Tuesday, December 12, 2006

TOFUtsies Too

The second sock pattern for SWTC. This one was easier and more fun. I could get to like sock making after all.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Branching out to teach more stuff to more knitters

If you live in the Chicago area and are interested in expanding your knitting skills, I have developed a series of short classes around patterns in the new book      One-Skein Wonders: 101 yarn shop favorites,   edited by Judith Durant and Gwen Steege (Storey Publishing). See my   October 27, 2006 post  for more about my connection with this book.

Here is a link to a downloadable PDF of my proposed mini classes. http://cfmdesigns.net/One-Skein.pdf

The book is available at yarn stores, book stores, and online.
  Knit Picks  and   Amazon  show the same discount today.

If you or a small group of you and your friends want to set up a class, let me know.

Happy knitting,

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Here is the sock I designed for South West Trading Company's new sock yarn, TOFUtsies. I finished it last night. Now to neaten up the pattern and get it off to Jonelle at SWTC. I'm delighted to be among the designers who got a preview of this soft, pretty, comfortable yarn.

They are worked in typical Argyle fashion, with the cuff and leg done flat and the rest of the sock worked in the round like any other sock. You have a choice of knitting in the diagonal lines as you go or embroidering them on later in duplicate stitch. The pattern will be available exclusively from SWTC, with whom you may be familar as the makers of Soysilk® and many lovely natural fiber yarns.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Steeking at last

For about the last 14 hours I've been working on my steeked cardigan top-down multi-gauge multi-yarn sweater. I've got about four inches done from the neck out and down and have used about 6 yarns, two of them my own hand painted ones. It's got purple, magenta, fuchsia, violet, navy, red, dark royal blue, and (in a very small accent dose) all of the colors in the hand painted yarn I got at stitches originally intended for the Sandy, which include olive, burnt orange, black, plum.

I've been working up from sport weight at 5 sts/in in garter stitch (mandarin collar) on a size 5 needle to worsteds and bulkys and am up to needle size 8. Heading for no larger than an 11 and no fatter gauge than 3.5.

Color and texture techniques include stranded, slipped, and "Bohus" style purled accent blips.

Despite all the color that is there, the mixes and contrasts are pretty subdued, and the overall color is dark and warm and dramatic.

I might actually finish this one, since the most complicated shaping, colorwork, and gauge changes are in the yoke. Most of the knitting after that will be relatively routine.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Some of you may know the little jingle often used to teach children how to knit

"In through the front door,
around the back,
down throught the window,
and off jumps jack."

Well, I use that for grownups, too. I had a small class this evening. About an hour into the session, one student got distracted and needed help figuring out what step she was on. I took a look, saw that all had been done except taking the old stitch off, and said, "you just need to Jack off."

As they say in the Reader's Digest, was my face red!

My student is eager for her next class .

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fine Art of Fiber

I have not finished "The Thing," but here are the pieces I entered in the exhibition:


The "Obi" was NFS, but the orange set, which I named "Strata," sold. It's an original incorporating some of my own polymer clay beads. Happy!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Arctic Lace Blog Book Tour

Donna Druchunas, author of Arctic Lace, has graciously agreed to be interviewed here about her research for this fascinating new book. Like all of my very favorite knitting books, this one is not just about knitting.

cfm: I'm sure that others will be asking you all about the animals, the fiber, and the stitches. What I'd really like to know more about is the The Yup’ik and Inupiat people from an anthropological standpoint. What got you interested in this particular part of the world?

DD: I read an article about the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-operative in Piecework magazine a few years ago (Berlo, Janet Cahterine, “Oomingmak: Knitting Vision into Reality,” Piecework, Jan/Feb 1996, page 50). After I read that, I became obsessed with finding out everything I could about the women in this organization, the founders, the knitting techniques used, and the musk ox. Of course, I also fell in love with qiviut (kiv’-ee-yoot) yarn.

cfm: Have you learned any of the native languages?

