Friday, March 27, 2009

Knit Along: Urban Beats Scarf - Day 4

Weird vs. Cool

I’m halfway through the 35-repeat center section. I’ve discovered this scarf is a double-edged sword--or is that a double-pointed needle?--when knitting in public. It’s so distinct that people always stop me to ask me what I’m doing. Knitters invariably say, “whoa, where can I find that pattern?” It really is an eye-catcher of a project.

But there’s a problem, too. That elongated stitch row--the yellow row in the photos--is not the kind of thing you can attempt casually. At least I can’t. And so, if you’re at the doctor’s office of somewhere where you can be interrupted, your pulse rate goes up when you get to that point in the pattern. You cannot stop this one mid-row. Period. Non-knitters just don’t get it when you say, “hang on a sec...I’ve just got to finish this row.” They look at you like you’ve just said, “Go on ahead, I’ve just got to finish this gum and I’ll catch up.” I imagine the flight attendant would not take kindly to my reply of “but I can’t brace for impact right now, I’m in the middle of the elongated stitch row.” Of course, if I’m bracing for impact, I have larger problems than tangled knitting, but you and I both know knitters don’t think in those logical terms. People just plain look at you funny if you imply that you just can’t drop your knitting at that nanosecond. They don’t know the particular torture of pulling out an hour’s worth of work. They don’t understand that the threat of such just takes all the fun out of it for us.

I’ve decided: The cool factor is worth the weird factor. After all, people probably think I’m weird already.

I’m going to take a few days off this next week, so here’s a photo of me in my finished Sampler Scarf (from the Charleston installment) to hold you over. Happy Knitting!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Knit Along: Urban Beats Scarf - Day 3

NEWS FLASH: THE URBAN BEATS SCARF PATTERN
I’ve received lots of requests for this pattern, and it’s not easy to find. As a matter of fact, I haven’t been able to access it anywhere but Loopy Yarns--this is an exclusive, girlfriend. So, I made a call to our friend Vicki at Loopy Yarns, and she has told me if you call the store, they’ll give you the pattern free with your purchase of the stunning Malabrigo Yarn.

So, DestiKNITers, here’s what you do:
1) Go on to the Malabrigo Yarn website and look at the Lace Merino yarn.
2) Choose two colors from the breathtaking selection (or go directly to step three if you need color advice)
3) Call Loopy Yarns and they’ll complete your purchase and they’ll ship you both the yarn and this way cool pattern. Mention DestiKNITions when you call just to be sure. Call 312-583-YARN (9276) or email them at loopy@loopyyarns.com
4) If logistics permit, you can of course go personally to the store and do all this in one satisfying step (they may even have some colorways you can’t find on the website). Come on, there have to be SOME advantages to surviving a Chicago winter...


And now for today's blog entry:

The tower of power...

Since we’re still line land of smugly satisfying repeats, I’m going to take a little detour to equipment today. There’s a lot of knitting in my house. Which used to mean there was a little (okay, maybe not so little) herd of knitting bags deposited all over my house with various projects in them. Perhaps this is a familiar scene to you. If you’ve ever wondered if you have AD&D because you have half a dozen knitting project in progress at once, take comfort in the fact that you have loads of company. We all suffer from what one writer calls “startitis,” meaning we love to cast on new projects no matter how many we still have to finish.

This tower of baskets allow me to have five different projects going at once and still ensure my house doesn’t get lost under a pile of yarn. When I get the urge to knit (which is three or four times a day, at least), I just pull out the basket I want and get to it. Like most knitters, I’ve got a varied menu of things on the needles. One project--that would be our current scarf--demands my undivided attention. Another is good for watching TV because it has boring parts. I have another that’s highly portable, one that is full of long and boring rows which I can only do for so long before I need more challenge, etc. With my nifty “Tower” I can skip from project to project easily and neatly. And--perhaps equally as important--I have to really think twice before I cast on more than my tower can hold. Really, does any sane knitter NEED more than five projects going at once? Aren’t we just a tad better off paring down our multitasking to a quintet of creativity?

