June 2003 Archives

Urban Gardening


There are some beautiful garden shots showing up around the ring. Take a look at some of the pics from Kathy's blog and Melissa's blog for some spring color and some inspiration. I enjoy a little gardening, but living in an urban environment makes it difficult to get too elaborate. It also creates a need to find plants that are small in stature but large in color.


Here's a shot of our deck (taken from our upstairs balcony). I planted my flower boxes ~2 weeks ago, and things are just beginning to take off. I'm very into reds and purples this year, and John decided we needed oodles of deep purple and red pansies.

We feel extremely lucky this year -- a wonderful little garden store/nursery opened up just a couple of blocks away from us. Sprout Home is located at 745 N. Damen in Chicago. Tara Heibel has lived in the neighborhood for quite a while and decided to open the shop. We met her around Chrismas when she was selling Christmas trees, and it got me very psyched for spring gardening. She's a lovely and friendly person, as are all the people who work at the store. And it feels good to have a local business to patronize. We moved back into Chicago so that we could be part of a neighborhood. What makes neighborhoods special is the unique businesses and people that live there.

On our second trip of the year for annuals for our flower boxes, John fell in love with pansies, and I just had to take home some fuscias. I've never seen pansies before in colors that evoke the richest of purple and burgandy velvet. Marigolds and some draping white and purple flowers, yellow violas, red and purple petunias jumped into our boxes, too. We walked out of there (and home, literally) each with an armload of lovely flowers. But not before we were given one more magick piece of information -- they had some very special Japanese maples on order.


John and I don't have much backyard. I think there's probably 8 feet between the garage and the front edge of the deck and about 12 feet between the walk from the garage to our nearest neighbor's wall. Most of our back yard is taken up with the deck. Which is not the best situation for someone who loves birds and trees and was hoping to provide a better staging area for some of the little feathered creatures that live in our neighborhood.

So the words "Japanese Maple" really stuck with me -- I could have a brightly colored little tree that would be happy in a mostly shaded, small area. It could provide both beauty for me and shelter for the birds. It would also be a nice centerpiece for the back yard and a start towards replacing the grass with garden.

Yesterday we took a walk by Sprout and, lo and behold, the Japanese Maples had arrived! We got there at the right time, because they had come in only the day before and there were only two left.


John and I decided that we would get the little tree in honor of the start of our third year in our home and our upcoming 5th wedding anniversary (in August). The maple is an Acer palmatum 'Kasagiyama' also known as a Pink Laceleaf Japanese Maple. For more pictures and info, you can take a look here and here.

My fabulous and handsome husband is featured in the beauty shot of our new tree-friend because he did almost all the digging to ensure that she got her roots sinking into her new home as soon as possible. (It also gives you a sense of how small she is -- her maximum height is 6 to 10 feet, as is her maximum width). He actually likes this shot of him with his expertly dug hole better, but I thought everyone might enjoy seeing the tree rather than the hole. For anyone out there who might be thinking of getting one of these trees, or already has one, Tara had some important advice -- don't use those fertilizer spikes with these trees. Apparently they do not like the salt in them at all and can be severely damaged by them. Tara told us that mixing the dirt with a little compost and mulching the base should be all the tree needs in addition to water for the first year or so.

The tree is beautiful from a distance, but her leaves are really what make her a knock out.


It's these exquisite pink centers surrounded by darker red/green color that give the tree its name. Apparently, the trees don't start producing leaves like this until they reach maturity (while they are "growing up" the trees have solid red leaves)-- so our diminuitive 4-1/2 foot tree is pretty much an adult!

Here's one last picture of our back yard -- featuring both the tree and our out-of-control clematis (the one in the middle is called 'Polish Spirit' -- and our plant definitely lives up to its name). Click the link if you want to see what it will look like when it starts to flower.


Today has been more about gardening than about knitting for me, but I did make my first attempt at a short row heel. I'm not entirely pleased with the results, so I'll probably rip and start over before I post a picture. I knew I should have put a life-line in! I also started another pair of socks for John out of the grey (man-friendly) Opal that Emma sent me some time ago. I just can't seem to get away from my sock addiction these days!

Is It Friday Yet?


