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Gwlana 2015: Wish I Were (Going) There

29 April 2015

You all know about my amazing experience at the Gwlana retreats in 2011 and 2012. Each of the two retreats I attended in Wales came just after life-changing events for Mr. Trask and me. In 2011, we had just moved to England. Like, just moved there – we didn’t even have furniture in the house. In 2012, Little Miss Feisty had just made her appearance; she was three months old when we brought her to Beggar’s Reach.

thumb_2012-10-12 09.38.00_1024

We bundled her up tight for the train trip to West Wales. I couldn’t tell whether I was being crazy for going or not, but I knew I needed to go back.

Both times, Mr. Trask and I were exhausted and disoriented at the start of the retreat weekend; both times, we left feeling happy and inspired. [No, Mr. Trask did not participate in the workshops. He hiked, wrote, took LMF on walks (in 2012), and joined us for meals. What a spouse!] There had been incredible dinners, great conversation, moments of beauty and clarity.

And so it pains me that I won’t be at Gwlana 2015, which takes place 15 to 18 May. [This post is part of the Gwlana blog tour.]

The view from the orangerie at Beggars Reach, where in a few weeks lucky knitters will learn about colourwork from Felix and Brenda. Sigh!

The view from the orangerie at Beggars Reach, where in a few weeks lucky knitters will learn about colourwork from Felix and Brenda. Sigh!

If you’ve been following the blog tour or listening to Brenda and Felix’s podcasts, you already know about the workshops, in which the incomparable Brenda Dayne and Felicity Ford will teach colourwork and design. And both Chopkins and Yarn in the City have talked already about how special Gwlana is. It’s a hotbed of creativity, with designs flying off the page and onto our needles in the space of a few days. It’s a shopper’s dream, with the best goody bags I’ve ever seen or heard of and a Saturday marketplace featuring some of the best indies in the UK. It’s where Alli and Rachel (of Yarn in the City and the Great London Yarn Crawl) met. It’s where I gained the confidence to self-publish Silver Screen Knits. It’s where we all learned of the stunning beauty of Nimu and Countess Ablaze. Most of all, it’s a gathering of old friends who just met: by Saturday evening, we’re all in clusters around the hotel’s lounge, knitting and chatting and generally making merry.

Brenda with Little Miss Feisty (whom she still calls "my baby," as in "When are you bringing my baby to Wales for a visit?").

Brenda with Little Miss Feisty (whom she still calls “my baby,” as in “When are you bringing my baby to Wales for a visit?”).

It’s this last bit I thought I’d talk about, because it’s the most unusual. I have attended a lot of knitting workshops, and the camaraderie of Gwlana is something quite special. When I turned up in 2011, I thought I’d have some fun knitting and spend some time in beautiful Wales. If you had told me that, almost four years later, I’d still be meeting up with people I met at the retreat, I would have been pleased, but certainly surprised. Yet it’s true. These women are still in my life. We chat on Facebook and Twitter. A few of them come on the train to Oxford much more than they need to, just because they know it’s hard to travel with young kids. They’ve knit for LMF and Little Guy. They’ve given me advice during pregnancy and on self-publishing. They’re friends. And that wasn’t what I expected when I got on the train to Wales.

You see, I am not really a joiner. I like the idea of a group of knitters, but then I often cringe at saying anything in that group. I sit on the outskirts and listen, and I’m happy there. But both of the retreats I attended seemed to bond quickly, easily. Gwlana was there for me through first culture shock and then postpartum depression. So it’s very special to me. Even my non-knitting friends know about “The Wales Retreats,” because I talk about my friends from Gwlana, and what I learned there, more than occasionally.

Part of the bonding, I think, is that the teachers set an excellent example. They lingered: in the orangerie, in the lounge, outside on the porch…they were there to talk about what we had learned, what we were designing, the yarn that is so, so gorgeous, whatever. That made it easy for the rest of us to hang out, too, and to talk, and encourage each other. The first year, the teachers hosted an impromptu viewing of the series 2 premiere of Downton Abbey in one of their rooms. You don’t get that at every knitting retreat. [By the second year, they knew they’d need the hotel’s lounge to accommodate everyone who wanted to join. And we all wore our pajamas downstairs – the bartender didn’t know what to do with us.]

Jenni and Alli at the 2012 retreat. Alli, who had just moved to London from Canada, finished that hat over the weekend.

