Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October Reader Who Knits: Dawn Leonard

It's the third Wednesday of the month, our time to feature another Reader Who Knits. DestiKNITters, say hello to loom knitter Dawn Leonard!

Dawn, what are you knitting right now?  
I’m knitting a green hat to be donated to a needy person at a local soup kitchen through my parish’s knitting ministry.  My parish has a group that has been serving lunch and giving out sandwiches once a month at that soup kitchen for more than 11 years.  I’m blessed to be able to help serve those meals when my schedule permits.  I’m in the process of finishing a baby hat I hope the knitting ministry will give to a newly baptized baby at church.

What feels like your favorite/greatest knitting accomplishment?  
My greatest knitting accomplishment was finally finding a way for me to knit.  I’ve never been able to learn to knit or crochet with needles in spite of many, many attempts and books.  Loom knitting is easy and gives me a sense of accomplishment.  My favorite is a hat I made for an elderly friend that her high school age granddaughter permanently borrowed.  It’s great that a high schooler thinks a hat I made is cool enough to wear.

What feels like the worst knitting mistake/foible/wrong choice youve ever made?  
Because I’m a beginning knitter, I still don’t know how to fix mistakes like holes if I miss a peg.  Sometimes I have to decide to leave it or unwrap the rows until I get back to it.  Getting the yarn back on the pegs correctly isn’t easy.  My worst choice of yarn happened when I didn’t think ahead when I made a very warm hat with thick, pink yarn.  It looked great and I had planned to donate it to a child or woman with cancer because it seemed so warm.  Unfortunately when I finished it, I realized that the thickness of the yarn made a circle at the top that I can’t close.  I still haven’t figured out what to do.  

Tell us about your knitting loom and how you discovered using one.  
Knitting looms come in circles for hats and rectangles for scarves, shawls, and afghans.  I was in A. C. Moore (craft store) after Thanksgiving looking wishfully at all the yarn and knitting and crocheting supplies.  Another customer came into the aisle to get a round loom set because” it was a really good price.”  I asked her about them.  She told me that they were very simple and told me she runs a class for kids at her local community center.  I figured if kids could do it, it was worth a try.  I read the instructions and was hooked.    

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate? 
Always milk chocolate, if absolutely necessary dark chocolate, but never white chocolate.

Coffee or tea? 
Tea - Constant Comment or English/American Breakfast.  I don’t even drink coffee.

Whats your favorite Allie novel? 
I love all the books in the Blue Thorn Ranch series.  If I have to pick one, it would be The Texan’s Second Chance.  I enjoyed Jana and Witt’s romance and thought the whole food truck storyline was great.

What are you reading now?  
Jessica Keller’s The Ranger’s Texas Proposal in paper and the holiday romances in the Mistletoe Memories collection as well as Jill Kemerer’s Yuletide Redemption on my Kindle.

Do you have a favorite knitting character from a book, movie, or television show? 
Bethanne Hamlin and Libby Morgan from Debbie Macomber’s Blossom Street series.

Give a shout out to your favorite local yarn store:  
A. C. Moore
360 Patriot Place
Foxborough, MA 02035  
I’m sure that there are some lovely independent yarn stores in my area but I shop at the chains - A. C. Moore, Joann’s, and Michael’s.

Dawn chose my new ebook My So-Called Love Life for herself and a copy of Bluegrass Christmas for a friend.  As a thank you for being featured, Dawn also receives 10 hanks of Cascade 220 in Sparrow.  If you'd like to be featured in a future DestiKNITions Readers Who Knit/Crochet, email me at

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Meet me at The Ryman Wrap from Haus of Yarn - Day 3

It’s dawning on me exactly how much stockinette is called for in the middle of this shawl.  I’m wondering if the occasional rows of garter are for design interest, or just to save the poor knitter from three-odd feet of monotony.  In either case, I’ll take it.  I’m a big believer in subgoals—breaking down a larger project into mini-goals along the way—and those garter ribs serve that purpose nicely.

At first I thought the middle was just a steady rhythm of stockinette and garter, but there’s a bit of design in there.  It took me a few minutes to work out what the actual middle of the shawl was so I’d know where and how to expand it for my height.  Of course, that was unnerving in itself, because expanding it just means more stockinette.  We’re talking a serious volume of knitting here.  Like a whole season of something binge-watched on Netflix volume of knitting.  I’m not sure my life has the capacity to take that kind of hiatus in the next week or so.

Still, texture continues to be my consolation and motivator.  Wool has this amazing ability to be light and substantial at the same time.  Warm, yet still able to drape.  Somehow, the large swaths of stockinette show this off in a way the lace sections cannot.  And so I am encouraged to press on.

And maybe check to see what’s on Netflix.