I've been asking that question since Monday evening. I feel like I've packed two weeks worth of busy-ness into one week. I'm living the old addage "When it rains it pours". I'm going to spare most of the work details... probably everyone has heard enough struggling startup stories to last a lifetime. And work on its own wouldn't be so bad. I've sort of gotten used to the low level state of panic constantly going on there. The thing that I am not coping well with is family related.

My mother-in-law has come to stay with John and I. It's for a good reason and it won't be forever, but I am not adjusting gracefully. I am one of those people who shouldn't be talked to before I have my morning coffee and need quality time alone with myself after work. I'm not used to having my empty house filled with someone else. And I'm not terribly used to sharing my husband on a Thursday night when we're watching CSI. And did I mention that she doesn't speak much English? And that I don't speak any Polish?

It's only been a week now, and I am beginning to cope with this a little bit better than when it first started, but it's still a challenge for me. I spend a lot of time wondering if I live up to her standards: I don't cook much, cleaning isn't part of one of my regular skill sets, I don't go to church, and I'm happier in front of my computer or bonding with my knitting needles than hanging out and chatting. John assures me that she's not judging me badly, but, poor guy, he's more or less in the middle dealing with a mother having a personal crisis and a wife who wants to be handling the situation gracefully but isn't.

So to help brighten my mood, I've turned to yarn stash enhancement procedures... I just ordered some Karabella Zodiac for a little halter top knit-a-long with Kerstin from School Products and Matt of ThreadBear fame is helping me pick custom colors out for a Charlotte's Web shawl. The theme for the shawl is "Fall in Northen Michigan". He's given me several lovely color combinations which I am mulling over now. I show the "winner" as soon as I figure out which one it is.

Probably the best thing in the works, though, is a trip to Milwaukee this weekend with Julie. It's a total road trip for two girls looking to dive into some yarn. Ruhama's is the main event, but we'll probably be hitting some other stores, too. I'm looking to find myself some dye-able wool yarn tomorrow as I've got a whole bunch of Kool-Aid to make a mess with in my kitchen. Hmmmm... wonder what my mother-in-law will think of that?

As to knitting... I am making a little progress on the grey striped Opal socks for John. Not enough for a picture yet, though.

Yarn Therapy


What could be better than a little retail therapy? Not too much -- unless you combine that theapy with a great friend and a road trip! Julie and I hit the open road yesterday and headed to the wild hinterlands of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


We hit three stores, the most notable of which were Ruhama's (420 E. Silver Spring Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53127) and Mosaic Yarn Studio (1585 Ellinwood St., DesPlaines, IL, 60016). Ruhama's was an almost overwhelming experience -- probably the biggest yarn store I've been in to date. While they didn't have everything, they definitely had an awful lot. I picked up the Mandarin Petit (bottom left) and the Filatura di Crossa Porto Cervo in Jeans (top left)there, along with the Filatura Spring/Summer Collection 2003 book and Jade Starmore's A Collector's Item. At Mosaic, I found the Filatura Brilla, which is a beautiful luminescent slate grey (and I haven't been able to find it anywhere else) (center of the photo) and the white Galway (for my upcoming Kool-Aid dyeing experiment). (As an aside... there is a wonderful Prism Yarn trunk show at Mosaic... I'm in desperate need of some "Cool Stuff" now. I managed to avoid buying an Prism, but just barely -- Mosaic has it for probably the best prices I've seen in Chicagoland.)

What is all this stuff for? Tank tops! Not that I need three blue tank tops, but I'm in the mood for something quick and rewarding, which the 2 out of the three patterns should be.


This is probably the most challenging of the three projects -- the Woodstock camisole from Summer 2003 Interweave Knits -- I thought this would be a fun way to try out some lace work in a small project. The Mandarin is 100% Egyptian cotton and very soft.


This little tank (which I liked mostly because of the cable detail with the ribbing) is made from Filatura di Crossa Brilla (and the pattern is also a Filatura di Crossa pattern). Brilla is 42% cotton, 58% viscose and has incredible sheen that is hard to see in my picture, but which I think will ensure that the ribbing and cables stand out even in the dark color I picked. From a pure touch and feel perspective, it's my favorite yarn. I think this little tank will make perfect summer to fall wearing.


