May I show off my town a bit?  Everyone thinks California has no seasonal color, but we have a lot of it! My town of Los Altos has hundreds of Chinese Pistasche trees lining our downtown streets, plus thousands more throughout the neighborhoods.  The colors change from gold to orange to red from October through December.  The leaves stay on the trees for months. It's pretty spectacular.  We have a large one in our back yard and it sports all three colors at once before it finally goes scarlet.  During the summer they are marvelous shade trees.  While the Chinese Pistasche and tall red maples secure that Los Altos will have plenty of fall color, we're flush with the local California Live Oaks, immense redwoods plus the olive and apricot trees that are part of the valley's agricultural past.  I love my town.

To my American friends, Happy Thanksgiving!  On Thanksgiving Day, our daughter will be with her husband's family, our son will be working, and we will be with friends--but we'll all get together for a turkey with the trimmings on Saturday when I hope everyone will help me put up the tree.  Sunday is the first day of advent!  Where has the time gone?

The corner of Main St. and Third St. looking towards San Antonio Road.  See the clouds?  We got some rain!

State St., looking towards Wells Fargo Bank, Costume Bank on the right.
The same corner of Main and Third on a sunny day.

Third St., walking from State to Main.

Even the parking lot behind Main St. is spectacular!

The parking lot behind State.

Not a Chinese Pistasche, but one of the many maples on Los Altos Avenue.

These little dudes snuggled on a bench under a red blanket while waiting for mom to get out of the shop.

Not all of the trees, but many of them, get these nut-like berries.  Our tree gets them and the squirrels love them.

Here's my favorite store!  Uncommon Threads on State. St.

On Second St., looking down State.  Uncommon Threads on the right.

The tree in my back garden always gets color a bit late--it's just starting to turn but it will be scarlet too.

Links for more reading:



Christmas Countdown

I'm shaking a bit as I write this, knowing that all these projects below--and a few more I haven't pictured--have a deadline.  And that edict is coming from me, a knitter who absolutely hates putting time frames on knitting projects.  But a Christmas gift is a timely thing, and I have ruined one past Christmas Eve by staying up late trying to finish a knitted gift, only to crash at 2AM with it unfinished. To make sure that won't happen this year, all other knitting has been banished, and only these projects will get any attention in November and December!  I have a few car trips (where I'll be the passenger!) and a long train trip planned before Christmas and these are my travel knits for sure.

I finished the Amy Herzog Options KAL and hopefully will have a modeled picture to share soon.  I love it, and loved knitting with the yarn--so much so that I purchased more to make the Floyd Vest from Martin Storey for my son.

The Owl Ways Scarf and Chouette Hat from Ekaterina Blanchard of KatyTricot is for my 15-year-old granddaughter who thought these were just so funny and cute.  I'm using some stash-with-no-name that feels like a homespun wool.  Check out Ekaterina's Rav store.  She has some very clever designs.  Annie also asked for some fingerless gloves and headbands and think those will go pretty fast.

Two Harbors Poncho by Sarah Smuland is for my daughter.  This is my first time using this Columbia from Imperial Yarn.  It has a very hearty hand.  I'm liking it--it's nicely spongy!

IF, and only IF it looks like I'm not going to have a problem finishing the above gifts, then I'll see if I can finish this for me.  I try to wear a touch of red every day during the holidays so would love to have this done.  This is Bevin, from Kim Hargreaves Hush.  It's an over-sized boyfriend cardigan using that lovely Rowan Brushed Fleece.  Last year I ordered 10 skeins knowing that I would have to make another coat with this lovely stuff.  The pattern I chose needs only 9 and that one extra skein became the anchor and the inspiration for the hot red/claret/pink color combo for the Tower Of Yarn giveaway.  If you haven't entered, there is still time--I'm keeping it open for a few more days.  Go here to enter.  Good luck!