PS:  Live near San Antonio TX?  Want to meet me at a great book & knitting event? Check out my November 13 appearance here

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Meet me at The Ryman Wrap from Haus of Yarn - Day 2

Through the windows...

I finally made it through all three repeats of the “window” pattern.  Since I was using stitch markers, things got a bit tricky on row 13 when everything moved over a stitch, but on row 14 it returned to live happily inside the margins I’d set with my stitch markers.  I find it so useful to know I have the right number of stitches inside each repeat of a hard-to-see pattern like this.

Now that I’ve created the edge of my stole, I took the time to weigh it.  Chances are very high that I’ll add a bit to the middle, tall as I am.  Too often a pattern is written without enough length to really suit me.  I need to make sure, however, that I don’t add so much to the middle that I don’t have sufficient yarn to finish the piece.  Now that I’ve weighed it, I’ll know I need to stop when I have about 40g left in order to ensure I have enough yarn to do the second edge.  More likely, I’ll stop at 50 or 60g, just to be sure.  Nothing is worse than running out of yarn with only an inch to go (and yes, I’ve been there.)

Jo Strong's lovely design isn’t going to show off its full loveliness until blocking—I can see that right now.  But quality fiber such as this will block up beautifully!  I may not be able to see it now, but I can feel it in my fingers.  Wool knows how to behave, pure and simple.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Meet me at The Ryman Wrap from Haus of Yarn - Day 1

Projected bliss...

New projects are one of the knitting life’s greatest pleasures.  It’s all about the texture and the color, you haven’t botched any rows yet, and the pattern photo calls to you like a siren.  It’s going to be so perfect when you finish it.  It’s going to be so much fun. You can't wait to start.

The pattern calls for #6 needles, but Meg suggested using #4’s to get the right gauge. I ended up splitting the difference and going with #5.  Being a larger gal, I tend to upsize my needles a bit on most projects to get the scale my broad shoulders need.

Either way, it’s going to take soooooo many rows to do a full shawl in these tiny needles!  Yes, I’m stressing a bit about that, but calming myself with the fact that several feet of this is pure stockinette, and I’ve gotten pretty fast thanks to my mad continental skills.  Still, I’m wondering if I can whip up a cross-country road trip just to ensure I get enough knitting time.  I’ve got a nifty little event in San Antonio in November…maybe I should get my husband to drive?

Seriously, I like that this pattern takes its motif from a real place.  You can see the reflection of the famous Ryman Auditorium windows.

The fiber, Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal, feels so authentic.  Wooly but not scratchy, just a hint of other colors among all that rich chocolate brown.  Warm, yet light.  Perfect for a fall afternoon or evening.

I found it essential, given the dark yarn and my knack for mistakes, to mark each repeat of the window motif with stitch markers.  Those yarn-overs have to line up perfectly or the windows won’t look right, and no one wants to get to the end of a row only to discover something went “off” forty stitches back. Eyeball it if you want, but this knitter’s putting in the safeguards so she isn’t pulling her hair out later.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Nashville has grown far beyond it’s country music fame to become one of the country’s hottest cities.  Food, fashion, art…and yes, yarn can be found with a vibrancy that enamored me even if I think of myself as a far cry from a southern twang or a cowboy hat.  This is a hip, sophisticated town—and you owe it to yourself to check it out.  Here's where to start:

Pancake Pantry
1796 21st Ave S
Nashville, TN 37212

Everyone I talked to had only one recommendation for breakfast—and it was this place.  Lots of pancakes come with their own special syrup, and the line outside tells you why everyone loves their food.  This place is old school—not fancy, just delicious.  My choice:  sweet potato pancakes.  Go ahead and lie to yourself that they are nutritious.

Fox’s Donut Den
3900 Hillsboro Pike
Ste 2
Nashville, TN 37215

If a full breakfast isn’t your thing—and, quite frankly, even if it is—here’s another Nashville icon.  Again, nothing fancy, just a wide variety of donuts and fritters done exceptionally well.  Of course, if you want to pull out all the stops, pre-order the Texas Donut.  It comes in a pizza-sized box.  Need I say more?

Parnassus Books 
3900 Hillsboro Pike Suite 14 
Nashville, TN 37215 
(615) 953-2243

This is no ordinary bookstore.  This is a noble cause disguised as a bookstore.  Bestselling author Ann Patchett didn’t just talk about the necessity of the independent bookstore, she up and launched her own.  The store is stunning, right down to the children’s reading room, the shop dog, the many events, and the staff recommendations.  Go here and buy something because you ought to, and you’ll want to.

Haus of Yarn
265 White Bridge Road
Nashville TN 37209

Taking over from the shop’s original owner who passed away in 2015, Meg Strong stepped up to the plate because “I really, really wanted to keep the place open.”  We’re glad she did. Having moved to this new location to gain more space five years ago, this shop fills three rooms with a mix of big brands and beloved locals.  Trunk shows showcase smaller, local stock and happen nearly every month.  Products flow in and out of stock, so there’s always reason to come back and find some new fiber obsession.  

