Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pine Cone Cowl from Flying Fingers - Day 1

Pine Tree pop culture...

Two things come immediately to mind as I contemplate casting on this project, and both of them are pop culture references.

The first comes from the fiber - baa ram ewe (the lower case letters are their idea).  It’s a British establishment, Yorkshire and Leeds to be exact, which sounds so quintessentially English to me.  Of course, those three syllables bring up one of the most iconic moments in livestock  cinema:

I don’t think I can never look at the label without hearing the words bleated in my head. Still, it’s a lovely fiber.  I’m just tickled by the description on their website: A delicious blend of Wensleydale and Bluefaced Leicester wool, combined with a touch of magical UK Alpaca in homage to philanthropist and Yorkshire mill owner Sir Titus Salt.  Doesn’t it just make you crave a spot of tea?

The combination of this light, lofty yarn and big needles (#10.5!) let’s me know this will be super fluffy.  The fact that I’ve chosen a marshmallow white just adds to the effect.  So where does that send my brain?  Right here:

I’m not sure what it says about me that I have these two movie snippets running through my brain while I’m knitting.  But I’m happy, and isn’t that enough?

Too all my American followers, Happy Thanksgiving. And for everyone else--Happy Knitting! I'm thankful for you all.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Heedless of Headless Horsmen...

New England in late October—fall foliage doesn’t get much prettier than my home state this time of year.  I grew up in Connecticut, but don’t get back nearly enough despite my New York publishing connections.  This year, I vowed to correct that, and tacked a visit to the Hudson River Valley on to my work and family visits back east.  In a case of Providential timing, I found myself in Tarrytown and Hollow NY on Halloween—a thematically perfect DestiKNITions episode.  

My experience was especially meaningful because I had just finished Lisa Van Allen’s lovely knitting-themed novel The Wishing Thread.  Lisa was a DestiKNITions Authors Who Knit feature, and has written a lyrical, engaging novel about a fictional Tarrytown Yarn shop.

Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow share a zip code and a school district, so the communities are joined in many ways.  In this instance, Tarrytown was still crowded, but not quite as jam-packed as the Headless Horseman-crazed Sleepy Hollow on October 31.  I had hoped to slip into some of the more famous spots such as the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and the Old Dutch Church, but the press of tourists wouldn’t even let me get close.  Still, what’s more fun than saying you were in the epicenter of Washington Irving’s famous tale on Halloween?  Even if I didn’t get to do much, it was still fun to claim the experience.

Like all DestiKNITions, this one must start with Coffee:
Coffee Labs Roasters
7 Main St
Tarrytown, NY 10591

The small, welcoming shop is filled with awards—proof that owners Mike and Alicia Love take coffee very seriously.  Ethics, sustainability, environmental integrity, and some world-class latte art show you the passion and skill level here.  I know just enough from researching my book The Perfect Blend to know that is one top-shelf espresso machine behind the counter! It even has a knitting connection, as one of the baristas is the child of yarn shop owner Elise Goldschlag (more on this lovely lady later!).  Not into java?  Elise recommends the Good Day Sunshine smoothie.

Coffee in hand, walk on down Main Street to the
Tarrytown Music Hall Theater
13 Main St
Tarrytown, NY 10591

It was all decked out for—what else?—a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show when I poked my head in the doors, but this vintage venue showcases regional and national talent. At just over 800 seats, it’s a charming, intimate venue with a whole lot of history in the rafters.  And hey, it was built by chocolate manufacturer William Wallace, so I have to like it on cocoa credentials alone!  Stop in at the box office and see if tonight’s performance is one you might want to attend.

Just doors away, you’ll find today’s fiber fix:
Flying Fingers Yarn Shop
15 Main Street
Tarrtown, NY   

Wide, high 125-year-old windows on a corner shop give this place all the character I want in a yarn shop.  The store has a quirky, friendly feel with just the right amount of “packed in” atmosphere to set you wandering the stock for a special find.  Owner Elise Goldschlag and I hit it off instantly, and not just because we share names (my given name is Alyse).  This gregarious mom of seven “grew up in a house with yarn” and started designing and selling pieces in New York City.  Growing up in a retail family, Elise opened the shop 13 years ago and it’s been an industry staple ever since.