When I go out with my knitting, though, I do transfer it to a bag--and perhaps that’s the only downside--but I can live with that. And yes, that's a vase of needles displayed on top.

The end result? I look diverse, instead of distracted. I feel well rounded instead of a unorganized tornado of yarn. And hey, that’s something worth investing in if you ask me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Knit Along: Urban Beats Scarf - Day 2

Beyond waltzing...

I’m not quite so nervous on the elongated stitch rows now. I’ve learned which stitches get slipped and which get “dropped” just by looking (the stitches you knit have a little brown “bump” from the garter stitch row below), so I’m not counting “knit, slip one, slip two, slip three, knit, slip one, slip two, slip three” like some sort of seated waltzing student anymore.

This pattern does have a bit of a learning curve. The first time you do the elongated stitch row, it looks like a tangled mess. You’ll be sure you’ve botched it until you do the garter stitch row above it, when all the loops lay themselves in a lovely line instead of knotting themselves up in chaos. Just count your stitches at the end of your elongated stitches so you know you’ve still got the sixty you started with--I somehow didn’t do all the wraps the first time, and things got, well, messy. Now, I just smile with satisfaction as all my little loops line up in impressive sequence. I have a juvenile “I made that!” urge of pride each time I finish my repeat. Once this scarf is done, I may be unbearably smug and harder to live with than usual.

For the many of you who asked where to get the pattern...as far as I know it is only available from Loopy Yarns, and I'm working on access. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Knit Along: Urban Beats Scarf - Day 1

Fear my needles...

Some projects make you shriek and whine, they’re so beyond your skill level. You loose your place in the pattern for the seventeenth time this row, the yarn snags and won’t come undone easily, and you feel grossly incompetent. You consider snapping your needles in half. You wonder why you ever found knitting enjoyable.

Then there are the other kind of hard projects. The ones that make you squint and stick your tongue out while there’s steam coming out of your ears because you’re concentrating so hard. You’re stretching your skills, expanding your toolbox of stitches, and just plain doing something mighty impressive.

This is the latter. This is a COOL scarf. Oh, you’ve got to pay attention on the elongated stitch rows, but the pay off is definitely there. Plus, you’ve got a quartet of simple garter stitch rows to catch your breath. The combination of simple and elaborate is terrific. And it looks like you’re the knitting equivalent of a Jedi Master. This is the kind of knitting you hold up to your friends with a smug smile.

Want proof? My teenage daughter took one look at this and said, “Can I have that?”

That has NEVER happened with anything else I’ve knit. Even the really impressive stuff. And, best of all, I will be able to happily pass this one off to her because while the folks at Loopy Yarns choose a very hip goldenrod-and-burgundy colorway, they had no way of knowing I look near death when wearing yellow whereas my daughter just glows.

Don’t you just love it when it all works out perfectly?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chicago Itinerary - Day 4

SUNDAY:
Today we head to the northside of the city to experience another neighborhood Andersonville, rich in ethnic flavors. And I do mean flavors.

First stop: Breakfast at SVEA
5236 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60640
773-275-7738
 
You can’t think Swedish without thinking pancakes, and if you’re only exposure to Swedish pancakes has been through IKEA, you’re about to get a delicious education. If you serious about cinnamon rolls, brave the Sunday morning crowds at Ann Sather where they rank as a national treasure, but I always opt for the independent local join when I can, so I followed the advice of the staff at Arcadia Knitting and went to Svea. Don’t you dare leave without ordering the Swedish pancakes! It’s a wonderfully homey place packed with tables and character. My pancakes arrived within nanoseconds, the waitstaff was charming, and the coffee kept coming—my kind of place.