Jenni and Alli at the 2012 retreat. Alli, who had just moved to London from Canada, finished that hat over the weekend.

To close, I thought I’d tell you what Brenda recently told me about the name “Gwlana,” because in many ways it typifes what is important to me about these events.

Gwlana is the Welsh word for “woolgathering”, which was a custom practiced by women in rural Wales up until about a century ago. Groups of women would walk the countryside, gathering bits of fleece left behind on fences and hedgerows by passing flocks. They’d also call in at remote hill farms, bringing news, and carrying away small amounts of wool that the farmer might have saved for them from that year’s shearing. Walking for miles in order to find enough fleece to spin and knit with was hard work, but it was also a very social time. I loved the dual meaning of the word “woolgathering” which today is associated with daydreaming. The word gwlana perfectly describes the mix of industrious learning and social time in my retreats, as well as the relaxed pace which leaves plenty of time for dreaming about your next fabulous knitting project.

Ocean view from our train ride to the first retreat. A million miles from Oxford, and anywhere else. When we saw this out the window, Mr. Trask said, "This is going to be a great trip." And it was.

Ocean view from our train ride to the first retreat. A million miles from Oxford, and anywhere else. When we saw this out the window, Mr. Trask said, “This is going to be a great trip.” And it was.

Now I’m handing off to Knit British, a very cool podcast about British wool (just as it says on the tin). Since the tiny marketplace of local indie makers is one of the highlights of Gwlana, I can’t wait to hear what Louise says about the weekend.

Here’s the full blog tour schedule:

What’s the best knitting retreat you’ve ever been to? What makes a knitting workshop great, to you? And will you be attending Gwlana this year? Tell me all about it, in the comments.

Also, here’s a test – who wants to follow my blog with Bloglovin?

Fashion, Wearable Art, or Just This Sweater I Knit

28 April 2015

My mother and I loved to shop together.

Eighteen years old. Trying on dresses for the 1992 Inaugural Ball. (Nope, didn't buy this one.)

Eighteen years old. Trying on dresses for the 1992 Inaugural Ball. (Nope, didn’t buy it. I think I wore my senior prom dress insetad.)

It wasn’t really about purchasing clothing, although that happened, of course. It was time to chat, to catch up, to discuss intimate matters in the dressing room. It was creative time, occasionally, when we’d discuss philosophical questions or family matters. Above all, when I remember them now, those trips were times of inspiration – trying on clothes, after all, lets us consider different versions of ourselves and our lives, and sometimes gives us license to discuss those possibilities.* [Or at least that is the version of these trips I am focusing on now. There is another version, one in which my mother keeps using the phrase “not proportionately correct” whenever I try on a long skirt.]

*When we lived in the United States and had a car and no children, Mr. Trask and I often went for long drives to the same effect. “So, what do we want our lives to look like in five years?” one of us would say, and we’d spin out possibilities while the Blue Ridge Mountains rose up through the windshield. We were (although not visually) shopping for a different way of life: sorting through possibilities, trying on different combinations, figuring out what we could afford emotionally, logistically, and even financially. But I digress.]

Despite the fact that I like to knit for people, like to shop, and enjoy clothing, I don’t think of myself as a willing participant in the fashion industry. I find the concept of “fashion” intimidating, and tend to assume that I am unfashionable by default. I also have a real discomfort with the ideal model body and with the fact that so many women’s clothing designers are men. I generally see haute couture as being so unattainable as to be irrelevant and even ridiculous. I also tend to think of fashion as a business, a trick to get us to buy new clothing year after year. Yet a few weeks ago the movie at The Big Scream (the only way I see films these days, alas) was a documentary on fashion that has stuck with me.

Dior and I” comes off as a bit of a promotional piece for Christian Dior. Set in the venerable fashion house’s haute couture atelier in the eight weeks before Raf Simons‘ first show, the documentary includes luscious images of gowns which most of us would never have occasion to wear and a behind-the-scenes look at fashion design. But what made it for me was the details about how dresses are made for the runway, and the scenes of the atelier’s seamstresses carefully assembling each garment.

The seamstresses were the highlight of this film to me, and I suspect will be for many viewers. Not because we relate more to them than to the rest of the people in the documentary, but because watching their work is a luxury experience itself. The fabrics are designed to the house’s specifications, woven and embroidered and printed just for Dior.

Seamstresses making last-minute changes to a dress the night before the show.

