Friday, April 18, 2014

Island Knits Shoulder Wrap from Island Knits - Day 5

Fringe element...

It took me nearly the entire project—I’m close to the finish but not quite done—to decide.  Fringe, or no fringe?  

It’s always a conundrum for me when I debate whether to veer from a designer’s pattern.  Especially here, out in the knitting public.  There have been times where I doubted I’d like a pattern’s outcome—and ended up loving it.  That part of knitting holds the same wonder writing does for me:  you never quite know what you’re going to get until you’re done.

Knitting is also, however, a highly personal craft.  I know my tastes, I usually know what pleases me and why.  I know that I don’t care for fringe.  I own one rectangular shawl with fringe—really more like tassels—at each end.  Fringe all down the large edge of this shawl?  I really don’t think I’ll enjoy it.

It’s already making me nervous that I won’t have enough yarn to get through the bind off on this project.  It’s not like a prayer shawl where you can cut your fringe strands before you start your third skein—this is a one skien project.

Internet to the rescue!  This week one of my favorite local yarn stores sent out an e-newsletter with this exact yarn featured.  I had my solution!  I will finish the shawl and bind it off.  I will wear it once and see how I like it without the fringe.  Should I decide it really needs that edging, I will walk myself down to the shop and pick up a second skein with which to add said fringe.

Problem solved.  For now.  Stay tuned to see my final decision.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Island Knits Shoulder Wrap from Island Knits - Day 4

Gotta get back...

We’ve all been there.  That psychological set point that implants itself when we have to rip out large sections of a project.  You mark it—consciously or unconsciously—because you won’t feel settled until you get back to that place in your progress.  

I usually know it because the yarn rewound onto the ball or skein is usually wrapped angrily in a different direction.  It hits you like a fever—you MUST knit until you get back to the point where you had to start ripping out.  If you don’t, the yarn sits there nagging at you like a toothache. Am I right?

Last night I finally got back to the point I was at before I realized my grave increase error.  The shawl is a different shape now; a more correct shape.  My world has been restored to its correct path, and I am at peace with my knitting.

Until the next mistake.  Because it doesn’t matter how cocky experienced…a knitter you are, you will rip.  You will frog.  You will yank out misbehaving stitches.

In that, however, lies the greatest grace of knitting:  you get do-overs.  If only all of life worked that way.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Island Knits Shoulder Wrap from Island Knits - Day 3

Pride cometh before a frog...

I like to think of myself as a skilled knitter.  I envision myself as having a fair amount of what I call “stitch intuition”—the ability to look at a pattern or work-in-progress and sense that something isn’t quite right.  The experience needed to identify and adjust for a typo in a pattern, to adapt for a fiber substitution, or to look at a mistake and know how to fix it.

Yeah, you’d think.

Why, why is it always the simplest patterns that do me in??

I’ve been staring at the shape of this shawl, dismissing the growing sense that something didn’t look right.  It needed to slope more gently, to be wider, to look less like a triangle and more like an arc.   Still, I stitched happily along with my big, fast needles and my soft, drapey yarn.

Until last night.  Now, yesterday wasn’t a particularly good day so you know the knitting’s going to kick you when you're down.  When you turn to your knitting for solace?  Oh, that’s when she turns on you.

I stared at the shawl again, uneasy.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I catch the second sentence in the pattern.  The entire pattern is only four sentences long, for crying out loud, it wasn’t like I was asked to absorb an encyclopedia.  I’m a publishing professional; I should be able to handle four-sentence instructions.

There, tucked into the middle sentence, were the words “and end.”  As in “increase 1 stitch at the beginning and end of each row.”  I had increased at the beginning of each row, but neglected to catch on that I needed to increase at the end of each row as well.

We will not recount the nasty things I said as I ripped out a full half of this project.  Sufficeth to say, it wasn’t anything soft or virtuous.   Thank heavens these are big needles.  If I’m lucky I can knit fast enough to catch up.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Island Knits Shoulder Wrap from Island Knits - Day 2

Big but not chunky...

Island Knits Wrap knitting in Florida!
This is a highly portable project, despite the size. Sure, I always feel like size 17 circular needles look more like something I ought to be jumpstarting a car with rather than something to knit an elegant accessory, but they get the job done.

