Monday, February 1, 2016

Brassica Shawl from Mosaic Yarn Studio--Day 2

A question of taste?

I admit it, I’m glad the stockinette section of this is over.  Yes, I know there’ll be another one on the far side of the lacework section, but at least there the rows will get shorter and shorter rather than longer and longer.  The journey to 60 stockinette stitches in this portion was long.

Still, You had to pay a dab of attention at the end of every row to know where you were in the border pattern.  That kept it from being tedious.  I thought I’d have memorized the border pattern by now, but even after dozens of repeats, I still have to look at the directions.  Memorization might be a helpful goal before I throw myself into the lacework section.  That way I’ll only be reading one pattern at a time.

Just for fun, I looked up the word “brassica” since Darlene had told me the name comes from a botanical term.  Wikipedia informed me it’s a genus of plants in the mustard family.  Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts—all of which I like—are all part of this family.  

Interestingly enough, that may be genetic: evidently there’s a compound in them which only tastes bitter to some people depending on their physical tastebuds.  I have brassica-friendly tastebuds.  DestiKNITters old enough to remember the Bush administration (W, that is) will recall that a certain Commander in Chief did not.  Do you?

Come to think of it, my yarn is in a very veggie-botanical color.  I love it when I get thematic without even trying.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Brassica Shawl from Mosaic Yarn Studio--Day 1

Top notch...

Words cannot describe my joy at knowing this shawl will not result in another Top-Down Rant.  Yes, I know the rows will get longer for a while, but it will only be for a while.  At some point I’ll reach that magic middle where the rows start to get shorter and shorter.

I find it amusing that we’re also at the point in the year where the days get longer and longer.  It’s a fitting metaphor.  Even if we’re only gaining minutes of daylight each week, I find it heartening.

Still, this piece is not without it’s challenges.  To work two patterns at once will require a bit of brain matter.  Fortunately, I have a gadget that will help with that—my trusty Sirka counter.  Sure, mine looks a bit like a pocket watch on pastel steroids, but now it comes in lovely vibrant colors, too—I want more!  This brilliant gizmo counts three separate things simultaneously.  That makes it ideal for instructions like “repeat this six-row pattern eleven times,” but we’re not quite there yet.

For now, the increasing half of this shawl is mostly stockinette with a clever little i-cord border (quickly becoming my new favorite!).  On the other side, the eyelet border stays constant over a six-row repeat.  So, right now, I only have to know where I am in the six-row border repeat.  This means I’m only using one of the colored hands on my clock.

That will change, but not for a while.  What a delightful start!

Sunday, January 24, 2016


A Mini Adventure Close to Home:  Mount Prospect

Chicago-land’s breadth as a yarn community continues to amaze me.  Once a year I let DestiKNITions explore its home turf.  This enables me to discover great shops local to me (but maybe not to you) and explore neighborhoods I may often drive by but never visit.

Such is true of today’s DestiKNITion.  Mount Prospect was known to me only as the town northwest of shopping mecca (and home of one of my writers’ meetings), Schaumburg.  It’s essentially a straight shot up from where I live on IL Route 83, but like all my favorite DestiKNITions trips, it felt like a pleasant surprise of an adventure.  If you’ve got half a day in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, I can guarantee you a pleasant fiber excursion here!

My favorite days start with coffee and baked goods, so I was in for a treat at:

Central Continental Bakery
101 S. Main Street
Mount Prospect IL  60056

The big deal here—and a very big deal it is—is the paczki.  Pronounced “pawnch-ky,” (yes, I know, I can’t figure it out either), this round filled confection is THE goodie for the Polish community on Fat Tuesday.  Although based on how large I’m told the line is when that pre-Lent last hurrah comes around, it’s much larger than one ethnic heritage.  

Any other day of the year it can be called a Bismarck, but this year on February 9 (Fat Tuesday) the lines will go clear around the block for these paczkis. Paczki Day is serious business here.  I counted over 40 available flavors, including favorites like cream cheese, strawberry, Key West Key lime, Lady Godiva, and sea salt caramel.  You owe it to yourself to try this famous confection!