Part of that visibility comes from “The Bus.”  I knew about The Bus even before I knew about the shop.  If you’ve seen it, you remember.  Of course, I had to ask her how the distinctive vehicle came to be.  “To bring the customers from the city out to the shop, I thought to myself, ‘I’ll just go get them.’”  Elise asked her kids to imagine what a yarn bus would look like, and then took the ideas to the team responsible for building the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile.  Go big—I like her style.  You can book a ride from NYC every day the shop is open—and really, who wouldn’t want to take her up on a ride like that?

Thematic transportation is just the beginning of the Flying Fingers experience. Elise stocks the store with a wide variety of primarily natural fibers, focusing on good quality smaller companies and indie vendors.  That keeps customers from all over the Westchester area coming back.  “We’ll help you once if the yarn doesn’t come from us, but yarn from here comes with free help forever.”  Even if that blanket you started for your son is now getting finished for a grandchild, Elise and her staff will see you through.  That’s customer service.

A huge class selection—9 or 10 each week—keeps customers connected and widening their skill sets.  You can slot yourself into a convenient time and get help with any project or skill you want to tackle next.  “Our Saturday morning class has a year-long waiting list,” boasts Elise, who loves to see such a strong community grow from her store.  “Some groups have been together for years.”

So what project would you want to tackle from here?  Take a look at these:

Serena Summer Wrap
This store exclusive pattern uses Serena Alpaca Cotton Blend to create a cowl-like wrap perfect suited to warding off summer breezes or frigid air conditioning.  Choose a light airy hue for summer or go darker to get more of a year-round accessory.

Simplicity Baby Blanket
I like baby accessories with a bold flair, and this one fits the bill.  Combine 6 colors—one skein each—of Hikoo Simplicity in this store exclusive pattern.  Or just combine two or three if you want to wrap a little one in team or school colors.  Easy garter stitching, but with a clever mitered edge to lend some pizzaz.

Vignette Cardigan
This Knitty pattern is just the place to showcase your new shawl pin!  Nine skeins of Classic Elite Liberty Wool work up into a sturdy-yet-feminine sweater with openwork running down the collar and sleeves.

Elise couldn’t decide on a Knit A Long, so she gave me two (I told you we got along famously!):

Tofu Baby Sweater Kit
South West Trading Company’s Phoenix 100% Soy Silk lends this baby sweater it’s Tofu name.  Bright colors and a super-soft yarn make this simple striped cardigan perfect for the baby in your life.  The Flying Fingers kit includes Four skeins of yarn and adorable matching buttons.

Pine Tree Cowl
One skein of Baa Ram Ewe’s Titus wool works up on big #10.5 needles into this soft, fluffy cowl.  Tina Fanelli creates a fast-knitting, eye-catching loop perfect for the changing seasons.  Utilizing a rippling rhythm of easy stitches—knit, yarn-over, and knit-two-together—this is a perfect introduction for a newer knitter ready to explore lacy textures.

It’s likely you’ve worked up an appetite scoring those great yarn finds, so head to:

Mint Premium Foods
19 Main St
Tarrytown, NY 10591
Part gourmet food store, part restaurant, Mint is the perfect spot for a sunny afternoon’s lunch or scrumptious dinner.  The hot chocolate is legendary, but I opted for the dramatically-high-poured Moroccan Tea.  As I stopped in at lunchtime, I missed their highly-recommended rotisserie chicken (my loss, Elise tells me), but had a very good omelette.  This is one of those places that manages an elegant air while still welcoming diners of all ages—always the sign of a great establishment in my book.

Spend the afternoon wandering down Main Street, taking in the many shops—and in my case the wide array of costumed celebrants.  There is lots to choose from, but I was particularly drawn to: 

ShayLula Jewelry & Gifts
23 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
I liked the luxurious soaps here as well as the artful jewelry and some very posh accessories.