Haus of Yarn boasts a long-time and loyal customer base.  “We have fantastic customers who’ve been with us from the beginning.”  But Meg also meets the needs of the expected tourist base, being close to downtown and to area hospitals (I think yarn should be sold in hospital gift shops  myself—where do you need the peace knitting brings more than a hospital?) Meg selects projects and products to appeal to each audience—and that’s no small feat.  “You want a lot of affordable and interesting new stuff for our regulars, but you also need enough stock to let someone get all the skeins they’ll need to finish their project.  It’s a balance.”

The super-friendly staff—all of whom have been with Haus of Yarn for multiple years—stands ready to assist.  “We’ll help you try any project,” Meg boasts.  The staff will often brainstorm multiple substitutions at a variety of price points for projects.

Just want to come in and stitch?   Social knitting takes place Thursday afternoons and all day Sunday.  You can connect digitally, too—the shop is active on Ravelry, Instagram, and Facebook.

Here are some of the projects that caught my eye:

Easy Folded Poncho  
I’ve seen this clever Churchmouse Yarns pattern in many stores, and it’s a fan favorite everywhere.  “Nashville is a poncho town,” Meg remarks, and who wouldn’t want to join in with this accessory?  The varieties are endless, depending on yarn and stitch.  Grab 980 yards of whatever strikes your fancy if you want the cowl version, or 840 yards without.  There’s no way you can make just one of these—the options are obsessive!

CrochetWorks Crochet Projects 
Under her CrochetWorks moniker on Ravelry, Julie Blagojevich (yes, she’s the sister-in-law of that governor) has dozens of stunning patterns. Meg’s favorites include  Vicki’s Scarf, the Leslie Shawl, and Lisa’s Bag.  One of these is bound to hook your imagination.

Josephine Shawl
This free Ravelry pattern is as simple as it gets.  Use two balls of any self striping yarn—Meg recommends Noro Taiyo sock—and zen out.  The mindless, soothing knitting is the perfect project for a stressful season.  Look here at all the myriad of possibilities and cast on.

Knit Along:  Meet me at the Ryman Shawl/Stole
Our Knit-Along from Haus of Yarn made its debut at Stitches, and takes its design from the famous architectural details of Nashville’s home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium.  The pattern comes in a shawl version utilizing 3 balls of Geilsk wool cotton blend, and a stole version (which I chose), kniting up with two balls of Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal wool cashmere blend.  Gauge is critical, so if there’s any doubt, go ahead and get a third ball.  I sure did.

Time for lunch?  I know where to send you:

Picnic Cafe
4320 Harding Pike
Nashville, TN 37205

There are so many plates decorating the walls, it’s like eating in a blue china garden. Every member of the wait staff dons a different cheerful apron.  The chicken salad was everything Meg said it would be, and the frozen fruit salad was like a dessert in itself.  The coconut cake—a personal favorite—was top-notch, as were the little “Kathy’s Crescents” cookies.  The perfect “ladies who lunch” spot. 

From here, head on down towards one of Nashville’s trendiest neighborhood, “12 South.”  The best route is to drive down Woodlawn Avenue, taking note of all the fancy houses and imagining which stars or executives might live inside.

Tackle the challenging 12 south parking (side streets offer the best bet), and start your afternoon adventures with a dose of caffeine at: 

Frothy Monkey
509 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

This inventive, friendly java joint has all the markers of a good gathering spot—small tables, comfy chairs, memorable name, good brews. You can eat here too, with full menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It’s often crowded, and it’s not hard to see why.

Craft South
2516 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

Even though I’m a one-craft gal—knitting only—I like the new trend of multi-craft establishments like this one.  Knitting, sewing, crochet, quilting, embroidery, cross-stitch—it’s all here.  The shop lists itself as “an expertly curated supply shop of fabrics yarns, embroidery supply, tools and a Janome Sewing Machine dealership.” Owner and craft maven Anna Maria Horner of the popular Anna Maria brand runs the place, and her trademark love of color is seen everywhere.  She even designs quilt fabrics.  Just standing in the store revs up your creative juices.

Sprinkles Cupcakes
2606 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

Now if you want to rev up your blood-sugar, you only need to travel next door.  This shop has a cupcake ATM! How can you not love that level of efficiency?  My sources tout the Red Velvet, Black & White, and Chocolate Marshmallow flavors as the best, but a wide variety of seasonal flavors show up to tempt you as well.  There’s ice cream, too, in just as many clever and yummy flavors.

