Signs and symbols

Faith traditions have signs and symbols related to key parts of the faith. Water for baptism, a dove for Noah’s Ark. The cross for the Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Yesterday, it was palms for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the beginning of Holy Week.

Easter, as one of the big Christian holidays, has its own symbols: the Phoenix (think Harry Potter – JK Rowling knew her symbols), the egg, and the butterfly – all metaphors for transformed life.

This year, the church I serve is using butterflies as our community art symbol for Easter. Our volunteer (and fabulous) arts coordinator asked me to create a larger fibery butterfly. Since I am more of a crafter that artsy girl, this was a little scary.

I procrastinated, and pondered. I bought a skein of yarn and then did nothing with it. Nothing happened. So finally I decided to just start experimenting by taking the skeing of yarn and trying out a spiral. This is what I got:



This was decidedly underwhelming. It’s a round spiral with not much butterfly in it. So I pondered some more, and decided to test out doing the butterfly in crochet, because it is easier to shape on the fly. With hook in hand and scrap yarns in a variety of colors, I began to work a spine and a couple of wings.


This looks pretty good, and my plan is to run the edges and spines with wires to give a three-dimensional shape. I’m playing now with lower wings:

and I think I’ve got something to work with. Lot’s more to do – creating a bright edge, weaving in ends, adding sparkle (somehow!), installing wires and shaping.

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Palette cleanser

I’m in-between projects now – I have more shawls than I know what to do with, so I’m not really into knitting some, and need to figure out what to do with the extras. And then I remembered that my dishcloths were looking kinda bad.

Bam! I immediately got out my colors of Knitpicks Cotlin yarn (a blend of cotton and linen) , and started knitting. And I ended up with several of them:

In there is the Ballband dishcloth that I love because it’s fun and you can do stuff with colors.

The orange, which will go to my administrator who thinks these are wonderful, is called Fresh, which is from a terrific book called Dishcloth Diva, but you can buy it separately (but buy the book – you’ll be glad you did). The patchwork one peeking out from the back is a Mason-Dixon pattern called The Nine-Patch Dishrag (free on their blog – scroll down), which is a great way to use up scraps of yarn:

I love these – they’re quick, they brighten things up, and now I’m ready to consider more substantial knitting – maybe a shell for summer?

And now I need to consider what to do about those shawls – I have a few that I’m now tired of. What do you do with things like this? Auction them off? Give to friends? Let me know how you deal with extra knitwear in the comments.

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a little mosaic knitting

Our guild does a couple of charity projects every year, and we are making hats, so I dug into my stash to find some suitable yarn. There was an odd skein of some Knit Picks cotton in grey, and some brighter skeins of washable wool – both in sport weight. I found a fun free pattern on Knitty – Maze, and I was off to the races:

I made some modifications to the pattern, as I wanted a more slouchy hat effect. I cast-on with the Italian tubular cast-on, did some 1×1 ribbing before starting the color pattern. I did three full repeats of the pattern, instead of the 1.5 indicated for the large size in the pattern.

The test of combining the wool and cotton yarns was in the blocking as to whether the wool and cotton would play together nicely – I threw it into the washer and dryer – and voila – it looks great.

Mosaic knitting is a good way to ease into color knitting you only knit with one color at a time, but you get to work on tension as if you were doing stranded knitting!

This week I was sloppy about making my bed, leaving a pillow lying flat, and guess what happened?

I think Izzie thinks the extra pillow is her new cat bed.

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FO: Autumn Fusion Shawl

To recap:

I went on a one-day East Bay yarn crawl last summer, and at one lovely yarn shop, A Yarn Less Raveled, I discovered a lovely customer sample of the Autumn Fusion Shawl.  After hunting for a suitable yarn for the contrast color, I finally gave in and ordered the original yarn from Canon Hand Dyes.


This shawl will be a great addition to spring/summer attire – I often need a bit of warmth under air conditioning, and these are some of my go-to colors. I added an applied a three-stitch I-cord edging and am happy with how that turned out.


Project details here: Revknits Autumn Fusion Shawl

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In which I attempt something I’ve never done

This is the Christian season of Lent, or, as we church professionals like to say, “relentless” because although it is supposed to be a reflective season, when you are the church staff, it means there is more of everything.

