Backtack dilemma

I joined Backtack III and since the match-ups went out a few weeks ago, I have been obsessively sketching designs and trolling fabric stores, online and off, for the perfect fabrics. This time, instead of bags and pouches, the Backtack theme is a stuffie! This is quite perfect in my opinion since I obsessively collect really like them and really enjoy making them as well. Better yet, the amount of sewing involved is easily attainable in terms of hand-sewing for sewing machine-less me. The Backtack stuffie-making comes with a few recommended patterns and some stipulations as well. One of the rules is that the stuffie has to be black and white with only one other color comprising less than 20% of the piece. Well, I think I have the black and white fabrics pretty well covered now...

...but I’m still dithering over the one colored fabric I'm allowed. In the design I have in mind, this fabric will be in appliqued bits on the stuffie. So herein lies my dilemma: what color should I use?

Bright red wool---or---darker/deep-red linen?

Orange red wool---or---Plum corduroy?

Lilac um…something slightly glittery? (It’s actually a bit less pink than the photo would indicate).

I keep leaning towards the reds since they seem to pop better against the black and white but I rather like the other colors too. The lilac in particular has an interesting texture that might work well with the design I have in mind but it’s rather pastelish and I think the recipient would prefer the bolder hues. Hmm. Suggestions? Opinions?
And while I ponder over the fabric choices, I’ve been working on a surprise stuffie for the BF’s birthday.

Can you guess what it is?
Oh, one more thing related to sewing...an almost finished bird bag for the April Sew?-I-Knit bag-sew-along.

You can see more pictures here, though you may have scroll down a bit. Hopefully, I have a new Spring purse by the end of the week!


Nothing earth-shattering...

Just a bit of fiber goodness for the weekend.

Brooks Farm Four Play, in case you were wondering. 50% wool and 50% silk...hand-dyed colors, a little sheen, and oh so soft...


Booking through Thursday: Six Degrees Round Robin

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Here is what's happening today --
Laura said:
"Jeanne suggested that we do this again, round robin style. I think it sounds like fun. It'll be interesting to see the book selections. I won't be here next week (see my blog for details, if you're so inclined), so see if you can keep this going for a couple of weeks. Here's what to do:
I'll start with a book, then the first person who comments uses my book as inspiration. Each person after that uses the book of the person above as their inspiration. There will be times when there's an overlap, with two or more people using the same book as their inspiration. When that happens, the next person will have their choice."

The first book, chosen by Laura:
I don't read classics as often as I should, but when I do I usually love them. One of my favorites is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. My husband has a nice collection of leather-bound books, and it's his special edition of this book that I first read. It made the experience just that much more enjoyable for me. The smell of the leather, the fine gilt-edged pages, the beauty of the prose, the eerie feeling of the tale, all made my first sojourn into this wonderful story that much more special."

Bill responded with:
I propose Jamaica Inn' by Daphne du Maurier. I read this book in the 1970's when on holiday's at my grand parents. That summer was awfully hot and i spent the afternoons readins in the coolest room of the house. My grand mother owned a lot of what was then called 'Women books' (that meant written by women). Among them were all du ùaurier's books and I read them all and loved them.
In 1996, I holidayed in the southern Coast of England with my husband and daughter. I bought the book when I got back home, read it again and loved it! Here it is.

Jeanne said:
"Jamaica Inn" makes me think of adventure stories -- specifically Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island". Even though this was (and still is, I suppose) seen as a "boy's book," I enjoyed it tremendously, with its tales of the sea and derring-do, and its wonderfully vivid characters. "Pieces of eight, pieces of eight!"

Mary proposed:
Okay, I had to think about this but Jeanne's comment about Treasure Island being a "boy book" leads me to a very recent read of mine, Guys Write for Guys Read edited by Jon Scieszka. Guys Read (www.guysread.com) is an organization designed to increase the literacy of boys. The book is essays and drawings by male authors and illustrators. Like Jeanne and Treasure Island, this book is for boys but I absolutely loved it. So many wonderful tales of childhood from dozens of "guys." A must read.