And they get the job done fast.  This could be a weekend project easily.  In fact, given the length of your evening and the speed of your knitting, this could be a one-night stitch stand.  Especially if you decided to forgo the fringe.  If you need a quick, high-satisfaction project, this is an ideal choice.

The color continues to please me.  I wear lots of brown and a fair amount of grey, and this colorway combines the two and throws in a dash of dramatic turquoise as a bonus.  What's not to like?  It's the drape, however, that I find most appealing.  I tend not to favor the big chunky yarn stuff--I have no interest in arm knitting despite the current rage.  This is big,but it's anything but chunky.  It's got a large-stitched casual elegance.  This shawl will be as at home atop a t-shirt and jeans as it would over a summer dress.

…Except for the fringe.  I can't quite make friends with the fringe finish yet (fringe often feels too “western wear” for me), but I know it'll need something along the edge.  And how on earth will I know how much fiber to save for the edging if I don't know what it will be?  I hate not knowing if I'll have enough yarn to finish what I've started.  Oh, well, that's the drama of knitting.  Maybe I'll dream up a perfect solution on my way to the top edge.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Island Knits Shoulder Wrap from Island Knits

The glorious difference!

One of the projects I’ve been working on for pure pleasure lately is the Phoenix Shawl, a stunning Zauberball shawl I picked up the yarn and pattern for last Mother’s Day.  It’s taken me a year to find the time and focus to get near completion on this massive garter stitch short row-based project.  Gazillions of tiny stitches.

Imagine the refreshment I get from swapping out my delicate size 5 lace needles for a pair of big, shiny size 17s!  While both projects are garter stitch-based and play primarily on the gorgeous color transformations of their fiber, they couldn’t be more different.  That, for me, is one of the greatest gifts of knitting—there’s no end to the variety.

This marvelously tropical cotton fiber is like knitting with strips cut from that favorite t-shirt you’ve work for ten years and would never part with despite its fading.  It’s dreamily soft against the fingers—which will mean soft against your shoulders, and that’s important for a summer project.  Nice and stretchy, too. 

It is the perfect launch into warm-weather knitting.  Now, if we can actually achieve some weather close to warm here in Chicago…

Friday, March 28, 2014

Myrtle Beach, SC - Day 2

Coasting along...

Ready for another costal adventure?  Start your day out right at:

Barefoot Barista Coffee and Tea House
10080 Ocean Highway #10B
Pawley’s Island, SC 29585

Here’s the kind of non-chain character-filled coffee place that I adore.  No corporate java here, just a friendly, artsy atmosphere where you can strike up a conversation with just about anybody.  The brochure lists the operating  hours as “7-ish - Late”—that’s an attitude I can enjoy.  If you don’t end up here for breakfast, you can have salads, soups, sandwiches, and a tantalizing selection of savory and dessert crapes.  Yes, you have my permission to eat dessert crapes for breakfast.

Head just a short hop south on 17 and look for the cluster of shops on the west side of the rode marked “Island Shops.”  Wander toward the back of the adorable little retail village, behind the pond, until you find:

Island Knits
Island Shops
10659 Ocean Highway 17
Pawley’s Island, SC 29585

It’s like stumbling upon some great knitting Aunt’s summer cottage.  Cats wander around, ducks and such paddle around the water, and a set of rocking chairs sits waiting outside the shop.  

When I arrived, there was a friendly group of women just finishing up a hour of knitting and heading off to lunch—sounds like a perfect day to me!  Owner Susan Annalora even introduced me to a “friendly” silk spider spinning in the tree on the edge of the water.  “Charlotte” and I didn’t get very chummy, but I admire spinning of any sort, I suppose.  

The shop is filled with
inspiring samples, a nice selection of buttons, and I was impressed with Susan’s patience while helping customers find product or solve problems.  Boasting a big tourism trade, there is a lot of focus on accessories and other not-too-long-term projects.  Sit N Knit is popular (as evidenced by the group upon my arrival), lessons are, too; but multi-session classes don’t have as much of a draw.  I loved the “Low Country” feel of the place—almost like a movie set but more authentic.  The hour I spent sitting on the waterfront porch rocking and chatting was one of the most pleasant of my trip.  Here are a few projects you might want to check out:

Our Knit Along will be the:
Island Knit Shawl

"You can make this out of anything!” boasts Susan, but she offered up a ball of Lang Sol Degrade stretchy, jersey-like cotton.  200 yards of this and a set of size 15 needles, and the very simple instructions get you an elegant, drapey summer shawl that is a Island Knits favorite.  Make sure you get instructions for the yarn-over cast off to ensure the best results.

