Monday, September 15, 2014

Holden Shawlette from The Artful Yarn - Day 4

Ripples of ease...

All these lovely ripples really do remind me of a shoreline—especially in the aqua-blue color that I’ve chosen for my shawl.  The simplicity of this pattern truly is charming—it’s not mentally taxing at all, yet gives a fabulous effect for the piece.  

As I said before, I think this would make an excellent first lace project for any knitter.  As pretty as it is now, I know it will take on even more beauty once blocked.  My experience has been that any lace piece you like before you block, you will love once you block.

I have not felt the need for any safety lines.  The pattern is an easy one to comprehend and, with the exception of the rows that are made up completely of yarn-overs, going back to fix a major error would not pose much of a problem.  The good news is that with the stitch markers providing multiple “check-in” points, I’ve not had any major disasters since row six.


Of course, I’m not done yet, so I should take care what declarations I make, yes?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Holden Shawlette from The Artful Yarn - Day 3

Well marked!

Now the lovely ripple lace effect that trims this shawl is showing its face.  It’s a very friendly lace pattern—this would make an excellent introduction to lacework for a knitter looking to expand her skills.  With a few well-placed markers to identify the repeats, even a beginner could tackle this with confidence (provided, of course, he or she were duly warned about the dangers of row 6!)

Even in a pattern as simple as this, stitch markers are a smart knitter’s friend.  I utilize different colored markers, too—my favorite are the pea-sized ones designed for the smaller needles used in most lacework.  In this case, two green markers sit on either side of the crucial center stitch.  Two colored ones mark the one repeat on each side that has an extra stitch on either end.  Black markers indicate the other standard repeats.  These help me know exactly where I am in the row, and ensure I catch mistakes before they become disasters—well, most of the time.

With the lace rhythm settled in my head, I’m taking great pleasure in my progress, enjoying how the scalloped edges emerge from the straight lines of my needles.  That’s the wonder of knitting—watching a the thing take shape right under your fingers.


If you're so inclined, add a comment to share your favorite stitch markers, or just the most useful way they’ve helped you in your recent knitting.  Let’s all pay tribute to the virtues of stitch markers!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Holden Shawlette from The Artful Yarn - Day 2

Beware row six!

Or, more precisely, beware your assumptions about row six.  There I was, delighted to finally be sinking my teeth—or is that my needles—into the lace section of this shawl.  I’d quickly figured out that like most lace patterns, all of the wrong side rows are straight purling (except the border).  So I’m gleefully watching The Daily Show, as is my frequent practice, and just as Jon Stewart launches into the interview I note I have just enough time to purl my way across a wrong side row.  I turn my needles with Jon’s first question and purl my way across.  Feeling cocky, I even flex my continental purl muscles to see if I can get across the whole long row without my left index finger cramping up from its continual dipping down.  Success!  Just as Jon delivers “tonight’s moment of Zen,” I finish off the row.

I lean over to the pattern to check row six off...and proceed to say some very unpleasant things I will not repeat here.

Row six, you see, asks you to KNIT the wrong side row.  Had I looked, had I read ahead in the pattern like good knitters are supposed to do, I would have seen this crucial fact.  Not ALL wrong side rows are purled in this pattern.  Some rows—some very important rows—are knitted so that a lovely little ridge shows up on the right side to highlight the scalloped edge now forming.

Of course, this row sits on top of many, many yarn overs, making tinking very slow and mighty tedious.  While it only took me about ten minutes to incorrectly purl this row, I took me nearly an hour to un-purl and re-knit the row.

You can bet I won’t make that mistake again—at least in this pattern!  As for the rest of my knitting days, well, I suspect I’ll botch a few more wrong side rows before I learn my lesson.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Holden Shawlette from The Artful Yarn - Day 1

Holden on...
  
Yes, the knitting universe—or in this case the nice people at The Artful Yarn—has handed me another top-down shawl. Sometimes you just have to keep going back to the same lesson until you learn it, yes?



