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Monday, February 4, 2008

  Monday Morning Mirth  

...from the snow covered tiny Land of Cabin Fever where, now that the cleaning is done, the food cooked and laundry folded, one can move to other compelling chores: shoe polishing, freezer defrosting, sweater de-pilling...

While looking for my FuzzMaster, I found this letter my sister sent me to thank me for inducting her into the Fellowship of the Shave...


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Tuesday, February 5, 2008


...but of course you could see this one
comin' from a million miles away...

I'll admit it. I love shining shoes.

I also love shaving sweaters ;p

My wool Scoop du Jour made from barn yarn became more and more fuzzy the longer I wore it (all the time). It also got softer and more comfortable! I think sometimes a sweater needs a break-in period to get to its fine comfy wearable place. Like blue jeans...


This was a mixed blessing because as you can see here, the surface of the sweater was littered with pills of all sizes and shapes. The green yarn was from an eBay score and I'm not sure what the wool source was, other than it appeared to be mule spun. Now sometimes that's great (hard twist = better wear) but depending on the spin and wool content you can get that *adjustment* phase where the yarn sheds or pills because of the soft, short fiber lengths in the yarn. The short fibers come to the surface in places where friction then rubs them together into little balls and a Pill is born...


So it was Off with Its Thread! and using my little shaver (somehow I've lost the supersize FuzzMaster), I put the sweater over the smooth padded surface of a dining room chair and had at it. I think you'll agree that it looks much better now!


And, who could resist looking at the aftermath? Not I. Now those nasty pills are just a harmless pile of fluff...

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Karma writes: ..."Do you have any words of wisdom on choosing a sweater shaver or on how to use one? Or is it as simple as just buying one and doing it? :)".

Funny you should ask!

On my way home last night, upon contemplating another very long winter storm (um, THUNDERSNOW!!!)

Winter storm warning. Rain/sleet south, snow/sleet Chicago and north and west, becoming all snow, turning heavy. Worst conditions mid- to late morning into afternoon. Strengthening northeast winds, 35-50 m.p.h. gusts. Drifting snow. Possible thundersnow with whiteout conditions. 8-14 inches Chicago, and north and west. 1-3 inches far south.

I popped into the corner Walgreen's Pharmacy.

To my delight, I found another supersize shaver, which is called the Fuzz Wizard!

You can see it above with my little shaver (called a Precision) and a pencil, for scale. [The Pencil also smells like Root Beer! Hmm. Cabin Fever, anyone?!?]

I've always just bought these things right off the shelf. However, it wasn't until I draped the sweater over a padded chair seat that I got really great results. Their instructions basically say: Lay the Fabric on a flat surface, straighten the fabric you are shaving, use a gentle motion without excessive pressure, and clean the head often.

I found that if the shaver seems to slow down, it could be that there is a pile-up of fuzz in the head chamber. Unscrew the ring and blow the chunks out over a trash bin! (Keep your eyes closed.)

Finish up your shaving by going over the sweater lightly with one of those velcro-like surfaced lint brushes to pick up any stray fibers.

I just revived a very old black Bartlett yarns favorite Ribby! Squeeeee....

Happy Shaving!

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Friday February 8, 2008

...Cabin Fever driving you up a wall?

Chic Knits

break out and visit with some cool knitters in a FABULOUS place: the Chicago Cultural Center...

Every Saturday in February

Color Your Winter with Crafts
Noon–4 p.m.
Chicago Cultural Center
78 E Washington St
(First Floor Garland Room)

Knit alongside the Windy City Knitting Guild. Master new techniques such as knitting with color, and try other crafts including spinning and dyeing yarn and painting on fabric.

Saturday's Salon program: February 9 - Making Bracelets - Lead = Peg Rauhut

read more HERE

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Monday, February 11, 2008

  Monday Morning Mirth  


...Targeted marketing hits the spot: Bullseye!