This is the top that I bought the pattern book for. Not practical, but I think it's very cute. I'm doing the top in the recommended colors of Porto Cervo in Jeans. It's 100% cotton and very soft to the touch.

I think this will be keeping me busy for a while -- and will probably leave me with enough blue tank tops to last me for a bit. In case it isn't obvious, I love blue. But I think it's going to make me look forward to the color relief in the bright red Karabella tank top I'm going to take on in a little while.

This trip, and Nanette's blog (and perhaps the cool weather that we're having) also inspired me to do something else... I started back in on the back of Malin... my long languishing Alice Starmore aran from In the Hebrides. After a full day of yarn stores, Julie and I spent a comfortable evening lounging in the hotel knitting and talking. Malin got most of my attention. After working a few rows, I got to wondering why I ever put it down...

Or maybe I just got myself 4 tank top projects...

Greys and Blues


Since we are experiencing yet another grey cold day in Chicago, I thought some of the bright colored flowers from my deck might help brighten the day.

I've been speeding right along on my first "little top" project -- the Peasant Top done in Porto Cervo. This top is coming together very fast. Here's the back:


I'm already most of the way done with the front left of the top as well, so I have aspirations of having a new top by the weekend!

While I was a little worried about using 100% cotton yarn, I am finding this yarn to be quite pleasant to work with. It is soft through my fingers and at the recommended gauge it makes up a soft, drapey fabric. I adore the color and shading -- which should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen my closet. My only concern so far is the recommended yarn yardage for the pattern. It looks like the pattern errs on the lean side...



I don't think I've ever made this much progress with a garment so quickly before. Only the right front and one more sleeve and I'll be set! I figure I should be able to get the right front done tonight and the sleeve done tomorrow... assuming I have enough yarn. Instead of knitting this morning I spent some time doing this...


... trying to figure out if I had enough yarn to finish the other two pieces. The side and sleeve I have made up now weigh about 2.5 oz. The remaining yarn in the color I need is about 2.75 oz, maybe a little less... my Ikea scale is probably not the world's most accurate weighing device. And yes, I am knitting to gauge! I'm thinking I should probably call Ruhama's and ask them to see if they have one skein they could hold aside for me, just in case.

I always wonder why pattern designers seem to underestimate yarn amounts... or cut them so close. I hate the feeling of not knowing whether I will have enough yarn to finish a project, especially when it could have easily been avoided. Maybe I am unusual, but I would much rather have way too much yarn and feel comfortable all the way through the project that I am going to be able to complete it, than always be worrying that I am going to have to be scrambling for another yard to complete something.

Home Stretch


Well, I did it! All the major pieces are knitted -- and I even had a little yarn left over (see that little bit between the back and one of the front pieces... that's what is left over!). I still have to do a crochet edging around the neck with that little bit of leftover, and seam the top... Talk about cutting it close.

Now all I have to do is make the crochet chain ties in the contrasting color that hold it together while it blocks. Crocheted trims and edging are new for me so I spent a little time trying to find some info on the web that had good pictures. Not surprisingly, I ended up in the crochet section at About.com. The pictures look decent enough... so hopefully it will be easy.

Probably the harder decision now is what to do next. I just received my Karabella Zodiac from School Products and I could swatch in preparation for my Halter Tank knit along with Kerstin. The Zodiac has the color depth equivalent of Muench Touch Me in cotton -- nicer in person than in the pictures I found on the web. And then there's the top in Filatura Brilla (you can see it in this post I made on Sunday -- it's the gold top in the center). I'm leaning towards the Brilla top... if only because the Peasant Top has gotten me worried about Filatura's yardage estimates...

I've heard rumors that we might actually have some nice weather here in Chicago this weekend... maybe I'll actually have a chance to wear the Peasant top after I get it seamed up!

Victory in Blue


Finished! Finished! Finished!

I love it when I complete something and not only have the finished object but love the way I look in it. This little top is a victory for me in more ways than one! John helped me out with the picture taking... if you want to see one of his attempts to be a little more artsy...click here

The first victory, of course, is just being completely satisfied with the way this turned out. So often there's some niggling little thing that bothers me, or the fit isn't quite right. But this fits wonderfuly, the Porto Cervo feels great against my skin, and there's nothing that bothers me at all. I was a little worried that the eyelets for the laces would be a little too revealing, but it turned out not to be a problem at all. It's even comfortable to wear some supportive underthings with this top -- something that not all little knitted tops seem to be built for.