And here is mine:
Mary’s mention of childhood stories and “guys” made me think of a novel of a childhood happening in the absence of reliable guys…men, rather. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, written in the Forties by Betty Smith, is a poignant novel that traces the childhood of Francie Nolan, a little girl living in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn in the first decades of the 20th century. More than just a tale of bright and imaginative Francie as she grows and perseveres, the book is also a wonderfully charactered portrayal of the women who hold strong and keep the families whole, even when they are failed again and again, often by the men in their lives. This is one of my all-time favorite books…beautifully written and deeply moving.

Check the comments in Booking Through Thursday to see what follows my suggestion and maybe add one of your one.

The really is a knitting blog*

And to prove it, here are some finished objects instead of my usual mid-week filler of flowers photographs.

Really, it’s amazing what you can do with a few hours of concentrated knitting, end weaving, sewing, and tinkering with snaps. Finally, a small dent in the on-going project pile. So without further ado, we have

Baby shoes…redux

Pattern: Textured Shoes from 50 Baby Booties to Knit, by Zoe Mellor, slightly modified (I cast on 18sts and went up to 28 instead of the 24 and 38 stitches in the pattern and didn't use buttons for the straps)
Yarn: Rowan Cotton Glace, less than 2/3 of a skein

I guess the third time really is the charm. Shoe Number 3 thankfully matches Shoe Number 2 in size so now we have a pair instead of a repeat of past trama! This is the first time I’ve knitted with 100% cotton and not only was my tension all over the place, my gauge was also very different from the one indicated for Cotton Glace in the pattern. If I had not made the adjustment in stitch number, the shoes would have been enormous. Aside from changing the stitches, I also opted to use snaps on the straps instead of buttons since giving the BF's new niece ready-made choking hazards is probably not the best way to celebrate her birth and express congratulatory sentiments to her parents. Without the button as a decorative element on the strap though, the shoes seemed rather bland so I stitched on a little leaf.

I intended to do something more complex than just an outline but after several attempts that resulted in misshapen green blobs, I gave up and went with simple lines. Detailed embroidery on a half-inch wide strip of moss-stitched knitting is beyond me. All in all though, these shoes are easy and fast to make. More than anything else, stitching the shoe together is the most fiddly and time-consuming. Since the shoe is knit flat, turning it into a three dimensional shape does take a bit of tweaking with the knitting (e.g. gathering the top toe piece into a sort of pleat in places to make the domed front). Since the tweaking gives the shoe its final shape, you may want to note where you bunched things on one shoe so that you can do the same, mirrored, to the other to get about the same shape in the both shoes. Of course, I didn’t realize this until I was halfway through seaming the third shoe so my pair has that lovely “hand-made” look.

And going back further in the project pile, here is the finally finished and be-ribboned Lacybonnetol. (Modeled by the ever helpful Bun the rabbit and Ork the doorknob).

Pattern: Lacy Bonnet from Knitting for Two, by Erika Knight
Yarn: RYC Cashsoft DK, approximately half a skein

I still think this pattern is brilliant. The bonnet is knitted flat and doesn't look like much. Yet, when you stitch two edges together, this beautiful starflower suddenly appears from a previously linear series of yarn-overs and knit-together. Overall an amazingly fun and very straightforward knit. The yarn too was incredibly scrumptious. It’s a micro fiber, cashmere, and extra fine merino blend that is extremely soft and squooshy. And machine washable! It does get a bit of a halo after some amount of handling but the fiber integrity doesn’t seem to be affected at all. Really, the only part of this project that took some thought was puzzling out how to make the silk ribbon accents/ties removable since they, unlike the yarn, were not machine washable. After some fiddling, I settled on snaps.

Surprisingly, the snaps withstand a good amount of tugging so with any luck, this bonnet (and the shoes) may stay on little S. long enough for a quick snap-shot or two. Now I just need to get everything to her before she outgrow it all.

So there, actual knitting here at A Knit’s Tale. What a concept.

*most of the time, anyway


Knitting in the dark.

Knitting in the dark.
The only thing I know how to do well is...

Well, not really.
But, someone has finally invented a solution for those of us wanting to knit in the dark but deficient in the ability to manipulate fiber without looking!