Draper James
2608 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

later learned that this charming southern store is owned by actress Reese Witherspoon, and it made total sense.  The store has a stylish, classy whimsy to it.  The kind of place where you find something for the person you can never find anything for.  They even offered me a glass of sweet tea while I shopped—can you get more southern hospitality than that?

White’s Mercantile
2908 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

Another store with a different vibe is in this old gas station with the flower stand out front.  Owned by singer-songwriter Holly Williams (daughter of legend Hank Williams), “ecclectic” is a good word for this place.  Delightfully cluttered, this “hip new twist on the age-old general store” hosts an intriguing assortment of gifts, housewares, and foodie goodies. There’s a second location in nearby Franklin TN.

Las Paletas
2911 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

Gourmet popsicles?  Why not?  The list of the day’s flavors surprised me.  An avocado popsicle?  I declined that one, but headed straight for Meg’s suggestion of cantaloupe and was not disappointed.  The perfect treat on a hot summer afternoon.

Hattie B’s 
112 19th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37203

Speaking of hot, “hot chicken” is one of Nashville’s contributions to civilization, and a fine way to top off your day.  Being a total spice-wimp myself, I can’t speak from personal experience, but the line outside Hattie B’s (my photo is from a different location) should tell you this isn’t to be missed. Their list of “heat levels” will tell you all you need to know:  Southern, Mild or Medium, Hot, Damn Hot, and Shut the Cluck Up.  Totally not my thing, but may surely be yours.

There you have it.  Any guidebook will give you a standard list of things to do in Nashville—all of them worthwhile.  But once you’ve exhausted the standards, spend a fiber-filled day exploring these treasures.  Your day will sure be music to your ears.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Hatapalooza" hats from Great Yarns - Day 6

Cables complete!

I’ve finished the Knotty But Nice hat! The soft wooly texture is just begging to keep a head warm, and the rich color could brighten the dreariest of Chicago winters.  Those clever cables weave themselves around the hat and keep the shape snug.  

Above them, the ribbing narrows smartly in toward the crown as you can see in this photo.  The shape is simple, but the combination of cables and ribbing takes that simple shape and crafts a smart, stylish cap indeed knotty and nice.  The very best qualities of the craft.

I’ve been on a long driving trip this week, and my knitting has been great company.  For as much as my husband enjoys driving, I am happiest knitting in the passenger seat.  I am terrible at both sitting still and waiting—life is very much better for having knitting in it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September Reader Who Knits: Sherri Gallagher

It's time for this month's Reader Who Knits feature.  Say hello to Sherri Gallagher, a reader, an author, and a knitter.

Sherri, what are you working on right now? 
I am trying to make mittens to go with the balaclava I talk about below. It is tough going!

What feels like your favorite/greatest knitting accomplishment? 
The most difficult was a balaclava for dog owners working dogs in the winter. I made a one for every member of our search and rescue team. I am trying to make mittens to match but I've started over about 6 times now. I bought a different sized needles to see if that will get the gauge closer to the pattern. My favorite was a simple baby blanket. A friend had her baby at 27 weeks and it was touch and go for a very long time. I wanted to do something special so I knit a simple blanket and said a prayer for the baby and his parents with each row. He is now a happy, healthy 14 month old and I got back to knitting after a 40 year break. 

What feels like the worst knitting mistake/foible/wrong choice youve ever made? Trying to knit mittens! It seems like they end up doll size or something a giant would wear.

Straight needles or circular? 
So far I've had the best success with circular needles - I keep losing stitches off the back end with the straight ones.

Metal or wood needles? 
I just bought a set of wood ones that are so pretty. Up to this point All I've used are metal. The yarn moves nicely on the metal and I hope it will be the same on the wood ones.

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate? 
Dark chocolate!

Coffee or tea? I was a coffee drinker for years and I love my Kuerig. The problem is I have to avoid caffeine to protect my bone density. It is hard to find unflavored coffee in decaf and the environmentalist in me abhors the wasteful plastic cups. I got the reusable ones and that worked great then a couple of years ago I found a local shop that sold decaf lavender earl grey tea and I was hooked. So now more tea than coffee. 

Whats your favorite Allie novel? 
I guess Falling for the Fireman, but all of her work is well written and worth reading multiple times and giving as gifts.

What are you reading now? 

Do you have a favorite knitting character from a book, movie, or television show? Hmm, you got me on this one. One of the reasons I like Allie's books is that her characters knit. I really don't see that in other books I read.

Give a shout out to your favorite local yarn store: 
Unraveled Yarn Shop in Wauconda was a huge help when I was getting back into knitting. I couldn't have done it without their help. Unfortunately they just closed but they have a website and give knitting lessons at the library. 

Sherri wins ten hanks of Cascade 220 in Puget Sound and a copy of The Firefighter's Match for being featured.  She also won a copy of Family lessons for a friend.  If you'd like to be featured on DestiKNITions, email me at for details.