Saturday, December 30, 2006

afghans for Afghans

You all know that I've been knitting off and on for this Charity. Right now they are looking for socks and hats for infants for Cure Hospital in Kabul. They deliver about 300 babies a month. Incidentally, CNN had a special on yesterday about the lot of Afghanistan women, a follow up to their original show in which the Taliban executed a woman right in front of everyone. Their lot has gotten better in some spots and some girls are allowed to attend school, but for many women life is just as hard and cruel as it was when the Taliban were in charge. The CNN moderator asked one of the doctors about the condition of the pregnant women as they arrive at the hospital. The physician answered that they tell the husbands that if they had brought their wives in earlier they wouldn't experience the complications they do. So the births at the Kabul hospital are most likely all high-risk births. So here are photos of my contributions to this drive which will be over in February. I've decided that after I finish a pair of adult socks, I will use the rest of the yarn for newborn socks unless, of course, the socks are for my son-in-law; his feet are too big to have any yarn left over. Surprisingly, I found, at first, it more difficult to knit itty-bitty socks than regular sized socks; couldn't quite get my hands to cooperate with something this small. But I think my hands and infant socks have made peace with each other and I will knit some more. Here is the link for the charity:

I have also finished my son-in-laws socks. The extra yarn came in right before Christmas. I couldn't believe my luck; the wholesaler actually had one 50 gram skein left of this discontinued yarn. And here is a picture of the finished socks.

I have only eighteen rows left to knit on the Secret of Chrysopolis shawl. It's about time. I've been knitting on this rectangular shawl way too long.
Finally, I need to re-knit a sleeve for Angie's sweater. Can you believe I ended up with one sleeve longer than the other. I have no idea how I managed to do that, but I did. So within the next couple of days I should have all UFOs turned into FOs, oh except one tiny infant sock and a hat to match.

"Knit On!"

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Stupid Mistakes while showing off, or the saga of a hat...

Can you see the gap?

I've been knitting for about 60 years and, yet, mistakes still happen. In between persevering about what edging to put on what shawl, I decided to knit a simple hat--something on which I did not have to concentrate too much. So while waiting at the auto repair shop for a clamp to be put on my muffler, I merrily cast on, all the while talking to the woman behind the counter. Six rows later, oops. I realized instead of knitting a hat, I was possibly knitting a very small Moebius scarf. Now a twist in your circular knitting is not conducive to making a hat. Had I paid attention, I would either not have twisted the stitches, or I would have been able to fix it at the end of the row, with a little twist and a fix when I was ready to weave in the end of the yarn. No, I had to gab about how long I'd been knitting. Blab, blab, blab. So I ripped out the six rows and started over. Even cast on a few extra stitches since the circumference seemed somewhat small.
Knit two, purl two, knit two, purl two. Oops again. I should have cast on two more stitches, so I could end the row with purl two and smoothly keep knitting in the round. No problem, I told myself, increase two, it'll never show. Still blabbing with the woman, I continued knitting and showing off how I could knit without looking. So far so good. Except...
The other day, I picked up the hat again, while waiting for an appointment. Continuing with knit two, purl two, I discovered another mysterious problem. A weird knit stitch. I had made a mistake unlike any other in the past. I undid the stitch in the previous row and found that it was attached to the purl stitch with a strange loop. So I fudged again, dropped the loop and went on my merry way. Only to come to the same spot on the next round and finding the purl stitch next to the knit one I had just fixed was just as strange. And then it hit me. I must have put my knitting down while waiting to get the muffler fixed (come to think of it, I bought a chocolate chip cookie) and instead of continuing to knit in the round, turned the knitting over and started knitting back.

Does this tale remind you of Aesop's fable about the hare and the turtle? Pride cometh before the fall.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


As a break from knitting complicated shawl patterns, I decided to make some wash/dishcloths. At one time, there was a rather large stash of "Peaches and Cream" cotton in the house. The stash has dwindled significantly over the last few months. Yeah! The small cloth in the middle of the photo is made from two strands of #30 crochet cotton (CroSheen). I rather like the feel and look of it. All the patterns come from

The small dish cloth in the middle of the picture is made from two strands of #10 crochet cotton. I got the idea from one of the knitting lists I am on. My daughter says she likes them much better than the ones knitted with regular cotton yarn. This is also a thank you for doing the dishes so faithfully, Angie. I am so lucky.

