Thursday, August 25, 2016


Return to Raleigh...

A while back, the Carolina Fiber Fest drew me to Raleigh, and I had a great time visiting the city and checking out a few colleges with my son.  He’s “Gone to Texas,” but my daughter has moved to Raleigh, so it was time to return for further explorations!  Let’s get started with a good breakfast:

Tupelo Honey Cafe
425 Oberlin Road
Raleigh NC  27605
You’re in the Carolina’s—you’d best eat like it.  And quite frankly, it doesn’t get more southern than a pancake called the “Shoo Mercy!”  Yes, that’s fried chicken on there.  I never did quite understand the whole chicken and waffles thing, but this won me over.  The fried chicken wasn’t “too fried” so that you felt like you ought to have your cardiologist on speed dial. Spiced pecans, bacon, butter, and syrup—now that’s my idea of a complete breakfast!  The place can have lines, but trust me, it’s worth the weight…ahem…wait.

Great Yarns
1208 Ridge Road
Raleigh, NC 27607
Great big yarn shops are a fine thing, but it’s the little cozy ones that always win my heart.  Don’t let the size fool you—owner Mary Stowe is a big presence in the yarn world, serving on the board of The National NeedleArts Association.  Mary owns both this store and its sister establishment in Greensboro, Yarns Etc.

We do “great yarns at great prices,” Mary boasts, and her 11-year history with this 30-year-old store tells you she knows how to create value for her customers and position the store as a beloved resource.  “I try to stock the tried and true everybody wants and blend in a bit of the new stuff they’ll want to discover.”  

It’s no surprise that cotton and bamboo blends are customer favorites in this climate, but I loved the all-summer “Hatapalooza” focus on cold-weather noggin-toppers.  All summer long Great Yarns knitters have been tackling new skills to make hats for themselves, their loved ones, and worthy charities.  There’s also a kids knitting camp “to bring up the next generation of knitters.”

I had to admire the friendliness of the store as I watched Mary patiently and carefully help a customer who came in with her current project in knots.  Isn’t that what we all want in a yarn shop?  Stuff to buy and friends to help?  You’ll find it here.  You’ll also find these great projects:

Our Knit-Alongs:  Knitty’s Knotty But Nice Hat and the Twirly Top Hat
Little hats—is there anything more charming to knit?  Well, I like big hats, too.  After all, a Chicago gal needs a full-scale ensemble of ways to keep her ears warm.  Kitty’s Knotty But Nice hat combines sensible ribbing with an eye-catching cable for a bit of style.  

And if cute’s what you’re going for, the Twirly Top hat lets one ball of Adriafil Knitcol show off its self-striping skills while finishing with a bouncy curly-cue top.  These and a huge selection of other hats come from the Hatapalooza program.

Gradient Kit Scarf
Gradient color ways are all the rage these days, but if you’re like me, you need a kit.  I can’t just go freestyle—I need guidance.  Each of these kits offers 5 mini-skeins of Wonderland 100% wool.  Fire up your seed stitch, and you’re off and "gradiating."

Doria Sweater
I loved the airy weight and sporty drape of this striped boatneck sweater.  Grab 8 skeins of Berroco Mykonos linen/cotton/nylon in the color combination of your choice and you’ll end up with a summer sweater sure to please.

After you’ve stuffed your yarn basket, head on up to the quaint little neighborhood known as Five Points.  There you’ll find a collection of little shops with charm to spare.

Color the World
1809 Glenwood Ave 
Raleigh, NC 27608
I didn’t know what “hand poured lipsticks” were before I walked into this store, but the amiable staff, gorgeous colors, and charity connections sold me.  Each lipstick comes in an artful cardboard tube (and yes, it’s held up nicely in my handbag—I was worried) and different colors support different charities.  I was tickled pink—literally—to discover the bright pink shade I chose supported Make-A-Wish.  We have been the recipients of a Make-A-Wish trip, and I couldn’t be happier to pucker my lips in support of such a worthy cause.

NoFo Market and Cafe
2014 Fairview Road
Raleigh NC  27608
Everybody around here has their favorite spot for shrimp and grits, and lots of folks pointed us to this cafe/market as theirs.  Repurposed from a former Piggly Wiggly (best name for a grocery store, ever!), NoFo offers an inventive array of gifts and foodie goodies.  Rumor has it the Bloody Marys (not my thing) are pretty awesome, too.

Hayes Barton Cafe and Dessertery
2000 Fairview Road
Raleigh, NC  27608
I’ll go miles out of my way for a fabulous coconut cake, but I didn’t have to.  Right down the street was the adorable, stuck-in-time Hayes Barton Cafe.  An old school drugstore and eatery that makes you feel as if you just walked onto a movie set, only with better food.  Just look at that cake display!  My daughter and I came away with not a slice, but a whopping huge slab of coconut cake we couldn’t finish between the two of us (can you say tomorrow's breakfast?).

Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road
Raleigh, NC  27609 
You know the drill: DestiKNITters support the local bookstores.  Do it!

State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St. 
Raleigh, NC 27603
This is your local farmers market on steroids.  Huge, open every day, but reasonably priced and stuffed to the gills with a wide variety of produce, gifts, breads, cheeses, salsa’s, plants, and more.  We wandered the aisles, tasting everything anyone offered (oh, the peaches…) and bought whatever struck us as delicious, gathering an eclectic little smorgasbord to nosh on at the end of our day over Netflix.  If all that food makes you hungry, there’s a terrific little seafood joint right there onsite.

Joule Coffee
233 S. Wilmington Street
Raleigh NC 27601
Allow me to introduce you to a Raleigh specialty—the cocktail coffee bar. Or, as Joule likes to put it: “your all day hang.”  We don’t have these in Chicago, but we should.  Ashley Christensen’s Joule is a boisterous, industrial space that sports a sportscar-yellow espresso machine and a seriously good menu.  The eggs benedict called to me (I was there at brunch) but the sandwiches and other fare looked equally appealing.

16 East Martin Street
Raleigh NC
Another of the cocktail coffee bars, this one a bit smaller and slightly quieter, but with a walk-up window to caffeinate you with speed and ease.  Try the cinnamon-carrot cupcake and the maple latte—delicious!

There you have it—a second Raleigh adventure for knitters.  Click here if you want to go back and revisit my 2012 adventures.  Next, we cast on the Knotty But Nice hat for our own personal Hatapalooza!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Willow Cowl from Sin City Knit Shop - Done!

Now that I've bound off the top edge of the Willow Cowl, I'm impressed with how light it is.  The ripples do exactly what they were designed to do, allowing the fabric to lay nicely against the neck.  It's a perfect spring or fall accessory--more style than warmth, but plenty of sparkle.

I find myself wondering how it would behave in a sturdier fiber such as a nice sensible wool DK.  I wouldn't want it in a solid, but some of the hand-dyed or self-striping yarns might make for a lovely piece if I knit it again.

Well done, Sin City Knit Shop--I definitely left Vegas a winner!

Next up, we hop to the other side of the country and return to Raleigh, NC.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

August Reader Who Knits: Julie Dietz

It's the third Wednesday of the month, which means it's time to meet our Reader Who Knits.  DestiKNITters, meet Julie Dietz!

Julie, what are you working on right now?  
Currently, I’m working on hats using up leftover yarn.  I donate them to our Community Christmas project – several of the local organizations which provide assistance to families at Christmas time started pooling their efforts and resources a few years ago, and we do one, huge Christmas project which serves close to 1,000 families.  Families get PJs, underwear, gifts, wrapping paper, blankets, and personal care products for all the children, and food for Christmas dinner.  Hand-knit hats are a popular thing at the event, so…I’ll be busy with this from now until early December.

What feels like your favorite/greatest knitting accomplishment?   
I have two:
  1. When I started knitting again in grad school,  my first BIG project was the Vogue World Map Sweater.  I didn’t know enough to know it was supposed to be difficult, so…..I just jumped in and made it for my mom.  My daughter has it now – classic late 80s, oversized sweater she loves.
  2. Dale “Lillehammer” sweater for my husband.

What feels like the worst knitting mistake/foible/wrong choice youve ever made?  Hmmm…..other than accidentally washing and felting said Lillehammer sweater last summer?   I haven’t had any MAJOR disasters.  But….I’ve learned to listen to potential recipients, and not try to convince them they’ll love something I’ve made for them when they have tried to tell me all along that they wouldn’t.

Straight needles or circular?  
Circular all the way!

Metal or wood needles?  
Depends.  If the yarn is “sticky” I prefer metal, and if I’m trying to knit fast, I generally prefer metal.  But I have to admit I love my rosewood circulars for almost everything.

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate?  

Coffee or tea?  
Coffee in the morning. Tea the rest of the day (Earl Grey, of course!).

Whats your favorite Allie novel?  

What are you reading now? 
Health Behavior and Health Education:  Theory, Research and Practice.   Sorry – I’m prepping a graduate course in health behavior theory at the moment, so I don’t have much time to read for pleasure.  I AM listening to the Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes in the car.

Do you have a favorite knitting character from a book, movie, or television show?  Mrs. Weasley from the Harry Potter books, and Miss Marple!

Give a shout out to your favorite local yarn store

The Yarn Studio
2 E Main St.
Casey, IL  62460

As her prize for being featured, Julie chose a copy of The Lawman's Oklahoma Sweetheart for herself, a copy of The Firefighter's Match for her friend, and a ten-hank package of Cascade 220 in Dark Plum (thanks to our friends at Cascade Yarns!).  If you'd like to be featured as a Reader Who Knits (or Crochets), email me at

The nice folks at the FCC ask me to tell you this post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Willow Cowl from Sin City Knit Shop - Day 5

...And again.

