Saturday, May 30, 2015

Celtic Princess Braided Scarf from Yarn & Thread Expressions - Done!

It’s done!

The color continues to be my favorite thing about this scarf.  Red cables just make such a statement!

I tried at first to block this the quick way, with an iron and a spray bottle of water, but I wasn’t pleased with the results.  It still folded at the borders and puckered at the ends. So off it went to the more patient bath-and-pin method.  No shortcuts.

While it was soaking, I invoked the knitting universe’s favor by calling the hotel one more time where I’d left the Lady Fern Scarf.  This time, on the advice of a friend, I asked to talk to the housekeeping manager.  Either the guy is just genuinely nice, or he knows someone who knits, because he was very understanding.  He vowed to check the room right then—it was unoccupied at the moment but occupied on my earlier visit—and call me back.  I waited, hoping my extra care with the Celtic Princess might earn me favor with the Lady Fern (sounds downright mythological, doesn’t it?).  Karma, universal balance, Providence—whatever you want to call it, I was dearly hoping it would act on my behalf.  I don’t think God minds that I pray for something so small as a favorite scarf back, because He knows it’s not small at all.  Not to the person who labored over it for so many hours.

Nada.  You and I both know neither the universe, nor God, is in the bargain business.  While I am convinced the housekeeping manager has scoured the place on my behalf, even offering to pull the drawers out of the bureau for me on the last-ditch chance it slipped behind, my scarf is very likely gone.  I left it behind of my own mistake, and it is now to grace some neck other than mine.

But life goes on.  I have well and truly blocked my Celtic Princess and it looks much better. Take a peek—pretty, isn't it?  Thank you Yarn & Thread Expressions, for such a challenging but worthwhile project!  It is the perfect “first aid” to my current wound.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Celtic Princess Braided Scarf from Yarn & Thread Expressions - Day 5

Lost and...

I’ve been working away on the Celtic Princess scarf, getting my daily row count done like a dutiful DestiKNITter.  But today I have to talk about something else that’s happened.

I suppose it was just a matter of time.  Actually, I think it’s nearly miraculous that it hasn’t happened before this.  

I’ve lost one of my favorite knit scarves.

Now, I’ve given away dearly loved scarves and shawls, but that’s always been my choice.  I’ve even worn through a pair of favorite knit socks.  This, however is completely different.

I left the lovely Lady Fern scarf in a bureau drawer of a Dallas hotel room.  I realized it the next day, and called the hotel immediately, but anyone who travels as much as I do knows that it is nearly impossible to recover a lost item from a hotel once you check out.  I usually stay in small, boutique hotels and B&B’s to prevent just such a tragedy, but even that tactic didn’t serve me in this case.

“Nothing has shown up in lost and found.  Are you sure it’s in there, ma’am?” asked the manager.

“Absolutely,” I replied.  “I can tell you exactly which drawer.  I can even send you a photograph of the scarf.  Please, I’d very much like to have it back.”

“Housekeeping is required to check all the drawers when they clean the room after checkout.”  This seals my doom, for if the housekeeper involved were to turn in the scarf now, he or she must admit to either failing to check the drawers or keeping the scarf upon discovery.  But I KNOW it was there.  Someone has it—and that someone isn’t me.

My travels even took me back near the hotel a few days later, so I went back in person and told the manager she could stand over me while I checked the drawer.  “It’s possible the drawer has never been opened.  We’re fifty feet from the room.  Can’t you just take me in to check?”

“I’m sorry, that’s not allowed.”  Grr.

And now my scarf is gone.  Will the person who found it even realize how many hours were involved in knitting it?  I hate the thought of it being unappreciated.  I’ve made up a story for myself about its new owner to make myself feel better.  This new owner loves the scarf and feels pretty in it.  It’s her favorite color.  None of her friends or family knits, so she’s never owned anything hand-knit before.  

I don’t care whether or not it’s true.  It’s the only way I can stand thinking about that scarf around some other neck.