Easter ends the season of Lent with a celebration of new life and there are lovely symbols of new life: eggs, and lilies and butterflies. And that brings me to my latest fiber challenge from our arts director at the church : create a butterfly in the fiber arts that can be installed on Easter Sunday. Gulp.

While I have knit all manner of things with many kinds of techniques, I’ve never done art installation kinds of things. The word “art” actually makes me a little nervous. My dad, Tony, was the artist:


but not me. My drawing skills are at the elementary school level, if that.

But back to the butterfly. Having been given this challenge, I started to put things into steps. For the butterfly to be big enough, it needs a superstructure – so our facilities manager, Daphne, found me some wire, and I roughed out a shape for the butterfly – just the wings at this point:


Next, I rummaged into my almost a yarn store’s worth of yarn modest stash and found a lot of colorful scraps of yarn:

along with some shiny things:



and I’m going to look at Pinterest to find some crochet and knitting techniques. I mean, really, this shouldn’t be that hard, right? Right?

Relentless indeed.

Project reports:

The autumn fusion shawl is now knitted and in blocking. I’m trying to decide whether to add I-cord edging in the contrast color. Izzie has opinions, apparently:



I also began and abandoned a baby blanket for our Knitting Guild’s contributions. The only reason I started it was because the charity committee gal urged me to, and then I went and bought acrylic yarn that I hate to knit with. I gave up partway into the first skein, and will give the yarn to a staff member at church. Just not my cup of tea at the moment!

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33 years

Warning: not much knitting content.

I am not a luddite. I own a Macbook laptop, iPad, iPod and an iPhone. I listen to podcasts, have Bluetooth, blah, blah, blah.

But around pieces of technology, I tend to be conservative – my cars and my TV. I’ve only bought two cars, and inherit one.

With TV, it’s even worse. When it comes to them,  I have been absolutely Neanderthal a little behind the times. At first it was because I really don’t care about TV all that much. I was fairly happy with what I had.

Then, as the options for TVs seemed to multiply, well, I just didn’t want to spend all that time to figure out what kind to get. Plasma this, HDMI inputs, the TVs got smart, while I still remained dumb, like my 1984 Hitachi solid state TV.

No, that’s not a typo. I own my first and only TV, and it is 33 years old. And it still works! The picture is just fine – those Japanese factories really knew how to build something to last. It’s been ok until finally I realized that I wasn’t seeing everything on the screen, and that my TV couldn’t get hooked up to Netflix and things like that.

It hasn’t hurt that at work we got a new TV for classes, and I realized that these smart TVs aren’t all that complicated to figure out. Then there was the kind elder on my church board who took pity on me and printed out a bunch of TV recommendations from Consumer Reports.

This weekend I did my taxes and I managed to get a good enough refund to easily decide that it was time. I went to the the Big Box store and had a great salesperson (Thanks, Carlos!) who thought the fact that I had a TV older than him was merely amusing. He didn’t oversell me anything, and even got the TV to my car.

O Brave New World! (This is a scene from The Crown – on Netflix – so beautiful in HD!)

Now I have to find the right table/stand for things, and move out the old bulky entertainment center.


The brioche scarf is done! Well, except for weaving in a couple of ends and mending the mistakes. I’m not sure whether I should block it – apparently that can make it really flatten out.

And the new yarn arrived, just in time! I don’t think I mentioned the name of the color way. The name comes from Downton Abbey – Lavinia Swire, who was a rather plain Jane and died in the flu epidemic after  World War I.

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Last summer, I helped to lead a yarn crawl over to the East Bay Area with some local knitter friends. We had a good day!

One of the projects that I saw on my trip was a beautiful shawl called Autumn Fusion.


and for a change, I wanted to knit exactly the same colors – I wanted to knit the store sample, just as it was. Just my colors, and perfect as a summer shawlette, it’s bright and fun! Ann, who was along on the crawl helped me take a photo of the shawl – and shows why her hand should be in the photo and not mine:


On the day of the crawl, I was able to snag the varigated yarn, Lunapurl yarn “Binary Star System” in a 75/25 blen of BFL wool and nylon, but the other yarn from Canon Hand Dyer was out.

