Friday, April 17, 2015

Uliuli Wai Shawl from Needlecraft Cottage - Day 4

The upside of downtime...

Knitting has one unfortunate side effect:  addict behavior.

Like most obsessions—and yes, I categorize my knitting as an obsession rather than a hobby—knitting pervades most every aspect of my life. I evaluate potential handbags on how when they can hold a knitting project.  As I’m watching Outlander, I’m staring as much as the beautiful knitwear as the hunky Scots in kilts.  An essential part of any vacation planning is whether or not there is a yarn store nearby to explore.  Knitting ranks up there with oxygen for basics of life in my world.

Hence the addict behavior of withdrawal symptoms.  Let me explain.

For me, long drives translate directly into knitting time.  Planes, too.  Actually, any extended sitting environment anywhere, anytime pretty much equals knitting time in my view.  So when my husband asked if we could deliver his sports car 90 minutes one-way to a particular garage, my internal thought process went something like this:  sure I need to drive my car 90 minutes behind his car, but on the return trip he can drive and I’ll get 90 minutes of knitting time plus the time he’ll spend in the garage arranging for the car service.  So it was easy for me to say yes.  I mean I love my husband and his own sports car hobby so I’d have done it anyway but the knitting time made it extra easy to say yes.  Happy marital symbiosis, right?

Until I forgot to bring my knitting.

The sensation of this realization was ridiculously close to dread.  Physical illness, even.  Two hours (actually, the garage part took far longer than anticipated so it was closer to four hours) of downtime without my knitting? I was genuinely, astonishingly panicked.  It was as if I had lost the ability to cope with sitting still without yarn and needles. And folks, that’s pretty much the diagnosis:  I have lost my ability to sit unoccupied thanks to knitting.

I should care.

I don’t.

What did I do?  I did what any sensible woman would do:  dinna fash, DestiKNITters—I fired up StarzPlay on my smartphone and watched Outlander.  Obsessions come in many forms, aye?

Friday, April 10, 2015


Big happy news...

Win books! Win yarn!  What could be better than that?

My new book, The Doctor's Undoing, has lots of knitting in it.  To celebrate its release, Love Inspired is taking the DestiKNITions Readers Who Knit Prize Package up a notch and national!  

Submit a photo of your knitting for a chance to win TEN Love Inspired Novels and TEN skeins of Cascade 220--an embarrassment  of knitting-reading riches!

Enter by clicking HERE

The sweepstakes ends April 20, so pop on over and enter today--because every DestiKNITter loves books and yarn.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Uliuli Wai Shawl from Needlecraft Cottage - Day 3

The trellis treat...

I’m very fond of the trellis stitch.  I did several feet of it for the Lady Fern scarf, remember?  I love that it is a short enough repeat that you know exactly where you are in the pattern.   By the third repeat I didn’t have to look at the chart anymore, and that sped things up considerably.  Gone are the mundane inches of stockinette, replaced by the lovely lacy circles that make up the trellis stitch.  This one’s gonna be a beauty.

'Fess up time: I made a couple of large-scale mistakes—doing one row twice and a collection of missed yarn-overs—but they don’t seriously mar the project.  I’ve done one shawl where I had to rip out days of knitting, so I’m glad not to have to go back to that ugly place.  I’ve never been a perfectionist knitter.  If it still looks okay, I’ll press on.  But if I have to eat crow—or is that frog?—in order for the project to work, I’ll do it.  I know I’ve messed up the few stitches on either side of the section lines, but in most cases I looked at the overall pattern and fudged where the trellis circles fell so that things worked themselves out.

By the way, because I have been asked several times, I looked up what "uliuli" means in Hawaiian.  Here's what I found: Uli can refer to any dark color from the black of dark clouds to the blue of the deep ocean to the verdant green of cliffs. Even the dark color of a bruise, such as a black eye, can be described as uli. The reduplicated word uliuli describes color more directly. "Wai" means fresh water, as opposed to saltwater, which is kai.  So, the name of this shawl means "dark colored fresh water"--fits, don't you think? I sure hope Hawaiian water is as pretty as this.

Moving on to the next portion of the shawl, the trick will be to ensure I end up with the right amount of stitches in each section so that Chart 2 behaves.  Onward!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Uliuli Wai Shawl from Needlecraft Cottage - Day 2

Stockinette Start...

There’s a lot of stockinette involved in the top section of this shawl.

On the one hand, better at the top—where the rows are shorter—than at the bottom.  If the bottom half of this involved this much stockinette, I would need some pretty compelling television to get me to the end.