DD: I’ve only learned a few Eskimo words during my research for Arctic Lace. Until you asked this question, I’d never seriously considered learning one of the Native languages. But now I’m thinking, “Maybe I could learn Yup’ik!” I’ve always wanted to speak at least five languages. I know English, some Spanish and German, and will be studying a bit of Lithuanian for a trip next year. Maybe Yup’ik can be my fifth language. Thanks for putting that seed in my mind!

Here are a few interesting words:

Qiviut means “down”. The original Inupiat word meant either the feather down from a bird or the fur undercoat of a mammal. There is no standard English spelling. Some variations I’ve seen include qiviuk qiveuk, and qiviuq. The “qiviut” spelling is trademarked by the Oomingmak Co-op in Alaska. Today that spelling is generally used to refer to musk ox down, while other spellings are still used to refer to feather down or fur down, depending on the context.

Oomingmak means “the bearded one” and is the Inupiat name for the musk ox. A very fitting and descriptive name, since the outer guard hairs of the musk ox continue to grow throughout the animal’s life and can reach up to two feet in length.

Igloo or iglu means “house”. In Alaska, the traditional dwellings of both Yup’ik and Inupiat people were sod homes. In the south western river delta’s of Alaska, the Yup’ik people used driftwood to build the frames of their winter houses. In the north, the Inupiat people used whale ribs. In the summer, most of the people in both areas traveled to fish camps and lived in various types of tents and temporary dwellings.

Akutuq is Eskimo ice cream. It is made from rendered fat, meat (usually salmon or other fish), and berries. I was very disappointed that I didn’t get to try this or any other Eskimo dishes when I was in Alaska. Even in Unalakleet, where I stayed in a lodge, the meals served were hamburgers and other American “delicacies”. Not! I did get to have a lot of great seafood during my travels, however. I’d like to go back to Alaska in the summer and catch and dry some wild salmon, and pick wild berries to make jam. I’d also like to have a chance to try some authentic Eskimo dishes.

For those who want to learn more, there is an Inupiat dictionary online here: http://www.alaskool.org/LANGUAGE/dictionaries/inupiaq/default.htm

I have not found an online Yup’ik dictionary, but I was able to borrow the Yup’ik Eskimo Dictionary by Steven A. Jacobson on interlibrary loan.

cfm: Aboriginal peoples everywhere tend to name themselves “The People,” as if they were the only ones. The word Inuit means “people.” Yup’ik-speaking peoples call themselves “Yup’ik,” meaning “real person.” Is there a similar meaning to “Inupiat”?

DD: Yes, Inupiat does have the same meaning. I think it is very interesting that so many Native American groups called themselves “the people” or “the real people”. I assume that shows how the Native peoples across the Americas are related, and yet at the same time by calling themselves the real people, each group excluded the others as outsiders.

By the way, before I went to Alaska, I thought it was rude to use the word “Eskimo”, but while I was there I discovered that this term is used by the Native people to describe themselves. There are several distinct groups of Eskimos in Alaska including Yup’ik, Cup’ik, St. Lawrence Island Yup’ik, and Inupiat, so having an umbrella term to include all of these groups is helpful. It also helps to differentiate these peoples from the Indian groups that live in other parts of Alaska.

cfm: Aside from the knitting co-operative, were you able to look into other native arts and crafts? Which are still practiced by native artisans?

DD: Yes, I’ve been writing a series of articles for Piecework magazine called “Needleworkers of the North.” For the first article, I did a lot of research into the skin and fur sewing that is done by Eskimo men and women across Alaska. The second article was about Athabascan beadwork, and the third covered Tlingit and Haida button blankets. I’m currently working on a fourth article about quillwork, and I don’t think I’ve begun to scratch the surface.

cfm: Do you see any similarities between the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-operative and Emma Jacobsson’s Bohus knitters?

DD: The main similarity between the Oomingmak knitters and the Bohus knitters is that of economic imperative. This is something we talked about quite a bit at the Boise Lace Knitting Retreat I attended earlier this month. I gave a presentation about the Oomingmak co-op and Myrnah Stahman gave a presentation about Shetland lace knitters. Both groups developed lace knitting patterns that were primarily meant to be sold. The knitters on the Aran Islands in the early 20th century had similar goals, and even some Shaker knitters in the United States made rugs and other home decor items to sell to the general public. All of these groups were founded to generate income for people in rural communities.