Knit On!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Amethyst Shawl

I finally finished the shawl I designed myself. The pattern is an amalgamation of various individual lace stitch patterns. The middle includes the candle flame pattern. Instead of making just the triangle, I went ahead and decreased the patterns in the same manner to make a square. I then added an inner border which was adapted from a pattern from, a website which has a wealth of free, no longer copyrighted, patterns. The owner Sarah Bradberry lives in Australia. She's currently in the process of publishing a revision of her hat book. I encourage you to have a look at her site; it's a treasure trove of information. The edging was taken from Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls by Martha Waterman and is called Ocean Wave. The yarn is Brown Sheep Company's fingering weight merino. All in all, I think the shawl turned out fine. Should I knit it again, I may want to make the center portion a little larger.

"Knit On!"

Friday, December 1, 2006

Another Shawl Finished

The problem with doing an Elizabeth Zimmermann Pi shawl is the edging. 597x2 rows to be exact and grafting together the first and the last rows. But then comes the payoff: The blocking of the shawl and finally seeing the whole picture, and the sum of the parts is always bigger than the parts themselves. I am not a knitter who can plot a series of patterns on a chart and see the whole picture. I need to knit one section, add the next pattern and then see if the two patterns make a pleasing whole. So each shawl is an adventure for me.

The yarn for this shawl was hand spun by my daughter from commercial roving. It is a multi-color teal; I have also made a scarf with a Lithuanian Lilies of the Valley pattern from the same yarn. The shawl started out as a knit-along on the EZasPi yahoo group. Of course, as with all patterns, I had to tinker with it. I made it a true Pi shawl rather than dividing it into four sections at the 288 stitch increase. I also found an edging in a 1983 German knitting magazine (Burda) that I thought would look well with the rest of the shawl. It was originally intended as a lace edging for a handkerchief. So here it is. Seventy inches in diameter.

And now on to the next shawl, finishing the edge on a self-designed shawl and Myrna Stahman's Gracie version of a Faroese shawl.
Knit onward!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Yarn Snob: To be or not to be

Several of my knitting groups have been discussing the no-no word of a-c-r-y-l-i-c. I don't consider myself a yarn snob although I prefer my daughter's hand spun lace yarn. I knit with yarn most suitable for the occasion. When I knit hats for our local elementary school, I use a acrylic from a stash that is both old and self-perpetuating. In other words, the more I knit, the fuller the tub seems to be. One of these days, I have to be able to get to the bottom of it. On the other hand, I also buy "step-up" acrylics, if and only if they are on sale and dirt cheap, again for charity projects. I also have a large stash of 100% wool yarns, to be used when the urge strikes me. Right after my daughter's hand spun yarn is yarn on cones, both reasonably priced and 100% natural fiber.
So with this in mind, I thought I'd share two pics of shawls I knitted from a cone of Wildfoote sock yarn (Brown Sheep) for which I paid a whole dollar. It was an off-color and my then local yarn shop gave it to us at cost at one of our knit nights. What a deal.
Elizabeth Zimmermann's Pi shawl knit with Wildfoote Yarn

Spiral Shawl
from a Gathering of Lace
Wildfoote Sock Yarn

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Of Borders and bargains...

Almost a week has passed since I last posted. Time flies when you are knitting. I have the misfortune to simultaneously come up with two borders for two different shawls. Both are done, but for the lace border. Now those of us who knit shawls that are finished with lace borders know that 576 stitches on the needles means having to knit 1152 rows in order to complete the border for the shawl. For me, at least the border normally takes just about as long as knitting the rest of the shawl. Knitting 1152 rows of any pattern is tedious. There was a discussion on a group to which I belong about how to get around the tedium, but after all is said and done, the no. of rows remains the same, whether I divide the task into 20 stitch sections or have a bowl of MMs beside me. Celery sticks were suggested for those who are diabetically or dietetically challenged, but I do not consider celery sticks or carrots a reward.
In the meantime, the glutton for lace knitting that I am, I have started a third shawl, the Gracie Shawl from Myrna Stahman's book on Faroese Shawls. It's an easy lace pattern and there is a rhythm to the pattern that makes it easy to follow. I found the yarn at my "local" LYS. To be truthful, my daughter actually found it for me. My local LYS (local yarn store) is about 50 miles away, but that's as local as it gets around this part of Michigan. It's a pound cone of natural colored Brown Sheep Company wool (Nature Spun fingering weight). The color is a tan/gray, and the wool has the feel of yarn with little processing. What a find, on the bottom of a shelf in the far corner of the store, hidden behind a basket of something.