An intriguing package of Valentine candy I could not resist! YOU GO GIRL Chocolate: the Fashion Girl edition which reads, "She's the Fashion Girl. The extreme shopper. The trendsetter...always classy, smooth and totally indulgent..."

The little paper flags read "Feel Better"; "I Like You"; "Thanks"; "I Miss Recess" (!)**

** scientific research done on your behalf by opening
and eating several Kisses...

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Last time we looked at this little darling, it had the beginnings (or endings) of short sleeves...

Very tempting to just edge them and be done, dream of Spring! and, but of course, start another sweater.

But it is 18° today and there's no use in pretending.

SLEEVES (must) be Done!

And out comes the long circular needle to knit them in the round. I was toying with the idea of flat but after a couple of passes with ye slippery olde Addis, it was going quite fast.

I finished the Body of the sweater during our ChicagoKIP Chocolate party, where we exchanged cocoa-based goodies. I must of been reeling from the sugar because usually before going to the finish line, I at least try the thing on. Not that night! I knit about an inch too long and had to adjust it later...

The beauty of Stockinette st is you can just go round and round and round (so to speak) and before you know it you have yards of fabric. You should of seen me knitting the sleeve during "Elizabeth: the Golden Age".

The anxiety of waiting for a Plot to arrive somewhere during the movie made me so nervous, I was speeding like a bullet, so much so, I missed a decrease and had to pause the disk, rip back and fix. Even with plenty of time to ripen and unfold, when I started the movie again, the Screenplay was still AWOL! Not only that, it was now hammering both Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen, (who I might add are two of my Favorite actors), flat into lavishly costumed cardboard caricatures of two of history's most provocative catalysts. Not standing a chance, they were swallowed alive by the outrageous extravagance of scenery.

Now, I know a picture is worth a thousand words and this film had many moments of incredible beauty. But eye-candy cannot satisfy alone and, when given full reign, reduces even a moment like Elizabeth's Hurricane Speech (I, too, can command the wind, sir!) into little more than, well, talking to a Wall. Meh. Flat.

Elizabeth I is my personal hero. She is someone (according to history, any ways) who, although given some of the most incredible disadvantages imaginable, outplayed, outwitted, and outlasted most of her enemies during a time that the World itself was cusping on transformation so pervasive no one escaped its fist. Although life at the common level rarely reflects the booming adventure of the ruling class, this time it did. Everything changed. But most survived and flourished, thanks to her courage and sacrifice.

"The Golden Age", instead of rollicking in the intrigue, instead of just peeking around the columns of the castle (I grew weary of this shot!), instead of assuming we even knew what Rhys Ifan was up to when they dyed all that Red Cloth, was nothing more than a slide show of someone's Vacation in the Costume Room at the V&A.

Nevermind. Go watch PBS: the Virgin Queen, instead.

I've got to get back to my sleeve! ;)

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Thursday, February 14, 2008


happy happy valentine's day :)

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Friday, February 15, 2008

New Threads FRIDAY!


...proof positive the cat has left the bag...

Little murmurs and echos have been rippling the landscape hither and yon, but it wasn't until I had eaten a really spicy bowl of Green Curry Chicken that I felt like taking a long walk. And my feet led me right into a Border's Bookstore on Lincoln Ave. where right smack dab in the middle of a magazine rack I spied this!

©2008 Interweave Press
Pattern: Interweave Knits Spring 2008
*Aleita Shell*
Designer: Bonne Marie Burns
Yarn: Plymouth *Linen Isle*

Now, but of course, I've known about this for quite awhile (sample to press takes about the same length as a normal birthing process) but now that it's hit the stands: WooHoo! Happy Happy Dancing Days here @Chez Chic! My little feet just busta move under the desk as I typed this!

The Aleita Shell is a great wardrobe piece that branches the seasons and mixes well with jackets or a cami. IK shows it over a blouse, making a great look for business. And in the interest of science and fun, we thought we'd show you the Aleita Shell, as well, a shell! Here you see a size 38 (1" positive ease), worn by a lovely and very curvaceous model. The design of the piece works well with different figure types; the upper bodice has flexibility and range to accommodate different bust sizes well.


