11 March, 2009


Max's spring break was last week so we took the opportunity to say goodbye to Philly for a bit and head to Austin, where instead of snow we enjoyed margarita's outside at noon. I kept texting Kate to tell her that I was walking around the park (Zilker Park, for all you Austin-ites) in a tank top. She kept telling me to go to hell.
We stayed in this super cute house with these monstrous Century plants that stand guard in front. They will eat you in the night if you don't lock the doors.

While we were there I got to do two fun Kelbourne Woolens things--which was only fair since I abandoned Kate for the week (although she is abandoning me this week, not for margaritas and sunshine but for the flu). I took pictures of our new and soon to be released pattern, The Pattern With No Name As Yet! Known as the ruched cowl, designed by our dear friend Maria Polder. It uses Road to China Light, which is scrumptious, and can be knit using 2, 3 or 4 skeins. This one is knit in the color Dark Amethyst.

How cute is my Mother-in-Law? So cute.
The second was a trunk show at Hill Country Weavers, my favorite Austin LYS!Where I met Lilah, who blogs at The Little Cloud, a great knitter and Fibre Company fan. She got some excellent skeins of Road to China Light in Blue Tourmaline and Plum Jasper. Mmm...pretty.

And afterwards, I too went to Hello Cupcake, the greatest Airstream trailer ever. One vanilla with chocolate and one chocolate with chocolate. No sprinkles. Sprinkles are not for grown-ups.
On a totally different topic, but related to Road to China Light, I just finished what is quite possibly the most perfect sweater I have ever knit. I can't show it to you yet, but in the fall you'll see it in all it's perfect-ness and beauty.

If you're at Rosie's tomorrow you can see it!

20 October, 2008

Back, with some updates.

I never really thought I would miss this blog. It had become a burden in a lot of respects, and it wasn't paying off in any way emotionally or mentally. Then, I took a look around at the piles of knitting I had been doing over the past few months and thought, "I am pleased." So I thought I would share some updates. You may also have noticed I fooled around with a new look. My blog hadn't been updated since 2006--it was time for a new look.
Kelbourne Woolens has been a success thus far and Kate and I have been busy. We are expecting 700kgs of yarn to arrive on our doorstep in a couple of weeks and my emotional state vacillates from 'about to vomit' to 'very happy.' I think that's normal. And no, I'm not pregnant again. I think the nausea is due to the very grown up steps my life is taking, though a shockingly similar reaction to last years grown up adventures of childbirth. I published a new pattern, Lucille, which is available on the Kelbourne Woolens website as a FREE download. Kate designed our website (it is so lovely) and she has done all the pretty pattern formatting. Grace has been doing our tech editing. I love working with so many amazing women--and women that I have know for so long and gush gush gush. I'll stop. You know where that was heading.

Lucille is a vintage inspired cardigan and bonnet set knit (shockingly) from the top down with eyelet yoke shaping reminiscent of The Half Pi Shawl, which also has a new home, finally. More about that in a minute.
Yarn: 2 skeins of Canopy Fingering from The Fibre Company, distributed by Kelbourne Woolens
Size: 0-3 months and 6-9 months
Gauge: 32 sts/10cms in lace pattern BLOCKED
My Estimation: a-freakin'-dorable.
Ravel it!
The Half Pi Shawl had a bit of a cult following but after I moved to the island and Grace moved to New Mexico we had to retool the way it was sold, and it needed a new format as a downloadable pdf file. The Half Pi, if you don't know it, will quickly become a perennial favorite. 2 skeins of Anne, some eyelet rows that increase like Elizabeth Zimmerman's Pi Shawl, but as a half circle. Ah, math. This one is great. There are 2 versions, Grace's version shown below uses just one skein of Anne and a large needle (I think she used a 10). It has eyelet increase rows with plain non increasing eyelets set at equal distances in between. Courtney's version (that's me!) uses 2 skeins of Anne, alternating 2 rows of one skein and 2 rows of another to blend the colors, and smaller needles (I used a 5 or 6) and has bands of plain stockinette between the eyelet rows so that you can improvise any lace pattern you want in each of the sections. There are two bind off options for decorative finishes as well.