I decided to use all this purling—for as every good knitter knows, every wrong row in stockinette is all purl—as an opportunity.  While I have mastered continental knitting, I have never mastered pick-style purling.  Here’s my chance to “pick” up my purl speed.

After a quick tutorial from a young knitting friend who is quite a fast purler, my brain grasped the concept.  My fingers took another hour or two to catch on.  While I still can’t continental purl without looking (an essential skill for knitting in front of certain television series), I suspect I am faster than I was. 

My victory will be short lived.  The next section involves a fair amount of yarn-overs, and I have yet to mastered the continental purl of a yarn-over stitch.  I’ll probably have to go back to the throw style for these rows.  that won’t be all bad—there is much more variety in the trellis stitch than stockinette, and I’m familiar with it from the endless feet of trellis in the Lady Fern Scarf.

And if all else fails, the color is still just so darned pretty to look at!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Uliuli Wai Shawl from Needlecraft Cottage - Day 1

Baah, baah, blue yarn...

Oh, the color.

It’s exquisite—deep and rich, dipping down into darker tones and then coming back into a brilliant peacock blue that catches the eye.  No photograph within my skill can manage to capture it, so check out the Baah website for a glimpse at the true color genius Mira brings to all her line.

And it’s not just me.  Every time I pull this out in public, I hear ooohs and aaahs from knitters and non-knitters alike.  The color is simply breathtaking.  Liz was smart to grab it up as her store’s exclusive colorway—this is a find!

Sometimes a fiber looks lovely in the hank but the knitted fabric doesn’t pack the same punch.  Not so here.  It’s just as lovely knitted up as it is in the swirling beauty of the hank.

Speaking of color, I ran into a few articles on the psychology of color the other day.  Since my mind has been thinking about color, I decided to check out what my attraction to this blue might mean.  Blue, it seems, has a lot of hefty meaning associated with it.  Sure, there’s the classic “having the blues,” but according to art therapists, it also signifies faith, security, peace and cooperation, confidence and coolness.  Both Egyptian and Chinese cultures used color therapy for healing, believing blue could soothe illnesses and treat pain.  Claims have been made that people are more productive in blue rooms, making me glad my new office is painted in blue hues.  On another interesting note, blue is cited as the least appetizing color— I should eat off blue plates if I want eat less! At least this explains my aversion to blue Gatorade, Kool-Aid, and Jell-O.

No matter whether you buy into color psychology theory or not, knitters know yarn of a pleasing color is a fine thing to knit.  I’ve cast on and told myself to feel optimistic rather than daunted by the prospect of the ever-increasing rows before me. On toward blue beauty!

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Pacific Beach blues, baby...

You can’t talk about San Diego—and most of California, for that matter—without mentioning the beach.  I grew up on the East Coast, so I get the lure of the water.  Granted, the lure isn’t quite so strong in February, but someone my age shouldn’t be spending many hours in public in a bathing suit anyway.  Just being near enough to see the Pacific is a sufficient treat.  Which is the perfect excuse for spending our morning in Pacific Beach.

Start with breakfast at:

Broken Yolk
1851 Garnet Ave, 
San Diego, CA 92109
858-270-YOLK (9655)

I don’t know if the “order online” feature will help you cut through the crowds that often frequent this true breakfast eatery, but if you’re inclined to do take-out breakfast on the beach, it might be worth a shot.  I’ve never quite understood the allure of chicken and waffles, but I understand banana Nutella crepes just fine.  If you’re feeling competitive, go for the “Iron Man” or “Iron Woman” special; a dozen-egg omelette filled with mushrooms, cheese, and onions while smothered in chili with home fries and two biscuits.  The thing is served on a pizza pan!  You’ve got one hour to put it all away and earn your spot on the Hall of Fame Plaque…if you dare.

You’re going to need to walk off whatever you ate, so spend the next hour on the walkway that runs the length of Pacific Beach.  Chuckle at the “Office” and “School” labeled posts that line the beach or play “I’d choose that house” with some of the fabulous beachfront properties you pass by.  When the wind and waves have wound you down, head for today’s fiber fix:

Needlecraft Cottage
870 Grand Avenue, 
San Diego, California 92109

This superbly stocked shop is a fixture in the Pacific Beach community. The shop’s been around for over 50 years, with current owner Liz Walters at the helm for the last 13.  “We want people to be happy,” Liz maintains, and with the depth of fabulous fiber and selection of classes, she’s clearly reaching that goal.  

