signature Buckets—three of us split the “Big Baja Bucket for Two” and still couldn’t finish—are the way to go here.  If you get the “Shipwreck” drink “served in a giant fishbowl,” take a photo—you may not remember it otherwise.

You can peek around Old Town, but save the visits for tomorrow.  You’ve had a full day already and there’s more to come in the next installment.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March Readers Who Knit - Nancy Davis

This year we are featuring readers who enjoy knitting as well as books.  DestiKNITters, say hello to reader Nancy Davis!

Nancy, what’s on your needles right now?
I always have more than one project going at a time.  An early teacher told me an alternate project can be a good thing when a problem arises.  I am mostly working at making Chunky Knit Slipper Socks by Cynthia Miller. I have directed knitting friends to the pattern on Ravelry.  Everyone wants a pair.  I'm using Brava Bulky from KnitPicks now but also have some bulky wool that I may use for another pair.  I have also been teaching myself double knitting by making dishcloths from some stashed cotton.  My favorite though is the Double-Take Tee from Espace Tricot (also on Ravelry).  A gift of some beautiful Malabrigo Rastita is coming along nicely if slowly.

What feels like your favorite/greatest knitting accomplishment?
I love knitting with colors and making my own designs using bits from here and there.  My Lusekoftesque Mitts were from a pattern and they pleased me about as much as anything I've done.

What feels like the worst knitting mistake/foible/wrong choice you’ve ever made?  
I have sweaters still on needles that I know won't fit or I just won't finish and their little voices call to me in the early dark of morning.  "Do SOMETHING with me!"

Straight or circular needles?  

Metal or wood needles?  
Both.  It depends on what is free in the size and length I have and what kind of yarn and project I'll be working on.

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate?
Yes!  Dark, milk and white in that order.

Coffee or tea?  
Hot coffee, ice tea.  No sugar.

What’s your favorite Allie novel?  

What are you reading now?  

Do you have a favorite knitting character from a book, movie, or television show?  
Mme LeFarge in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is so deliciously evil and that is documented in her knitting.

Give a shout out to your favorite local yarn store:  
String Theory
477 N. Main St.
Glen Ellyn, Illinois  60137

Nancy's prize package includes a copy of The Lawman's Oklahoma Sweetheart for herself, a copy of Family Lessons for her friend, a ten-skein pack of Cascade 220 in Atlantic Blue, and a clear Cascade tote bag to hold it all!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Zoom Loom Shelby Sheep Kit from The Woolery - Done!


It's adorable.  I know it's not knitting, and it's arts and crafts, and it fell soundly outside of most of my skill sets, but I love it anyway.

And it doesn't look anything like an insect.

A few onlookers raised eyebrows at the rainbow fleece, but I have to say I think it's the best part.  If God actually made rainbow fleeced sheep, I know I'd want one.

Thanks to this sheep from The Woolery in Frankfort, KY and its long-ago predecessor from Fancy Tiger in Denver CO, I know own a flock.  Granted, two isn't much of a flock, but I maintain my shepherdess and woolcrafter pride anyway.  Thanks, Woolery, for a fun and novel crafting adventure!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Zoom Loom Shelby Sheep Kit from The Woolery - Day 5

The perils of pom-poms...


I have a sketchy history with the little buggers.  Mine never come out looking fluffy--mine often end up looking like little mangey puppies.  So you can imagine my trepidation at the prospect of the more than two dozen of them awaiting me for this project.

Luckily, the kit provides super-detailed instructions on the size and construction of the pom-poms.  They are loopy--you don't cut the ends--so that helps with the unevenness that always plagues my pom-poms.  While mine always seem to look like they are weeks overdue for a decent haircut, these are supposed to look uneven.  I stand a chance!

The tedium of making 27 one-inch pom-poms, however, should not be underestimated.  It’s a lot of looping and tying.  Make sure you have some really compelling or amusing television on hand for this part of the project.  In my case, a couple of episodes of my new television fave Scorpion fit the bill.  

I am daunted by all the sewing that will be involved in affixing these colorful little fluff balls to my sheep.  As I’ve stated before, hand sewing is not my thing. But I take heart in the knowledge that adding fleece will most certainly doom the "sheeping mantis” mystique. Fleece installed, my creation will finally resemble the right species (even with the rainbow fleece) and all will be well.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Zoom Loom Shelby Sheep Kit from The Woolery - Day 4

Beware the sheeping mantis...!

I am a very good knitter, but I rot at crafts.  

The trouble with sheep assembly, in this case, is that it feels very much like arts and crafts.  Actually, it feels like an invitation to an appearance on Pinterest Fail.  I just know this is not going to turn out as sweet and charming as the picture on the kit package.

The body and legs were pure geometry.  Make a tube.  Sew ends on the tube.  Stuff said tube.  Make two rectangles.  Wrap pipe cleaners with the rectangles and sew them shut.  Bend wrapped pipe cleaners into legs and sew them onto the body.  These things went relatively as planned.

The head however, gave me fits.  I worked it twice, and even then it looked, well, not exactly sheepish.  The real kicker came when I showed it to my husband, who got that not-quite-hidden “what is that?” expression on his face parents know all too well.  We use it when our toddler children show us a blue blob from finger painting.  We apply that face until they tell us “it’s an elephant,” after which we gush about “Well of course it is!  What a pretty blue elephant!” 

My better half looked at the black body for a moment until he pronounced the head looked like…a praying mantis.  And, don’t you know, he was right.  I had a sheep body with a praying mantis head—something out of a horrid 1950’s sci-fi flick or the Don Dixon song.   For the whole next day, every time I looked at the thing, I saw “sheeping mantis.”

Finally, after looking up half a dozen photos of sheep, I realized it was the ears.  I'm going tack the ears to flop down. Then I'll have a sheep.  Or something close to a sheep.  At least something closer to a sheep than to a praying mantis.

The fleece will save me.  No one thinks of a fluffy, fleecy praying mantis.   

Do they?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Zoom Loom Shelby Sheep Kit from The Woolery - Day 3

Rooting for squares...

All my nine squares are done!  I got faster and faster as I went along, and by the eighth and ninth squares I didn’t have to look at the directions.  This is still hard to do in all black, so reading glasses, a light surface underneath, and good lighting were essential.

I miss knitting.  I guess that means I truly am addicted.  I had to find time to knit each day as well, because as intriguing as I find this process, it doesn’t meet my creative and tactile needs the way knitting does. On the bright side, I guess that means my checkbook is safe from danger of any large, expensive loom purchases.  They look cool, but I have no hankering to own one.

I’m wondering if I’ll feel the same way about the upcoming assembly process.  27 1-inch pom-poms?  I’m cringing just thinking about it.  And sewing?  The huge pile of un-mended clothes in my house should give you a hint as to how much I like hand-sewing.  And I used to sew many of my own clothes in my 20s, so it’s not like I don’t know how.

What was fun was watching how the wool changed with a wash.  As the oils were bathed away, the fibers puffed up to make a near-solid fabric.  Beforehand, the cloth looked like too loose a weave and I had visions of my poor sheep leaking stuffing.  Nope, my little herd of black squares came out just right and ready for assembly.

Stick around—it should be fun to watch how nine black squares turn into a sheep body!