Take an hour or so to walk off your breakfast by wandering up and down Clark street, where an amazing array of shops make up this colorful neighborhood. Chicago’s famous Women and Children First feminist bookstore is just across the street, and during my visit a puppet theater mounted on the back of a bicycle was giving a performance on the opposite street corner. I found a bead store, a high-end clothing boutique, and a host of other one-of-a-kind establishments that made my hour’s wandering entertaining even before I scored a bargain or two.

Next Stop: Arcadia Knitting
1613 West Lawrence
Chicago, IL
773-291-1211
www.arcadiaknitting.com
Once it gets to be around noon, head several blocks to the broad, busy intersection of Lawrence and Ashland Avenues. Just a few doors down on the southwest corner you’ll find this big, no-nonsense store jam-packed with supplies, yarn, and goodies. Parking isn’t too challenging here, but it’s also accessible by a number of public transportation lines if you’re so inclined. Run by Sharon and Kathy “The Yarn Sisters," this is a store that prides itself on good advice, skilled problem solving, and serious education. If you’re itching to take your skills up a notch, this is most definitely the place. I loved the “sample table” set up in the back of one room so that you could “try out” a row or two of their newer stock.






Sharon sat down with me and suggested the following projects:

Carlina Cowel
Another of those nifty short scarves, this one takes a more rustic approach with the some beautiful texturizing—the kind of scarf that goes beyond warm weather garment and into the realm of way cool accessory. This will be my knit-along project so stay tuned for more details.

Kinetic Shawl from Knitty (Fall 2008 issue but available online)
Kathy suggested the dramatic, draping Kinetic Shawl in Cristal Palace’s stunningly colored Mini-Mochi. I found this to be one of those yarns you walk straight toward with your hands outstretched. Kathy’s right; the woven-look texture would show off the spectacular color-ways of this superwash meriono perfectly. I’ve been craving this project since it was suggested, especially in the foresty-green “Fern Rainbow” colorway.

Bruno Scarf
One of those wonderfully basic, wonderfully adaptable patterns, this basketweave-look scarf also makes great washcloths or babyblankets out of any worsted-weight yarn that catches your fancy. A solid project that lets beginners achieve impressive results without a high stress-factor. You can make it soft and snuggly or textured and manly—it’ll all be dictated by the yarn you choose.



Next Stop:
Sweet Honeybee Bakery

1918 West Montrose Ave. 
Chicago, IL 60613
Phone : (773) 275-0697 
http://web.mac.com/sweethoneybee/Site/Welcome.html

Once you’ve extracted yourself from all the luscious choices at Arcadia Knitting, take yourself to a new realm of luscious choices: the cupcakes at Sweet Honeybee Bakery. With options like these, who needs lunch? Order two or three of your favorite flavors, and settle into one of the tables. If you think you can keep the frosting off your knitting, this is a homey little spot to cast on or get a couple of rows done. The German chocolate and key lime were particular favorites, but honestly, I don’t see how you could go wrong at this place.


Next Stop: The Perfect Cup
4700 N Damen Ave

Chicago, IL 60625

(773) 989-4177


As you wait for the sugar rush to kick in (or maybe to calm down), head on over to the charming Logan Square neighborhood to The Perfect Cup. I love spots where the good coffee and the comfy chairs just beg you got get some serious knitting done. Sunny windows, a neighborhood flair, and just the right amount of bustling clientele make this one of those quintessential local coffee joints we all wish were two blocks from our house. Order up a mocha latte and kick back for an hour or two.


Next Stop: The Book Cellar
4736-38 N. Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL
773-293-2665
Booksellerinc.com
You might be looking for a little nourishment by now—so head to a great spot to feed your stomach and your braincells, the Book Cellar. Tucked into one of Chicago’s more adorable “town square” locations, this local bookstore/café has an energetic vibe you just can’t find at the big chains. Should you need more than the soup and sandwich variety of meal, the Square has several good restaurants, but with all those pancakes, sugar, and caffeine, I figured it’d be best to keep it on the light side. Wander the stalls and talk to the very friendly staff, catch one of the many author events this establishment hosts, or just people-watch from behind your yarn and needles. I always feel smarter just for having been in this store, so be watching for the sensation of your head expanding as you pack up your car or ship yourself off to the airport.