Yarn: Shaefer Yarns Anne
Size: Variable
Gauge: Grace's Version 14 sts/10cms; Courtney's Version 22 sts/10cms
Ravel It!
The ravelry page says it's a Rosie Knits pattern but it isn't. It's just ours, but I can't get Ravelry to unlink to Rosies.
Part of my issue with maintaining this blog is that a lot of the things I would blog about here I would also blog about on Rosie's blog, like this hat I knit. The lines started to get too blurry between what went on Rosie's blog and what went on my blog; ravelry seemed like it killed all birds with many vast coded stones; and the thought of a third blog, the Kelbourne Woolens blog (which isn't up yet) sent me whirling into self promotion overload. But, I suppose I knit for my own website, for Rosie's Yarn Cellar's Rosie Knits patterns, for Manos del Uruguay, for Kelbourne Woolens and then the occasional submission to something else--and I manage to keep all of that organized. I suppose it's all still up in the air. I don't know how frequently I will post here, but I decided to keep it going. It's homey here.

14 August, 2008

Five Year Plan?

"Um...so what are you doing?"
"I'm on my way to class. Why? What's up?"
"So...um...do you, like, want to buy the Fibre Company distributorship?"
"The Fibre Company. Do you want to buy the distributorship with me?"
"Shut up. I have to go to class."

That was an approximation of the conversation I had with Kate back in April. She though I was messing with her. Sometimes at the shop we'll call each other with disguised voices and say things like, "Do you sell yellow yarn? How much does it cost?" or "Can you tell me how to do an Estonian Vikkel braid cast on?" just to mess with each other and I think that Kate thought that was what I was doing. But alas, I was being totally serious. So here we are, 4 and a half month (and many excel spreadsheets) later the proud distributors of The Fibre Company yarns, Kelbourne Woolens.
I own a business, I have a career. It is in the field that I got a degree in (amazing for an art school grad, believe me!) I don't hate my life. I really like it as a matter of fact. Who thought that 10 years ago when I went to get a job in a yarn shop that I would own my own yarn company one day? It's kind of incredible. I am still in shock, can you tell?
As for this blog, I think it's possible that it's day has come. It has served me well, but between Kelbourne and Rosie's (which I am still very much a part of, Rosie's is why I am even writing this right now. Thanks, Lisa, for being amazing and teaching me so much) I just don't think I'll be spending much time here. It's not goodbye for ever, I still have my website, smithislandpatternfactory.com, and Rosie's blog and we'll have a Kelbourne blog so I'll still be around. And there's always Ravelry.
See you around.

27 July, 2008

Pineapple Afghan

I made this Pineapple afghan long, long ago, in knitting terms these days. I made it in the old days of yore when there were no knitting blogs and doing a search for "Estonian Vikkel Braided Cast On" got you search results involving Estonian travel packages, hair braiding studios and sailing websites.

You like my jank (a philly-ism meaning junky or messed up) Ikea sunken couch of doom? When I was pregnant someone moving had abandoned it on the sidewalk and I made Max help me bring it home. I think it was pregnancy induced psychosis. I had decided that our couch was horrible and needed to change before the baby was born or I was going to freak out. I was going to hold him in until we got new furniture. Or, new for us, I guess.

I have been going through and slowly documenting all of my old projects and adding them to my Ravelry notebook. You can Ravel this project here. I put this one up about 6 months ago and lots of people commented and favorited it so I submitted the pattern to Interweave Crochet Holiday Gifts and never heard back so, their loss is your gain. Get yourself a copy of Interweave Press' Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches and using an S crochet hook and some Rowan Big Wool work the pineapple doily motif.
I am sorry I have been away longer than usual, but Kate and I have this project going on that is taking up an inordinate amount of time. We are not doing the following:
1. Publishing a book
2. Opening a yarn shop (as if!)
3. Starting an online knitting magazine or social networking site
4. Entering into a knitting theory Phd. program
But that's all I am saying at the moment.
But it's totally exciting!

07 May, 2008

The "Kelley" Heel?