Although the shell is shown in a linen blend, the range of yarns that would work well with this piece would include wool, cotton and silk or hemp yarns. It's knit in one piece to the underarms and has very minimal finishing. I'm thrilled to bring it to you! Thanks IK!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

  Monday Morning Mirth  

Sometimes talent and skill are inherited from generation to generation: Julio/Julio; Goldie/Kate; Judy/Liza; Donald/Kiefer; Blythe/Gwyneth; Vanessa/Natasha; Elvis/Lisa...

In my family, there is always one great singer;
or a gardener extraordinaire; or a beautiful writer;
and now it's Official, a


who of course would be... ?

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Chic Knits Eyelet Cardi

Need a good way to squash that Cabin Fever!?
Round up a few friends and finish something!

I, with the help of Glenda Jackson, Vin Diesel, and Larry McMurtry, finished Two Sleeves...


And I liked it!

I'll admit a Whine Fest large enough to challenge Pine Mountain ususally accompanies the knitting of the Sleeve.

I'm not sure what happened but this time it just clicked.

After a bit of panic when I started knitting down, in-the-round, it went well. At first, the replaced stitches looked larger and so did the fabric I was knitting. Very Slightly. Although I've read about gauge change from flat to round, it hadn't been a problem for me before. Maybe the yarn (wool/cotton)? Maybe my tension? I examined my needles in the size being used and went to try another manufacturer, ie. started on Inox #5 (3.75mm) changed to Addi #5 (3.75mm). My unscientific squinting look at the needles through the opening in my metal gauger seemed to show that the Addi filled the hole less.

Once that was resolved, it was full speed ahead. I found that if I left the garment folded, inside out, in my lap, I could just flip the sleeve area back and forth to knit it.

Back & forth? Hmm. The beauty of the Magic Loop!

One of my pet annoyances with top-down knitting is the wear & tear the garment gets just in the making. Anything I can do to minimize that is key. The ML method allows you to keep the whole shebang pretty stationary, with minimal friction from tossing & turning; the slipperiness of the Addi's moves the stitches well enough that changing from side-to-side to finish a round goes smoothly.

The only snag? I am not entirely pleased with my bind off (in ribbing). Anybody have a favorite, neat method for binding off ribbing?


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Thursday, February 21, 2008


When we left our Heroine a few months ago, she was well on her journey, but not near the end...

Now that the Eyelet Cardi is just about over the finish line (stalled and crying because Tender Buttons is no longer in Chicago and I don't have time to fly to NYC for some!), it's back on the road with my Cotton Fleece Ribby Pulli. [Ooh. I love this Turquoise color!]

Looking over my notes (this is why I love love love blogging; being a multi-project-ed maniac is way too easy), I see that I had few issues with previous stop-n-go habits on this garment. Close to the hemline, there is a row that sits slightly twisted, because when a garment sits on the needles for LONG, and you just start knitting it again, the stitches are set in their way, skewed a little, blocked, for want of a better description.

Easiest solution? When picking up a neglected knit and re-starting, rip back a row and toss the yarn. Re-attach new yarn and go for it. Check. Done and moving on...

This pullover has a kangaroo pocket which is knit on then *fused* together with the Body Stitches at the top. My pocket knitting is done but while I was working on the Body last night, it really started to bug me that the gauge was not matching with my pocket gauge (which is visibly bigger). I know I must've noticed it before but WHY didn't I do something about it???

Easy enough to go down a needle size and clinch it. Less painful when 1" is done than when the d@#! thing is finished. Now it's flabby self is staring me in the face everytime I pass go at the beginning of the round and I'm wincing.

Mother Nature to the rescue. Since we've had several days now of below Zero temperature, I'm numb/dumb enough to do the right thing: Rip that Pocket/Re-Do.

What's 40 rows or so among friends...


Speaking of Friends!