They also all created unique styles of knitting that began as local products and ended up being instantly recognizable around the world. In addition, the products that are created use techniques and styles that are generally designed for speed of knitting and easy sizing. Aran sweaters, for example, were originally made in the circular fashion using fine, dark blue yarn. Later the heavy weight, natural colored yarn was used to make raglan and drop shoulder sweaters that were knitted flat in pieces and sewn together. These sweaters could be made more quickly and patterns for multiple sizes were easier to write for flat knitting. In the Oomingmak co-op, the left leaning decrease used is knit two together through the back loops. This is by far the fastest left leaning decrease to knit. Although it is not quite as tidy looking as slip slip knit or slip 1, knit 1, psso, the difference is negligible when knitted in lace-weight qiviut yarn (the stitches are quite small, and the bloom helps disguise the twisted stitches). I’m sure the Bohus knitters had their own tricks for making commercial products quickly.

cfm: You have said (and I paraphrase) that spirituality arises naturally out of human consciousness. Clearly you have given this a great deal of thought. What can you tell us about the spirituality of the people you encountered in Alaska? Do elements of the traditional beliefs remain, albeit in a Christianized context?

DD: Christian missionaries tried to squash the Native culture in Alaska during the early 20th century just as they did in the lower 48 during the 19th. They were somewhat successful in prohibiting Native dances and many ceremonies and rituals at first, but today the people are starting to practice some of their traditions again. Fortunately in many areas there are still Elders who remember many of the rituals and celebrations that were forbidden by the missionaries. As with other Native American groups, traditional Yup’ik and Inupiat spirituality focuses on the unity of man and nature.

I really cannot understand why Native Alaskan person would adopt the religion of the Europeans. These strangers came and gave absolutely no respect to the cultures that they found, beat children who spoke Eskimo in school, destroyed beautiful dance masks, and did everything they could to make the “savages” conform to their view of “civilization”. (I am not a cultural relativist, but I don’t think the Europeans and Americans of the 19th century, or the earlier explorers, exhibited behavior that qualifies as “civilized.”)

I read one essay by an Inupiat woman who explained that her grandparents had been very happy to adopt the white man’s religion, because before they heard of Christianity they were afraid of many of the spirits they thought surrounded them. Christianity alleviated this fear and they raised their children and grandchildren in the Christian faith. Today it seems like the majority of Eskimos are devout Christians.

Personally, I find it sad that these people gave up their beautiful traditions in exchange for a new set of superstitions. Wouldn’t it have been better for them to keep their own cultural treasures as traditions, even if they abandoned the belief in spirits that was frightening them?

cfm: What is the question you most wish I would ask?

DD: That’s a hard one. There are so many topics to talk about! In fact, the book as it stands today includes less than half of what I had originally written. I’m sure my editor had a heart attack when she read through the manuscript I originally turned in. But she was very diplomatic and helpful in pointing out the portions she thought were most appropriate for a knitting book and helping me revise each chapter to make it more friendly. I’m quite sure my original version would have been completely overwhelming to the average reader. The part I was saddest about deleting was a section describing some of the traditional Yup’ik and Inupiat ceremonies.

I learned so much during my research, I’m sure I could continue writing about these topics for the rest of my life, but other book ideas are also chomping at my heels.

cfm: Optional question: Most of what I think I know about contemporary Alaska comes from the TV show, “Northern Exposure.” If you are familiar with that show, could you point out some ways in which the reality differs from the fiction?

DD: Sorry, but I’ve never seen Northern Exposure. I do have one interesting entertainment note, however. The 2002 movie, Insomnia, starring Robin Williams supposedly took place in Nightmute, Alaska. Several knitters from the Oomingmak Co-op live in Nightmute. The village’s population is over 90% Native, and yet in the movie, the town is predominantly white. I guess they just thought the name “Nightmute” sounded good, but they didn’t care to use the real village in the film. So much for authenticity!

cfm: Thank you so much for your insights and time.

