Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lace Cowl from Rainbow Yarn & Fibres - Day 2

Holy yarn-overs, Batman!

Nice big needles always make for gratifyingly speedy knitting.  Some days you just need to see results, you know?  At a time when other things in my life are inching along—and that’s not a bad thing, I get that—it is nice to see this cowl taking quick shape under my fingers.

I find it interesting that I chose a beige yarn.  Lots of times I choose bright jewel tones, because I feel those match my cool coloring.  Only lately I’ve been working my way through Carol Tuttle’s Dressing Your Truth videos and my personality is definitely coming through as a  Type 3 (Rich  Dynamic), which features warm colors.  Me? Warm undertones? Really? Maybe it's an age thing.  I thought I’d sail through the process with some nice clear guidelines, but I’m only getting more and more confused as I go along.  Have any of you been through this “Beauty Profiling” course? I suppose it shouldn't surprise any of you that I seem to defy classification...

Ahem.  Back to knitting.  One thing to watch on this pattern—yarn-overing into a purl.  It’s a tricky business, because there’s an extra half-round involved in getting the yarn to where it needs to be.  If you don’t keep an eye on the tension, you’re going to get a much larger hole on one side of the stitch repeat than on the other.  


Watch your tension: a good rule for life and for knitting.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lace Cowl from Rainbow Yarn & Fibres - Day 1

Cowl country...

I’ve done some lacy cowls, but it seems to me that the natural fibers for cowls are big, chunky yarns.  Cowls seem to need a bit of substance along with their soft fluffiness, in order not to just hang off your neck.  

And, quite frankly, I associate cowls with cold weather.  Living in Chicago, I consider myself residing smack in the middle of cowl country.  In January, we need all the help to stay warm we can get!

Tahki’s Juno is big and chunky. Its mesh structure—what Tahki calls “chainette,” which looks basicallly like knitting within knitting—makes for loads of loft without stiffness.  And with a composition of mostly alpaca with just a hint of nylon, it’s cloud-soft. Very lovely against the fingers. I chose a light neutral to show off the stitches, but the bright red or purple that it comes in might work just as well.

This feels like it will knit up quick—which is my primary requirement for gift knitting.  This has Christmas present written all over it.

…Unless you live in the far southern states.  Then, it might border on too cozy.  Still, it’s so pretty, and has just enough lacy quality, that your intended recipient might not mind.


We’ll have to see as we get farther along.  With only one repeat of the pattern done, it’s way too early to tell.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

August Reader Who Knits: Dallas Duncan

It's time to meet another reader who knits--DestiKNITters, meet Dallas Duncan!

Dallas, whats on your needles right now?
Which pair?! I constantly have multiple projects going so I don’t get bored and tuck something away for a rainy day that never comes. Right now I am working on the first of two 66-by-66-inch “patchwork kwilts,” a knitting take on the traditional patchwork quilt. I also have a pair of monster pants and my third and final “Glam Shells” shawl in the works.

What feels like your favorite/greatest knitting accomplishment?
I finished my first-ever knit-along this summer for the afore-mentioned “Glam Shells” pattern! This was also my first, second and soon to be third shawl ever. Did I mention there was lace involved? Like, a lot of lace. I re-started the first shawl five times, taught myself three new stitches in the process and felt the way Allie feels when she does a top-down shawl that is hundreds of stitches long. The first was a labor, the second and third had more of a labor of love feel to them! But I love the yarn that all three of these worked with and learned a lot. I can’t wait until I’m able to design my own.

What feels like the worst knitting mistake/foible/wrong choice youve ever made?
Like many, Im sure my first project is probably the worst mistake Ive ever made! It was a thick, warm scarf knitted with Red Heart green yarn. It started out as about 30 stitches, which increased by a few as it got longer, then decreased, then stabilized once I realized what I was doing. But I didnt know how to tink so it stayed a little wonky. And thats not even the worst part! I was unaware of dye lots. The original yarn I started with was a gift from my next door neighbor at UGAs Creswell Hall, but that ran out about halfway through the scarf. I purchased two additional skeins. About another foot along, I realized that the green Id bought was lighter than the original just a tad, but enough to notice! So I switched to the second new skein, which was darker than the one Id been using and the scarf ended up being three different subtle shades of green. I guess you could say I made ombre knits cool before they were cool.