If you are lucky enough to be in Northern Cal, be sure and stop by Stitches West and give my BEST regards to the lovely ladies from Purlescence Yarns in Booths 1031-1035! Hey Nathania, Chloe, & Sandi! Hope you're having some FUN!

Stitches West
Santa Clara Convention Center
5101 Great American Pkwy
Santa Clara, CA 95054
February 21-24, 2008

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Friday, February 22, 2008

groundhog.gif IF that pesky little brat Punxsutawney Phil hadn't see his shadow, something very different might be happening this evening.

I might be seen, about 5-ish, strolling Boul Mich, wearing this over a little black dress?


Pattern: Chic Knits
*Eyelet Cardi*
Designer: Bonne Marie Burns
Yarn: Rowan *Wool/Cotton*

OK, that was a slightly fantastical statement, but after SO many days of sub-zero grey and looking like a TeleTubby, a parka-captive girl can dream can't she???

I'm dreaming of blue skies and huggy weather; you know where the air wraps its balmy, slighty moist arms around you and smiles.

This is the sweater that would see that smile and smile back :)

I loved working with this yarn! It knit very evenly for me on Addi Turbos. I've heard people shun knitting with cotton or blends because of issues with finger stress and gauge, but I have a theory! I'm a thrower and I think the way I hold the needles and loop doesn't stress my hands. This could possibly be one of the only benefits of knitting like a child; I knit in just about the same configuration I did the day my Grandmother taught me.

Last Saturday, I spent the entire day at the Cultural Center on Randolph (oops, no camera). It was a great turnout! There was spinning in one corner, dyeing in another. I helped make up a boatload of mini-skeins for people to play with. There was beading, knitting and more!

Then I shared a table with Natalia and Sara and we had a ball! We even got the chance to teach. A mom and her daughter came by and Sara taught the daughter to knit and I taught the mom to crochet. It was amazing—she picked it up so fast in no time at all, her swatch was enormous. Lovely!

It's on again tomorrow, so if you're downtown, give it whirl!

To add a little variety to my Eyelet Cardi, I finished the front edges and neckline as for the cuffs and hems with 1x1 Ribbing and 8 little buttons. I put two buttons close together at the neckline and this made it possible to center one button at the eyelet detailing.

Thanks for all the comments from Tuesday on favorite bind offs for ribbing! Most mentioned: TUBULAR! I was REALLY tempted to re-do this technique on all the edges. BUT I'd already hid my loose ends and mining for them seemed too time consuming. I'm starting a new sweater and am going to practice it on the swatch I'm making now.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

  Monday Morning Mirth  

Redhead background music to be played low...

Now, even though I know better, I watch them every d@#% year. This time I even watched the BWalter interview show because I wanted to enjoy the ironic juxtapostion of old school (Harrison Ford/his earring) & new school (M Cyrus and her new upper lip) stylings.

But it wasn't until the Best Supporting Actress Category that intervention was really needed and although it is sent long distance from Chicago it comes straight from the heart:

"Dear Tilda, I am only one of your biggest fans but I've adored your acting for years now. On behalf of Redheads everywhere, thanks for representing. But, after you got the first envelope (uh, the one with the invitation), you might've called me! I would've dropped everything and flew out to L.A. and gone shopping with you. I know how you must hate it.

It was beyond exciting when your name was called but when you hit the stage, it dawned on me! Your dress got caught in your limo door and because you overslept, you had to run for it and both your sleeve and makeup got left in the car!

Darling, it could've been so much easier. Let's call our buddy next time and your Chicago girls will fix you right up..."

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chic Knits downloadable knitting patterns

Whew! Move it! All the way up to the Armscye! I re-knit the kanga pocket with a needle one size smaller than what I was using on the Body and all is well. I couldn't wait to see how it played out so I hit it with the steam iron...

I love to press.

Giddy with cabin fever, somehow putting my first wee sleeve around the neck of Mistress Mannie just seemed right; I thought it ironic that it looks so natural there and am just itching to go measure my neck circumference now to see what's up with that :)

This is going rather quickly now that I've finished the purple Eyelet Cardi. Aye, but does the Cheese Stand Alone!?