Seamstresses making last-minute changes to a dress the night before the show.

Much more than watching the finished products sashaying down the catwalk – much more than spotting celebrities in the crowd at the show — the scenes of sewing were so exciting to me. I don’t think that is is only because I am a crafter; after all, sewing isn’t my craft, and I don’t understand what I’m watching in those scenes any more than, say, Mr. Trask would. But something about those moments hit the creative centers of my brain. Close-ups of heavily beaded, embroidered fabric keep coming back to me in little bursts of glory. The women who make these dresses know more about how each outfit was made, and spend more time with the fabric, than the designers, the models, or anyone else.

What little I know about garment design comes from my work as a knitting pattern designer, and especially from the Silver Screen Knits series. It’s a complicated thing, balancing the weight of your fabric with the shape you want your piece to take (not to mention the fact that in knitting you are creating your fabric and turning it into a garment at the same time). For me, it’s a lot of trial and error. For the women (and at least one man) in the film, it seemed like second nature. Many of them started working for Dior as teenagers and have been there for decades. Their jobs are dedicated to something evanescent: the garments are made for models to wear briefly, not to be worn regularly or even hung in someone’s closet. Yet those garments inspire other garments; they change what a certain part of the western world wears and how we think of ourselves. It’s a bizarre process: the dresses are really concepts sewn in expensive fabrics, marched out on the backs of too-tiny women, and then taken off in favor of street clothes and reality.

Yet fashion also exists “in reality.” Jessica Quillin, the SSK model with a PhD from Cambridge, is also a fashion writer and consultant and frequently attends London Fashion Week. So I popped over to her blog when I found myself mulling on Dior and my frankly hedonistic enjoyment of the fashion show in the documentary. There I found her mulling in true Cantab style: in The Poetics of Fashion, she says that “the poetics of fashion comes in its quasi-linguistic ability to communicate with everyone at a certain level, even those who claim to have little or no interest in it.”

Ann Weaver models one of two Grace Kelly sweaters, from SSK2.

Ann Weaver models one of two Grace Kelly sweaters from SSK2.

…So, uh, what’s that when it’s at home? She explains, “In the same way that my two year old can discern he prefers one pair of shoes over another, the average person participates in and interacts with fashion on a daily basis without even knowing it, both through the sheer act of getting dressed as well as emotionally engaging with how those around them choose to attire themselves.” So there it is. We all have preferences and many of us like to express ourselves with what we wear. I certainly do, and I especially like to express myself in my knitting designs. The most important part of Silver Screen Knits, for me, was writing the essays that describe the movies, stars, and garments that inspired each piece.

Look at the beadwork! I am a sucker for beadwork.

Look at the beadwork! I am a sucker for beadwork.

A surprisingly touching scene in the documentary comes just before the show, when Simons takes a moment on the roof of the building where the show will take place. He tears up, trying to prepare himself for what is, after all, a big moment. For him, the show is not just business. It is about trying to express what he thinks about clothing, women, and the history of a particular fashion house. So – I find myself rethinking fashion. Am I going to go out and buy Dior? Well, frankly, I can’t afford it. But I guess I’m going to be a little less threatened by “fashion” in the future.

Just as delightful as the film are these mini movies made by Dior:

Le Petit Théâtre Dior depict a miniature fashion show, from assembly through exhibition. They’re delightfully reminiscent of 2009’s video on Coraline’s tiny knitter, and give a small sense of how dresses are made in haute couture.

The boutiques where Mom and I shopped in the late eighties and early ninties often referred to their clothing as wearable art, a phrase that seems a little silly to me, then and now. Yet aren’t we all trying to express a little bit of ourselves in what we wear, and what we knit? And isn’t that art?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you comment by 6 May 2015, I’ll enter you in a drawing to win some pretty, pretty yarn. [What kind? It’s a surprise!]

Perfectionism: The Anti-Knitting

19 November 2014

The wonderful Episcopal priest who officiated at Mr. Trask’s and my wedding, and baptized Little Miss Feisty last year, mentioned to me once that she thinks she practices a “ministry of public imperfection.” As a working mother of two, she doesn’t always feel entirely together. I have mentioned that phrase to a lot of people in the last few years, and used it to remind myself not to lose perspective countless times both before and after LMF’s birth.

