Thursday, February 26, 2015

Zoom Loom Shelby Sheep Kit from The Woolery - Day 2

Blah Blah Black Sheep...

This isn't nearly as much fun in plain old black.  While I love the crazy colors that make up the "fleece" on this sheep (and I still haven't quite figured out how that bit works, even though I've read the directions twice) the body is all black.  After my fun green squares, that feels boring.

Don't get me wrong--I understand the need for the base color.  That doesn’t mean I have to like it.  I’m not having enough fun...yet.

To be fair, this is no fault of the kit.  It’s just that even in knitting, all black is always a bit of a challenge.  It's hard to see the stitches.  That's just as true of the collection of five squares I've woven to date.  I've taken to weaving it with something light on my lap to help me see the necessary details.  I've gotten to the point where I can make a square in front of the television (I can knock out a square in the span of a "Big Bang Theory" episode), but I still need the directions in front of me in order to navigate the tricky corners correctly.  The skill is still new enough that it isn't peaceful, but it is repetitive enough to feel tedious.  Maybe this is the reason granny squares never caught on with me and why I loathe to do laundry—I dislike doing the same thing over and over.  

Hey, wait, isn't that exactly what knitting is?

Sigh.  It’s a fiber mystery.  And one that will continue, since I’ve got four more squares to go. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Zoom Loom Shelby Sheep Kit from The Woolery - Day 1

It's not kid stuff...

Let’s get this out of the way first:  If you’re even half my age, you probably had the same reaction I did when you first saw this gadget: It reminds you of that loom we all played with as kids, one that came with colorful jersey loops, that created mostly potholders.  It was a toy.

This isn’t a toy.  This is a grown up, spiffed up version of that same idea, but it’s definitely intended and built like a crafting tool.  You rather have to get your mind out of the “toy” concept at first, but using this won’t feel like you’ve borrowed your niece’s craft kit and gone back to your eight-year-old self, trust me.

The package says “on the go,” but I wouldn’t take this anywhere but to a knitting group or other craft gathering.  As a matter of fact, I had a plane travel during this project and didn’t take it with me.  Not because of the long needle involved, but because to me it just didn’t feel portable.  And while I knew it wasn’t a toy, I couldn’t shake the notion that other people would think of it as such.

Having said all that, I was truly surprised at how much I enjoyed using it.  It’s a remarkably clever little thing.  The manufacturers advise you make one or two out of scrap yarn first, which I heartily recommend. And for extra fun, use a hand-died or other yarn with a long variegation, because watching how the colors interplay is half the fun.

The kit says I have to make nine of these in black.  That sounds a bit tedious, but doable.  How those nine squares turn into a sheep?  You got me.  We’re going to have to find out together.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February READERS WHO KNIT: Meet Sherry Letchford

In the past months I've featured authors who knit--but now we're turning the tables and meeting readers who knit! DestiKNITters, meet our first reader feature, Sherry Letchford:

Sherry, What’s on your needles right now? 
I'm knitting a prayer shawl for the hospital. [DestiKNITters, Sherry tells me she has logged over 12,000 hours making prayer shawls and baby hats for a local hospital--that's some impressive charity knitting!]

What feels like your favorite/greatest knitting accomplishment?   
My son's baby afghan...I had to count each stitch and row but it was beautiful when it was done.

What feels like the worst knitting mistake/foible/wrong choice you’ve ever made? 
Some yarn I bought that was beautiful but kept tangling and knotting when I tried to knit with it.  I had to throw it away.

Straight or circular needles? 

Metal or wood needles? 
Both.  My smaller needles are metal and my larger ones are wood.

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate?  
Definitely dark chocolate.

Coffee or tea? 

What’s your favorite Allie novel?
Falling for the Fireman

What are you reading now?

Do you have a favorite knitting character from a book, movie, or television show? 
The TGIF (Thank Goodness Its Fiber) group from Molly MacRae's Haunted Yarn Mysteries

Give a shout out to your favorite local yarn store:  
We don't have one anywhere close, but I love STITCHES MIDWEST each year in Schaumburg, Illinois. I believe that is where I first met Allie.

Sherry gets some lovely prizes for being a DestiKNITions featured reader!  First, she gets some Allie books: Sherry chose The Firefighter's Match for herself and Saved by the Fireman for her friend.  Thanks to the lovely folks at Cascade Yarns, Sherry also gets ten hanks of Cascade 220--she chose Stratosphere Blue--and a nifty tote bag to hold all those goodies!

If you'd like to be a featured reader, send an inquiry email to me at allie [at] alliepleiter [dot] com.

Saturday, February 14, 2015


Thanks to the fine folks at the Kentucky Book Fair, I spend a weekend in the state’s capitol of Frankfort every November.  Imagine my surprise to discover recently that the town houses a wonderful yarn shop that I somehow missed!  You can be sure I fixed that grievous error right away.  Should you find yourself in the charming town of Frankfort—here’s how to have a great yarn-y visit.