Caffeine and sugar gloriously infusing your bloodstream, head just a handful of blocks away to our fiber find:

Mosaic Yarn Studio, Ltd.
109 W. Prospect Avenue
Mount Prospect, IL  60056

A store that’s been in operation for 18 years is a gem indeed.  Owner Darlene Joyce has the perfect skill set to lead this enterprise, given her background in fashion, home economics, and teaching.  It’s no surprise she values the store’s class offerings as a high priority.  “I like to help people to be creative.  There aren’t enough creative outlets in the world today.”  Agreed!

Mosaic Yarn Studio is out to change that lack.  I counted over 30 different class offerings in one newsletter!  With “Lunch Bunch” on Wednesdays, Knit/Crochet Night on Thursdays, and a showstopper of a knitting retreat every year in Michigan, every knitter can find something to up his or her game.  Some customers have been gobbling up yarn and classes for 15 years—that’s a full spectrum of fiber education!  Darlene sets out to create “a safe place to learn and connect,” and the store’s atmosphere nourishes from your first welcome.

a huge sample collection to inspire!
Intergenerational connections happen all over the store.  Darlene ensures the stock is “deep enough that any size woman can make anything she wants.”  Here’s a store where you can dream boldly and get the support to make it happen.  Her joy in sharing new projects or techniques, as well as connecting knitters to the rich history of their craft, comes through when you talk to Darlene.

Looking for a project?  Here are a few ideas from Darlene:

Charlotte’s Web Shawl
If you’d like to explore color interplay, grab five skeins of Koigu’s Painter's Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM)in an array of colors and cast on this triangular fringed beauty from the book Wrapped in Color: 30 Shawls to Knit.  Every shawl will be a one-of-a-kind work of art, and the possibilities are endless.

Biscotti T
A basic tee with some clever design elements including a longer back hem and short-row shaping, this garment will get lots of use.  Done up in Noema cotton-acrylic-poly blend from Louisa Harding yarn, you can pick from a variety of color combinations that range from bold to subtle.

Bavarian Knitting Hat
Want to stitch up some history?  Grab some Juniper Moon Tehzing and learn some of the historical patterns Mosaic Studio offers up.  Impressive stitch clarity and intricate design work make this piece no ordinary head-warmer.  Perfect, because Chicago winters require a full wardrobe of warm and beautiful hats.

Knit A Long:  Brassica Shawl
Darlene’s exclusive design stitches up 3-4 skeins of Berroco’s Cosma alpaca-wool-silk blend into this lovely crescent shawl.  I find the picot-eyelet border particularly stunning, and I’m truly happy to be casting on a shawl that isn’t top-down!  Sure, it’s a bit complicated to be working the body and border simultaneously, but I’ll happily accept that challenge in order to knit this from side to side.  I’m hungry for a project with such an accelerated, rows-get-shorter-instead-of-longer finish as this one will provide.

Oh, and they gave me a coffee mug, too.  Color me happy! If you’re in the market for an adorable gadget, look no further than Hiya Hiya’s charming sheep needle gage.  Too cute!

Once you’ve filled you knitting bag, it’s time to sample some of the other charming independent businesses that create this block.  

For example, have you got a geek in your life?  I sure do.  And geeks—and lots of other people—love gaming.  Even if you’ve never heard of Magic cards or Dungeons and Dragons, stop in just to experience a geeky peek at:

Games Plus
101 W. Prospect Ave. 
Mt. Prospect, IL 60056 

It may look small on the outside, but this 30+ year establishment boasts a national reputation.  You need a reservation to sit down and play at one of these gaming tables!  There’s a whole world in there you may have never known existed, believe me.

Ready for lunch?  No need to leave the block for this, either. Pop a few doors down to:

Dave’s Specialty Foods, Inc.
105 West Prospect Avenue
Mount Prospect, IL   60056

They don’t come much friendlier than chef/owner David Esau.  The portabella mushroom sandwich and cream of asparagus soup I had there warmed the cold and blustery day with good food and great conversation.  I’m a huge fan of basic food exquisitely done, and this place does just that.

Keefer’s Pharmacy
5 West Prospect Ave
Mt. Prospect, IL 60056

If you’d like to be reminded what life was like before big box drug stores, drop in here.  We used to have a place like this back in my neighborhood, and I sorely miss the local touch a family pharmacy can provide.  A compounding pharmacy, meaning one that will mix up custom medications just for you (and your pet, by the way), is a hard thing to find nowadays.  And delivery service! Oh, how I miss a pharmacy that delivers.

See?  Sometimes to have a great adventure, you only need to drive 30 minutes up Route 83.  Next time you’re in the northwest Chicago area with half a day to spare, you know just where to head.