What are some beloved knits that you’ve lost?  Anyone have any good return stories?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Readers Who Knit: Carmen Auerbach

This year I'm featuring readers who share our love of yarn and needles.  DestiKNITters, say hello to Carmen Auerbach!

Carmen, what’s on your needles right now?
I have Hitchhiker on my needles right now using the yarn that I got for my birthday - Dream in Color yarn in shades of my favorite color.

What feels like your favorite/greatest knitting accomplishment?
My favorite knitting accomplishment was a shawl called Caledonia. it is done in very bright colors and was my first attempt with beads.

What feels like the worst knitting mistake/foible/wrong choice you’ve ever made?
My worst knitting mistake was trying to make a Santa hat felted purse. I never quite finished it. It was awful.

Straight or circular needles?
I definitely prefer circular needles.

Metal or wood needles?
Metal needles are too slippery so I prefer wood or bamboo needles.

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate?
Milk chocolate wins every time.

Coffee or tea?
I like tea-- both hot and iced. I don't drink coffee at all

What’s your favorite Allie novel?
My favorite Allie book is The Firefighter's Homecoming.

What are you reading now?
I am reading the third book in a series by Lorena McCourtney- Death Takes a Ride. I have already read the first two books- Dying to Read and Dolled Up to Die. You can see that I like mysteries.

Do you have a favorite knitting character from a book, movie, or television show (Allie books not included)?
My favorite knitting books are mystery books. I like Mary Krueger's books- Died in the Wool and Knit Fast, Die Young.

Give a shout out to your favorite local yarn store:

The Nook
4738 Main Street
Lisle, IL 60532

Tina, who owns the store, is very helpful and can solve all sorts of problems. She is open all day and most evenings. She welcomes you to come sit and knit. She has coffee, lattes and all sorts of drinks and lots of yummy flavors of Peterson's Ice Cream.

DestiKNITers, Tina has graciously offered you a 10% discount on your yarn purchase if you mention you saw her store in this blog!

Thanks to my friends at Cascade Yarn, Carmen gets 10 hanks of Cascade 220 yarn and a Cascade totebag. Carmen chose a copy of my historical novel Masked by Moonlight as her thanks for being featured.  She also chose A Heart to Heal to send to a friend.

Readers Who Knit features are open for the second half of 2016.  If you'd like to be featured and win spiffy prizes, email me at 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Celtic Princess Braided Scarf from Yarn & Thread Expressions - Day 4


This is going to take some dedication.  Two to three repeats of cables every day means almost an hour of knitting.  Some days that’s easy to get in.  Others take a little more willpower and ingenuity.  

I’m traveling right now and I keep bringing it with me everywhere I go, hoping to get some knitting time in, but it’s not working out the way I planned.  Were this simple garter stitch instead of a cable I keep botching (I had to take out three rows again just last night!), I could grab half a row here, half a row there.  Not this project--this pattern seems to need my complete attention.  That makes it harder to fit my knitting time in while doing this author gig thing.

The longer I work with this color, the more pleased I am with my choice.  It’s a bright red—who can’t love a color named “Maraschino”?  A red scarf simply declares you to the world in a way no other accessory can.  I am reminded of one of my favorite novels, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, in which the devotees of the titular circus wore red scarves to identify themselves to other fans.  Another round of life imitating art, I suppose. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Celtic Princess Braided Scarf from Yarn & Thread Expressions - Day 3

Chunky or Clunky?

I have to say, applying my Chunky Method daily goals to my knitting has been working well.  I don’t stress about whether or not I’ll get the project done on  time, which is exactly the benefit my Chunky Method gives to writing.  I’m not sure, however, if it would apply as perfectly to another project—say, a top down shawl where the rows get longer and longer or switching lace patterns to something more complicated.  This scarf is a long rectangle of identical cable repeats, and as such lends itself to calculations.

Cables are deceptively simple.  If you pay attention and follow the instructions, the hardest thing you have to do is pop a few stitches onto a spare needle and hold them out of the way.  