I'm finished with my Options KAL Pullover, love it, and also finished Dulwich in Rowan Alpaca Merino DK plus just finished a hot pink poncho for Annie.  I hope to have modeled pictures very soon.  If you're also waist deep in Christmas projects, take a deep breath, stay calm and knit on!  xo Kristen

I often write my posts ahead of time, sometimes weeks in advance.  This post was written last week and scheduled to publish Monday AM.  But after the events last Friday, I had to come back and say hello.  I'm just so heartbroken that Paris has been targeted again.  I've been watching my share of CNN, and I'm sure just like you, can make no sense of this tragedy.  This has gone on for too long--killing and raping, how can this sick behavior be tolerated any longer?

tower of yarn giveaway

Yay!  It's that time of year--time for another tower of yarn giveaway!  I've had some fun collecting Rowan yarns (in hot reds and pinks this time) to celebrate some blog milestones.  This is my favorite giveaway to have, as it includes some of my favorite yarns--yarns that knit beautifully and wear beautifully--and happen to be some of the most gorgeous yarns available for hand knitters today.  I'm thrilled to share these with you and wish you good luck!  The descriptions are below, plus plenty of ideas for what you can do with one skein.  The end of the post describes how to enter the giveaway.

This is my wobbliest tower ever.  Even kebab skewers didn't help much.  
It fell dozens of times before I could get it to stay.  I just couldn't breath!

My towers are usually blue, but I decided to go a different direction.  How do you like these hot colors?

Let me tell you about each of these from top to bottom:

Summerlite 4-ply was introduced Spring/2015.  It's a lovely, soft, fingering weight yarn made from the finest Egyptian Giza cotton.  The very soft hand makes a fine, even fabric; it's like no other cotton you've knit with before.  One skein is enough to make the Diamond Purse from the Rowan Swarovski Evening Collection.  Look for Rowan to add to the Summerlite line in 2016.  100% cotton, machine wash.

Softknit Cotton is a DK weight with a chain construction and beautiful drape.  It's easy to achieve an even tension and looks great in cables.  Light and cool, it's an easy-care, machine-washable blend of cotton, 92% and polyamide, 8%.

Wool Cotton DK, a 50/50 wool/cotton blend, is another easy-care machine-washable yarn.  Great for year-round knits, it's a favorite of mine for children's knits.  It comes in a fingering weight too.  Great stitch definition and is another yarn that's easy on the hands for a great knitting experience! 

Baby Merino Silk DK is just that, a blend of soft merino wool and silk that is machine-washable and another favorite of mine for children's knits.  I've just put a sweater's worth (for me!) of a bright blue on my Christmas wish list!  Combine the above pink Softknit, the orange Wool Cotton and this claret Baby Merino Silk DK for a totally adorable/totally free striped baby sweater!  It will be beautiful!

Kid Classic, ahh, you beautiful yarn you.  A blend of wool and kid mohair, this is perhaps one of my favorite yarns to knit.  I have some deep, almost black navy in my stash to knit a bolero as soon as my Christmas knitting is finito!  Kid classic acts like a bull-dog--it wears like iron and resists pilling, yet lives like a lady--the fabric is elegant, downy, and simply gorgeous.  The color I've chosen is a sexy, deep, wine/purple.  With one skein you can whip out several pairs of my Boot Cuffs for stocking stuffers this year.

Brushed Fleece, so maybe I saved the best for last.  I discovered Brushed Fleece because I wanted to make this coat.  Had to.  Even though I thought I was allergic to big needles, I found that I loved the knitting experience of Brushed Fleece.  It's bulky but uncommonly light weight, like it's been jet-puffed with air.  The resulting fabric is soft enough to wear next to the skin and light-weight enough to make a big over-sized coat without heaviness--your coat won't stretch out with added weight--there is none!  I am in the process of making another coat, more like a big boyfriend sweater, using this red.  I'm hoping to have it done by Christmas, but my gifts are a priority right now--wish me luck!  What can you make with one skein?  Perhaps a hat, definitely some boot cuffs or wristies.  Either way, you'll at least have fun petting it!