Straight or circular needles?
Ninety-nine percent of the time, straight needles. But I do have a great pair of size 15 circulars that make a satisfying clinking sound when I use them.

Metal or wood needles?
Metal!

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate?
Milk chocolate. Specifically Hershey’s. That plus a Coke, nothing better!

Coffee or tea?
Does it count as coffee if it’s mostly flavored syrup and milk?

Whats your favorite Allie novel?

The Perfect Blend, although I must say I’m excited to read Bluegrass Christmas! I did some snooping and it appears Allie has a couple of new rancher-themed romances heading our way in the next few months. Being an agriculture grad of UGA, I can’t wait to see what she’s come up with for those storylines!



What are you reading now?
I just finished The Writing Circle by Corinne Demas. It’s about a former author who is encouraged to join a writing group and get back in the game once a friend find out she’s working on something new. There’s an interesting twist when what seems like a straightforward plot becomes a bit of a mystery, as characters delve into a fellow writer’s past to determine what drove her to write – and keep secret from them – a first novel.


Do you have a favorite knitting character from a book, movie, or television show?
Yes. His name is Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. 




Give a shout out to your favorite local yarn store:
My favorite yarn store that I live close to recently closed, so I’ll give a shout-out to my favorite that I can’t wait to travel back to!
Silver Threads & Golden Needles
41 East Main Street
Franklin, NC 28784

In thanks for her participation, Dallas chose a copy of Bluegrass Christmas for herself and The Firefighter's Homecoming for her friend.  Thanks to the awesome folks at Cascade Yarns, Dallas also receives a nifty tote bag and ten hanks of Cascade 220 in Bright Red.

If you would like to be a featured Reader Who Knits, email me at allie@alliepleiter.com for an application.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

MEMPHIS, TN: Day Two

Fowl play...

If you spent your night taking in the Beale Street scene, you may need a hearty breakfast.  According to my sources, the best place for that is:

Brother Juniper's
3519 Walker Ave
Memphis, TN 38111
901-324-0144

Granted, there can be a line, so getting there right when they open at 6:30 may be useful if you’re a crack-of-dawn kind of gal (which I am NOT).  Even if you have to wait, it’s worth it, but my sources say opting for bar seating can shorten your wait time. Southern breakfasts have all the good stuff:  home fries, cheese grits, biscuits—and this place excels at all three.  The omelettes are clearly the way to go here.  It seems like everyone gets a different mug, which only adds to the homey feel of the place.


The Booksellers at Laurelwood
387 Perkins Ext
Memphis, TN 38117
901-683-9801 

Okay, this looks like a mall, and it acts like a mall, but Laurelwood is a collection of nice shops worth your time, including this large, lovely bookstore.  You know what I’m going to say here: Independent bookstores NEED your business!  A truly pleasant place to pass a few hours, there is a better-than-average gift assortment and a respectable bistro attached to this store as well.  Buy a book—keep authors alive and writing!


Dinstuhl’s Candy
436 S Grove Park Rd
Memphis, TN 38117
901-682-3373 

Just down the other side of the Laurelwood shops you’ll find this memphis confectionary legend.  The speciality I loved?  Cashew crunch—a cashew brittle on a bed of coconut.  Known for their fudge—and for darn good reason—there were all kinds of interesting goodies here that felt different from your average chocolate shop.    Opt for the Memphis box in 1 or 2 pound varieties, or go big with the Tennessee Goodie box which weighs in at a waistline-expanding 3 pounds.  Chocolate guitars, pyramids, or records?  Get’em here.

Once your done, drive downtown for one of the most unique amusements Memphis has to offer:

The Peabody Hotel Duck March
Peabody Hotel Lobby
149 Union Ave
Memphis, TN 38103
901-529-4000 

Who’s got one of the best jobs in the world?  The Peabody Hotel Duck Master, that’s who. Every day at 11am and 5pm this flock of hi-falutin’ hospitality waterfowl board the elevator and descend from their rooftop “Duck Palace” lodgings to march across the lobby and take their place in the hotel fountain. On a red carpet.  To an adoring crowd.  No kidding.  It sounds silly—and it is—but you’re depriving yourself of a great, make-you-smile tradition if you miss it.