A word or two about lodging:
Chicago has just about everything just about everywhere. Big, ritzy hotels or charming bed and breakfasts, you’ll find anything you’re looking for. Every major chain has several properties here, so if you’re cashing in your points you are likely to find your brand. If, like me, bed and breakfasts are your thing, I suggest you click on over to either bedandbreakfast.com or the Chicago Bed and Breakfast Association where you’ll find loads to choose from, including our old zen friend The Ruby Room.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this fiber-filled frolic through my hometown. Stay tuned for my three knit-along projects and--for the first time on DestiKNITions--the chance to WIN FREE STUFF!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chicago Itinerary - Day 3

WICKER PARK
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, so today we’ll take in one of my favorites: the west side of Chicago known as Wicker Park. Once the stomping ground of the very young and exceptionally trendy, it’s now become a stylishly diverse neighborhood where the Vespas vie with strollers and old-school bakeries sit happily next to organic coffeebars. In summer, this place has an outdoor café vibe, but even in the dead of winter its varied delights are worth the black-belt you may need in parallel parking to get around.


First Stop:
Breakfast at the Milk and Honey Cafe
1920 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 395-9434
http://www.milkandhoneycafe.com/

This smart but warm café typifies the neighborhood—excellent coffee, thoughtful menu (they make their own granola!), and even a charming fireplace. Since you’ve got a packed day ahead of you, the fast order-at-the-counter-and-we-bring-it-to-you service and don’t-linger-too-long atmosphere on weekends is just the ticket. And hey, if you top off your Orange Brioche French Toast with one of their outstanding chocolate-white chocolate-cashew cookies, I won’t tell.


Next Stop: nina, a well-knit shop
1655 West Division Street
Chicago, IL 60622
773-486-8996
http://www.ninachicago.com/

Caffeine flowing freely through your veins, wander east down the block a bit until you see the giant knitting needles in the window of “nina.” Contrary to yesterday, today we start out with yarn, and this is a very fine place to start. You’ll feel as if you are in a art supply store, and owner Nina Rubin is ready to nurture your artistic tendencies. This is the kind of store that can makes you feel trendy yourself, rather than making you feel as if you’re outside looking in on the trendier, worthier folk.
A lifelong knitter herself, Nina will readily tell you her favorite thing is helping beginners feel “encouraged and confident.” As you’d expect, she just that friendly. It’s simply impossible not to wander awestruck down the long wall of crave-worthy fibers. This groovy little shop has been a local favorite since it’s opening day five years ago, and it’s not hard to see why.




Projects recommended by the staff at “nina”:

Blue Sky Alpaca's Baby Jumper from VOGUEknitting
I dare you not to say “aww” when you see this adorable chunky-knit jumper sized for toddlers. If I didn’t have nieces, I’d go hunt down unsuspecting preschool girls just to have someone to make this sweet little dress for. Even with all it’s happy details, I’m betting it knits up rather quick in chunky yarn.







My knit-along project: Herringbone Neck Warmer
I always wear a scarf, so this sleek, artsy version caught my eye immediately. Trimmed with a swath of stunning ribbon (more on that later), its an eye-catching way to keep warm. I chose a lush purple, but you could go a dozen different directions—from bold brights to elegant neutrals—to suit your taste.

Pre-combined yarn scarf
Art for the art-impaired: this is one of those can’t fail projects that not only creates a stunning piece but supports a good cause as well. The one hank you buy contains several pre-coordinated yarns to give you a eclectic yet pulled-together look. If you’re one of those people who needs someone else to pick out colors for you, this is the ideal project.


