Stitch Mountain

This might be the thing I’m most excited about. But first a bit of backstory: Laura Zander is the owner of Jimmy Bean’s Wool. A little while back, she came out with the book Stitch Red, which kicked off the whole Red campaign.

Now she’s got another book coming out in December, called Stitch Mountain. I learned about this back in the very beginning of January, when she put out a call for designers. The concept behind Stitch Mountain is explained here, but basically it highlights the connection (and potential for connection) between the US Ski and Snowboard Administration and knitting. They have about 30 athletes signed on, and all the patterns in the book are inspired by something each athlete either has or wishes they had.

So anyway, I designed a sweater for Picabo Street, the Olympic skier. I sent it off in March and forgot about it. Now the book is almost ready to come out, the Stitch Mountain website launched, and I got a look at the cover of the book. Lo and behold (I hope you’re sitting down),


Don’t get TOO excited–there are five things on the cover and it’s not a huge picture, but STILL. The COVER!!!!! I freaked out so hard when I saw it that I had to run a lap around the block before I could go to bed (this all happened at like, midnight).

Anyway, the inspiration for the sweater mainly came from Picabo–she wanted a white turtleneck, maybe with some patterning somewhere. Now, let me tell you a secret: I have never been skiing. I have never been anywhere near a ski slope. This is not a culture I’m familiar with. Still, sweaters are something I can get behind. And I did used to be an almost-competitive figure skater (around the time I was doing that, when I was about 12, my anxiety level was pretty high and competition was just not something I needed) so winter sports are not a TOTAL mystery to me. I can imagine this sweater as the perfect thing to throw on over a leotard and tights for wandering around the ice rink during breaks from skating practice.

Back to the sweater. I looked though some stitch dictionaries and happened upon a pattern that looked like snowflakes. It’s similar to the Quilted Stockinette stitch I use all the time (Pennywood, X-Mitts, Smockerie) and I thought it would be perfect as a band across the middle of the sweater. And after that, it pretty much designed itself.

My little knitting circle sometimes meets at Barnes and Noble. When this book hits the shelves, there is not going to be a soul in that store that doesn’t know I DESIGNED THAT SWEATER ON THE COVER. The staff is going to have to put it on the front table just to shut me up. If I’m annoying enough, maybe they’ll even let me do a signing!

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Beer Mitt

It occurs to me that if you follow me on Facebook, Ravelry, and/or Twitter (and if you don’t you should), none of this is news to you. Still, I’m going to use a lot of exclamation points and pretend like it is.

I got a pattern into Knitty!! I dropped a lot of hints about this. But now I’m officially unveiling the pattern, and it is a Beer Mitt, for all of your cold-weather outdoor beer drinking needs. It will keep your beverage cold and your hand warm.

The deadline for pattern submissions was in the summer, and these photos were taken in July. An alternate caption for this photo could be, “It is 100 degrees and humid, mosquitos are biting all my exposed parts, I am sitting 2 feet from a FIRE, wearing a COAT and a WOOL MITTEN, my roommates want to kill me, and I am DRINKING this motherfucking beer while it is still motherfucking COLD.” It clearly paid off, though.

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Toby Roxane Designs YARN

This is where it gets sort of tricky trying to go in order of momentousness. These next three things are all pretty close, in that regard.

Anyway, I spent all of last Monday and Tuesday DYEING YARN.

It was a bit of a trip. I learned a lot of things, one of which was that I don’t like not being good at things. Back when I was working at yarn shops, beginning knitters used to come in feeling frustrated. To make them feel better, I used to tell them that, when you’re an adult, it’s been a long time since you were learning how to do something that you weren’t good at right away. When you were first learning how to write, you were no calligrapher. But you kept at it and soon you could write your name and now, hopefully, you’re pretty proficient at it.

I should probably take my own advice. I was spoiled because I was good at knitting without having to try very hard, but dyeing has a bit of a learning curve. It’s hard to get the ideas in my head onto the fiber, but I imagine I’ll get better at it over time.

Anyway, last Friday and Saturday were the North NJ Fiber Arts Festival, where I had a booth. I sold my books and patterns and also this batch of yarn I dyed.

Most of the rest of it is now with Chelsea Yarns, if you’d like to see and fondle it in person.

As for the future of this endeavor, I honestly don’t know yet how far I’m going to go with it. Designing is always going to remain my first priority, but we’ll see where it goes. I may open an etsy shop, I may not…who knows. I’ll make sure to keep you posted, though.