The second victory has to do with me and how I feel about myself. This time last year I weighed about 35 pounds more than I do now. I'd just had a doctor's visit where my blood pressure looked like it was creeping into the high range (hypertension runs in my family) and I spent two weeks in Hawaii avoiding my image in the mirror when I was wearing a bathing suit.

When we got home from Hawaii, we got to see the results of my dad's adventures with Weight Watchers. He looked fantastic and he claimed it was easy. Before long, John and I were doing it, too. I got down to my target weight during November... I was ecstatic about getting into size 6 clothes and being able to wear almost everything that I wanted. But, being winter, I didn't really get a chance to do any "showing off". This little top is one of my first pieces of "show off" clothing. I'm certainly not the model in the Filatura book (unless you're talking to John, who had lots of nice words for this knitted garment) but I am pleased with myself.

With summer approaching, I kept telling John "you've got to take me some place warm so that I can wear a bikini"... We're taking a little vacation during the week of the 4th of July. When John asked me where I wanted to go I jokingly said "How about the French Riviera?" Last week he found out that we could use our frequent flier miles and spend a week near French food and Meditteranian beaches. So now I have more motivation for completing my second tank top and I guess I'll have to go shopping and find that bikini.

This really is a great little project -- you can enjoy a lovely cotton yarn that knits up quickly. It's obviously a fast-to-knit item so the gratification is almost instantaneous. It gives you a chance to try some crochet, and use those crochet hooks for something besides picking up dropped stitches. I also thought the pattern was well written and easy to follow. All in all, I really had only one problem with this project...


This is literally all the yarn I had left over after knitting, seaming and adding the crochet edge. I'd say that Filatura cut this one a little closer than they needed to.

The Brilla Tank Top Begins


Thank you so much to everyone who left kind words on my last entry! It's definitely a great little project, and if it's your kind of project, I definitely say "go for it!"


Here's my next tank top project. It's the Ribbed Tank Top out of the same pattern book as the Peasant Top (Filatura di Crossa Spring/Summer 2003), only it's done in Filatura di Crossa, Brilla. This yarn is 42% cotton and 58% viscose. The color is #388, and depending one when I see it it looks either slate blue or silvery grey. I thought it would be perfect for dressy summer evenings and might work it's way into fall under a jacket. It's a soft yarn and it knits up easily -- it just seems to glide over my AddiTurbos.

It doesn't look like much yet, since I'm only about 8" up the back. But since the whole top is only 20", it means I'm a little less than half way done with the back. The pattern is 13" from armpit to bottom, and I am thinking of trimming that to 12" or 11". I'm a little short-waisted and don't really want a lot of extra fabric hanging around my hips. I'm hoping to get it finished for my trip to France -- I don't think it will be too difficult to get it done by the 28th, even if I do have to spend some time with my masters thesis.

So far the biggest surprise for me is that I actually don't mind all the K2P2 rib. On socks, I absolutely abhor K2P2 ribbing, but for this top, I feel like I am hitting a rhythm and I can roll forever. More proof that adjusting my style to be more "true Continental" was worth the intial frustration.

I know there's been a lot of bragging rights for who has the greatest husband, and I'd like to make sure that I get in a few good words for John. Not only is he doing most of our planning for our trip, he wandered through women's clothing stores yesterday on our walk back from breakfast to help me get some spiffy new "gear" for France.

Here's the 3 suite Bed and Breakfast that we're going to spend our first 5 days in, Les Terraces du Soleil. John's still working on the second 5 days -- he always works hard to get a good deal on something wonderful, and he's almost never failed to find something wonderful!

If anyone knows of any good fibery stores in and around Nice, France, please let me know! (I'd also love to hear about any "must dos" anyone knows about in the area). That'll be a true test for my best guy... something I haven't made him do yet... wait around while I wander through a yarn store!