This pattern helps me, however, by getting a big chunk of the work out of the way in a stockinette base.  Stockinette makes good television knitting—I barely have to look down anymore.  I’ve gotten quite fast on the knit side, thanks to my continental skills, but I have yet to master a decent continental purl.  No matter how I try, I just can’t get the hang of it.  Some knitters counsel me to come down over the top of the picked yarn, but that twists the stitches and makes for problems for me.  Others champion the “finger down approach” (for lack of a better name), but my index finger always cramps up after a certain number of stitches.  I have another friend who pulls the yarn down with her thumb, but I’ve never been able to master that at all.  And so I chug along, speedily knitting my way through the right side and not-so-speedily purling my way through the wrong side.  There are worse fates.  But I do worry my speed here will only make those growing final rows feel that much longer.

Don’t get me wrong—there are definite plus sides here.  Malabrigo Sock truly is a delightful fiber, with wondrous colors and the perfect amount of elasticity.  This isn’t the first shawl I’ve made from Sock and I doubt it will be the last.  The weight is marvelously seasonless—light enough for summer but with enough heft to allow it winter appearances as well.

Kudos to designer Mindy Wilkes for giving both written and chart instructions for the lace section.  I often prefer the chart, but in this case I think I’ll start out with the written directions.  And I’m no idiot—I’ll be using stitch markers and safety lines to ensure I don’t meet with disaster.  Or, more precisely, that I can save myself when I do.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

CLEVELAND, OH SUBURBS - Day 2: Aurora

Cars and yarn...

My favorite words when my husband is considering traveling to a car show?  “There’s a yarn shop nearby.” Imagine my delight when we were making plans to attend the Midwest Z Heritage Fest—a regional car show for Nissan/Datsun Z-car enthusiasts like my husband— in Aurora, Ohio and I discovered a yarn shop right in town!  DestiKNITions powers, engage!

Longtime DestiKNITters know I’m a fan of going out for breakfast, especially to a good bakery.  I was pleased to find an excellent spot in Aurora:

Pumpkin Seed, Sweets and Treats
238 East Garfield Road
Aurora, OH 44202
216-215-3949

I’m a pushover for a good lemon bar, and this one was scrumptious.  This spot is more than just a bakery, it’s also a coffee bar as well as an event venue—you can host a shower or a small wedding reception right here.  Baked goods, some exquisitely frosted cookies, and a selection of chocolates are all here to tempt your tastebuds (you know I’m a fan of dessert for breakfast).  T’Cakes, the other half of the business, handles custom occasion cakes.

Next head to our yarn fix for the day:

The Knit Shop
226 Chillicothe Road
Aurora, OH  44202
330-562-7226

The no-nonsense name reflects owner Edie Tait’s straightforward approach to knitting—offer quality products and spot-on technical advice.  After all, she’s been in the business for over 20 years, so she’s learned what works.  



The shop is a small, multi-roomed house with two fireplaces and packed to the gills with fibers and sample projects.  Every object you see in the store is knit by Edie herself—she’ll also “knit for hire” if you need to outsource your latest unfinished project, by the way.  
A renowned fair-isle master with a strong eye for color and a vast knowledge of fibers, Edie has a diverse selection stocked to suit her customers.  “I fill the store with an eye for quality and a good knitting experience,” Edie says, so you know you’ll come away with something that works, not just the newest fad yarn.  While she does design, Edie’s preference is to adapt patterns to suit her tastes.  “I don’t think I’ve ever worked a pattern exactly how it's written.”  That means she’s eager to put her vast technical skill to use for you, giving lots of help to customers whenever they need it.  

That doesn’t mean there isn’t fun and whimsy here—ask to see the baby booties and the golf club covers—they’re amazing!  And if you’re a needlepoint person, this is THE place to score hard-to-find Paternayan yarn.

Some projects you should consider:

Blue and Green Cardigan and Boxy Tee
Both a design of Edie’s, this sweater takes any tape or ribbon yarn like Katia’s Rumba and works it into a season-less, eye-catching sweater set.  Ask Edie’s advice for color combinations, or stick with a solid for a more subtle effect.  Either way, the texture’s the star for these pieces.

The Wedding Top
Made by Edie for a special occasion, this gorgeous top is a special occasion all in itself.  Look at the splendid stitch work and the graceful, fluttering trim!  Stick with a light colored fingering weight silk fiber to get the best effect and drape.  This one strikes me as a family heirloom in the making.

Glam Scarf
This fringed wonder works up in 250 yards of any fiber, but Edie offers a kit if you want to ensure great results.  The versatile pattern could be light and draped or warm and lush, depending on the fiber you choose.