Vows: Oct. 28, 2006

Vows: Oct. 28, 2006

LMF's Baptism

LMF’s Baptism

I have trouble remembering that, on this blog, nothing has to be perfect. I want the exact right photos, the exact right words – and I want to be at just the right place in my projects when I do blog.

Hence the long hiatuses (hiatii?) in this blog in 2014. And, when I think about it, that is just silly. A lot has happened this year, from the release of SSK Volume Two to progress on my dissertation to the slow development of New Guy. But I feel I can’t really post here if I don’t have a great photo of a great new project to share.

And yet one of the things I love about knitting is that you don’t have to do it perfectly. Time and again, I have told beginning and even prospective knitters that the beauty of the craft is that you can make a mistake or two and still end up with a lovely garment.

(Here we might indulge in a digression about the probably apocryphal stories of deliberate mistakes made by (depending on your source) Navajo or Persian weavers, or Quaker or Amish quilters, or Japanese potters…but I suspect most of my readers have heard those tales before.)

So I am musing on how I can have a knitting blog when my knitting time is very limited. (As I explained to a friend this week, with two kids, someone always seems to want at least one of my hands.) I want to knit, and I want to talk to you good people, AND I have some yarn to give away, so surely there is some way to make this work. (Do make suggestions in the Comments section below.)

Indeed, I have been working on this post, in dribs and drabs, since before the little guy was born – and he is now almost 3 months old. Time to hit “Publish,” wouldn’t you say?


Streep Summer 2014: Free Yarn, Baby!

1 July 2014

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks here. We took Little Miss Feisty on a vacation:

Me, LMF, and Mr. Trask at Euro Disney

Me, LMF, and Mr. Trask at Euro Disney

And then I lucked into tickets to this tennis match in London:

Centre Court, Wimbledon

Centre Court, Wimbledon

My father bought himself and his wife these tickets several months ago; it’s been his lifelong dream to go to Wimbledon. At the last minute, his wife wasn’t able to come. So I GOT THE CALL. And spent a lovely afternoon and evening watching tennis with my Dad. I did some knitting on the way there:


Trailing Clouds Mind the Gap: All the Colo(u)rs of the London Underground.

Trailing Clouds Mind the Gap: All the Colo(u)rs of the London Underground.

This is yarn given to me by Catherine of chopkinsknits. I’ll explain more about our little knitting exchange later, but the yarn is fabulous: Mind the Gap by Trailing Clouds, and a bit difficult to come by. You can see that my stitches are a little too loose, so I need to go down a needle size or two. Update to come.

Meanwhile, this evening I will begin swatching for my Meryl Streep Cardigan (now available as a single pattern!) for the Streep Summer 2014 knitalong. Are you joining us? If so, have you created your Ravelry project and tagged it “streepsummer2014″ yet?

Because if you do you’ll be entered into a drawing to win some pretty, pretty yarn:

Manors Del Uruguay Alegria: Create a Ravelry Project Page by July 5 for a chance to win!

Manors Del Uruguay Alegria: Create a Ravelry Project Page by July 5 for a chance to win!

I have extended the deadline on this yarn giveaway to July 5, midnight GMT, because I didn’t do a very good job of publicizing the giveaway while on our crazy crazy vacation. So go ahead and create a project, so I can enter you in the drawing. If you’re having trouble tagging your project, or just want to make sure you are part of the drawing, you can post a link to the project in the comments section below.

We already have several people taking part, and happily a variety of yarn choices already. Becky is using Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Worsted Weight; I am using Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Worsted; and Fiona is using Stonehedge Fiber Mill Shepherd’s Wool Worsted. Here is my yarn photo for the knitalong; you’ll see that I’m taking a page from Becky’s book and used one of LMF’s Duplo figures to add interest. I call it “World’s Largest Ball of String.”

World's Largest Ball of String. You can see that Becky is better at this than I am.

World’s Largest Ball of String. You can see that Becky is better at this than I am.

As you’ll know if you’ve ready Becky’s blog post on the knitalong, Becky is also making a smaller Streep, for her daughter. She’ll post about what she’s doing to create a child-size Streep. Fiona is making some changes in order to have her Streep fit just the way she wants, because she is between sizes. She’ll share some of her tips as well. Are you going to modify the pattern at all? We’d love to hear about it – tell us in the comments section below, or on your Ravelry project page!