Until, that is, you mess up. Then, cables are killer.

Here I was, happily stitching along on my daily goal, pleased with my progress.  Then I noticed the egregious error several rows down.  One of those too big to leave be errors that sends your gut down out the soles of your comfy hand-knit socks.

Tinking cables is murderously tedious.  Undoing those twists makes me grunt and frown. And that’s not even the hardest part.   No, for me, the hardest part is figuring out which blasted row you’ve landed on when you start up again.  My anguish went something like this:

It’s got those purls right there.  It must be row 3.  Knit row three.  No, that looks wrong. Tink row while gritting teeth.  It can't be any of the even rows, so it must be row 5 with those 4 purls. Knit row 5.  No, that looks wrong, too.  Tink row 5 while saying bad words. Repeat for 1.25 grueling hours until every possible row has been tried and restoration has been achieved.

I’m back on track, but it hasn’t been fun.  “Chunky” is feeling more like “Clunky” today.  But I press onward!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Celtic Princess Braided Scarf from Yarn & Thread Expressions - Day 2

The Chunky Method comes to knitting...

Those of you who follow my writing career know I released a time-management book called The Chunky Method earlier this year.  It outlines the process I use to write four (albeit shorter) books a year and still have time to be a human being.  I’m often asked if the process can be applied to other creative pursuits.

Given that this scarf is a long continuation of the same repeat, I decided to see if I could apply The Chunky Method to knitting.  Here’s how I did it:

I started with the end in mind:  since this is one of those “go till you run out of yarn” scarves, that meant my end was two 50g skeins of Silky Wool, or 100g.  Useful, but not enough data to craft a practical plan.

I worked up two repeats—about the most I could do in one sitting and therefore my “Chunk.” Then I got out my trusty food scale (every knitter’s best friend!) and my calculator.  It told me my 2-repeat Chunk weighed 5 grams, which mean each repeat used up approximately 2.5 grams of yarn.  It’s important to weigh your knitting needle and back its weight out of your measurements for accuracy.  When I got to 10 repeats today, I weighed my project and what was left of the 50 gram ball, and was delighted to see they weighted almost the same—my measurements are solid!

If 10 repeats weigh 25g, then 40 repeats should get me to the end of my yarn.  Divide the 30 remaining repeats by the four remaining episodes, round up a bit, and I have my knitting plan: eight repeats of the pattern per episode—or 4 sessions of knitting my “Chunk” to stay on track. This is the same data I advise writers to use in scheduling their work toward a deadline.  Knowledge is power, my friend.  

I’d better get knitting!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Celtic Princess Braided Scarf from Yarn & Thread Expressions - Day 1

Cable Challenges...

When working with a sophisticated cable like this, yarn choice makes a big difference.  If you don’t go with a bold, bright solid or a light neutral, everything can get lost.  A dark color or variegated yarn simply wouldn’t work—the braiding wouldn't show up the way you would want after all that cable effort.

The fiber itself intrigues me.  Aside from having a dreamy name that belongs in one of my romance novels, Elsabeth Lavold has created Silky Wool with a feather-light, raw silk quality that both surprises and delights.  You’d expect a sturdy, work-a-day wool with cables—the fisherman’s aran sweater and all—but this fiber gives the scarf an airy feel.  The contrast adds a terrific character.  Texture galore, perfect stitch definiton, but no bulk.  Had I gone with a cream or white rather than my cheery “Maraschino” red, I think I’d feel like someone had stretched a cloud out on a taffy pull.

It’s good that I like the fiber and the color, because I can tell right away the cables are going to challenge me.  I don’t mind cables, but I prefer the kind where only a few rows require the wrangling of that third needle.  With this pattern, not only are their four types of cross-overs, but they occur every right-side row and some rows incorporate two different kinds!  I’m forever checking—often double-checking—the cable stitch key down at the bottom of the page.  Like the trellis stitch in earlier projects, I’ve got to find a way to memorize the stitches so I can make faster progress. I feel like I’m burning way too many brain cells to get this done right now.