Start your day with a little local sugary goodness at: 

Magee’s Bakery
225 W Main St 
Frankfort, KY 40601 

They've got a location here and in the neighboring city of Lexington, and have been family owned since 1956.  This tiny little shop serves up some wonderful doughnuts going far beyond the standard flavors while utilizing fresh ingredients.  Word has it their Cheddar Cheese bagels are splendid, too.  They offer a variety of breakfast and lunch fares, but with a bourbon (“Buffalo Trace,” no less!) doughnut calling your name, it’s hard to opt for anything as ordinary as chocolate sprinkles.  I also got to taste the waffle flavored doughnut with bacon—yum!

Right across from Magee’s, you’ll find:

Nitro of Frankfort
220 West Main Street
Frankfort KY  40601

There’s a certain color of blue you’ll find everywhere in these parts—that belonging to the University of Kentucky.  The UK Wildcats are nothing short of an obsession here. One stop in this store will let you know that Wildcat fever extends far beyond jerseys and sweatshirts!  This small store packs a whopping selection of clothing, accessories, and other gifts.

Next, wander down to Broadway, arguably the town’s “main street” running right beside the train tracks.  There are a variety of shops and businesses worth your attention here.

Poor Richard’s Books
233 Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601

Bookstores tend to come in two varieties—the common and the uncommon.  This falls clearly into the uncommon variety.  You know the kind where you walk in and it smells like books (not retail)?  Where you know you’ll be lost for at least two hours if not more?  Where the people are as interesting as the literature?  That’s a find of a bookstore.  You owe it to yourself to go upstairs, where the real treasures lie waiting. If you’re already in the mood for lunch, you can duck into the Coffeetree Cafe right next door.  Otherwise, continue down the street to:
Completely Kentucky
237 W. Broadway St.
Frankfort, KY 40601

The vast array of locally produced gifts, food, art, soap, and a dozen other things makes this a must-do stop on my annual visits.  Burbon balls are a no-brainer, but don’t leave without buying a box of Modjeska’s candies by Bauer—there’s nothing else that compares with these sticky, gooey, caramel wonders!  If you can’t decide on one thing, they offer fabulous gift baskets as well.

Venture off Broadway down St. Clair when you are ready to visit our fiber find of the day:

The Woolery
315 St. Clair St 
Frankfort Ky 40601

Owner Chris Miller and his wife run this marvelous spinning and weaving store that has embraced just enough knitting to keep everyone happy.  While primarily an on-line business, the Woolery still boasts a satisfying retail experience thanks to a depth of stock and a staff that truly “knows their stuff.”  “We really care,” says Miller, “You can’t hire that or buy that.” Indeed!

As for the spinning, you'll find everything from artfully made drop spindles (collector’s items in themselves!) to starter Cricket looms to elaborate full size floor looms.  Walk in here, and chances are highly likely you’ll come out with a new hobby—or just a new way to do your present hobby.  

“We’re not contagious, but we are addictive,” Miller jokes, but it’s true.  On one shelf you’ll find one-of-a-kind art yarns.  On another you’ll find roving in a gazillion colors for felting, spinning, or ornamentation to make your garment unique.  Tools, gadgets, fibers—the diversity expands your world as you realize all the different things we can do with fiber.

Want to dip your toes into spinning?  Start on a small scale with one of The Woolery’s extensive selection of handcrafted drop spindles.  They are as much art as tool, and very simple to learn.  But beware—we all know drop spindles are the “gateway drug” to a much larger spinning addiction!  Should you need them (and you know you will), the Woolery offers a full selection of classes in a variety of fiber arts.

Does weaving catch your eye?  Start small with The Cricket Rigid Heddle Kit.  Compact enough to fit on a table top but large enough to tackle a substantial project, this mini machine can introduce you to the craft without a huge investment.

How about a new spin on your knitting?  I was fascinated by the Addi Express King Size knitting machine.  It’s a spool knitter on steroids!  This behemoth can tackle large flat or tubular projects at lightening speed.  If you were ever daunted by too many rows of garter or stockinette, this would whiz you through a large garment in no time. Personally, I think the thing’s large enough to double as an end table—what a conversation piece!

Our “Knit Along” from here isn’t knitting, but my first introduction to the weaving craft.  No, this isn’t that jersey-loop loom you played with as a kid. Schacht’s Zoom Loom brings an adult vibe to modular weaving.  But that doesn’t mean you have to get all serious.  I’ll be making the adorable “Shelby the Sheep” from JDE handwoven’s Swatch Critter Kit especially created for the Zoom Loom.

Frankfort is just the right size for an afternoon of exploring.  Another little gem on St. Clair is

Village Arts
226 St. Clair Street
Frankfort KY  40601

When you shop here or at the sister store in LaGrange IL by where I live, you support Angels Outreach and the Lake Eyasi Girls Vocational School in Tanzania, Africa.  Buy stuff and feel good—a perfect match! I liked the colorful, textured bags and the handcrafted earrings.