I’ll admit, I’d like this to be a bit more exciting by now.  This cowl would be what I call a “Little League” project—something good to do while the majority of your attention is on something else.  I got a tremendous amount of knitting done while my son was in community baseball.  The mom in me wanted to be there, sitting and watching.  The businesswoman in me had trouble swallowing all that downtime.  So I knit.  And knit and knit. 

This is what keeps me addicted to knitting—it ensures no waiting or watching (or sitting in poorly run committee meetings) is ever in vain.

Fortunately, coverage of the Olympics has provided lots of sitting-in-front-of-the-television time.  Depending upon how much yarn I’ve got left (and I’ve got about half of what I started with), I’m looking at either one more repeat of the lace pattern, or two.  While I’m all for larger garments being a larger gal myself, I’m not sure I’ve got two lace pattern repeats in me.  I’m feeling a case of the “I wanna be done”s coming on.

There is a common syndrome among writers where once the end is in sight of your current book, a bunch of new characters begin singing their siren song in your ear.  It’s difficult to ignore all the fun new stories calling your name and stick to the discipline required to finish the book at hand.  

The same is true of knitting—today, all kinds of new yarn is calling my name.

I am a professional.  I will plug my ears, attach my blinders, and press on toward the finish line!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Willow Cowl from Sin City Knit Shop - Day 4

Do it again…and again and again…

Knitting, almost by definition, is repetitive.  Repeated stitches become repeated sets of stitches, which become pattern repeats, which create a garment.  That’s the zen of it—thousands of small stitches combine in a rhythm to become something greater that is pleasant and relaxing to create.

A quick calculation tells me I’ve accomplished nearly 12,000 stitches so far in this project.  That’s a lot for about halfway done, but it doesn’t feel at all laborious or tedious.  It feels comforting. Like accomplishment, or like the particular satisfaction that comes from creating beauty.

I went to STITCHES MIDWEST yesterday to be with lots of other folks who think like you and me.  How many millions of stitches met my gaze?  Impossible to say.  But as I wandered the aisles, conversations started up between total strangers about this yarn or that pattern.  

I said hello and hosted an impromptu giveaway of a copy of Coming Home to Texas (my novel about bison yarn) with Ron from Buffalo Wool Co.  I caught up with Donna from Lamb of God Farm whose herd of sheep launched the plot for my novella Bluegrass Easter.  

I bought the Queen of Hearts scarf kit from Washington's Great Yarns!, fondled oodles of yarn I thought about buying, snagged a new shawl pin from Lickin Flames, and generally reveled in my love affair with yarn and needles.  A nicer afternoon would be hard to come by.

If I could spend my life bouncing between yarn shows and book fairs, I’d be a happy soul indeed.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Willow Cowl from Sin City Knit Shop - Day 3

Bi-Partisan Yarn-overs?

Now we get into the alternating patterns that enable this cowl to stack up so nicely.  I’ve accomplished one of each.  Actually, I found it rather ironic that I did one during the Republican National Convention, and the other during the Democratic National Convention.  There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but I’m not quite sure what it is (or perhaps am better off not saying).  In any case, this year I made an effort to watch both conventions and scan a fact-checking site for review of each of the acceptance speeches.   So the only political cry you’ll hear from me is this: inform yourselves, and get your info from somewhere other than Facebook.

Maybe the best lesson in all this is that it takes BOTH patterns to let this cowl show all its beauty.  And that it takes lots of individual stitches (and voters, and candidates, and issues) to make up the whole.  And how one knitter can embrace many different stitches.

Sure, it’s a cantankerous election year here in the U.S.  But knitters of all kinds can agree that our love of fiber knits us together, yes?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Willow Cowl from Sin City Knit Shop - Day 2

Going for the gold...

Well, you know, that didn’t turn out too badly.  It was tedious going, picking up that cast on edge, and I’m not quite sure I lined everything up perfectly.  In hindsight, I think it would have been smart to pin it in quarters like a hem. As it was, things didn’t quite match up at the end and I think the two sides were a little slanted on either side of the fold for the last inch.

Still, the edge has that lovely scalloped look that we all want from a picot edging. It also has a sturdy quality that will help it lay nicely.  As I mentioned, the way this cowl is structured impresses me.  It’s built to ripple nicely into almost concentric circles, thanks to an alternation of yarn-over lace and stockinette.

I’m using the first rows of yarn-over lace to build my continental yarn-over skills.  Often, when facing KTOG or YO, I default to my usual English throw style, but I’ve decided it’s time to improve my continental toolbox beyond the knit stitch.

I find I’m enjoying the little bit of sparkle in this fiber.  Normally I don’t go for the shiny stuff.  I don’t even use frosted lipstick or nail polish.  But this hint of gold somehow works, and it doesn’t feel like it will end up itchy.