Liz’s strong partnership with local yarn vendor Mira Cole of Baah Yarn means the store has the best selection of this exquisitely hued fiber anywhere.  The colors!  The kits!  The perfect yarn weights for the San Diego climate!  It’s all here.   And what isn’t here is in the separate building for classes and other events.  You owe it to yourself to check out the full range of classes in designer Marie Fisher’s “Knitting Academy”—there’s some great sessions in there.

There were loads of projects to catch the eye, but here are a few of my favorites:

That's Mira, by the way
Reflection Shawl
Pick a skein each of any two contrasting colors of Baah’s Aspen merino-cashmere-silk blend and Needlecraft Cottage will supply you with this clever pattern.  Basic and yet with a little flair, this would make an excellent first shawl for a novice knitter, or the perfect gift done up in school colors for your favorite co-ed.

LaJolla Shores Scarf
Indulge in the vibrant colors of Baah LaJolla with this versatile pattern by Marie Fisher.  You’ll get different results depending on what fiber you choose—fingering, lace, sport, or DK weight.  Everyone needs a good go-to lace scarf pattern, and this one could quickly become your favorite.

Woolworth Building Tee
A well-designed knit tee is a thing of beauty—something you can dress up or down and always be comfortable.  Eileen Adler’s design uses 2-3 skeins of Baah LaJolla to craft this tailored, textured top.  You can get the pattern either from Needlecraft Cottage or directly from Eileen herself.  I especially love the bottom edge—so elegant and yet you could match it with a pair of jeans just as easily.

Salt and Sand tank
Looking for some warm-weather style?  Consider this basic tank with a snazzy ruffle detail.  You could go neutral, but why would you when you can do this up in some of the spectacular colors Baah’s LaJolla offers?  You know this one’s well designed; it’s from Veera Valimaki—the designer who gave us the Color Affection shawl.

image courtesy of Marie Fisher
Uliuli Wai Shawl
Who could resist this beautiful, lacy shawl done up in Needlecraft Cottage’s exclusive, signature color “Pacific Beach Blue”?  Two skeins of LaJolla handpainted super wash merino in fingering weight is going to make this masterpiece an eye-catcher for sure.  Marie Fisher’s pattern blends a nice basic stockinette top with two panels of distinctive lace. I can hardly wait to cast this on!

Once your shopping bag is full, indulge in a DestiKNITions tradition:  desert for lunch!

Make the short drive to the Hillcrest neighborhood by Balboa Park to arrive at:

Extraordinary Deserts
2929 Fifth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103

There is another location in little Italy, but this one is the original, and has a intimate, romantic feeling that just ads to the gastronomic bliss.  Their website hails them as one of San Diego’s finest first date establishments, and it's not hard to see why.  Cakes, cookies, tarts, everything looked exquisite.  The Shangri-La and Passion Fruit Ricotta came highly recommended, but I went straight for the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” star the Chocolate Dulce de Leche.  This weighs in as the first slice of OMG chocolate cake I couldn’t bring myself to finish in one sitting.  Not cheap, but worth every single dime.  Don’t miss this place!

Spend a little while wandering the fun and funky Hillcrest neighborhood—visiting Bread and Cie if you need even more baked goods, or enjoying Balboa Park (but that may need a day of its own).  When you’re ready head back downtown to

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park
San Diego Avenue and Twiggs Street

A variety of small museums, shops, and restaurants make up this unique tourist attraction that has pretty much something for everyone. The site depicts the area’s transformation from Mexican pueblo to American settlement, showcasing how the cultures converged.  Sure, it’s educational, but it's also just plain fun.  I saw the best selection of Dover historic books and paper dolls I’ve seen in ages, some truly lovely sterling silver jewelry, and a tin Christmas tree I would have taken home in a heartbeat if it fit in my luggage (it didn’t).  Where else are you going to find a place like the Old Town House of Jerky and Root Beer?  If you want to grab something more substantial after our sugar-laden midday meal, I suggest a panini from Rust, the general store/eatery.   Don’t eat too much--a fabulous dinner awaits us at:

Miguel’s Cocina
2444 San Diego Ave
San Diego, CA 92110

Another joint upholding the “Taco Tuesday” trend, Miguel’s was a recommendation from Liz at Needlecraft Cottage and several other sources.  Offering their own parking is a big plus in Old Town, too.  I went for the fajitas—which were splendid—but all four diners in my party loved their meals.  Sitting outside on the patio beside the fireplace was the perfect atmosphere despite the “this almost never happens” rainstorm.  They let us linger a long while to chat after dinner—an atmosphere you can’t always find in popular tourist spots these days.  Knitting on the patio by the fire with an excellent margarita?  What better way to end a two-day whirlwind taste of SanDiego’s fiber offerings!