For a time, I was thinking of making something else with this yarn – lot’s of folks have made cute socks, for example, but I never found anything that I wanted more than the shawl. Then, I tried to find something else to go with the Lunapurl yarn, and even bought some lovely Anzula yarn, but it didn’t really go.

So, this last week I went on the Canon Hand Dye Etsy site, and bought the yarn in the correct colorway. I was fearful it might take weeks to come, but yesterday I got the email saying it had shipped. I’m all ready to start!


Brioche Update:

The scarf continues apace. It’s getting boring to knit, by which I mean that I am making fewer mistakes, I don’t need the chart, and I can fix the mistakes that I am making. I’ve finished 7 repeats of the total of 10 that I plan for this – so I should be finished knitting this about the time that my yarn for the shawl comes!


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It Gets Worse, Then It Gets Better

The learning curve on the brioche stitch continues. I was cruising along, feeling like I had figured things out, and then I decided to count my stitches, and realized that a bunch of rows back, I had missed a double increase stitch. So I went ripping back. Then I knitted some more and discovered another big mistake, and ripped things back, although less this time. I knit some more, and then had to rip out two rows. Progress was a little slow last night.

So it goes. I’m realizing that I have to stop and look at things about every 4-8 rows to see if I’m on track, because my ability to transfer what the chart says to my needles and yarn is not so good.

But then things changed, for the better too! On this last repeat, I began to follow the pattern without checking the chart so much. I’m learning to read the knitting and understand the overall logic. Overall, I have about one mistake-I’m-not-going-to-fix per full repeat, and for this project that’s ok.

Lesson: it gets worse, and then it gets better.


Whew! Four repeats done, about 22″ long.

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Begin Imperfectly.

When we are beginners at something, we are going to make mistakes. There’s often a lot to learn at once, and we don’t do it so well. That’s ok. We can have the “beginner’s mind.” What you don’t know, you don’t know. You can mostly learn it, in time. In the meantime, begin imperfectly.

Some beginning knitters cannot handle their mistakes – they constantly rip out to make it perfect. I am so sad when that happens, and often I want to simply say – this first project is not something to keep – toss it out. Seriously, I do not have the first thing I knit. Mercifully (it was over 40 years ago), I do not remember.

Nope, I am beginning quite imperfectly, thank you very much. Now, mind you, I had done some brioche knitting before.  I made a few baby hats using the basic technique (super fun!). The pattern is Brioche Baby Hat (rav link)

But in these hats, the changing colors of the yarn were doing all the heavy lifting.

Here, I’m learning how to manage two colors with shaping and a new charting system. I decided to ramp up slowly. The first time through the stitch pattern (24 double rows), I followed the line-by-line instructions – which I rarely do these days because I’m pretty good at reading charts now. But there are new symbols that to me didn’t feel obvious, so line-by-line I went.

Once I was confident that I understood how the stitches worked and interacted in that first full repeat, I marked up  (with different colors of highlighters) the chart I had enlarged to make it easier to find the information that would keep me on track:

and highlighter tape, don’t forget that!

My little sample will be a short scarf with some lovely yarn I got at A Verb for Keeping Warm – in two colors of a Fibershed one-of-a-kind yarn with wool, alpaca and mohair. The colors, a neutral and a green, are  not that different from each other. Here’s where I am now:

If you look closely, you’ll notice this is not a perfect knit:

— Those two little green lines toward the bottom of the knitting – they are yarnovers that came to the front instead of the back by mistake. On the back you can see the other problems.

–Those locking stitch markers are holding together stitches that will otherwise unravel. But they can be “fixed” to hold together, and since I’m a farsighted girl, the fact that these colors don’t have a lot of contrast turned out to be a good decision

— Other minor issues are that I messed up one part of the repeat on the same side – twice

But do I care? No, the answer is that I am perfectly willing to be imperfect with this project. I am shouting out loud to everyone – I am messing this up, yo! Because the truth is that in trying to be perfect I would be slowing down my learning. I am making all the mistakes there are to be made, so that I can learn how to do it better on the next, more perfect  project.

Oh, and I can read my charts now – win!

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