Neckwarmer
In my hometown of Chicago, we take our neck warmers very seriously.  Who wouldn’t want the luxury of this angora wool blend around their neck on a brutal January morning?  Again, you’ll want to pick two skeins of a light color to show off the cable work.

Ulta Alpaca Afghan
This sample uses sixteen different colors of Jameson Simply Shetland, but you don’t have to go to such extremes if you don’t want to.  In true Edie adaptation fashion, she reworked an existing Sonoma Mountain Wrap pattern to become this stunning linen stitch afghan.  Wouldn’t that make a great gift (for someone you love enough to stitch up an entire afghan)?

Shoulder Wrap
Sometimes the design makes all the difference.  Edie designed this wrap to be more square than most, allowing it to sit nicely on the shoulders.  Another highly adaptable piece, you can make this heavyweight for warmth or lightweight to fend off summer air conditioning.  This will be our knit-along from The Knit Shop, so I’ll be working it up in 600 yards of Juniper Moon Findley Dappled merino/silk blend with a touch of Kidsilk Haze for the accent stripes (I didn’t go for the “sparkly” accent stripes of the sample).

Stocked your knitting bag?  You won’t have to go far to get a little more shopping—as a matter of fact, you don’t even have to move your car if it's a nice day like I had.

Abbagail’s
178 S. Chillicothe Road
Aurora, OH  55202
330-995-0320

Head to the big red barn just down the street for an amazing accessories store.  You’ll find familiar names like Trollbeads and Vera Bradley, but also some new finds.  They had some of the most amazing, inventive umbrellas I had ever seen, and a collection of very artful handbags.

The Secret Garden
196 S. Chillicothe Road
Aurora OH  44202
330-562-7198

Sometimes you walk into a store and you just know you’ll want to explore every nook.  This “antiques and uniques” store is an inviting combination of old and crafted items from fifteen different co-op members. I was particularly drawn to the vintage items, the wood carvings, and the delightful Bijon dog who serves as the store’s mascot.

Ready for lunch?  I recommend you end your Aurora adventure at:

Mad Jack’s Grill & Pub
204 S. Chilicothe Road
Aurora, OH  44202
330-348-0058
Given the name—and the reputation for great burgers—I was expecting something a bit more “tavern-ish” than the casually elegant restaurant inside.  The phrase on the website says it all:  “comfort food with a twist.”  You know I set great stock on how a restaurant handles a solo diner, and the service here was top notch.  Not a big burger fan, I opted for the Pan Seared Salmon Salad and was rewarded with an excellent meal.  

There you have it—a charming, fiber-filled, delicious half-day in Aurora Ohio.  Who knew it held such treasures?  Well, now you do!


Sunday, August 24, 2014

CLEVELAND, OH SUBURBS - Day 1: Chagrin Falls

Falling for Chagrin Falls...

When I was little, we had family friends who lived in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  I still remember my visits there.  Life was kind enough to afford me a return visit earlier this summer, and I was delighted to discover an excellent yarn shop among the ice cream, popcorn, and other treats I remember getting as a kid.  This chock-full-of-charming town is a nicely contained day trip while you’re in Cleveland on business, or a lovely day away all on its own.  You can do the whole town in a matter of hours if you’re expedient; all day if you really take the time to explore.

Let’s start with breakfast:

Lemon Falls Cafe
95 North Main Street
Chagrin Falls, OH  44022
440-247-8000

Tucked onto a street corner, this tiny, friendly restaurant is the perfect place to start your day.  If it’s lunch, my sources say go straight for the lobster roll.  If it’s breakfast, there are several egg plates and a very good breakfast wrap.  Excellent coffee, tea, and espresso drinks round out the menu.  If you’ve got vegan or gluten free dietary needs, this place is perfect for you.  Skip the sweets, though, because we’ve got other plans to satisfy your sweet tooth:

Jeni’s Ice Cream
67 N Main Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022
440-247-2064

I discovered this yummy stuff on my last venture in Ohio, and I couldn’t get back to my salted caramel ice cream sandwich fast enough.  You could try any of the truly inventive flavors of ice cream, but this will always be my favorite. Splendid!


or, you could try:


Sugar Me Desserterie
45 West Orange Street #5
In CoachHouse Square
Chagrin Falls, OH  44022
440-247-7228

Any bakery with a frequent buyer program and french macarons is a hit with me!  Cupcakes, a decadent-looking German Chocolate Cake, and other yummy baked goods round out the scrumptious menu.  It might take a little effort to find down there at the end of River Street, but it’s well worth it.