When I first learned how to knit I desperately wanted to make socks.  It was 1997 and to my knowledge people didn't do things like make socks anymore, it was old fashioned and weird.  I knew it could be done, but didn't know how to find out how to make them.  If you are a recent knitter, like started knitting in the past 5 years, you have to realize that there was no knitting online and no one published sock patterns.  There were Alice Starmore sweaters, Kristin Nicholas over at Classic Elite had some great intarsia going on and then there was just "yarn."  But people didn't make socks.  Maybe I'll get flack for this statement, but for me at that time it was true.  My LYS carried no sock books, no sock patterns and come to think of it no sock yarn.  I had a really hard time finding double pointed needles too.  My LYS didn't carry them and you couldn't buy them online because no one sold knitting things on the internet.  The internet was still just for email and porn!   Lisa didn't carry double pointed needles when she and Jennifer opened up shop in 1995, who would?  I remember going into shops and asking for them and getting a range of responses from blank stare to downright hostility.  Young people didn't knit and I'm sure people assumed I was not going to use these for actual knitting.  Who knows what they thought I was up to.  Or maybe they thought if they sold them to me I'd come in every day and make their staff help me use them, and obviously I was an idiot and in over my head!   In sock knitting's defense, there were probably some sock patterns published, and maybe even a book but I certainly didn't know how to get a hold of them.  People knit sweaters.  I knew that socks had been knit, but as far as I knew they hadn't been for hundres of year.  The answer to my sock-less dilemma was to figure it out for myself.  So I thought about all the ways to make a curve in a plane.  I knew nothing of short rows and I had never heard of a heel flap.  I had the idea that if I did a bunch of decreases really fast the fabric would create a pocket of sorts.  I cast on some stitches and just knit back and forth and tried out my hypothesis. It worked!  If I decreased really fast in the middle of the square the fabric wouldn't lay flat. So I got some double pointed needles, which incidently were also hard to find, and I cast on.  Essentially what I ended up doing was a heel flap, but it also answered the problem of the gusset at the same time.

The "heel flap" is knit over 1/2 of the cast on sts and a decrease is worked at the beginning of each row, or at the beginning and end of every other row until you've decreased to 2-4 sts.  When you knit back around on all the stitches and pick up the heel flap stitches you have basically knit the heel turn and gusset into the heel flap.  A typical heel flap is rectangular.  So, when you pick up the stitches along each side you still have the instep stitches and the stitches for the bottom of the heel.  In short, you have more stitches than you need.  You have all the stitches you started with PLUS the stitches you've picked up along the sides of the heel flap.  In a typical sock you then turn the heel to make a "pouch" for your heel to fit into and then you work a gusset by decreasing the stitches along the sides to get rid of all those extra stitches.  With this heel since you haven't added any stitches there is no need to decrease them afterwards so no gusset necessary.  Also, the decreasing shapes the heel flap creating a natural "pouch" for your heel.  Fewer steps, less time fussing, more time knitting around and around.  A more sensible sock if you ask me.  
 I used about 30 gms of Koigu mill ends from Rosie's Yarn Cellar for these baby socks on size 2.5 mm dpns.  I have to confess though, I haven't knit a grown up sock with this heel so who knows how it'll work.  Any volunteers?

In the meantime, here's the pattern for the baby socks.  Try it for yourself!

26 April, 2008

Instead of Blogging

Since blogging less, or at least spending less time worrying about not blogging enough we have:

Been to the beach
Gone fishin'

played whiffle ball in the park (okay, sat on a blanket and watched while friends played whiffle ball in the park)
and played (this pic is for you, andrea! You totally make my day, even if blogging about the people who make my day stressed me out too much to participate!)
I even knit a little bit.
I also managed to do my taxes, start a manos group on ravelry (you know you want to join), cleaned my house (company came) and ordered new Rowan for fall, among other things.  I also started reading Knitting America, finally, and love it when I thought it was going to annoy me.  It is really well written and well researched which suprised me, I don't know why.  I guess because I have come to expect publishers to reign writers in when they get too interesting.  Jaded?  Me?  No!