Up next I dive into the gleefully non-top-down Brassica shawl.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


It's another DestiKNITions birthday! Since 2009, I've been taking you to cities and yarn shops all over America.  Each January, we celebrate the blog's birthday by offering you a "click-thru" tour of my favorite postings of the year.  Here's my picks for 2015:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tofu Baby Sweater from Flying Fingers - Done!

Two things I know for sure now that the Tofu Baby Sweater is done:

1) I have finally mastered seaming.  If nothing else, this project was worth it for that accomplishment.

2) This sweater contained an excruciatingly large amount of ends to weave in.  Tedium!  Not much is worth that.

No question, this was a lot of work.  But the cuteness is a pretty big payoff, especially in such bright, energetic colors.  The yarn is lovely to knit, and I upped my skills in several areas while making the sweater.  

Someday, some little baby is going to be decked out in this adorable cardigan—I just have no idea when.  

It’s the adventure of knitting…sometimes the project needs to find its recipient, and you never know how that will happen.

Thanks, Flying Fingers, for a true fiber adventure!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Tofu Baby Sweater from Flying Fingers - Day 5

Lots of assembly required…

While this pattern is adorable, and provides all the direction you need to create the four needed pieces, it assumes you know what you’re doing in the seaming process.

Which I don’t.

I avoid sweaters and other large seamed projects like the plague, so I found myself stumped when I finally had my four flat pieces.  Honestly, I looked at the process with the same trepidation I felt turning my first sock heel.  I knew it could be done, but I wasn’t sure I had the skills to make it happen.

Fortunately, the first two steps were well within my skill set: the button bands.  I can pick up stitches, I can make ribbing, I can wield a cast-off-cast-on buttonhole. I managed the left and right button bands with relative success.

Once I got to the collar, however, things began to look murky.  I was glad I tackled it at my Saturday morning knitting group, where another knitter far more skilled in sweater assembly coached me to join the shoulder seams before starting the collar band.  Nancy showed me the basics of a stitch ideal for baby items because it doesn’t leave a lumpy wrong-side seam.

Once fronts and backs were attached, I picked up around the neck hole according to the pattern instructions.  Three rows of ribbing, and I was good to go.

Then I had to tackle setting in the sleeves.  I was glad to have the shoulder success under my belt, because this one required two YouTube videos for skill acquisition and a hot bath for composure.  They didn’t turn out too bad, but I fear for the tangle that may show up when I join the side seams and try to create an un-bunchy underarm.  

I can hear the cranky baby cries already…..

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tofu Baby Sweater from Flying Fingers - Day 4

Watch what I'm not knitting...

What’s up my sleeves this week (sorry, I couldn’t resist)? A lesson in what not to watch when knitting…

Normally, I’m especially fond of knitting while watching television.  I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, knitting makes it feel like less of a time-suck because I’m multitasking.  Plus, I’m the fidgety type who doesn’t sit still very well, so this is a perfect time to invoke my value of knitting as “socially acceptable fidgeting.”

That axiom works well in most cases, but not this past week.  Why?  Because this past week was filled with compelling television that demands your full attention.  This week’s viewing entertainment included some long-awaited episodes of my very favorite TV shows, none of which lent themselves to accurate knitting:

While many Doctor Who fans are knitters, the past two episodes have been so mind-bendingly complex that I mostly just stared at the screen with my mouth open rather than stitching.  Really, I feel like I need to see both episodes again multiple times while taking notes in order to comprehend everything that happened.  The Christmas Special, always a treat and this year one of the most humorous and delightful episodes I can recall, was good for knitting.  I got a lot done and was near giddy with entertainment and accomplishment by the end.

Sherlock, which specializes in excruciatingly long gaps between seasons, offered another dose of “wait a minute…what just happened?” television.  Clever, enthralling, but too enthralling for simultaneous knitting.  I think I managed three rows during the whole program.

And then, there’s Downton Abbey.  Which needs no explanation. Sigh.

Fortunately for me, my Netflix ensured I had a few backups to entertain my knitting self.  Longmire and Jessica Jones are excellent, well-written shows, but not so challenging that I can’t knit.

Now those networks need to calm down so I can finish these sleeves!  

What television keeps you from knitting?  Post to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #knitlesswatching and share what's so good it keeps you from stitching.