(photo by Lars Klove for the NYT)

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Those are indeed lighted knitting needles. According to the Pulse section of the Sunday NYT Style pages, all it took was one Monica Dremann complaining to one Edith Eig, an owner of La Knitterie Parisienne in Los Angeles, about not being able to knit in the theater during promos due to the lack of light, Edith then mentioning this to her retired engineer husband, et voila! The Knit Lite was born. These needles have LED lights at the tips and are supposed to come in a variety of sizes, all available next month from La Knitterie Parisienne.
I still cracking up over the concept of putting lights at the end of knitting needles. Is it just me or do they look just like pretend wizard wands?

*with apologies to They Might Be Giants


Booking Through Thursday: Six Degrees of Booking

Now with pictures! (Brilliant idea of Jeanne’s)

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Today's topic was suggested by Mary.

Connect any six books in your library to each other by any way you want. One book will remind you of another because the author's name is similar, a fictional character shows up in someone else's book, another author is talked about by characters in a book, maybe the same friend recommended both books, or whatever. Books from a series count as one entry in your list.

Here goes...

One of the best Christmas presents I had received in recent years was the Norton’s New Annotated Sherlock Holmes from the BF. I adore these beautiful books as they do much more than gather together all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyles’ Holmes stories. The volumes also provides a wealth of background information on the period, delightful illustrations that had accompanied the stories in their original publications, and close analysis/annotation of the tales with the wonderful conceit à la the Baker Street Irregulars that Holmes was every bit a real person and that Watson was indeed the authors of the tales. That lovely fiction of Holme's existance is used by Laurie R. King to form the basis of the Mary Russell mystery novels, which pick up when Mary, an unconventional and intelligent girl living in the Sussex Downs, meets the retired, bee-keeping Holmes. While this set-up is filled with potential contrivances and pit-falls that can drag a novel down the path of being yet another stilted and embarrassingly awkward piece of fan fiction, Ms. King manages to steer clear of all the traps with her engaging writing and believable characterization. The Russell books, in my opinion, are some of the few Sherlockiana works that does justice to the original characters and take the stories in an interesting new direction. In a delightful moment in one of the books, mystery universes momentarily collide and a younger Lord Peter Whimsy, fresh from his scarring war experience, makes a dash across the pages. Lord Peter is, of course, the monocle-wearing aristocratic sleuth from Dorothy Sayers’ books from the first half of the last century. I could enthuse endlessly about her writing, but I will control myself and just say that everyone should read Gaudy Night. At least once. I first encountered mention of Ms. Sayers’ work years ago in the sublimely humorous To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. The book transcends categorizations as it manages to be tale of time-travel, a parody of Victorian melodrama, and a love story all at once. (It is to my eternal dismay that my copy, carefully packed away with some of my most loved books, is still buried somewhere in my parents garage from my rather haphazard move home at the end of college.) Not only does “Placetne , magistra?” play a role in To Say Nothing of the Dog, Jerome K. Jerome’s comical Three Men in a Boat is also a major source of inpiration, both to the main character of the book and to the author, if the misadventures the main character suffers on the river is anthing to go by. Indeed, J., his compatriots, and Montmorency even appear for a quick cameo in the book. Given how much I enjoyed To Say Nothing of the Dog, I of course had to pick up Three Men in a Boat.
One bit of advice for those deciding to read this book: do so on public transportation. In no time at all, you’ll have a nice wide empty berth around you as people sidle away after observing you snort, chortle, and giggle hysterically to yourself continuously. Montmorency the dog from Three Men in a Boat put me in mind of other books with canine characters, or rather, the one book I love that evolves around a canine (sort of) character: Dogsbody, by Diana Wynne Jones. When I talk about my favorite authors and books, Ms. Jones’ name always crops up. Her stories are usually funny, frequently haunting, and always run through with strands of sadness and longing that make the tales remain with one long after the narratives are over. Dogsbody is among the best examples of her writing. I found myself picking it up again for the umpteenth time earlier this week and reading it all the way through yet again in one gulp, laughing and crying all along the way into the wee hours.

And that is my six degrees. How about you?



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It's even worse in person.

A glimmer of Spring?