First shopping stop for any DestiKNITter is, of course, the yarn.

The Artful Yarn
Step North
100 North Main Street, Suite 230
Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44022
440-321-9754 

Find your way off the street into the little set of shops at Main and Orange Streets, and you’ll discover a lively, friendly yarn shop that’s built on “killer customer service.”  Owner Cathy Hougan exudes a “let me help you” energy that clearly launches the many “fiber friendships” at the store. “It’s a meeting space—we’re your yarn concierge,” Hougan says, and it’s easy to see why.  With events like “K@12—“Knitting at Noon” that offer a fiber-friendly take on the old office “lunch and learn” model, this store builds a loyal, adventuresome customer base.  

Color and texture abound in the bright, clean-lined store, and the atmosphere has a definite “have fun and play with yarn” personality.  There’s a customer loyalty purchase program, and you get a discount on your birthday!  Cathy vets her fibers carefully, offering only organic, fair trade products that meet her high standards for integrity.  Like all good DestiKNITions, this is the kind of store where you could hang out for hours and not only leave with great yarn, but gain a few new friends in the process.

Looking for some project inspiration?  The Artful Yarn has lots to choose from:

The Alsace Cardigan
This lovey design from Knit 1 Crochet 2 gets worked up from only four skeins of Soie et Lin —that’s a selling feature in my book!  I love the open, scooped neck and the delicate trim at the bottom and sleeves.




Felted Clogs
Need to keep some toes warm this fall?  These colorful felted clogs from Fiber Trends will do the trick.  The left one in this photo is before felting, the right after.  Perhaps in school colors of a new collegiate you know?



Knit Happy Club Slouch Hat
Slouch hats are all the rage, and they are much kinder to a hairstyle than a watch cap.  This one knits up from Shepherd’s Wool Crazies.The trim on the headband adds a nice detail.


Lady Eleanor Entrelac Stole
Entrelac is one of my favorite knitting tricks—once you grasp the essentials, you always get dramatic results with a minimal amount of technical fuss.  The trick is always to use a great self striping yarn, and Cathy will gladly guide you to a successful choice.  I especially like the snazzy fringe on this one.

Holden Shawlette
Our Knit Along from The Artful Yarn pays homage to the area’s Holden Arboretum.  Designer Mindy Wilkes says The Holden shawlette draws its name from Holden Beach, South Carolina, but I can easily see the ripply lace evoking an arboretum’s leafy treasures as well—especially if you use one of Malabrigo Sock’s botanical color-ways like Lettuce or Arbol.  

I went for the ocean vibe myself.  With a yarn like this, it’s great that you only need one skein, as dye lots can vary widely.


Yarn purchases safely in hand, you might want to pamper those stitching hands by walking next door to: 

The Village Herb Shop
17 East Orange Street
Chagrin Falls, OH  44022
440-247-5029 or 1-800-836-9120

This charming store is one of those great shopping experiences you can’t get in a chain retail establishment.  These people are passionate about their products!  I took a wonderful tour with owner LeeAnn Halley and was delighted to hear all the stories about the partnerships she’s established with artisans and product lines.  Gifts, decor, classes, trinkets, culinary goodies—this store has a little bit of everything.  You won’t leave without a few “oh, this is just perfect” purchases!

Can’t wait to cast on?  Just steps down the street is a perfect place to knit outside, listening to the soothing sounds of the picturesque Chagrin Falls.  Walk down off the sidewalk level by the bridge to the gorgeous falls that give the town its name.  Even on a warm afternoon, the little parks beside the falls stay cool and calming.  

Don’t linger too long, however, because some other fun shopping awaits.  In the main triangle and surrounding streets you’ll find a nice variety of specialty shops and boutiques.  Make sure and look up, though, to take in the town’s famous flower baskets hanging from light poles.  It makes the whole area look post-card perfect.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Hedges
13 North Franklin St.
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022
440-247-2344

I’m into Pandora bracelets, but I have plenty of friends who crave Alex and Ani bracelets.  We’d all be happy at this boutique, which showcases an impressive selection of both lines.  Lots of other goodies catch your eye here, too.