Up next, we tackle the Uliuli shawl—will another top down shawl get the best of me?  Only time and stitches will tell…

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Dipping my toes in...

Having a reason to go to San Diego in February is one of life’s great pleasures.  When my daughter moved out there in late 2014, my first thought was “beaches and nice weather.”  My next thought was, “I wonder how many yarn shops are out there?”

The weather was fine, and there were quite a few yarn shops, so these next two posts will just dip our toes into the water (pun intended) of two of San Diego’s fiber arts establishments.  It won’t be my last trip, I guarantee, so there will be more chances to explore further in the coming months.  Let’s get right to it, shall we?

LaMesa is an area slightly inland of the coast.  This isn't a touristy locale to be sure, but it is a walkable downtown with some rather fun spots along the main route of La Mesa Boulevard.

Every DestiKNITions adventure starts with breakfast and coffee, so pull up to:

Cosmos Coffee
8278 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA 91941

If it’s nice out, enjoy the patio seating and scope out the stores you want to hit after lunch. Wherever you sit, make sure you try the Mexican Mocha with your breakfast sandwich or bagel. It’s a house speciality. We weren’t there for lunch, but should you need to do lunch here the paninis looked yummy.  Not a huge menu, but nicely done and varied given the 6am - 8pm hours.  Their bread comes from Bread and Cie—a name I heard many times during my travels—and they locally source almost everything.  No big chain write-your-name-on-a-paper-cup here, people—I love that you get your mocha in a real mug.  It always tastes better that way, in my opinion.

Note:  If you want a full breakfast, my sources say to head to Swami’s, but I can’t give you a personal account since I didn’t have the chance to eat there.

Caffeine and carbs fully loaded, head on down the road a bit to our fiber fix for the day:

Yarn & Thread Expressions
7882 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA  91942
619-460-YARN (9276)

Sometimes you walk into a store and you just know you’ll be there a while.  The welcome hits the minute you open the door, and you see the telltale signs:  a cute dog, a table full of chattering knitters, color and texture and alluring projects everywhere.  

Carol and Squeaky
If the yarn-bombed tree outside wasn’t hint enough, each of these elements combines to achieve the inclusive, relaxing atmosphere owner Carol Fuller strives to create.  “There are no attitudes or cliques here—we want everyone to feel comfortable enough to relax and learn,” says Fuller, who left the high-tech world for something with a little more texture and friendships.  

Carol listens to what customers ask for in both selection and value.  “I look for real quality at a price point I know my customers want.”  The store boasts a huge selection of sock yarns because of that weight’s versatility in San Diego’s weather.  And it’s not just knitting; the store enthusiastically welcomes crocheters and weavers as well.  Local yarn companies and notions suppliers fill the shelves with US products whenever possible.   They are known for their Knit-Alongs, but if you can’t commit, Thursday night sit-and-knits should suit the bill beautifully.

Two things catch your eye immediately. One is Squeaky, the shop Malti-poo adored by staff and customers alike.  The other is the pair of knitted sock monkeys who have joined Squeaky as the shop mascots.  The monkeys get a complete range of seasonal outfits, and had a full-scale monkey wedding a while back that people are still talking about.

Some projects to consider:

Basic Dress Socks
The pattern from Unicorn Books and Crafts will take any good sock or fingerling weight yarn and whip up a really novice-friendly pair of socks.  You can never have too many solid, sure-fire sock patterns, and this one is one of Carol’s go-to resources.

Wonderful Wallaby Sweater
I’ve see this Carol Anderson pattern before and marveled at how customizable it is.  With no seaming and fully scalable to a host of sizes from baby to linebacker, this pattern should be in every knitter’s toolbox.  How much yarn you’ll need will depend on your chosen size, but a standard woman’s version requires 12-1400 yards of worsted weight wool.  collar or no collar, pocket or no pocket, hood or no hood, casual chunky or tailored dk—the possibilities are endless!

Flutterby Hooded Blanket
James C. Brett yarns designed this adorable, super soft double moss stitch baby blanket to whip up in two skeins of Flutterby.  I can’t think of a new mom who wouldn’t just love something this soft and cuddly for their new little bundle of joy.

Celtic Princess Braided Scarf
Our Knit-Along from Yarn & Thread Expressions is this exclusive shop pattern.  If you want an eye-catching set, get the matching hat (a separate pattern) and a third skein of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, but two will be enough to craft this pretty scarf.  As with most cable projects, make sure you stick with light or bright colors and just a hint of variegation if not a solid.