The weather here has been so unpredictable of late (i.e. miserably rainy) that I had despaired of Spring ever arriving. Well, this week at least, we have been having days full of glorious sunshine, days that look amazingly like Spring. You know, birds a-singing, flowers a-blooming, newly-budded tree branches a-bobbing in the breeze...the whole nine-yards (though I'm still suspicious). However, much in the same way Murphy's Law governs the universe, another yet unnamed condition also seems to hold sway over all and dictates that a reversal of lousy weather almost always coincides with an increased work-load and thus increased time one is stuck working indoors under sallow fluorescent lighting. In my case, this has meant (and will mean) lots of quality time spent with my yeastie-beasties and not only very limited outdoor happy-sunshine time but precious little knitting and crafting time as well.
I did managed to make a brief foray into the outdoor this afternoon to record these signs of Spring to keep me going when it pours again for Project Spectrum.



And just so I can retain some semblance of a right to still claim this a knitting blog, here is some knitting-in-(glacial)-progress as well.


Poetry Sunday, just because: Losing

Yesterday, I came across this article in the NYT and was delighted by the first two paragraphs. The writing was every bit the well-crafted witty exposition for which I love the newspaper. When I shared the article with the BF, he pointed out the allusion to Elizabeth Bishop's poem on losing (ah, the benefits of a liberal arts education). Curious, as I have never managed to cross paths with her writings in all my years of schooling, I did what anyone with a question does nowadays: I Googled her. And there it was: One Art. Rather unexpectedly, the poem really struck a nerve. It seems that these days, when the weight combined of failed and dead-end experiments, the years already spent in grad school, and the dimly-lit path ahead becomes often a bit too much to bear, it is indeed easy to become adept at the art of losing. So here it is for myself and for you, should you need it, a little reminder against that slide into disaster.

One Art

Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


Booking Through Thursday: Something Nearby

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Reach out a hand, and grab the book that is closest to you. Turn to page 231, or pick a page at random if the book isn't that long. Locate the first sentence of the last paragraph on that page.

  1. Type the sentence here:
    The goose girl had refused to be forced, and Enna had brought help and freed her.

  2. Does the sentence make sense out of context?
    Um...no, not really. The quote is from The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale. If you are familiar with the original fairy tale, then the darker tone implied by the subject of the quote may make sense. While the Goose Girl is one of my favorite fairy tales, it is one of the more grim and gruesome ones of the genre (probably why it has yet to be Disney-ified, thank goodness). Perhaps as testimony to how oblivious children can be (or perhaps just me), it never occurred to me how disturbing the tale is until I reread it a few years ago...the boy who is obsessed with the goose girl's hair and constantly trying to yank off strands, the dead horse's head nailed to the overpass that speaks lamentingly to her everyday when she passes by...you get the idea.

  3. Does reading the sentence make you want to read the rest of the book? Why or why not?
    Yes it does. This is where the author has added on to the original fairy tale and I am quite intrigued to read further to find out how she tweaked it. This is part of the fun and, sometimes, frustration of reading retellings of favorite stories. However, I am quite enjoying the retelling thus far as I like the way Hale writes and the way she has embellished details onto the general frame of the tale.

And on that note,
Have a good Easter weekend!


The Kindness of Strangers

So just what was in that package that made my day extra happy?
Yarn, of course!
I wrote a few weeks ago about Toshiyuki Shimada’s knitting book and asked if anyone knew what the gorgeous variegated yarns he used for the entrelac scarve and gloves were. J of the terrific Tricoquelicot Returns kindly answered my question, and after I discovered that the Hamanaka Soft Concious used in the book was not available in the States, she very generously offered to do a swap with me for the yarns. I am constantly amazed and humbled by the kindness of those in this virtual knitting community. J doesn’t know me from Adam and yet she was willing to take the trouble of gratifying my wish. Thank you, thank you J! I hope you enjoyed the swap too!
Okay, I’ll stop effusing now and show you the contents of the package. (J also included a yummy pack of tea too…I enjoyed it with some cookies this evening. Did I already say yum?)

Here is a close-up of the luscious fiber.

The yarn is 83% merino wool and 17% baby alpaca, which means that it is as soft as it is beautiful. The shop also included a Hamanaka knitting book with the yarn. The patterns in it look like great fun. I especially like this one. (Hmm…have I finally found a pattern for that Artyarns Supermerino in the stash?)

Yarn, a hot cup of tea, a new book...it doesn't get much better than that.
Thanks J!