National Ornamental Metal Museum
374 Metal Museum Dr
Memphis, TN 38106
901-774-6380 

Some small museums are real gems, and this one turned out to be one of my favorite stops on our trip.  An intriguing mix of permanent collections, working forges, and rotating exhibits gives you a deep appreciation for something that normally doesn’t get much attention.  The gift shop has some exquisite pieces, including jewelry, but one of the highlights for me is the stunning wrought iron gazebo with a breathtaking view of the Mississippi.  Even on a hot day, it was the perfect place to sit and have a quiet moment with my knitting.

Duly inspired, head on back out to the suburbs to today’s fiber fix:

Rainbow Yarn & Fibres
1980 Exeter Road
Germantown, TN  38138
901-753-9835

Owner Brigitte Lang has been knitting since she was five.  When she lived in Oregon, she worked in a yarn shop.  Friends and customers call her “a knitting ninja.”  For years, people would come to her house, showing up on her doorstep Saturdays with their knitting problems in hand, seeking help. So when she realized the people of Germantown wanted their own yarn shop, Brigitte naturally stepped up to the plate.  That’s what problem solvers do—even in the knitting world.

The store is small but personable, filled with a respectable selection of good quality fibers.  “I stock with what I like, with an eye for quality” offers Brigitte. Sure, you’ll find a few trends here, but mostly you’ll find the ingredients for a successful knitting experience, no matter your skill level.  And should you run into trouble, help is most definitely at hand.  Settle in on the back couch and a solution will be in sight before you know it.

Here are some projects you might want to consider:

Moonshine Slouch Hat
Want a slouch hat but with a whimsical twist?  Take one hank of Juniper Moon Farm’s Moonshine and use this Ravelry pattern to work up a soft hat with ribs that make the most of the fiber’s beautiful sheen.  Tassels take the whole topper up a notch.  Look at that lustrous color!

Risoni Silk Lace Scarf
It’s hard to find warm weather knitting, but this clever one-row lace scarf does the job beautifully.   One tiny 25 gram package of Risoni Silk works transforms into a delicate, breezy scarf perfect for summer wear.  And oh, the colors! It's an ideal small-scale travel project with impressive results.  You’ll get the pattern free with your yarn purchase.


Sunshine Tank Top
Got 600-900 yards (depending on sizing) of any 5-stitches-to-the-inch yarn in your stash?  Download this Ravelry pattern and you’ve got everything you need to make this not-so-basic tank.  The trim at the neck and waist adds just the right amount of dash.  Go for a more versatile solid, a bright pop of color, or let the yarn do the talking in a texture or pattern.  This is a project I’d knit many times with lots of different yarns.

Knit A Long:  Brigitte’s Lace Cowl
Great for gift knitting but cozy enough to keep to yourself, this simple but stylish cowl knits up quickly with two balls of Tahki’s Juno.  An exclusive pattern—free with yarn purchase—comes in two sizes and is easy to memorize.  This is another project where different yarns will give you a nice variety of results.

When you’re ready to end your day with a down home good meal, head to a Germantown favorite:

The Germantown Commissary
2290 S Germantown Rd
Germantown, TN 38138
901-754-5540

“So good you’ll slap yo’ mama.”  Even though I’m not quite sure what that means, the long lines in front of this tiny, rustic eatery mean the food really is that good.  Get here early, and be prepared to squeeze through a warren of tightly packed tables, but know your efforts will be rewarded with terrific ribs, the best fried onion rings ever, outstanding pulled pork sandwiches, and even barbecue nachos (my surprisingly excellent choice).  We were told to make sure we tasted any pie and their unique banana pudding—and I was glad we did.  The lemon ice box pie (a personal favorite) was fabulous, and while I’m not a huge fan of banana pudding, everyone at our table agreed it was delicious.  Yes, you’ll wait to be seated (even at 3pm when we went!), but no, you won’t regret it.


There you have it, DestiKNITters—two diverse, delicious days in Memphis.  Proof that knitting adventures can be found even in towns famous for other things!  

Next up, we cast on Brigitte’s Lace Cowl to remind us that summer’s hot and humid will all-too-quickly become winter’s cold and windy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MEMPHIS, TN: Day One

All shook up...

Yes, there’s Elvis.  Graceland. Lots of pictures, information, and souvenirs of The King.  If that’s a big deal for you—and maybe even if it isn’t—by all means take in Elvis Ground Zero as much as you want.  For me, I hear John Hiatt telling me to get “good and greasy” or Paul Simon’s “poor boys and pilgrims.” Fact is, there’s more to this city than just white sequined jumpsuits and swiveling pelvises, and I’m going to show you some of the yarny locals’ favorite spots.