Fall Comes to Northern Michigan


Thanks to Matt at ThreadBear I have some beautiful new Koigu to add to my collection. This set of 5 gorgeous colorways is earmarked for a Charlotte's Web shawl. I wanted the shawl to be evocative of the colors that you see in Traverse City, MI in the fall -- rich yellows, reds and browns combined with a deep blue sky and fading greens (if you've never done a fall color trip to Northern Michigan, I highly recommend it, the color is stunning and inspiring). I'm not my best in things with too much yellow undertone, so I asked Matt to skew things a little towards the blue side. I think the result is fabulous! In case you are interested, from left to right the colors are: p334, p602, p410, p110, p508.

Unfortunately, the picture really doesn't do these colorways justice. The p602 is not really as shocking as it looks in the picture -- and it is a perfect match to the reds you see in turning leaves. The p110 has a subtle melange of orange and yellow and green and magenta and blue and says "the beginning of fall" to me. The p410 is deeper and richer than it appears... it has lovely chocolate and amber/orange tones to complement the blue.

The only thing left to decide now is which color should be the "bottom" of the shawl. The pattern says that the bottom color, because more of it will be used, will be dominant. Any opinions?

I'd like to say "Thanks!!!!" again to Matt who spent time designing the original colorways and helping me pick out something perfect. I can't wait to get started on this project. Will I be able to resist taking it to France? Will I have the will power to finish my tank tops before I start this.... hmmm...

Brilla Back


This would have been up last night except for the fact that this yarn does not lend itself well to flash photography -- its very reflective stuff and every picture I took looked washed out. It's a beautiful day in Chicago this morning, so I unpinned the back of the top from my blocking board and took it out to get some sun.

I should have taken a "before blocking" picture just so everyone could see the difference, but let me say that blocking is a good thing and I still can't believe I went for so long thinking that a) I didn't need to do it and b) it's hard to do. Because a) it makes your garments look so much more polished and b) it's not hard at all.


What makes this top special, however, is not the blocking, but the pretty cable detail around the neck. I was a little worried about the slate colored yarn not showing up the cables, but figured that the reflective properties of the yarn would probably compensate for the dark color.

So far I am pleased with both the pattern and the yarn. The yarn is pleasant to work with -- it moves easily and is not abrasive. However, because of it's nature it is not a "perfect stitch" sort of yarn. The texture ends up a little uneven, a quality which I like, especially for a little summer tank. I did modify the pattern a little bit, opting for only 12" below the armhole shaping instead of 13" as the pattern calls for. I'm a little on the short-waisted side and didn't want a lot of extra fabric flaring over my hips.

I've only found one "error" in the pattern -- the schematic diagram in the book says 7" for the armhole height while the instructions say 7-1/2" for the smallest size (it's shifted for all the sizes). I opted for the size in the diagram because I want a little snugger fit and would like to be able to wear a bra under it without showing it off too much.

This top would be a great project for anyone wanting to try out cabling -- there's not too much and the cable is simple. I used the opportunity to try out Wendy's recipe for cabling without a cable needle. It's definitely a handy technique, but I am not sure I would want to do it for big cables (i.e. cables where you had more than 2-4 stitches to worry about) because there is a lot of potential for dropping stitches.

Meanwhile, I am trying to resist the call of Charlotte's Web. I have to admit though, the only thing that is holding me back is that both of my size 6 AddiTurbos are tied up in other projects (I cast on the front of the tank top and John's sweater) and I just can't justify buying another pair of size 6 circulars right now... Must finish tank top.... must finish tank top..

Away on Business


Yep... tomorrow moring at a way too early time I get on an airplane at Midway airport and take off for a two day business trip to fabulous Minneapolis, MN. I'm there for about 36 hours, so in addition to doing business and catching up with some old dear friends, I'm also hoping to get to some yarn stores. Here's the two my hostess has suggested:

Linden Hills Yarn & Textile Designs Ltd
2720 W 43 St MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55410

Creative Fibers
5416 Penn Ave S Minneapolis.

Creative Fibers has weaving classes... I need to find someplace near me in Chicago where I can try out weaving. For some strange reason, I have been developing a desire to learn how to weave. No matter where I get to, I'll put up a review after I get back.