DD: Thank you for asking such interesting and thought provoking questions!


Friday, October 27, 2006

"My" Book is Out!!!

. . . and my Aran Tam is on the back cover!!!

Here is the correction to the Aran Tam pattern and chart as published in the book.

One-Skein Wonders: 101 yarn shop favorites / edited by Judith Durant
and Gwen Steege (Storey Publishing)

Two of my patterns, a traditional aran tam adapted for contemporary knitting, in the round, and charted, and a small beaded bag, are in this book scheduled for an October 30th launch date. My Sister's Knits recieved a bundle of 14 copies this week. Carol O let me take half of them to sell at HalloweeM. I sold one and brought the rest back to the store, where they sold out last week. It's a very pretty book with many appealing patterns.

I'm very excited and feel pleasantly famous.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Stay Tuned

October 29th is a significant date in my personal history. It was on that day in 1967 that I met my first "true love" at a Love-In in Grant Park. Yes, the same Grant Park which, less than a year later, was the site of the infamous Democratic National Convention riots.

This year my personal October 29th will be somewhat tamer. Here on the blog, I will be interviewing author and designer Donna Druchunas about her experiences in Alaska while researching her latest book, _Arctic Lace. My physical body, however, will be hosting a Stitch 'n' Bitch at _HalloweeM, Chicago Area Mensa's annual three-day Halloween party.

Now I must get away from the keyboard and knit something.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Knitter's Soliloquy

To think or not to think. That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The tinks and errors of outrageous patterns,
Or to take arms against a sea of typos,
And by opposing end them? To dye? To steek
Once more; and by a steek to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That purling's heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To dye, to steek;
To steek: perchance no seam: ay, there's the rub;
For in that steek of yarn what dreams may come

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Thing

I hope to finish this in time to enter it in the Fine Art of Fiber
November 2 - 5, 2006
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Rd
Glencoe, IL 60022

It is going to be about five feet wide and about three feet tall in the middle. Inspiration for the shape is primarily from the dancing blankets of the Northwest Coast Aboriginal peoples: The Chilkat Blanket
Inspiration for the colors, feel, and spirit of the piece is from Cheryl Oberle's "Butterfly Shawl." Hence the name I finally chose: Butterfly.

I'm using mostly stash wool, some new purchases, some hand dyed by me. It's heavy worsted to bulky weight on size 8 US needles. Some colors are plied up from thinner yarns.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Two Ample Sweaters

Yarn and first bit of back panel for the Sandy cardigan from
Big Girl Knits.

Back of the sweater that may not have to die.

I hope to adapt the methodology of Sandy to re-fit the colorwork sweater, begun oh so many pounds ago, using shaped side panels.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stitches Midwest . . .

. . . has ended. The highlights of this year were the Ample Knitters' luncheon on Saturday, organized by Lynn from Wilmette, and the classes. Thanks to all the beautiful women who shared lunch, conversation, and white elephants, and to the generous folks who donted door prizes. Thanks also to the dedicated and talented instructors who braved airport hell to get here and back.

Joan Schrouder, you really are the thinking knitter's dream come true.

I made only one yarn purchase: a pound of hand-painted merino destined to be the center panels of the Sandy Cardigan from Big Girl Knits. There will someday be photos.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Saurel Jean Memorial Frogging

Saurel, our beloved friend and protector, died in his sleep Wednesday morning. No he was not a German Shepherd. He was our co-op's doorman, and part of this very odd family we have here in this building. Helpless and needing to take some action, I finally frogged that stupid never-ending Pi shawl.

I love you, Saurel. I hope you are somewhere where all the cars are clean and all the people are polite.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Dance

I'm ecstatic.

Beginning July 10, I will be teaching knitting at the     Hyde Park Art Center, in the beautiful new facility. The new site has huge spaces with great light for galleries and studios. It was designed with a great deal of input from participating artists. I toured it yesterday after meeting with the Studio Manager. The studios are so inviting! I cannot wait to take a painting class, since my home studio was turned back into a living room after DH moved in.