A NU Toy Store
New and Used Toys
16 Main Street
Tarrytown NY

Legos by the pound—bought and sold?  Great idea!  New toys as well as vintage items for a variety of ages, including a nice selection of books.  Super prices, too.  Check out the enormous ferris wheel in the window—it was built by a 12-year old!

Ready for a sweet snack? My sources sent me to:

Main Street Sweets
35 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591

Their “buy 9 get the 10th free” shows how they love repeat customers.  Of course, I opted for the delicious Main Street Special flavor, but also heard others raving about the coffee flavor.  At one point they offered a sampler cup (5 different flavors!)—if they still do, go for it.  Everything I saw—even the bright blue stuff—looked yummy.

When you're ready for dinner, head over to:
Sweetgrass Grill
24 Main St
Tarrytown, NY 10591

Locally sourced, seasonal menus bring inventive dishes to the table at this cozy, crowded spot.  Good martinis are a plus, too.  Vegan options and grass-fed beef ensure even the pickiest eaters get fine dining.  Wait time can be tricky, so come early if you can.

There you have it--a lovely day in a spot famous for creepy ghosts.  Not a single reason to fear, DestiKNITters, but every reason to get knitting!

And that's just what we'll do.  Next episode, we cast on the Pine Tree Cowl.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November Reader Who Crochets: Anaida Morales

We don't just feature readers who knit, DestiKNITions also loves to hang out with readers who crochet!  This month we get to do just that--DestiKNITters, say hello to Anaida Morales.

Anaida, what's on your hook right now?
Right now I am crocheting a new scarf for the coming winter days.

What feels like your favorite/greatest crocheting accomplishment?
I am an intermediate crocheter. So, I feel that being able to crochet a nice looking doily has been my favorite. I've also made baby blankets that have turned out just like the picture. :)

What feels like the worst crocheting mistake/foible/wrong choice youve ever made?
My choice of yarn was not great at the very beginning. Later, I started reading about the different kinds of yarn in order to pick the best for a particular project.

Metal or wood needles?
I like the metal crochet needles best.

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate?
Milk chocolate

Coffee or tea?

Whats your favorite Allie novel?

What are you reading now?
Amor Redentor (Spanish version of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers)

Do you have a favorite needleworking character from a book, movie, or television show?
Agathy Christie's Miss Marple

Give a shout out to your favorite local yarn store:
It's a bit of a drive for me, but I really like  
Sheep's Clothing Knitting Supply
60 West Lincolnway
Valparaiso, IN 46383

Anaida chose a copy of Masked by Moonlight for herself and Family Lessons for her friend.  Thanks to our sponsors at Cascade, she also gets a nice big batch of Cascade 220 and a nifty totebag, too!  If you'd like to be featured on Readers Who Knit and get similar spiffy prizes for yourself, send an email to me at for instructions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Foxy Duo Cowl from Criativity - Done!

Draped and Dramatic...

This would be a showstopper at a bookfair.  Or a special event.  It might be a bit much for a run to the supermarket, but who's life couldn't use a little more dazzle?

I'll admit the eyelash and the fur take some getting used to--I always feel as if something's moving around my face.  I may still snip the eyelash off, but I'm going to give it some time before I do anything so drastic.

One thing is for sure: it gets a response.  Some people love it, others look at me sideways, as if to say "what is that thing around your neck?"

It feels wonderful.  Light and fluffy and cuddly all at the same time.

You owe it to yourself to check it out.  While it may not be your thing, you might just love it.  Or know someone who would.

Thanks, Criativity, for a true knitting adventure!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Foxy Duo Cowl from Criativity - Day 4

From Stuff to Fluff...

Stuff is interesting to knit with—the always-changing nature of the yarn means that sometimes you are knitting with one nubby strand, then stitching four shimmery ones the next segment.  While this is straight-up stockinette, a place where I usually default to Continental style stitching for speed, I found I couldn't do it here.  There is one shift in needle sizes—effortless with interchangeable needles but not much of a big deal on traditional circs, either—but that’s about it.  The work may be repetitive, but not boring.  It’s not as if I was facing endless inches of stockinette; there’s less than a foot of it for this cowl.