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Okay, here’s the next thing (I’m trying to go in order of momentousness): Undertow. This is a shawl I designed exclusively for The Village Knitter (where I had the trunk show when my Orf first appeared. I mentioned this in that post, I think). Anyway, that booze cruise was to celebrate this pattern, and if you haven’t seen it yet, here are some pictures of it:

This was a tough one to photograph. It’s BIG. It took 2 skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in The Village Knitter’s exclusive colorway, Great South Babes, and the cool thing about it is that you start out on size 5 needles, then switch to progressively larger needles every 3 inches or so until you’re on size 13′s. It’s the same stitch pattern throughout, but you wind up with a really cool effect–the fabric starts out kind of tight and textured and gets looser and lacier until you have a flared, lacy ruffle at the bottom. Trust me, it’s cool, and the pictures don’t do it justice.

Anyway, the pattern is for sale only at The Village Knitter. You can get either a printed copy or a pdf download, and, obviously, you should do it in the Great South Babes colorway.

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White Swan Shawl

There are five major things I have to tell you about and it seemed kind of wrong not to give each of them their own separate post, so that’s what I’m going to do.

So first, meet the White Swan Shawl, for sale on Ravelry:

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A Distraction

Every time I sit down and try to write a blog post, I stare at a blank page for a while, say, “Who the hell am I kidding? More stuff has happened in the past month than I have time to write about! In fact, I don’t have time for any of this.” [Close blank document, sip tea, twitch a little.]

In other news, I just disovered Allie Brosh’s blog last night, Hyperbole and a Half, and it not only nearly killed me because I laughed so hard I actually couldn’t breathe and had to put my head between my legs—I just know I won’t be getting anything done until I read THE. WHOLE. THING.

So, to keep you interested while I put together, in list form, all the things I’ve done this month and scrounge up some pictures to include, here’s a list of some of my pet peeves:

1. Overzealous use of windshield wipers. When it’s barely drizzling and someone in another car has their wipers on FULL SPEED, I give them the hairy eyeball. I don’t know why. I can’t help it.
2. When people on the internet say “That moment when….”. Just freaking say what you did.
3. When dogs jump on me. Especially big dogs. And I have to pretend I don’t mind because otherwise I’ll offend the owner of the dog, whose house I’m in while I’m being jumped on.
4. Miley Cyrus. Normally she inspires total apathy in me instead of annoyance, but I’ve had “Wrecking Ball” stuck in my head for 2 days now. Plus she was a total bitch to Sinead O’Connor, even if that little fight was fun to watch.
5. Canker sores.
6. When people spell my name with 2 n’s.
7. Banana strings. You know what I’m talking about? When you peel a banana but sometimes it has those little stringy bits still attached that you have to peel off because they are ABSOLUTELY WAY too disgusting to eat. And if you do get one in your mouth by accident, it’s just the worst thing. You have to fish it out…or if you’re in polite company you have to SWALLOW it…ugh. Just thinking about it is getting me all wigged out.

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Get Orf

I know, I know, I know that I have been remiss in posting and that there is a ton of other news that I should tell you about in chronological order, but I just had to tell you this INSANE story.

To begin at the beginning, the weekend before this past weekend was the Garden State Sheep and Fiber Festival. On that Friday, I helped Gryphon (of The Verdant Gryphon) set up her booth, and on Saturday I went there again on a little field trip with my Thursday night knitting group (hey guys). We shopped, petted some sheep, ate some food, and I had a little shopping-fit in Lambertville (who knew I’d find, like, 6 wardrobe staples I didn’t know I needed?). Then on Sunday I went back and hung out with Gryphon a little, got my face painted, and helped take down the booth.

Fast-forward to this past weekend: I was the guest of honor on a party boat! Who knew a career in knitwear design would lead to such a glamorous lifestyle?! Anyway, The Village Knitter, a shop on Long Island, organized the whole thing. I designed an exclusive pattern for them (Undertow, if you’ve been following it on Ravelry) and the boat trip was to celebrate. We sailed to Fire Island for dinner and on the way back, a lovely woman named Patti showed me how to use a drop spindle to spin yarn. (It might have gone better if I’d had fewer cocktails, but whatevs.)