A Pattern and a Knitalong

19 June 2014
Becky Streep Full

Designer and Test Knitter (and all-around genius) Becky Wolf models her second Meryl Streep cardigan, this one knit in Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Worsted. Notice how the lace opens up with some negative ease.

Knitters Rejoice!

At long last, the oft-requested Meryl Streep Lace Chevron Sweater is available to purchase as a single pattern on Ravelry. Ooh, aah! We’ve gotten a lot of requests to release this cardigan to be purchased separately, so it’s appropriate that it should be the first of the Volume One patterns available this way. [But more are coming, so sing out in the comments if you’d like to see a particular pattern sooner rather than later.] The pattern is $6.00 (US) in the Ravelry store, or you can still purchase the ebook, with 10 patterns, for $20.00.

The Streep was also the post you all chose in our poll about which sweater you’d like to see modeled on an average-size body. The photos in this post are Becky (Knitty designer extraordinaire) modeling a Streep made with Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Worsted (coincidentally, one of my favo(u)rite yarns).

As we planned a post about the sweater, Becky and I realized that it would be even more fun to do a knitalong of the sweater, with Becky and me both posting our progress on our blogs (hey! here’s Becky’s!) and offering tips about gauge, fit, blocking, and more. With its lace knit in a large gauge, the Streep seems to me to be an excellent warm weather layer for cool evenings. Plus, I have some green NFC Worsted just languishing in my stash. It was meant to be, I tell you.

Streep Subtle Side

I need to get Becky to teach me to take selfies. Mine always look really odd, partly because I don’t know what to do with my face. Becky solves that problem by cutting off her own head.

So! Without further ado, the details of the knitalong:

  • We will begin on July 1, and continue until September 1. This will give us time to knit in a leisurely, summery manner, and for the quicker knitters to then offer advice to the slower ones in the Silver Screen Knits Ravelry Group (or in comments on this blog or Becky’s).
  • There will be discounts. Between now and July 1, if you create a Streep project on Ravelry, add a photo of the yarn you plan to use, and tag it “StreepSummer2014,” you will receive two coupons: one for $1.00 off of the single Streep pattern, and one for $4.00 off of the ebook of Volume One.
  • There will be a giveaway. Likely not enough yarn to knit the sweater, but around August 1 we will select one person who has posted about their progress in the Ravelry Group and send them some pretty yarn. Details about this, with pretty yarn photos, will be posted on my blog in the next week or so.
  • There will be advice and support. Multiple Streeper Becky will tell one and all what to do, and what not to do, when making a Streep. We’ll both post about our progress on our sweaters, do some troubleshooting, and perhaps even make some suggestions about modifications.
  • There will be fun. Of course there will!

Should you have any questions about the knitalong, post them in the comments section below, or on the Ravelry Group forum. Don’t be shy!

Yarn and Legos

NFC Studio Worsted, Lego Men: Becky has posted a photo like this for almost every test knit she’s done for me. I love this series so.

Streep Designer Ann Weaver has offered up some words of wisdom for the knitalong participants (and anyone else interested in making their very own Streep):

I designed this cardigan to be worn with no ease or a little negative; that is, knit the size closest to your actual bust size, and if you’re between sizes, go with the smaller size. This cardigan is actually more fitted than the sweater that inspired this design. Because it’s knitted with worsted-weight yarn on US Size 10 (6mm) needles, the fabric has a lot of stretch, and I think it looks best when it’s being stretched a bit while worn. This opens up the eyelets in the stitch pattern, much like blocking opens up a lace pattern.

That said, if you prefer your sweaters less snug, feel free to knit the size above your actual bust size. I’ve begun knitting some of my samples a size or two larger than my size to enable more people to try them on at shows (I have a 32-inch bust, so my sweaters often look like child sweaters), and I’ve found that these samples, which have anywhere between 8 and 12 inches of positive ease, look and feel great. I can wear them over a long-sleeved shirt or even another thin sweater.

Streep: A Side View

Join Us! You know you want a Streep.

As for yarn, I LOVE the Fibre Company Organik that I used for the original sweater, but any worsted-weight yarn in a solid or semisolid color will work. I’ve seen a stunning version in Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Worsted and can imagine versions in tweedy yarn, like Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, or tightly-spun worsted, like Mrs. Crosby Steamer Truck, which I saw for the first time at TNNA. For the price, I don’t think you can do better than Shepherd’s Wool from Stonehedge Fiber Mill (a Michigan favorite of mine!). It comes in a ton of colors and is extremely soft!