Once you’ve used up your Stuff (the pattern calls for a specific inch width but I chose to just keep going a few extra rows until I used up all the yarn), it’s time to return to the funny, furry Plume.  And that was certainly entertaining.  The smaller the ball got, the more unruly it became.  The sandwich bag containment tactic worked, but by the end I kept laughing as it twitched and unwound itself as if alive.  With only a handful of garter stitch rows to go, I found my tolerance for Plume’s antics had risen.  It ended up more amusing than frustrating, a curtain bow from a drama queen if you will.

What will all this look like finished and on my shoulders?  Next post you’ll get to see…

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Foxy Duo Cowl from Criativity - Day 3

Lashing out...

Stuff—this project’s other fiber—is aptly named.  It’s as if your terribly artsy friend raided your yarn stash and tied lots of “stuff” together.  Only this artsy friend has excellent taste in texture and color.  If I romped through my yarn stash and strung a whole bunch of yarn fragments together, you can bet it wouldn’t come out this pretty.  Think colorblind bird’s nest.

Yes, there are knots.  If this piece were reversible, that would be an issue.  But since the Foxy Duo Cowl has a right side and a wrong side, it’s not such a challenge.  I’ll still weave the ends in, however, because I think if you wanted to double loop this loveliness around your neck, a bit of the wrong side might show.

DestiKNITters are by now familiar with my rants on top-down shawls.  A close second in the ranks of Allie rants, however, is eyelash yarn.  And in this particular instance, it’s very long eyelash yarn.  Each “lash” is over an inch long, which takes a lot of coping, picking, and arranging.  I’m really glad Stuff is a collection of yarns, because if I were doing the entire non-Plume portion of this cowl in eyelash, things would get ugly.  I’m already whining about it regularly, measuring how many inches of eyelash torture I have left each time that fiber comes along.

I did notice one set of directions advised eyelash-averse knitters to simply trim the lashes off after knitting.  I have to say, I’m considering it—but it’s the knitting of eyelash yarn that I dislike, not the appearance of it.

Still, in the adventurous spirit of DestiKNITions, I’m withholding judgement until the piece is finished.  If a week or so from now you feel the earth shift, it may be because I found an eyelash project that doesn’t make me twitch.  

Hey, it could happen.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Foxy Duo Cowl from Criativity - Day 2

Knitting with Plume is a bit of a contradiction.

The stuff feels absolutely wonderful.  Seriously, it's the knitting equivalent of petting kittens.  You have to stop yourself from saying "ahh" all time.  I don't understand how it feels cool to the touch--the stuff is room temperature--but I'd wager you would brush it up against the back of your neck in a heatwave and feel a breeze.  Bathrobes should be made of this.  Slippers should be made of this.  Hospital waiting rooms should be made of this.  It's tactile calm.

Knitting with it kind of sucks all the calm right out of it, however.  The control freak in me wants the fur to lay perfectly within the stitches, not get all caught up in tangles.  I keep picking at it, trying to make it lie down the way I want it to, fussing with the strands when I should just be enjoying the smooth, silky feeling.  I feel more like I'm making a puppet than I'm knitting a cowl.

I'm not puppeteering.  I realize this is just the trim, and that its companion fiber will take this from stuffed animal to accessory.  The colors really are stunning, and I have no doubt that this will be one of those accessories where people will continually come up and ask to touch it.  At a booksigning or bookfair, this will be superb wearable marketing--a real conversation starter.

I'm following Prism's advice and tucking my wandering ball of Plume--so prone to unwinding--into a ziplock sandwich bag with just a tiny opening for the working thread.  Sure, it looks like I've just caught a pretty teal kitten, but at least I've got my fiber under control.

Stay tuned for the next segment, when I add the continually changing "Stuff" to the project.