Valentine hearts to knit and sew

This is what my dining room table looks like right now, and it will for a few more days while I gather some decorating inspiration for a Valentine's Day Party I'm having next weekend.   I went pink crazy and rummaged the cupboards and pulled out everything pink hued or close to it.  And then feeling that crafty craving, I searched Ravelry for the perfect heart pattern to knit; one knit with two needles, not four.  I found Be My Valentine by Chris de Longpre.  It has an ingenious construction, knit from the bottom up on two needles and only one small invisible seam in the center to stitch up.  Careful, they are addictive to make!  The felt hearts were made from some Mary Flanagan hand-dyed and felted wool I got from Purl Soho while on a visit to New York a few years ago.  I wish I could have bought every color bundle, it's all so gorgeous.  Here's the pattern for the felt Sweetheart Charms

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Rowan Pure Wool Superwash DK can be purchased at your local Rowan stockist or online at
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Gifted Hostess Series, episode one

I'm fortunate to know many gifted hostesses who know how to throw terrific parties of all kinds--big and small, casual and formal.  But whatever their entertaining style, all great hostesses has one thing in common:  their guests have a good time.  Readers often tell me they are afraid to entertain--and it's not the work they are afraid of but the fear that their parties will be no fun!  So what makes a good party?  I think most of us would say good food, a well-stocked bar, interesting guests, with music and decorations being a big bonus.  But that's way too general.  This post begins a new entertaining series showcasing some fantastic hostesses, sharing their specific tips with menus, recipes and style hints that you can incorporate into your own party giving.

The hostess sets the tone for the evening.  If she is calm and genuinely happy that you've come, then the party has a 100% chance of being a success.  The only way I'm able to keep calm is if I'm organized and have not taken on more than I can handle. For the menu, I allow one difficult dish and everything else has to be fairly easy. And if I've learned anything from hosting 100-plus parties, it's to do as much as possible ahead of time.  I know I've got to do some kitchen duties while the guests are here, but EVERYTHING possible has been prepped before hand.  I didn't invite my guests over for them to wonder where I am, only to have me emerge from the kitchen pink-faced and frazzled from cooking!  Lately, I've been hiring a kitchen helper, and what a Godsend, but that's a recent gift I give myself.  Kitchen help doesn't mean my menu changes or that I still don't prep everything I can;  it simply gives me an extra hand while serving and someone to do the dreaded clean up.  Money well spent, and even my husband agrees with that.

I'm happy to kick off this series with one of my favorite hostesses, Rene.  You've met her on this blog many times.  She has a gorgeous apartment in the city with a view to die for.  (San Francisco is the city, the lovely city by the bay, of which she has a beautiful view).  But tonight's party is at her vineyard home in the foothills of the coastal mountain range, close to where I live.   I love to be entertained there!  The occasion was the January meeting for our "party group", a monthly gathering  of friends that meets the 2nd Friday of every month.  We've been doing this for close to a year now and it's been a great success, but more about that another time.  For now, enjoy some pictures, a fabulous (and fabulously easy) ice cream recipe and a few of Rene's entertaining tips.

Another table was set up in the living room.

Our Friday night parties are pot-luck, with the hostess making the main course and the rest of us with the sides. Just before dinner we get to work in the kitchen, and below, the buffet is set.

Come with me, let's snoop around the house!

Look what I found in the guest room--Kaffe's Afghan KAL!
Rene is an accomplished knitter and quilter who loves color!



Mini Gougere Puffs
Crab Spread

(This was my contribution.  I served 1/2 cup portions in tiny glass mugs.  A hit!)

Beef Bourguignon, from San Francisco a la Carte
Fresh Peas
Fresh Green Beans
Carrot Puree
Noodle Casserole

Fresh Berries
(The BEST lemon ice cream!)

Take away tips:
  • A bowl of lemons, or any seasonal fruit, makes a beautiful centerpiece.
  • Cluster candles in decorative votives on a platter for a glowing focal point.
  • You don't always need a full bar; Rene and Brian served a selection of wines, and spoiled us by serving several selections from their own vineyard.
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Come back next week for my Valentine's Party.



Here is Dulwich by Martin Storey from his Easy DK Knits book from the last fall/winter season.  First, I love that book as there are quite a few more designs I'd like to knit from it.   This pattern was meant to be knit in either Rowan Pure Wool Superwash DK or Rowan Super Fine Merino DK, both lovely yarns, but I wanted to try the new Alpaca Merino DK so made a switch.  The Alpaca Merino is fantastic; it's very easy to knit and creates a fabric that has a fine oatmeal texture and weightless loft, plus it's as soft as a puppy's tummy.  I think if anyone has wool issues, maybe this would be worth a try.  The colors all have little color variations, and in this purple I see a tiny bit of violet and blue--it's truly gorgeous.  Alpaca Merino DK has a chainette construction which gives it the lightweight loft, but while knitting, may cause you to get a snag, but this can be avoided.  When I knit a chainette yarn rather than a typical plied/twisted yarn, I find I have to alter, ever so slightly, the way I dig into the stitch.  It's a very minuscule change really, but I find I do exaggerate my motion ever so slightly and then I don't have any problem with snags.  Play around with your motion and play around with your needles too, and while I don't remember this as being needle fussy, I did use an Addi lace with the super smooth pointy tip.  Some yarns are worth a tiny bit of trial and error, and this is one that is worth it.  My Alpaca Merino sweater ended up being a very easy touch-knit project.  I've worn this perhaps a half dozen times and I'm just noticing some pilling under the sleeves.  Not bad!  I don't mind moderate pilling at all, and honestly, expect it in all sweaters, hand-knitted or store-bought because it's just the nature of the product.  I hate excessive pilling, but if I have to groom a sweater every several wears or so, I don't mind.  I use a Gleener.  It's the best de-piller on the market and you can imagine I've tried them all.