For me, there’s really only one way to end a day in Frankfort, and that’s with a “Hot Brown.” I first discovered this amazing (if not healthy) dish back during my visit to Lexington, and it’s been a favorite ever since.  Nothing compares to the cheesy, saucy, savory goodness of all that meat.  The best I’ve had can be found at:

243 W Broadway St
Frankfort, KY 40601

Yes, as the name implies, they do great Italian, Yes, they have the quality bourbon selection you’d expect at a Kentucky establishment. But for me, Sarafini’s is all about the Hot Brown.  Exquisite.  I’m sure my cardiologist dies a little bit every time I eat one, but since I only get there once year, I figure it’s a fair trade for one night of gastronomic bliss.

If you are in to horses bourbon, or both, there are loads of other great things to do in the area that you can check out here.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Alexandra Scarf from Gauge Knits - Done!


Before blocking: brilliant but bumpy
You would think, after so many years as a knitter, that the effects of blocking would cease to be so wondrous for me.  Not so.  Just like the thrill of opening a brand new box of my latest book never gets old, so does that moment when I pull a project off the blocking wires to hold it in my hand.

On the wires
Some projects don’t change dramatically with blocking, but lacework—even simple lacework like this—comes alive when you block it.  The ripples disappear and you hold a light, airy piece of fabric in your hands.  Fabric you made out of sticks and string.  That’s art in itself, but the fact that you can now wear it?  All the more marvelous!

A finished beauty!
On a dreary Chicago day when it feels like winter has lasted forever, this is just the colorful promise of spring I needed.  Thanks, Gauge Knits, for a project that taught me a lot about what I love and learn from knitting!
Delightful details

Next up?  DestiKNITions spends the day in the charming state capitol of Frankfort, KY.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Alexandra Scarf from Gauge Knits - Day 5

What a difference! And BIG news!

Had I realized how much “internalizing” the pattern for this scarf so that I could work from memory would make, I’d have done it much earlier!  Not having to constantly count stitches or refer back to the paperwork changed my entire experience of knitting this scarf.  It went faster, and was much more pleasant.  I feel like the second half the the yarn has just flown through my fingers.  Tedium?  Gone.  Motivation?  Returned.

Just when I think knitting has no more to teach me, I find out how wrong I am.

Now, I have an exciting announcement to make!

A few posts ago, I told you my monthly “Authors Who Knit” feature would shift to “Readers Who Knit,” allowing you to meet some Allie fans and their needlework.  I’m pleased to announce that thanks to promotional sponsorship by Cascade Yarns, each reader featured will receive TEN hanks of Cascade 220 and a Cascade clear tote bag in addition to an Allie book for themselves and a friend.  That’s enough to make a whole sweater, DestiKNITters!

Allie books are nice, being featured is spiffy, but FREE YARN and lots of it?  Well that just takes the cake!  There are only seven spots left, so if you were thinking of applying to be a featured reader, send an email to soon!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Alexandra Scarf from Gauge Knits - Day 4

Mental motivational trickery...

Cue BB King, the thrill is gone.  I’m halfway through and like lots of big projects, this last half feels harder and longer than the first.  Three more feet of zig-zags is looming wearily over me, a daunting I-can’t-get-there-from-here finish line.  Time to get my head in a new place about this project.

Now is the time the little boosts of knitting serve to encourage us.  I was knitting with a friend the other day, and we talked about the mini-joy of reaching the end of a challenging row with the right amount of stitches. You know what I’m talking about:  the pattern says something like “knit 4” and—lo and behold—you’ve got exactly four stitches left on your needle!  You didn’t botch this row!  Every knitter I know gets a little “zing” when that happens.  The longer the row, the bigger the zing, yes?

Another midway boost for me is what I call “pattern immersion.”  That’s my term for that magic moment when you don’t need to look at the written pattern to execute your repeat—you’ve memorized what comes next.  Most times it comes organically somewhere in the middle of a project.  This time, I needed to make it happen.  Having to keep peeking back at the written pattern was part of the reason this scarf was becoming tedious, and that needed to change.

I took 30 minutes and analyzed the set of left-leaning rows and those that leaned to the right.  I stared at the stitches until I could see that the two stockinette stitches to the right of those zig-zaging yarn-overs were the ones that were K2Tog’d.  Now I don’t have to count rows or stitches, just look for those two stitches.  

Conversely, staring hard at the stitches showed me that the YO and SSK happens right overtop the yarn-over from two rows below.  Now, the knitting tells me what I have to do next, not a constant glance over to the paperwork.  Sure, I check back every few rows to make sure I’m where I thought I was, but this little shift is enough to keep me motivated and heading toward the finish line!

Hey, a knitter’s gotta do what a knitter’s gotta do.