It's easy to enter.  Just leave a comment below (one comment per reader) and LEAVE ME YOUR CONTACT INFO!  Don't forget that little thing because you can't win if I can't find you.  Either your Rav id or email address will work just fine.  For a second chance to win, go to the Knitionary Facebook page, and under the post that has the Tower of Yarn picture, make a comment.  I'll leave this open for about a week.  Good luck, and thank you for reading!

options KAL progress and a V-neck tutorial

I'm more than halfway though knitting Amy Herzog's Options Sweater KAL.  I've enjoyed learning Amy's techniques and have also incorporated my own fit and easy-knit techniques which I'll share below.  This post has the details about how I shape a V-neck and how I put in sleeves.  I hope these tips will be helpful on a sweater you're knitting now, or on the sweater you'll be knitting in the future. 

These pictures show un-blocked fabric.  A luke-warm swish in water, or even a steam-iron will work wonders on uneven stitches.  I went far with just one skein with the Pure Wool Superwash DK--137 yards got me almost half way up the back.  PWDK has quite a bit of life on the needles, but not too much, just enough to make it behave and snap into place.  This makes it great for touch knitting.  It is not needle fussy and I've found my Knit Picks Caspians are perfect for this project. The color is a heathered, pale sea-green called Marl.  Do you see the two sets of decreases just off the center?  Amy places her waist decreases and increases here rather than on the sides.  This gives a much more flattering fit and is going to be my waist shaping method from now on. 

I was finished with the back in no time and made no mods.  Working on the front now and I'm almost to the armhole shaping.  The completed back is underneath and has been blocked.  You can see how a light blocking evens out the stitches. 
This photo doesn't show the color very well, but here I'm finished with the front and back.  I pinned it together and slipped it on and it fits like a dream.  Yay!  Amy has not yet posted directions for the v-neck option for the pullover, but I have a confession:  I rarely follow the pattern's v-neck instructions anyway.  I do my own thing. Here's how:  You have options when you are creating a V-neck.  If you want a low V, start the V-neck decreases one inch before the armhole shaping begins.  If you want a medium V, start the v-neck decreases at the same time as the armhole shaping, and if you want a higher V, then start the shaping about a 1/2" or 1" after the armhole shaping begins.  How simple is that?  This is a simple customizing technique that will further help you create the sweater you want to wear. I wanted a medium V on this sweater and so began my neck shaping at the same time I began the armhole shaping.   See more below.

Here's what I do:  The neck shaping decreases and armhole shaping decreases are usually happening at the same time, but at a different rate.  To make this part simple to follow, on a separate piece of paper, write out row by row what decreases are to be made.  Keep this paper with your pattern.  When shaping the V-neck, start with an uneven amount of stitches (prior to the beginning of this shaping you may have to alter your pattern one stitch to achieve this) and knit to the center stitch, mark it, then complete the row.  You will have the same amount of stitches on each side of the center stitch. Next row, with WS facing, P to 1 st. before marked stitch, and turn, now working one side at a time.  (You can now put the stitches for the other side of the neck on a stitch holder if you wish, but I don't bother.) With RS facing K2, K2togTBL, K to end.  Repeat this neck decrease row every RS row 7* times, then 7* more times every 4 rows AND AT THE SAME TIME, make your armhole shaping as per pattern.  *These numbers may be different for you and can be adjusted.  This particular neck shaping was appropriate for my gauge and my size, yours might be different, but don't be afraid, read on!  There are several factors that will change this number:  your gauge, the depth of your neck and/or the size you are making.  In general, the first 1/3 of the V shaping will have decreases made on every RS row, and the last 2/3 of the V shaping will have decreases made on every 4th row.  This is just a general guideline, and not etched in stone.  Every pattern and size you are making is easy to adjust:  Before binding off, just make sure your front shoulder has the same amount of stitches as your back shoulder so they will match up when you seam.  Depending on the sweater, you might have to slow down, or speed up your neck decreases.  Often the neck shaping is finished several inches before you will bind off.  That's fine, just work straight until the front arm scythe length matches the back.  Work your second side exactly as you have done the first, but this time, with RS facing, knit to 4 sts. before center stitch, K2tog, K2 and turn.  That center stitch is left alone until it's time to pick it up for the neck ribbing.  This type of decrease is called a "full-fashioned" decrease and is my favorite type of decrease for a V-neck.  Before we move on to the ribbing, can you see how, by fudging the rate of decreases, you can also make a very open and wide V shape, or a long, skinny V neck opening? Now, on to the ribbing!