24 March, 2008

Technology Amazes Local Woman

I am not a blogger, I am a knitter. I have tried to be a good blogger. I have tried to care about the people who for some reason or another want to read my blog. And I appreciate those of you who do read my blog. However, devoting the last 10 years of my life to knitting, I have never in my life spent less time knitting. Keeping up with knitting these days doesn't mean spending more time with needles in your hands, it means spending endless hours with a mouse in your hand, updating a blog that will never be updated often enough to keep readers happy, listening to podcasts, perusing patterns on ravelry, sending comments, favorite-ing the project of that person you like or want to like you--when the hell am I supposed to spend time on my ACTUAL KNITTING?! Something is wrong when the time that I do actually spend knitting feels riddled with guilt for not updating my blog or getting out my camera to document every minutae of progress on a project. It is incredibly frustrating to me to be seen as a less good knitter because my graphic design isn't as good as the next person.

It's like the Powerpoint-ing of America, but knitting style. Power-pointing? Hear me out: Powerpoint is ruining creative process, and ruining business and academia in this country. If you cannot use Powerpoint no one will listen to your idea, even if your idea is incredibly brilliant. If it doesn't fit the Powerpoint format your idea is useless. Why is academic teaching now all relegated to what is essentially glorified overhead projections? That is not teaching. The SF Chronicle wrote an article on the technological dumbing down of academic work and the way that the technological divide has hurt poorer schools by flooding them with technology they can't afford to maintain or use and is taking away time previously used to learn basic academic concepts:

School papers are so dominated by computer graphics these days that students often spend only a fraction of their time on the intellectual content of the report. Strangely, instead of bemoaning d developments like these, nearly everyone -- teachers and parents, principals and politicians -- applauds them. (
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi- bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/11/30/ING8L39SIP1.DTL)

I can feel the computer rotting my brain. Are the blog-less, or those whose blog is not the be all end all of their existence, seen as less intelligent, less driven, less talented? It seems so. But a blog well-photographed doesn't make one a good writer and knitting projects photographed with good lighting do not a technically proficient knitter make.

Writing about a thing and doing a thing are two different things. I am not a public speaker, I am not a writer. I actually almost didn't graduate college because I owed a teacher a rewritten paper I couldn't bring myself to complete. I don't want to go to grad school because I don't want to write the thesis. I am not a writer, I'm a maker of things. And there should be nothing wrong with that. Isn't it someone else's job to write about the things I make if they are considered worth being written about? Someone with some training in, you know, writing about things worth writing about? If I am moved, as I am today, to write I will write. But no one should honestly give a flying fuck what I think about the meaningless minutes of my day. We should all have better things to do and care about, like what our cat is doing. Because we are honestly in love with our cat, not because her latest antics, if properly photographed, will make good blog fodder! The more time we spend trying to be clever on our blogs the less intelligent we become.

Then on the flip side there are all the things that technology makes easier and faster.  Old methods of advertising are no longer working, or simply aren't viable. Paper mailings are dreadfully unsucessful, not to mention all the paper that is wasted. People expect amazon.com-like personalized advertising. We gave up on our newsletter mailings a couple of years ago, deeming them not worth the expense, time or resources. But what happens to the knitting customer who inevitabley calls once a month or so asking if we have a catalog we can mail her? Do we have a newsletter we can send? I have to say no. This woman must depend on a larger company like Patternworks who can afford to meet her non-internet needs or she can't have access to knitting anymore. Her local yarn store has totally let her down. And if we hadn't, if we decided that was unacceptable, how many of our other customers would we loose as a result? When there is a finite amount of advertising money and time we can spend on projects are we going to update the website and advertise on Ravelry, which will cost us less to nothing and reach many more knitters, or go to the printers with a newsletter and spend hundreds of dollars on postage and address labels and hours of staff time sticking mailing labels and sliding piece after piece of mail through the postage meter? And obviously this is a macrocosm of a larger news media advertising problem.  
I'm not saying I'm going to stop blogging or anything. I know that it is too late for that. Joining the throngs of redundant print media writers beleaguering blogs and those "young upstarts" who write them will not serve me well. But, I miss the good old days when someone would prove their talents by being talented at the thing they cared about, not the graphical beauty of it's dissemination.

I am a knitter, and I sometimes blog too. But I am going to try and spend more time knitting and playing with my baby instead of putting him in a chair next to the computer to sit while I blog.