Drop Stitch Shoulder Wrap

Another popular accessory that can do double duty as a wrap or a cowl.  This simple loop works up in any heavy worsted weight yarn.

Mirasol’s Illaris Cardigan
Want something with a little more challenge?  Take on this beautiful lace edge pima cotton cardigan.  I love the mix of textures, and you can go solid or create an eye-catching color combination like you see here.

Sirdar Loopy Helmet
How adorable is this quirky baby hat from the Snuggly DK book?  One skein of any dk weight yarn—think of the fun you could have with the colors!—creates one of the most unique baby hat’s I’ve ever seen.  Super cute and just begging for pats on the head, don’t you think?

If you haven’t spent all your money on yarn, the village boasts other lovely shops. Here are two of my favorites:

Earthly Treasures
Island Shops
10659 Ocean Highway 17
Pawleys Island, SC 29585
A little bit of everything, and nothing you’ll find in the mall.  Gemstones, seashells, jewelry, carvings, and all kinds of unusual gifts.

All Fired Up
Paint Your Own Pottery
Island Shops
10659 Ocean Highway 17
Pawleys Island, SC 29585
If you really want a fabulously creative day, call ahead and talk to Carla so she can set you up to make your own yarn bowl.  She’s endlessly friendly and encouraging—I’m an accomplished knitter but I tend to rot at other crafts, but she made me feel like even I could create something I’d be proud to show off.

When you’re ready for lunch, you won’t have to go far.

Bistro 217
10707 Ocean Highway 17
Pawleys Island SC 29585

What’s good here?  According to Susan at Island Knits, “everything!”  Still, if you’re looking for advice, she suggests the Pecan Encrusted Trigger Fish Salad.  If you end up here for dinner, try the 217 Eggplant Treasure Chest or the Pan-Seared Lobster, Shrimp and Scallops. Yum.

For the rest of your day, I offer up two options—one north, one south:

Brookgreen Gardens
1931 Brookgreen Dr,
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
(843) 235-6000

It’s gardens, and a zoo, and a

museum, and an arts haven…this is a pretty amazing place.  Not just flora and fauna, the gardens hosts an impressive collection of figurative sculpture by American artists.  I like that your admission ticket is good for seven days, so you don’t feel like you have to cram everything into one visit. During certain seasons you can also purchase in-park excursions such as a pontoon boat ride and the butterfly house.

If that doesn’t suit, head a few minutes down Route 17 to the charming historic seaport of:

It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon popping into shops, “window shopping” boats along the docks, wandering streets with old oak trees and historic looking homes—the whole waterfront experience.  And it has a yarn store!  Stop in and say hello to Ellen at JOYfilled Garden and Gifts. Part gift shop, part antiques haven, part “come and sit a spell” parlor, part yarn shop, it’s a one-of-a-kind establishment that will hopefully get it’s own DestiKNITions adventure.

That wraps up my yarn-y travel advice for Myrtle Beach.  Stay tuned for the next post as I cast on the Island Knit Shawl.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Myrtle Beach, SC - Day 1

Beachy Keen...

Not being a golfer (even mini—and there’s plenty of that here, too), I hadn't ever had reason to visit Myrtle Beach despite my many trips to Charleston in South Carolina.  Luckily, a conference late last year enabled me to take in the city and its offerings—yarny and otherwise.  There’s little doubt this is a recreation-centered place.  It’s got all the beachy, touristy diversions you could ever want, no matter what your age.  Cross LasVegas with a bit of Branson and stick its feet in the Atlantic Ocean, and you’ve got Myrtle Beach.

I’m not going to point you towards the standard tourism attractions—there are plenty of ways to get that info and will set you up nicely.  My job is to lure you off the beaten path to some places that magazine in your hotel room might not list.

Start your day at:

Croissants Bistro and Bakery
3751 Robert  Grissom Parkway
Myrtle Beach SC  29577
I did not have the luxury of doing breakfast here, but I’d recommend the shrimp and grits at any meal.  Lunch (my visit) is also terrific, and my sources say the chocolate fondue is dynamite.  I had an outstanding fish taco, and even if I’d visited for breakfast I would have insisted on a slice of cake (coconut and awesome, in my case).  I love the tagline: “Bonjour, y’all.”  Grab some goodies to go if you can’t quench all your sugar fix in one meal.