O Happy Day


What could be better?*

*take a wild guess as to what could be in the package...


Pining for Spring

The torrents of rain plaguing my usually beautiful city have made me yearn more than ever for sun and color. Actually, at this point, even some fog instead would be quite welcome. The latest magazine arrival in my mailbox certainly didn't help things either. I spent all afternoon wishing I were a chicken.

Specifically that lucky Spring chicken traipsing through the garden. Since diving into Jean-Jacques Sempé’s beautiful magazine cover wasn’t possible, I worked on my bag for the Knit-I-Sew-Along instead. What does that have to do with Spring, you ask? Well, I went by the fabric store this weekend in search of snaps for the baby shoes I am knitting and came across this happy print.

It made me think of sunlight glimmering on leaves and warm breezes, so of course it came home with me. This cotton print works perfectly as the appliqué and accent pieces for the bird purse and thusly, I was spurred into action. After a few nights of inspired fabric cutting and stitching, my pile of languishing fabric and thread has turned into this.

I’m very happy with how the bag is working up. Everything from the leaves to the bird to the linen brings happy thoughts of warm weather and sun to my mind. There is still a bit of work to be done before the finish as I still need to make up the lining (the blue twill in the background), stitch up the strap, and put it all together but I’m very excited. The first publicly presentable handbag I have ever made! Even if it doesn’t feel like Spring, I can at least pretend it is so with my cheery little bird.
Oh, an added bonus to the day: the weather finally cleared up!




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And a rainy one at that.


You've been good.

You're still plugging away at your UFOs. You tell yourself that stockinette stitch is really quite engaging to work, that the Nth round of the lace pattern is really as interesting as the first. But do you still harbor the nagging feeling that you are bored and restless with knitting? Do you worry that the joy of knitting has abandoned you? Do you hear voices calling to you from non-knitting projects? If you have experienced any of these symptoms, you just might have KES or Knitter’s Ennui Syndrome. KES is a serious disorder that could lead to SPLURGE (Side/Sewing Project Linked Unconscious Regrettable Great Expenditures) and SAD (Stash Abandonment Disorder). Fortunately, there is now a cure for KES. LacyBonnetol* has been clinically tested to combat KES and bring back your love of the process.

Do what’s best for you…use LacyBonnetol* to chase away your knitting blues.

*Remember, LacyBonnetol is not for everyone. Those affected with COO (Cuteness Over-Obsession) should not use this product. Common side effects include obsessive knitting of small items to the wee-hours, baby-friendly yarn hording, and unconscious lapses into high-pitch baby talk when in the presence of yarn and patterns. However, none of those in studies found the side effects sufficiently severe to discontinue use. Ask yourself if LacyBonnetol is right for you.

All mock-pharmaceutical advert silliness aside, I had been rather stuck in a rut with my knitting. While I was looking forward to the finished products, I was nowhere near enough to the end of any of the projects to have that burst of anticipation to energize the knitting. Somewhere along the way of what seemed like miles of stockinette and lace repeats, I had lost my love of the knitting process. Fortunately, the BF’s brand new niece arrived last Thursday and this happy event finally propelled me into starting the Lacy Bonnet from Erika Knight’s Knitting for Two. As you might guess, I think the pattern is brilliant. I had been so mired in long-term projects that I was very reluctant initially to start anything else. However, as soon as I cast on and knitted the first few rows, I was hooked. The bonnet managed to be a very interesting knit without crossing over to the overly-fiddly. I loved watching the beautiful design emerge from a constantly changing (but in a comfortingly predictable way) series of K2tog, yarn-overs, and variants. The best thing, of course, is that working through the pattern made me remember why I started knitting in the first place --- not just for the knitting items at the end but also for the sheer fun of fiber manipulation. So here are a few more shots of the bonnet (it still need to have the ends weaved in and the ribbon attached), helpfully modeled by Bun the bunny who has a handily pointed snout.

Now, if I can only knit baby shoes that are the appropriate size…

Do you have your own version of Lacybonnetol?


Distractor II: Orange Book Thursday...um...Friday

Ooo lookee, orange books for Project Spectrum April!
Knitting, what knitting?

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Pay no attention to the Knitter behind the curtain...er..stack!