Ann’s suggestions make me want to just rush out and buy lots more worsted yarn. I think it’s particularly interesting that she suggests some options that have less of a “halo” than Organik does, like the NFC worsted and the Mrs. Crosby (Hey, has anyone else had a chance to see this in person? Please tell us all about it!). I would love to make a Streep in BT Shelter, but between the price point and the difficulty getting it in England that will have to wait a while. And you all know how I love Shepherd’s Wool – I used it to design both the Elizabeth Taylor Dress and the Humphrey Bogart Pullover.

What about the rest of you? What yarns would you consider? Sweet Georgia Trinity Worsted? Rowan Pure Wool Worsted? What about some indie yarns here in the UK? Post your ideas in the comments section below, and don’t forget to create your project on Ravelry!

Knitting for Pregnancy

22 May 2014
  • Me: What do you think of this sweater? Does it make me look fat, or pregnant?
  • Mr. Trask: Pregnant.
  • Me: Pregnant, or Fat/Pregnant?
  • Mr. Trask: Crazy/Pregnant.

Pregnant and Excited.


Five Months!

Five Months! Oh My.



So, some of you know this already, and some of you don’t, but: in September, Little Miss Feisty will have a brother. As you can tell from the photos above, he’s already making himself known such that occasionally people on the street congratulate me for being “almost done” with my pregnancy. [Au contraire, nosy bystanders! The young mister will be with me all summer.]

Since it’s England, I’ll still have a chance to wear some hand-knits in the next few months, and I thought I’d post about some garments I think will work for me in pregnancy. When I search Ravelry for “maternity,” I don’t get a lot of options (although that is changing; a few designers have started to think about pregnant ladies when tagging their designs). So–here’s what I’m dreaming about for the next few months.

Tea Leaves in Alexandria

Me. Not Pregnant. Tea Leaves Cardigan. On the porch of our old house in Alexandria. We miss you, house!

1. The Tea Leaves Cardigan. I so enjoyed knitting this sweater, and it turns out it looks great with a bump, too. If I find the time (hah! with a toddler in the house), I’d love to knit a second one.

2. Goodale. A great cardigan for spring and summer, and I knit one out of Madelinetosh Pashmina the last time I was pregnant. Not always a yarn I would think of for summer, but in this case I think my Goodale will be a nice layer for mornings and evenings here, when there’s still a chill in the air. Unfortunately, I have to get over my block to doing the finishing. How hard is it to sew a couple of buttons on? Evidently: really quite difficult indeed.

3. The Greenfield Cardigan. Another Melissa LaBarre classic, this sweater was my absolute favorite when I was pregnant with Little Miss Feisty. I wore it when the sky threatened rain even a little, and I got a lot of compliments on it. There’s something about the way the front drapes that actually is a teeny, tiny bit flattering on a pregnant woman.

Corinne plus Pink

My knitting bag for our flight to England, almost three years ago: the Corinne Cardigan, plus a random ball of yarn from the Tea Leaves Cardigan.

4. Corinne, from Knitty Spring 2011. I knit this in September 2011, when we were getting ready to move to England. Our house was little more than an empty shell and I was frantically mailing yarn all over the country. I thought I’d be wearing this sweater a lot last time, but it doesn’t sit on me quite right. You can see that I used a semisolid yarn, and it is a bit more mottled than I would like. I also think that the sleeves need to be lengthened and perhaps a contrasting button band added. I have a much better chance of altering a sweater than of knitting one from scratch this spring, so hopefully I’ll be reporting back on this one soon.

5. Flaming June, from Knitty Spring/Summer 2012. I got so excited about this sweater last time that I tracked down one of the few UK retailers offering the yarn – she was on vacation in Canada, for goodness’ sake – and convinced her to bring back enough Hemp for Knitting Allhemp3 for me to make Flaming June my very own. People, that yarn is still in my stash. This is the kind of thing that makes Mr. Trask weep late at night. I really need to knit this sweater, and soon. Especially since hemp is such a nice fiber to wear in the summer.
So – are you pregnant, or knitting for a pregnant lady? What do you think I should make this summer (other than teeny tiny kid clothes)?


Something New: The Week in My Phone

16 May 2014

Today’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week challenge is “to blog in a way different to how you normally blog.” So a wordless post, or a vlog, or something completely new. I thought I’d give you all a little rundown of my week, in photos, and to allow myself no more than 30 minutes in which to complete the post. [I was inspired in part by Franklin‘s ‘miniature entries,’ which get the job done in a short space.]