Summer term at the Art Center is a ten week course. With two and a half hours per session, 25 hours instead of the usual four or six offered per class at retail shops, I hope to be able to inspire my students to find their individual voices in the language of knitting. The emphasis will be less on completing garments and accesories, and more on learning to use the tools and materials to create unique works of fiber art. Of course some students will want to complete useful items, and that is fine, but the emphasis is shifted, and I look forward to the experience with great joy.

Thank you and bless you, EZ and AZ.

Knit in Public

You will find me knitting in public at DucKon, probably near the Art Show.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Midwest Masters

My weekend in Wisconsin was wonderful. I took three classes from Anna Zilboorg: Lace edgings, exotic multicolor stitches, and twisted travelling stitches. I was brain dead by Sunday afternoon and went home, stopping at the Borders in Gurnee to pick up a copy of Big Girl Knits.

The lace edgings are just that -- and not hard to do. They would add a special touch to almost any project.

The "exotic" multicolor stitches are all variations on slip-stitch patterns, in which only one color is worked at a time, over two rows. In the round, colors could be changed every row for interesting variations.

The twisted travelling stitches are in the Bavarian tradition. These take a bit more patience to work, because you are twisting stitches on every row. Anna filled in a bit of history that I'd never heard before. It seems Irish cable stitch patterns are an elongated version of these Bavarian stitches. It happened when Irish and Bavarian knitters met in the US and brought samples home and tried to reproduce them.

I'm working on translating some of the Aran cables back to their denser forms, just for fun, while I wait for Stitches, where I will probably purchase the Bavarian pattern books.

Anna herself is a gentle and very smart person. Before teaching knitting, she taught at MIT.



This was a tagline on an old post to the Knitty lists:

"Remind them that they are the creatures who knit the wool, not the
creatures who grow it on their backs!"
-Barbara Walker to Elizabeth Zimmerman, 1971

Thursday, March 02, 2006


The Devil did not make me post this pic. But I had to, just the same. Let's just call it free will with a vengance.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Goldie's Sweater

Finished lace edging and chest strap and delivered on Valentine's Day. Goldie likes it. I'll need to make one more strap to withstand the Chicago wind -- but here are the pictures so far.

Apologies to Cody, who is still waiting.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Eleanor Roosevelt

Last night Steve and I watched a lenghty biography of Eleanor Roosevelt on PBS. All the amazing and fascinating facts about this awesome woman's life aside, I noticed that in image after image, she was knitting. In one segment, I think it was a sock. There were at least three pointy DPs visible.

When the vote was finally taken to accept the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948, she is sitting in the US Delegate's seat, knitting.

Eleanor Roosevelt has long been a personal hero of mine, and of countless other women. Now I have one more reason to love her.

Knitting for Victory

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Even if they win, they lose

A sewing store in NYC has started a fight with thousands of knitters they have never met over a few words we've been enjoying for years. Many of us are "mad as Hell, and we're not gonna take it any more." Read the story here.

What follows is the e-mail I sent to the offending company. I copied it to knitty.com, Vogue Knitting, Knit n Style, and TKGA -- whoever had an e-dress I could find.

Dear Sewing Store,

I was stunned and angry to learn of your claim to the use of the words "Stitch 'n Bitch" as used by informal knitting groups across the country (possibly all over the knitting world).

Your shop has nothing to do with knitting. It appears that you added knitting to your descriptions after the term became popular. You don't sell yarn and you don't have any knitting classes listed on your Website. None of your team members are knitters. Your motives are suspect and your actions reprehensible.

There are more of us than there are of you, and we spell it differently, and we don't use the word "cafe," either with or without the accented "é."

Have you any idea how much bad press you are getting from this dispute? Even if you win, you have lost.

Just after I hit "send," I scared myself, because I bravely and/or stupidly signed my real name. Ah, well.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Incomparable EZ

Franklin Habit and Tricky Tricot have started a Knitters Almanac knit-along.

I probably will not knit all those things. But thank you, guys, for bringing me back to Elizabeth's delightful pages. Now I know that the person who perpetuated the falsehood about fisherman's pattterns as IDs for the dead was she. And the bit about the #8 needle -- ah, such wisdom.