Next Stop: Ruby Room1743 West Division Street
Chicago, IL 60622
773-235-2323
http://www.rubyroom.com/

Just doors away from Nina is the one-of-a-kind Ruby Room. Even if you don’t choose this as your lodging, this unique spa/store/inn is worth a visit. Plan ahead and book the 90-minute starter package for $150 that will give you a selection of the establishment’s inner healing practices, or just wander through the selection of cosmetics, crystals, essences, and gem-based products you probably didn’t even know existed. Owner Kate Leydon is generous with her time and knowledge, and even mainstream suburban me found myself fascinated with all her shop offers. Buy a fab handbag and have your aura analyzed. Purchase a face cream and an energy healing session—the possibilities are endless. I would suggest, however, that you walk up to the second floor and ask the staff to tell you what your color choice of yarn says about you—you may only find it entertaining, but you also might find it deeply insightful. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet Ruby, the elegant black standard Poodle that gives the store its name.

Next Stop: Beadniks
1937 West Division Street, Chicago, IL
773-276-2323
http://www.beadniks.com/chicago/


Wander down a few more blocks to Beadniks, the Chicago location of this hip new national franchise. If you’re one of the many knitters who beads, or would like to be, you won’t make it out of here empty-handed. The store boasts a friendly staff, loads of merchandise, an international bazaar feel, and a just plain happy vibe (the store’s motto is “don’t worry, bead happy”).

Depending on the weather and your walking stamina, either leave your car and take a cab up Damen Avenue, or be prepared to drive and make multiple stops. Should you choose to drive, remember this is Chicago, and parking takes some gumption but isn’t impossible if you access side streets and watch for the many neighborhood permit zones.

Next Stop: Soutache Embellishments
2125 North Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
773-292-9110
http://www.soutacheribbons.com/


Another amazing one-of-a-kind store that will drop your jaw. If you’ve chosen the herringbone scarf for your project (as I did), the hunt for the perfect accent ribbon will be just as satisfying as the selection of yummy yarn. Owner Maili Powell is your delightful guide through a stunning array of every bead, button, ribbon, and trim imaginable, not to mention some great ideas for updating garmets. Knitters, who tend to take our buttons very seriously, could spend hours in the button section alone.




Next Stop: Virtu
2034 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
773) 235-3790
http://www.virtuchicago.com/

Wander a few blocks down Damen to Virtu, a nifty little housewares store that maintains a significant relationship with each of it’s vendors. The owners can tell you a story about virtually every item in the store, which makes for a personal, satisfying shopping experience.

Next stop: Lunch at Hot Chocolate
1747 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-1747
http://www.hotchocolatechicago.com/


The high-calorie name gives you an idea of the quality and creativity of the food here. Order whatever entrée suits you, but save room for the restaurant’s outstanding, award-winning deserts. If anyone ever told me I’d love blue cheese red wine ripple ice cream, I’d never have believed it. The deserts change with the seasons, but the pear desert I had was phenomenal. I had the Mexican Hot chocolate, which could be called a desert in itself. Ask the very friendly staff to make a recommendation if you can’t decide—I did and was very happy with the results. It’s warm and cozy, just like a mug of cocoa. The nice, open lounge area would be an outstanding place to get a bit of knitting done if the lighting is right and the place isn’t too crowded. After all, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better companion for great yarn than a mug of great hot chocolate.

Take as much time as you want wandering down Damen or Milwaukee Avenue back toward Division—there are a host of stores of every description. Unscene.com publishes nifty maps and neighborhood guides that will give you a quick tour of the neighborhood, or just let your eyes draw you where they may.



Our host at “nina” suggests you end your journey at any one of these for dinner:
Smoke Daddy – 1804 West Division Street
Via Carducci la Sorella – 1928 West Division
Crust – 2056 West Division
Tocco – 1266 North Milwaukee Ave
Usagi Ya Sushi – 1178 North Milwaukee Ave

Turn in, get a bunch of knitting done on your stunning new projects, and sleep up for tomorrow’s adventure.