(The picture above is unblocked so it looks a bit lumpy.)  When your front is completed, seam both shoulder seams.  You will be knitting the neck ribbing in the round.  With short circulars, and starting at a shoulder seam, pick up and knit 1 st. for every back neck st.  Down the front, pick up and knit 2 sts. for every 3 sts., pick up the center stitch, then pick up the other front at the same ratio as before.  Make sure you have the same amount of stitches on either side of the V fronts:  if you have 30 on the left side of the V, you should have 30 sts. on the right side with the center stitch in the middle.  Begin your ribbing, it can be any ribbing you like, but here I have done a K2P2 rib to match the rest of the sweater.  You may have to add or remove a stitch or two to make the ribbing work out--I like to do this on the back neck.  You will be knitting in the round.  Round 1: rib to 2 sts. before center st., K2tog, K center st., K2togTBL, continue with rib.  Round 2: Rib, knitting the knit stitches and purling the purl stitches, always knitting the center stitch.  Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until your ribbing is a scant less than 1" (or whatever depth ribbing you prefer) and bind off.  If you are binding off on a round 1, make your decreases as before, binding off at the same time.  I know you've tried on your sweater many times since you've started, but now is a good time to do it again, as it's really starting to look like something!  Now, on to the sleeves!

The next few pictures show how I put in sleeves.  Rather than knit a separate sleeve and sew it in, I knit top-down, set-in sleeves.  This is a simple technique and is my preference for knitting stockinette sleeves.  You pick up stitches all around the arm scythe and starting at the very top where the shoulder seam is, knit short rows to complete the "bell" shaped top.  When the bell is complete and you are down to the bottom of your armhole scythe, you simply knit the sleeve down to your desired length, making decreases every 2", and finish with the ribbing or your desired cuff.  I've written a post that has the complete tutorial here to show how you can make top-down, set-in sleeves.  You'll also find a PDF that you can download and print out.  It's an easy sleeve method and I love the results as they always fit well.  I'd love to know if you try it and please tell me what you think.

I'm almost finished with the short-row shaping of the bell.

I'm pinning it together and just ready to pop it on to see how the sleeve fit is.  (It was perfect, so yay!)
This picture makes my sweater look super long, but it's not really.  I did add 2" to the length, and it falls to just below my hip and right where I want it. This simple, straight-forward pattern allows for many opportunities to learn new techniques for fit.   Once you get the fit right, keep good notes and I imagine you'll come back to this pattern again and again, making different sweaters choosing the different options.  I highly recommend Amy's pattern, especially if you are new at sweater making or new at customizing your sweater to fit well.  You will learn a lot!  If you don't have time to knit it at this time, download the free pattern and save it for when you do have the time.  If you're thinking about joining the KAL now, it's not too late.  Many people have just started swatching.
As for the yarn, I've enjoyed the Rowan Pure Wool DK so much that I purchased more to make the Floyd vest for my son for Christmas.

Here's the links!

Download Amy's free Options KAL pattern here.
Hopefully you can find Rowan Pure Wool Superwash DK at your local yarn store,
but if not, it can be purchased online at most online shops including:
Jimmy Beans
Black Sheep
Fiber Wild

Here's the post that explains the sleeves.

 Lots of discussion on the KAL Ravelry page.

Amy Herzog's blog

You'll be happy you've watched these excellent YouTube videos:

Amy's first video, how to choose the correct size.
Make sure you watch Amy's second video with more details on fit modifications.
Is your hand-knit fabric sweater ready?