So, here’s what my iPhone photo files reveal about the week:


Silver Screen Knits, Volume Two

One book release: Silver Screen Knits, Volume Two

Susanna Rav Top 20

Two SSK2 patterns in the Ravelry Top Twenty. Both by the amazing Susanna IC!


One Starling Sighting

One Starling Sighting (at St. Peter’s College, Oxford)

Domestic Manners of the Americans

One book I feel I must read.


Jane NATOA Nixon

One hilarious photo of my mother unearthed just this morning from a PPT presentation

Child who needs haircut

One child who needs a haircut.

Who knows what the weekend will bring?

Plus, hey, copies of Silver Screen Knits, Volume Two are shipping, and ebooks are available on Ravelry! Use code SSK-BLOG for a 10% discount on the book, or sign up for the Silver Screen Knits Behind the Scenes newsletter to get a code for a larger discount, plus exclusive designer interviews and yarn giveaways.

Oxford Yarn Shop: Book Signing, with Tea Party

14 May 2014
Tea Party at Jericho Cafe

I do in fact drink a lot of tea.

Today’s Knitting & Crochet Blog Week topic/challenge is to do something new with photography, either of a knit object or in the way you use photos to illustrate your posts. I’ve given myself the challenge of using my “stock photos” (pictures I’ve taken around Oxford in the past, without knitting) to write about an upcoming event. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Here in England, we’ve just come back to reality from a bank holiday weekend, and another one is coming. Hurrah for May! On May 26 (Bank Holiday Monday), I’ll be at Oxford Yarn Store with copies of Silver Screen Knits, Volume Two. I’ll sign books, and Karen will host a tea party!

I do love a tea party. When I was growing up in Washington, DC, my mother organized a few annual trips with friends (and their mothers) to high tea at the Four Seasons Hotel in DC. Once, when we were in high school, Emily and I went there for high tea and, oddly, Michael Bolton was there. Clad in a t-shirt, shorts, and bare feet, he sat down at the piano and played for a while, to the bemusement of those of us there for scones and clotted cream. One can only assume he was a guest of the hotel. -But I digress.

You all might recall that OYS hosted the Silver Screen Knits Launch Party last fall, with champagne and music and general merriment. This time, Karen and I thought it would be fun to have a tea party one afternoon – and when better than a bank holiday?

Fauquier County, Virginia Tea Room

That’s quite a switch: photo taken in Fauquier County, Virginia, about six years ago.

I have high hopes that Little Miss Feisty will be able to attend, at least if her rigorous nap schedule doesn’t interfere. And that means Mr. Trask will be able to come, too (and wrangle her).

Oxford Yarn Store is a quintessential local yarn shop (LYS) – Karen seems to know everyone who comes in by name, and she hosts several knitting groups a week there. She organizes fun, interesting events (Saturday, May 24 will feature both sheep shearing and a presentation from the Oxfordshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers). She sells British wool and yarn from indie dyers. And she supports local designers like me!

Just as I did last time, I’ll bring some garment samples from the book (any requests? post them in the comments!), and I’ll be available both to sign books and to talk about yarn selections for different patterns. Please join us!

Tea and Milton

A Lovely Combination.

Let There Be Cake!

My Kind of Weather.

Tea is also nice with macarons.

Also Nice with Macarons.

Requisite self-promotion (many apologies):
Have you ordered your copy of Silver Screen Knits, Volume Two yet? Copies begin shipping tomorrow! Use code SSK-BLOG for a 10% discount on the book, or sign up for the Silver Screen Knits Behind the Scenes newsletter to get a code for a larger discount, plus exclusive designer interviews and yarn giveaways.

5KCBWDAY2: Dating Profile for a Knit Hat

13 May 2014

I’m a day late starting Knit and Crochet Blog Week, but in the interest of not succumbing to perfectionism, I am going to just jump in where I am. The Day Two topic:

5KCBWDAY2 Dating Profile
Write a dating profile for one of your past finished projects.

Hat and Socks for Baby

Alex’s pink hat with some cute little socks, which Alex wore maybe once.