The next day I had a trunk show at The Village Knitter. I woke up with these weird blisters on my finger. After showing them to everyone who would look, I thought maybe I’d somehow given myself a drop-spindling injury. Friction burn? Something? Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on a spinning wheel; I got an infected blister from drop spindling. Typical. I was kind of hoping time would stop and I’d get to sleep for 100 years, but the blisters kept getting worse so on Monday I went to the dermatologist.
He was a bit stumped. I asked him if there was any way it could have been from drop spindling and he said no. He asked me what I was doing a week before the blisters appeared. I couldn’t think of anything unusual, but then I remembered it was the Garden State festival. I told him I’d been petting some sheep and he said, “ORF!! Orf orf orf orf orf orf! Orf! Orf orf!” A bit startled, I asked the nurse in the room if he had developed some kind of Tourette’s. He had not: Orf is a cutaneous virus SPREAD BY SHEEP. He’d never seen a case of it before this and I got it from petting sheep at the festival. Talk about weird-ass occupational hazards.

Anyway, the upshot is that the doctor took some cultures (both viral and bacterial to make sure a secondary bacterial infection doesn’t develop, for those of you concerned for my health). He also prescribed me a heavy-duty antiviral which is making me very sleepy, but may be helping.

I’d post a picture of the blisters but I fear I’d never have any more readers after that. Personally, I’m totally fascinated by weird medical shit, so for those of you with similar inclinations, I urge you to google this. Let me first tell you, though, that my blisters are NOWHERE NEAR as bad as some of the ones you’ll see. Mine look like a cluster of about five little burns on the pad of my middle finger.

The funniest part of all this is that, according to wikipedia, the blisters can appear on humans on the “hands, face, arms, or PENIS.”

As if New Jersey’s reputation wasn’t bad enough. Welcome to Jersey, where even the sheep have herpes!

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Intwined Mitts

Brand new! Meet Intwined Mitts:

Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that the deep fall issue of goes live this Sunday and…I really think you should check it out. ;)

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Knitting as Fantasy

There’s a quote from this book I really like called The Art of Subtext by Charles Baxter*:

The distorting effect of wishes in the writing of fiction can hardly be overestimated. In fiction the force of a wish can result in the formal characteristics of fantasy writing. The story becomes the stage, not for truth, but self-actualization. We try to imagine the person as we would like ourselves to be and as a result write a banal and lifelessly idealistic story. Stories of this type commit a number of sins against literature, among them, first, the distortion of events in the service of a positive self-image and, second, the habit of making people out to be better than they actually are. (Baxter, p. 120-121)

I once read another quote somewhere, I don’t remember where, the sentiment of which was that, when you’re starting off trying to be a writer, you have to get the autobiography out of the way first, otherwise everything you write is going to be about yourself. When you put those two quotes together, you get one of the biggest challenges I had as a writer: I was always trying to write about an idealized version of myself. I imagined a person with all my best qualities, fixed all my flaws (both physical and otherwise) and had her do really glamorous** things. This does not generally make for interesting writing, as Baxter said.

But it DOES make for interesting knitwear! I think fashion in general is based on the whole concept Baxter described in that quote—designers imagine an idealized version of themselves (or someone else, either real or imaginary) and dress that person. When you come up with a character and all you have to do is dress them and not torture them with conflict, there’s no reason NOT to idealize them. There’s a certain amount of fantasy in fashion design, even in the most practical garments. I design things that I would want to wear. And the knitting of the Thing I Want to Wear allows for plenty of time to think about where I would wear this thing. What I’d be doing. Who I’d be with. What kind of beverage I’d have in my hand. And in these fantasies, I always edit out the zit on my chin, I’m never in a bad mood, my hair is always perfect, and I’m usually wearing a pair of shoes I could never, ever afford in real life.

I think a lot of people do that while they knit, even if they haven’t designed the garment themselves—maybe especially if they haven’t designed it themselves (my theory is that Rowan has completely capitalized on this concept. Think about the last Rowan sweater you knit. Did you knit it solely because you liked the sweater? Or did you also imagine yourself wearing it on a windswept moor in the Scottish countryside with a border collie and a really hot, rugged man?).


*This is a really great book. It was part of a syllabus I created for myself for an independent study during college and even if you don’t write fiction, it’s worth reading. It’s full of underline-able pearls like “The pointlessness of art is not an argument against it.”

**I will admit that my definition of “glamorous” has always been a bit off. When I was about 9 I thought there was something really glamorous about scullery maids. I’m serious.

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Meet Annette

This is Annette. Annette is my mannequin. My friend Erin found her at Home Goods and adopted her for me.

Sometimes I ask Annette her opinion on colors and stuff but she never replies. I wish she would though—-mannequins are always the best dressed ones in the store, you ever notice that?

I’d also really love to know her dieting and/or workout regime. She’s got to know some good tricks, just look at her.

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