Next, walk off all that caloric intake by wandering Myrtle Beach’s famous boardwalk.  Start at the  14th Avenue Pier just south of where you had breakfast and walk the whole way down to the Second Avenue Pier and back again.  There are several shops and attractions along the way, so you can get your souvenir shopping and carnival ride fix at the more energetic stretches, and chill out on the comfortable benches along the quieter parts.

Ready for yarn adventures?  Hop in your car and make the 15 minute drive to:

Knit N Purl
4999  Carolina Forest Blvd, Suite 13
Myrtle Beach SC  29579

You’d be hard pressed to find a more welcoming shop.  The chemistry between the diverse team that runs this establishment—Owner Phyllis McGowan, Instructor Molly Bruton, and staff stars Michael, Ross, Arlene and Anne—gives the place a contagious energy and community feel.  There are big inviting tables always full of conversation and—my favorite—the “Husband Couch” placed thoughtfully near the coffee and treats.  If you don’t want to be cooped up inside, there are the standard-southern-issue rocking chairs out front.

Encouragement is the overriding vibe in here.  There are model projects out to touch and crave for every yarn in the shop.  Need a charity project?  They’ve got scads of ‘em, including collecting one hundred hats for Knots of Love.  “If you come empty handed,” warns Phyllis, “you won’t stay that way for long!”  The store boasts a full load of classes and offers private lessons as well.  They’ve even got “an app for that”—this is a store that embraces knitting’s digital side with an extensive website, a YouTube channel, and a robust social media presence.

The store’s wide selection shifts with the seasons and whims of the talented staff.  “We respond to what our knitters want.”  Fiber is stocked by weights around the store, and there’s plenty for the crochet crowd, too.  Here are a few projects I found particularly appealing:

These pretty mitts knit up in an endless array of variations using Blue Sky Alpaca worsted in your choice of colors.  If you’re looking for a one-skein project (one skein of each color, that is), you can’t go wrong with these.  They are fine-lined enough to feel elegant, yet still comfy and casual.

Candy Cane Scarf
My visit was right before the holidays, so this project was a customer favorite.  If you need a quick, inventive gift under $20, grab yourself some Plymouth Encore and have at it. Encore comes in over 150 colors—including a few holiday-perfect tweeds like the one shown here—so you can’t go wrong.  Just make sure you watch the video tutorial from Knit N Purl’s YouTube channel for the bind-off.

Our Knit Along from this store is a lovely one:
Rose Garden Shawl
Photo from
Just the right weight for summer, this shawl combines lacework with sturdier garter stitch up by your neck.  Vera Sanon’s design for Cascade utilizes two skeins of Ultra Pima Quatro, a cotton perfect for summer wearing.  Just right to keep the air conditioning off your shoulders.

Anja’s Newsboy Hat
Every once in a while I want a knitted hat that still has a brim. This inventive free pattern takes a skein of Lamb’s Pride to knit up a stylish topper that won’t squash my bangs.  Why opt for a boring baseball cap when you could keep warm in this?

Once you’ve filled your trunk with fiber finds, it’s time to fish for something a little closer to nature.  Make your way down Route 17 (the city’s main north-south route) to: 

Murrell’s Inlet
This area offers several chances to see the region’s fishing and boating side.  You can take in this fishing village with a hands-on approach with kayaking tours and chartered fishing excursions.  You can try coastal cooking by heading off to the local fishing markets.  You can take things up a notch by taking a pirate-themed boat tours.  If you save your visit for after dark, the village takes on a whole different vibe with lots of bars and live music.  Me?  I just sat, walked, and stared the water.  Bliss.

When you’re ready for dinner, one place you don’t want to miss is:

Sea Captain’s House
3002 N. Ocean Blvd
Mytrle Beach, SC

Show up early!  This place fills up fast, and there’s a good reason.  I arrived at 5pm and spent a splendid dinner on the enclosed porch watching the sun set and the boats come in.  She-crab soup in season is one of life’s great pleasures, so don’t miss it.  My sources said the seafood casserole is splendid, but they were sadly out for my visit.

As the sun sets on a great costal day, toast your good fortune and get ready for another!