Wooly pink hat (Madelinetosh Tosh DK, Ms. Taylor) seeks companion for travel, outdoor adventure, learning new things. Began life as part of Tea Leaves Cardigan project, but turned into extra yarn and then stash. Finally found my calling as first item knit for new baby, when mother learned she was having a girl. Traveled with family to Wales:

The hat on a train to Wales.

The hat on a train to Wales. With three-month-old baby.


Alex Wears the Hat in America

Westward Ho! Hat discovers America. Baby discovers her own cuteness.

And Istanbul:

Alex and the Hat in Istanbul

Mr. Trask, Alex, the hat, and Sophie the Giraffe in Turkey.

The hat in Asia! [On the Asian side of Istanbul)

On the Asian side of Istanbul: a whole new continent! Also, some cute kid in the background.

I’m unable to reveal my current location. The child on whose head I resided for the better part of a year became disillusioned with headwear, and one day (it is presumed) she yanked me off and tossed me out of her buggy. This had happened several times before, but her staff always retrieved me. Then, one day, they didn’t. [It was the male staffer on duty that day. But I digress.]

In search of new head and/or fellow hat with whom to explore the colleges and thrift stores of Oxford with a view to attending a bop. Willing to consider hat of other colors and fibres, but machine-knits need not apply.

Requisite self-promotion (many apologies):
Have you ordered your copy of Silver Screen Knits, Volume Two yet? Copies begin shipping on Thursday, May 15! Use code SSK-BLOG for a 10% discount on the book, or sign up for the Silver Screen Knits Behind the Scenes newsletter to get a code for a larger discount, plus exclusive designer interviews and yarn giveaways.

Pattern Spotlight: Meryl Streep

5 May 2014
Meryl Streep Cardigan

The Meryl Streep Sweater, by Ann Weaver, modeled by Anna Crow and photographed by Brandy Crist-Travers

The votes are in! In a very tight contest, those of you who voted (and thank you for participating) chose Ann Weaver‘s Meryl Streep Chevron Lace Cardigan as your “modeled on an average knitter” sweater. I’ll be posting photos of this sweater on me and the fabulous Becky Wolf. Additionally, we’ll be releasing the Meryl Streep pattern as a single pattern to purchase on Ravelry. Hurrah!

Since it’s going to take a few more days to pull this together, I’ve posted the interview with designer Ann Weaver that went out to Silver Screen Knits: Behind the Scenes subscribers when Silver Screen Knits, Volume One was released. Subscribers received an interview with each designer from Volume One, and we’ll be sharing those interviews on this site in the coming weeks. [If you’d like to receive the interviews with Volume Two’s designers, plus a pre-order discount code for Volume Two, notification of special giveaways, and more, please subscribe to the SSK Behind the Scenes e-newsletter. Thanks!]

As those of you who have Volume One may remember, this sweater was inspired by one worn by Meryl Streep in the movie Plenty, based on the play of the same name by David Hare. It begins and ends with a shot of Streep in a field in France just after the Allies have won World War II. Streep’s character, Susan Traherne, was part of the French Resistance and is full of hope for the future. The rest of the film spans two decades following the war, showing how Susan copes with “normal life” after the war. The film’s eclectic cast includes Tracey Ullman (herself a knitter!), Sting, Sir Ian McKellen, and Sam Neill.

The line from the film that we selected to highlight in the book was

“I want to change everything…and I don’t know how.”
–Susan Traherne (Meryl Streep)


A call to arms for knitters who need to alter patterns, perhaps?

Meryl Streep Cardigan

The Meryl Streep Lace Cardigan, designed and modeled by Ann Weaver.

If you own a copy of Silver Screen Knits, Volume One, you can see the original film still that inspired the Meryl Streep Chevron Lace Cardigan. It’s very much of the mid-80s, boxy and knit from variegated yarn. Ann Weaver’s version is a bit more accessible, with waist shaping and a longer fit.

We’re lucky to have several samples of this particular sweater. The first sample was knit by Ann herself. Becky, who has been my test knitter for several years now, knit a second sample of this sweater for me, and a third for Neighborhood Fiber Co. in their luscious Studio Worsted (man! how I love Studio Worsted). Becky and I are pulling together our clearest photos and best advice about this sweater, and are looking forward to showing it off for you all very soon.

In the meantime – are there other garments from Volume One that you’d like to see as single patterns? Comment below before May 12, noon GMT, and I’ll enter you in a special drawing to win some (ooh, aah) Sundara yarn that has been languishing in my stash.