As for the pattern, it's quite easy and very well-written and it's from my buddy, Martin.  It's knit in two pieces then sewn together at the shoulders.  Next, stitches are picked up at the arms and ribbing is knit down to the wrist, or shorter, depending on long you want your sleeve.  I am loving the bat-wing look and now have 3 sweaters in that style, so perhaps that's enough for now. :)

If you wanted to make Dulwich I have a few suggestions about getting the bat-wing style right.  These sweaters can be long and loose, or long and slim, some with waists and some without.  I love them all.  But if you make one that has waist ribbing like this, the blouse should begin and the ribbing should end at the natural waist, or no more than an inch below.  If not, you take the risk of looking like a big blob.  So, if you want to add length to this sweater, lengthen the waist ribbing by a little or a lot, but make sure to have the ribbing stop at the waist and do not add the length to the blousy part.  This style can be flattering and sexy, but when it's not, it's probably because the blouse has gone down too far below the waist.

The second recommendation is yarn:  While any DK weight that gets proper gauge would work, I recommend a soft yarn with moderate drape.  There is too much fabric to have even the slightest amount of stiffness.  Besides the recommended yarn, this would be gorgeous in Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK (I've got some in my stash but do I need a 4th?)  Light bulb moment: this would be fantastic knit with Kidsilk Haze knit double!  Heaven!  For a summer Dulwich I would knit the sleeve ribbing a few inches shorter to make a 3/4 length sleeve and use one of the two new summer yarns I've been playing with, either Summerlite DK (100% Giza cotton) or Softyak DK (cotton/yak/nylon); both are exceptionally soft with the right amount of drape.  It's so important to pair a pattern with the right yarn, don't you agree?

Well, that's it for now.  I talked about a lot of products in this post and below I have all the links for ya!

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Easy DK Knits by Martin Storey
Queue Dulwich here.

All of the above can be purchased at your local Rowan Stockist,
or online at:

For de-pilling, try the Gleener, it's the best.

Until next time, happy knitting!

winter decluttering and spring cleaning sprinkled with new knitting projects

My post title says it all--I've been on a ruthless winter de-cluttering and spring cleaning binge--not just in my own home and garden, but in my church's kitchen and my son's house.  After Christmas I got this de-cluttering urge that could not be ignored.  After putting away the Christmas, I sent boxes of unused/unloved/forgotten treasures found though out the house, not just the kitchen, to Goodwill.  Also, our church's professional kitchen was sadly in need of a de-clutter attack and deep-deep-cleaning and since my role as Fellowship Elder revolves around food and the kitchen,  I organized a small team to take it on.  Then lastly, my son is moving a few miles closer to his work and was overwhelmed with the packing and all that he had to do--mom and dad to the rescue!  And all of this was in January, but my cleaning madness actually started in December when I helped my mom reorganize her kitchen and bathroom with the advent of new cabinets and paint.  I don't need any help or inspiration to clean up and clear out--it comes naturally to me and I'm one of those kind of people who actually enjoys it.  I've heard that we spend the first 40 years of our lives accumulating stuff and the last 40 years trying to get ride of it.  I wish I had known that 40 years ago! So...if you've noticed that this blog has been neglected lately, that's why!

As for the last segment of my blog post title: new knitting projects--I have taken on a few.  We have a few spring trips planned and I look forward to packing my knitting projects even though it's tricky, this packing for travel: something smallish and light, but must last the length of the trip and hold my interest while not requiring a lot of concentration.  Here's my new projects from which to choose:

This is a feather and fan lace sweater, Simone from Kim Hargreaves knit in the new Summerlite DK, fantastic stuff and is the nicest cotton I've ever knit with:  tame and soft, but more about it later.  Probably not a good travel knit for me. 

This is going to be the Speckled Shrug from Lion Brand knit in some vintage Rowanspun Aran.  I'm really glad I hoarded this lovely tweed yard and found the perfect project for it.  This is a touch knit project and has become my movie knit and probably too bulky for a travel knit.

This is my version of Tochigi by Lisa Richardson.  I'm using the new Rowan Softyak DK, and man do I love it!  It's softer than silk, but more about this later.  This I hope to have finished before my trips so I can take it and wear it.

Hmmm, possibly a GREAT travel knit.  I adore Kidsilk Haze and all it's sweet sisters.  This is some sparkly Eclipse in an off white.  If you knit this doubled it becomes a DK weight and would be perfect as Martin Storey's Sapphire.  I've got the pattern copied and needles ready to cast on!

The lovely yarn in the cage above is for a variation of Marianne Isager's Tokyo using some lovely Isager yarn.  I purchased this kit last October in London at the huge yarn show at Alexandria Palace.  I saw the knitted shawl in person and bought the kit on the spot.  The colors are soft grays and taupes with a bit of white and pale blue and a smidgen of orange.  Great travel project.

This has possibilities of being a travel knit.  It's the beginning of the new Martin Storey KAL afghan knit in Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted.  I'm making a baby blanket in these 4 gorgeous colors.  I'll add links at the end for this free pattern.
Martin's afghan Knit A Long has just begun and we are on the first week.  There are 8 free square patterns in total; one will be released every 2 weeks to give you plenty of knitting time.  First, login to the site before downloading.  If you are not registered, it's free and easy.  Martin has designed 4 colorways, blues, greens, neutrals and spice or you can choose your own.  All the information can be found on the Rowan site below.  The pattern makes a full sized afghan, but I'm making a baby blanket and chose my own colors.

Download the first pattern, Moss Stitch Hearts (free)
Watch this interview with adorable Martin Storey and check out Kate's coat! 
There are a few KAL forums on this Rowan Ravelry group and lots of lively chat!

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