I always admire those who knit one thing at a time to completion, in fact I adore them! But I know that will never be my future. I exist in the exciting multiproject universe where no number of WIPs is too high!

There are all sorts of half-bakes all over this cabin, some pretty close to finishing, some recently arrived RAW...


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Friday, February 29, 2008

36th day in which measurable snow falls. Snow/sleet taper to lingering snow showers into early afternoon in wake of 1-4" overnight snow.



It may still be chilly (19°) but it's just not too early to test some Spring Yarn! In my many travels, I like to pick up a skein here and there of new fibers especially cotton microfiber type yarns to try out.

This is a boatload of something called Jeannee (Plymouth) which I bought online recently.

Many of the patterns in the Chic Knits portfolio are written for worsted weight yarn. Now I use that phrase with caution because it means many things to many people, including the Experts. The CYA Standard Yarn Weight System calls it:

— Worsted, Afghan, Aran
— 16–20 sts per 4"
— Needle 7-9 (4.5-5.5mm)

Later on the page the Standards are qualified as Guidelines but I think that that's quite a GAP when the range of stitches in a category goes from 4 to 5 stitches per inch. Four stitches per inch makes a quite chunky fabric. Five sts per inch makes a noticeably lighter fabric. And there's another weight right in the middle.

Using #7 needles and a yarn that wraps 11wpi I achieve 19sts/24rows over 4".

19/24 is the ball band gauge of many British Isle & Canadian Aran yarns — so we're covered by the Standards — and some domestic yarns. Elann, a favorite domestic yarn distributor, posts this stitch gauge on the ball band for their Peruvian Highland Wool and I agree.

This gauge makes a quality tensioned fabric and correctly sized stitch for the diameter of the yarn.

There's lots of yarns by Rowan, RYC, discontinued Jaeger, Briggs & Little, and others that ball band to that count.

Now here's the cliff dive #1.

I've written before that, like the Standards above, the given ball band gauge is just a Guideline. Sometimes it is spot on but other times the manufacturer gives a range on the band that might need further interpretation to optimize the yarn performance. For example, another CK perrenial fave, Cascade 220, lists BBgauge as 18 to 20 sts per 4". No row gauge is given. However, I bellieve this yarn behaves best at 19sts/24 rows, as above, with #7 needles.

4.5 sts per inch is, IMHO, too loose. 5 sts per inch, too tight. 4.75 sts per inch, spot on.

To really see how the stitch characteristics of a yarn change over a range of needles sizes, one can make a 36 stitch Super Swatch that uses progressively: #6 (4mm) needles for 3 inches, than #7 (4.5mm) needles for 3 inches, then #8 (5mm) needles for 3 inches. That will be the next step with my new yarn, but with qualifications.

Cliff Dive #2: you've certainly read this phrase on many patterns "OR Needle Size Required to get Gauge". My recent experience knitting both my wool/cotton Eyelet Cardi and the Cotton Fleece Ribby Pulli showed me the beauty of going up and down a needle size to match stitch size when switching from flat knitting to knitting in the round. I also took advantage of Needle Brand/Type to achieve *best fit*. I've seen, for example, that a size 6 needle made of nickel gives a different gauge than a bamboo size 6 needle.

In addition, I've found that wool yarns listed at **sts per inch might behave differently than their suggested equivalent plant-based yarns. So the Cotton Ease I have might knit to the CK worsted gauge of 4.75 sts per inch using #6 needles instead of #7's or for some folks who've knit the Ariann design from CE, #5's.

So I'm going to expand my Swatch to go from #5 to #8 for the above cotton/microfiber yarn. I'm going to use Addi Turbo (nickel) needles. Here's what I'm hoping will happen (measured over 4"):

#5 - 20 sts / 28 rows
#6 - 19 sts / 24 rows
#7 - 18 sts / 22 rows
#8 - 16-17sts / 20 rows

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