With all your fiber goodies firmly in hand, it’s time for lunch.  Head just down the street to:

Tamarind Thai
7970 University Ave 
(at the corner of LaMesa Blvd)
LaMesa, CA  92942

This cozy little place offers a neighborhood atmosphere with a touch of the exotic.  For a small shop, they offer a large menu—and my favorite is that they’ll tailor the spice level to your preference.  You tell them on a scale of 1-10 how much you want your tongue to burn.  Spice wuss that I am, I truly appreciate that ability to say “0, if you can go that low.”  I asked for a recommendation of the house specialities, and was very pleased with my crispy duck salad.  If you need dessert, go for the mango with sweet sticky rice—a unique treat.

After lunch, let yourself wander farther down La Mesa Blvd until you reach the town’s center—called La Mesa Village.  Look around, and you’ll spy a collection of thrift stores like I have never seen before.  If you’re into thrift shops, this is the place to have fun.  If not (I’m not), there are plenty of other places to get your commerce on.  My favorites were:

8219 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA 91942

I loved everything about this charming studio of card and book creator Chris Shea—most especially that it is “closed on Tuesdays for inspiration gathering.”  A selection of thoughtful little gift books, and gift cards for many occasions can be found both here, at the website, and a nation-wide collection of retailers.  It thrills me when artists like this succeed!

Maxwell's House of Books
8285 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA  91942

Because independent book stores always deserve your patronage!  As in most great bookstores, this one has a cozy attic/library feeling, thoughts, recommendations, and quotes tacked to the walls and shelves—and a charismatic owner. Evidently Craig Maxwell is as much appreciated as the stock. This quote I found on Yelp summed it up:  “The owner is like Mr. Rogers meets boot camp. A patriot of reading and community!”

Handful of Wildflowers
8323 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA  91942

Little artsy gift shops are a personal favorite of mine.  When I’m looking for a gift, I’m extra-pleased to find something no one else has.  Fresh and friendly, this store has unique items including lots of artisan glass.  I became a fan of Trapp Candles during my visit to Kansas City—nothing else smells as good—and you can get them here.  The shop hosts classes, too.  My favorite touch?  The website counts the days SINCE Christmas!

Volunteer Walk
How can you not love a town that gives its volunteers their own walk of fame?  Spend a few minutes in this cozy little streetside garden appreciating all the good people who give of themselves to make the world a better place.

Mostly Mission
8360 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa, CA 91942

I’ve long been a collector of mission furnishings—the arts and crafts style championed by Frank Lloyd Wright.   There wasn’t a single thing in this store I wouldn’t take home immediately.  Stunning , quality pieces of furniture and artwork, home accessories and even textiles.  The clocks alone had me salivating.  Tiles, teapots, prints, lamps…it’s all here.  

Shopping at Mostly Mission, we kept hearing all this loud chatter, and asked what was going on.  Here’s what we heard:

The AubreyRose Tea Room
8362 La Mesa Blvd
La Mesa CA  91942

There was so much laughter and fun being had in this room!  I would have loved to stay and have an elegant high tea, but there wasn’t an empty table in the place—you may want to call ahead.  Delicate, delectable goodies, oodles of china worthy of Downton Abbey, linen napkins, doilies—the whole atmosphere perfectly combines fun and frill.  It would be the perfect place to cap off your trip to La Mesa.

Hop in your car and drive the twenty minutes or so to downtown San Diego for rest of your day.  You’ll have a chance to walk off those scones and clotted cream as you wander: 

San Diego's Embarcadero
Stretching down toward the Broadway Pier, this waterside walkway houses several museums, restaurants, and a lovely view.  Spend an hour in the various ships of the Maritime Museum of San Diego or the USS Midway Museum, sip a cocktail as you watch the sun go down at Anthony’s Fish Grotto, or nab some souvenirs and really good fudge at Seaport Village.

When you are ready for dinner, you owe it to yourself to make a stop at:

Rockin' Baja Lobster
3890 Twiggs St
San Diego, CA 92110
This crazy-happy Old Town cantina serves up literal buckets of seafood with a Mexican flare and a contagious party atmosphere.  We scored a table easily early on a Friday night, but if you plan to get here later you should be prepared to wait a bit.  And there’s Taco Tuesday—a $2 taco this good sounds too awesome to miss!  Massive Signature Buckets—three of us split the “Big Baja Bucket for Two” and still couldn’t finish—are the way to go here.  If you get the “Shipwreck” drink “served in a giant fishbowl,” take a photo—you may not remember it otherwise.

You can peek around Old Town, but save the visits for tomorrow.  You’ve had a full day already and there’s more to come in the next installment.