First stop—and one of the highlights of my tour—is a place that to me rivals the House of Mouse as “the happiest place on earth”:

Gibson’s Donuts
760 Mount Moriah Rd
Memphis, TN 38117
901-682-8200

Run by the DeWeese family, this place is the real deal and worth a trip from anywhere.  If you meet Don DeWeese, aka “DD,” you’ll know it—the guy lights up the room with such a enthusiasm for his goodies that you simply must smile.  The place was packed, and rightfully so.  DD gave us a selection of his specialties, which I must say were—no kidding—the best donuts I’ve ever eaten. The bacon-maple is outstanding, and the blueberry was superb, but for me the lemon drop and the warm-out-of-the-oven old fashioned donut holes were the best of the best.  They are open 24 hours, so you have no excuse not to go, and you’ll be sorry if you miss it.

Right close by is today’s fiber find:

Yarniverse 
709 S Mendenhall Rd
Memphis, TN 38117
901-818-0940

Owner Brenda Meece got her start selling yarn out of her house before opening this cheery, cozy shop in 2002.  The table by the window is always filled with customers who come to hang out and work on their current projects.  “Our yarn comes with free help,” says Brenda.  

The store hosts an eclectic but surprisingly deep selection, so you’re sure to find something that catches your eye.  Product peeks out from every corner—and even upstairs—so Yarniverse has that “stuffed but not cluttered” feeling I like in a yarn shop.  When you walk in, you get the sense that there’s something perfect waiting for you somewhere, and you want to start looking right away.

As good on line as in person, Yarniverse’s website hosts an impressive selection of free exclusive knitting and crochet patterns.  The store hosts a nice mix of technique and project-based classes, too.  Wednesday is “sock day,” so schedule accordingly if socks are your passion.  A diverse, personable, and inventive staff (one even held her wedding at the shop and knit her own wedding dress!) ensure you get the help and encouragement you need for even your thorniest problems. And by the way, if you’re a left-handed knitter, you’ll find lots of camaraderie here!

There’s loads to see, feel, and crave; but if you need some suggestions, try these:

Harry and Hazel Hat
An adorable baby hat with just enough ruffle to make you go “aww,” this boy-or-girl hat can be made in one or two colors of Universal Yarn’s Cotton Supreme Splash.  It’s a Yarniverse exclusive pattern, as is the companion blanket if you want to truly pamper the new baby in your life.

Knit A Long:  Fresh Till Cowl
A cowl made in Madelinetosh is one of every knitter’s true pleasures—the colors, the feel, the drape—I think every knitter should make one for herself.  Lucky for me, I get to do just that with Yarniverse’s exclusive free pattern.  One hank gets you all this fabulousness!

Smitty Hat
Why should the babies have all the fun?  Slouch beanies are a cozy way to keep your head warm while staying stylish and not squashing your hair beyond recognition.  Combining Brown Sheep Bulky and GGH Soft kidd mohair held together, this topper is warm and fluffy without being too bulky.  It comes in a kit, or you can get the pattern on Ravelry and grab the fiber yourself.

Heirloom Blanket
If you’re ready to tackle a bigger project, check out this cozy throw with an easy 4-row feather-and-fan pattern you’ll learn in no time.  This is one of those projects where you can let the fiber do the talking—go for a spiffy self-striping yarn (make sure it’s a long color change, though, or the pooling may get weird on you) or a nice basic solid.  Yarniverse recommends luscious Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino for a treasured piece sure to stay in your family for a long time.

Once you’ve scored your yarn goodies for today, it’s time to sample a diverse assortment of Memphis’ best adventures.  

Timna
5101 Sanderlin Ave
Ste 113
Memphis, TN 38117
901-683-9369
Knitters appreciate artful garments.  You'll find those, as well as unique jewelry and handmade (yes, even knit and crochet) accessories here.  This shop may be small, but it has a truly captivating collection of clothes I’d love to own.  While I could have bought a dozen things, I settled for a clever steel ring at a surprisingly reasonable price.  You’ll definitely get individualized attention here.  Then step next door to:


Muddy’s Bake Shop
5101 Sanderlin Ave
Ste 114
Memphis, TN 38117
901-683-8844
They had me at a flavor called “Prozac.”  The folks at Yarniverse also recommended “The Grasshopper,” but as available flavors vary day by day, you may want to ask for a recommendation.  For those of us who love good pie, there were several nice choices here, too, as well as cookies and bars.  For me, they hit just the right frosting-to-cake ratio—some cupcakes are just piles of frosting on a bit of cake, and I’m no fan of that.  Delicious.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  where there’s yarn, there’s cupcakes. Either eat dessert first, or save your cupcakes for later snacking, because lunch is the next stop:

Soul Fish Cafe
862 S Cooper
Memphis, TN 38104
901-725-0722

This eatery came enthusiastically recommended by DD from Gibson's, and he was right again.  There are three locations, but this one serves our current route.  I don’t know what they put in the breading—and I won’t get to, because evidently that’s a secret—but it’s fabulous.  Best hushpuppies I’ve ever had—perfectly crisp on the outside, munchy on the inside. DD told us to get both the fried catfish and the fried shrimp, and we were smart enough to follow his advice.  Getting good and greasy indeed!

Stax Museum of American Soul Music
926 E McLemore Ave
Memphis, TN 38106
901-261-6352

See what I did there?  From Soul Fish to Soul Music.  I have an audiophile spouse, so I’d heard many of the artists featured at this museum.  What I didn’t know, however, was the extraordinary story of the company and its role in both community and society.  The orientation film and the exhibits pull you into the legend that was the Stax label.  I found the whole museum to be thoughtfully presented, and just the right size to go in depth without overwhelming.  If you don’t dance at some point during your visit, something’s wrong with you.  And the gift shop rocks—literally.

Spend the rest of the afternoon however you like, but head on back east for a great barbecue dinner at:

Corky’s Ribs & BBQ 
5259 Poplar Ave
Memphis, TN 38119
901-685-9744
Everybody told us to go to Corky’s.  Usually I shy away from the tour-book must-see’s, but this place got such raves that we felt compelled to check it out.  Boy, am I glad we did.  Sure, it’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from a southern barbecue joint—in-your-face friendly staff, rustic decor, a scent you can pick up in the parking lot, and delectable but unhealthy food in quantities to make your cardiologist nervous.  Problem was, by this point in our trip I craved something that wasn’t drowning in tangy sauce (we’d been in Memphis a few days by the time we got here).  Corky’s came through anyway: My husband did BBQ, but I had a very fine Pulled Hickory Smoked Turkey Salad and we saved room for some truly splendid Ice Box Lemon Pie.


We’re not done yet—there’s more Memphis to be explored on our next post.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Wavelength Shawl from Holley's Yarn Shoppe - Done!


Sure, I moan and groan about the trouble I have with top-down shawls, but every single time it’s worth it in the end.  This is a beauty! Take a look….

In to soak she goes











Stretching her wings on blocking wires






Close up and pinned down










A little drama shot with shadows












In all her glory!










Was it a challenge?  Yes, it was.   Most worthwhile things are.  I'm delighted with the results. Thanks, Holley's Yarn Shoppe!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wavelength Shawl from Holley's Yarn Shoppe - Day 6

Is "thru the back" worth it?

If this project teaches me nothing else, it has taught me what I dislike most in knitting:  purling through the back loop.  Even knitting through the back loop is enough to make me break into a scowl.  Doing either hundreds of times in a single row?  Yikes, somebody get me some chocolate!

Why bother? What does going through the back loop accomplish?  I figured if I understood the design goal behind KTBL and PTBL, it might make me feel better about endlessly digging my right hand needle through an uncooperative loop hiding at the back of my left hand needle.  So I went hunting.

A little research told me the stitch method intentionally twists the stitch to create a starker line on the opposite side of the fabric.  If you want to create a vertical or diagonal single line of stitches—as the border of this piece seems to incorporate—you’ll want to knit or purl through the back loop to get a line that stands out.


Is it worth all the trouble?  Tough to say right now.  I can’t quite see how the border pattern will play out because I haven’t blocked it.  So I am taking satisfaction in two important facts:  1) I’m finished stitching!  2) This baby is about to get its bath so it can transform into its final glory.  Because of its linen content, this piece will transform in both stitch clarity and texture.  It will get larger, have more drape, be softer to the touch, and have a more pronounced lace pattern—I can hardly wait!

But yes, this is going to be a "sevener"... so you'll get your payoff in a view of the finished piece, but it will be in the seventh post.