Fireside Books
29 North Franklin Street
Chagrin Falls, OH  44022
440-247-4050


Okay, DestiKNITters, you know the drill: patronize good local independent book stores!  We need them in our world.  And for them to stay, you need to get off the internet (later, of course) and get yourself in their doors to shop.  ‘Nuff said.

Nola True
15 South Franklin Street
Chagrin Falls OH  44022
440-247-8980

While I love boutique shopping, sometimes the price tags can be too steep for me.  I was pleased to find several items that I not only wanted, but that I could afford without remorse.  The styles easily suited a woman of my “seasoned” age, not just a younger, hipper shopper like some boutiques I’ve visited.  The place was stylish, friendly and accessible.

YARNY BONUS!  If you visit on a Saturday, are very lucky, or have called ahead, you may get a visit to the Alpaca Fiber Studio and get to meet fiber artist and educator Robbie Grodin.  It’s on Bell Street next to the Valley Arts Center.  More luscious fiber goodies!

Once you’ve shopped your way around town, consider ending your day with a meal at:

Gamekeeper’s Taverne
87 West Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44022
440-247-7744

If the weather’s fine, take in the award-winning outdoor courtyard of this longtime Chagrin Falls fancy favorite.  If the weather’s not friendly, the place boasts cozy fireplaces as well.  The exceptional menus change with the seasons, so you know the cuisine is fresh and locally-sourced.  Game lovers will especially like this place (hence the name), but there is a wide enough menu to suit any taste.  Sources say the salads are first-rate.

Especially on a warm summer evening, it’s hard to bid goodbye the picturesque falls of this little Ohio town.  Even if I can’t get back soon, I know I’ll soon have a lovely shawl as a keepsake and a reminder to return.


Next episode, we’ll visit another Cleveland suburb, Aurora.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August Authors--and characters!--Who Knit: Denise Swanson

It's always something new over here at DestiKNITions.  Today, we're not just talking to an author who knits, but her character!  

Author friend Denise Swanson has many fans of her Scumble River mystery series, and several of them are knitters.  It's no surprise then, than Denise's newest release is Murder of a Needled Knitter.  So instead of Denise taking the questions, our answers come from May Dennison, mother of the series' amateur sleuth heroine, Skye Dennison.  May is a proud member of the Scumble River String of Purls club. She has managed to sneak onto her daughter’s honeymoon by manipulating the groom into booking the same cruise as her knitting club.  If that doesn't sound like a plot fit for entertaining chaos, I don't know what does!


May, what's on your needles right now?
I’m making a baby afghan. My son and his wife are expecting my first grandchild any minute now.

What feels like your favorite/greatest knitting accomplishment? 
A knit blouse in a very fine gauge with lace in front. It took me 6 months, and as anyone will tell you, I’m not a patient person.

What feels like the worst knitting mistake/foible/wrong choice you’ve ever made? 
Although this wasn’t really my fault, when I first started knitting I bought a kit in the clearance section of a big box store. The yarn was the tiniest, fuzziest yarn and knotted something fierce. Plus there wasn't enough yarn to complete the project and the instructions had so many mistakes I nearly went out of my mind.

Straight or circular needles?
Depends on the project, but I like the feel of circular better, they put less strain on your hands.

Metal or wood needles? 
I like nickel-plated needles as they seem faster.

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate? 
Dark!


Coffee or tea? 
Black coffee.

Now we come to a few questions Denise herself can answer:


Have you written a knitting character? 
In my Scumble River series, my sleuth’s mother, May Denison knits and in my Devereaux’s Dime Store books, Dev hosts a group called the Knittie Gritties in the craft nook of her store.

What’s the last thing anyone would suspect about your most recent book? 
I’m hoping it’s the identity of the killer. ;)

So, if you're looking for a new fiction series that might serve up a few characters who love knitting as much as you do (hey, you already know about my books), check Denise's books out.  You can visit her website here.

Next up, DestiKNITions visits a pair of Cleveland suburbs; Aurora and Chagrin Falls Ohio.