I'm also hoping that I'll get the front of my tank top done on the trip. I've only got an inch and a half before the armhole shaping. Since the front looks just like the back, I'll wait until its assembled to post more pictures.

And now I have to face a pretty serious decision: What project do I take with me to France? John and I leave for the Cote d'Azure on Saturday afternoon. and I have to decide between Charlotte's Web and the little blue lace tank top from Interweave Knits (you can see it here). Opinions?

Blog by Phone


I love technology! I am making this entry from my web-enabled Palm phone. Gotta love Movable Type.

I had a great day with old family friends and found another yarn store I'd love to have as a LYS (the first one listed in yesterday's post). I couldn't help myself... I now have yarn for Smooch, plus some new cool novelty yarn from Plymouth. Pics tomorrow - my phone doesn't have a camera...yet

I Couldn't Leave with Nothing...


Hooray! I'm back in Chicago! I loved seeing my friends and seeing some new yarn shops, but Dorothy definitely had it right: there's no place like home.

I did get to check out both stores: Linden Hills Yarns and Creative Fibers. The little treasure trove you see above is from Linden Hills Yarns. I had a great time meeting Jan Walkovets who owns the shop. She was friendly, helpful and was encouraging people to think beyond patterns, which I love. She also had pretty decent prices. She was clearing out a bunch of Mission Falls 1824 wool ($3.75/skein), so picked up a few skeins in a "manly" color to make John another pair of simple socks for winter.

The lovely All Seasons Cotton (how much cotton can I buy this summer...) is for Smooch! All the wonderful Smooches out there finally got to me. When I saw this color I decided I needed to do it.... and at $5.25 (I think) a ball... it seemed reasonable enough. Now I just have to find a copy of the book...

But the real find for me is the two balls in the middle. Here's a closeup of one of them (colorway 17);


This is Plymouth Yarn's Electra from their Italian collection. The little tufts of color feel a lot like Muench Touch Me, but the yarn is 100% nylon. There's 125 yards on the skein, so I am thinking great garter stitch scarf for fall using a very similar pattern to the one I used for the EROS scarves. Jan was knitting with it when I got to her store, and said it had literally just arrived in the store.

Linden Hills Yarns is cluttered but wonderful. She carries a lot of Rowan -- and has enough stock so that you can find enough for a sweater. She also had a great selection of Jo Sharp, Noro, Berocco and Collinette (more Collinette than I have seen almost anywhere else). Lots of buttons and sock yarn, too. Best of all, I felt very welcome in the store, and everyone there was willing to talk to me (my felted daypack was a great converstaion starter).

Next time I hope I will get to check out the Yarnery... I was mostly on the west side of Minneapolis and in Minnetonka.

I'm still working on the top of the front side of my tank top. Hopefully I'll get it to where I can block it tonight... and assemble it tomorrow (our plane doesn't leave until 5 pm). If not, it will stay in the US and wait for me, because I've promised myself I'm only going to slog one project back and forth from France...really (and my Denise needles, and my Knitter's Companion, and maybe a skein of that Electra...)

And as to travel knitting.... I think Charlotte is definitely going to win! I keep looking at the colors and wanting to touch them. Tonight I'll use my swift to create suitcase-sized yarn pucks. I think I am going to use them in the order you see them in the picture below with the p508 being the dominant color. Unfortunately, that picture doesn't truly capture all the rich and wonderful tones. I like the p334, but the p508 has a lot more depth.

Destination: Nice, France


It's almost time to head to the airport! I've packed my clothes (very easy since you don't need much for warm sunny weather besides little tops, shorts and a swim suit...yes, I did find the perfect little black bikini to hit the beaches with), rounded up my airplane treats (yarn for Charlotte's web, a skein of Electra, my Denise needles, a sock project, and two books by Dan Brown) and am trying to figure out which shoes to take. Soon John and I will be on our way to this...


I've got my little peasant top in my suitcase and I'm going to finish up the crochet edging on my Brilla tank top either at the airport or on the plane (pictures when I get back, but so far it is very cute). We're flying business class (gotta love frequent flier miles!) so I should have plenty of space to spread out and stitch in.

I hope everyone has a great week and a half! I'll be on vacation until the 9th of July. Happy Knitting (and Independence Day!) to everyone.

Au revioir!