On the same shopping trip, I also found a copy of the first book in the Jamieson series, at 40% off. The colors are beautiful. Before I go to knitter's heaven, I will absolutely have to knit one of the Fair Isle sweaters in the book, even though knitting sweaters is not my idea of having fun. Ah, the pleasure of the hunt!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The doily is done in plenty of time for Christmas. Unfortunately, my back problems prevented me from properly blocking the edging, so that each point was properly pointed. Oh well, only other compulsive blockers will care, and only momentarily. It was fun knitting a small project, and it has given me impetus to knit some larger projects I've been drooling about. I have this massive collection of German lace knitting patterns (Kunststricken) that I've been itching to get started on, such as Duchrow, Niebling and Engeln. The only problem I have is selecting one project. I don't think I have enough years left to knit every one of them. I wonder if I'll be able to take my knitting patterns and stash into the afterlife? You know there is a serious addiction problem when you dream about knitting, take your knitting to bed with you and on getting up, right after grabbing your glasses, you grab your knitting. Knit On! Renate

Sunday, November 12, 2006

More of the Dutch Lace sampler

Here are two more photographs of the Dutch Sampler. This is the right side of Pattern 18; however, the "wrong" side would also make a good pattern. In fact, I think, the pattern would look nice as part of a rectangular shawl.

Sections 15 through 18

Dutch Samplers and Memories

We are almost at the end of the Dutch Sampler Knit-Along from It's been fun just knitting without any specific project in mind and reminds me of the first samples of my own knitting way back when I was just five years old. Of course, the original sampler was knit as a learning tool by a young girl, probably under the guidance of her mother or grandmother.
Ah, my own journey in knitting started right after WWII. I can still see myself sitting on a stool in the beauty shop waiting on my mother to get a permanent, toiling away on my garter stitch, holes and all. Mother's hair in curlers wired to the "permanent-giving-machine" which in turn was plugged into an electrical outlet. (I found the above picture of the machine. The machine was invented in Germany by one Karl Nessler.)My mother (Mutti) was generous in many ways, and I am sure she unraveled another piece of knitting or bartered for the yarn, in order to give me enough yarn to knit the potholder. For those were hard times and yarn, or anything else for that matter, was not wasted. No going to the local LYS and picking up a ball of Peaches and Cream. Even if the money was available, there was no local LYS and there was no cotton yarn available in 1945 unless you had it from before the war or were able to obtain it on the black market. While I do not remember, I am sure the pot holder was unraveled and knit into something else. Come to think of it, the same color showed up in some undershirts later on.
By the time I made it to first grade, I was an "expert" knitter, at least as far as first graders were concerned. My first grade class started to learn how to knit while I was sick with the German measles. When I returned to school, I sat down at my desk and knit myself a potholder to the amazement and copious praise of my teacher. Nary a mistake in it.
As a 10 year old, now going to the German secondary school system, I had to knit a pair of mittens. When I had finished the thumb gusset, I went to the teacher to proudly show her my knitting. I remember Mrs. K (in opposition to my first grade teacher) looking at me, saying "Why didn't you come to me earlier?" to which I replied impertinently, "Why should I? I know how to knit mittens." Of course, I did not endear myself to her with that comment. Funny, I can't remember her name, other than it started with "K" and that she always walked to school with Mr. Honig (Honey). This was an all girls school full of bright, precocious and, therefore, bratty kids who were convinced that Mrs. K and Mr. H had something going on.
My next adventure in the fiber arts was learning to crochet. Our first project was a lace insert for a pillow. Not exactly a beginner's project, but that was the assignment. I never did learn to hold the crochet hook correctly and my lace insert was appropriately dirty from the sweat of my grubby little hands. My mother must not have liked crocheting either, as she got her girlfriend to help me finish the lace. It was a good thing that the lace was washed and blocked before it was presented in class, because one could clearly differentiate between the portion of the lace my grubby hands had touched and the portion my mother's girlfriend helped with.
The next step in my education in the fiber arts was making a tablecloth with Hardanger cut work. We were still too poor to afford the material, so a neighbor bought the materials in exchange for the table cloth. She got a good deal and I got my grade.
I never learned to sew, although I had two cousins who were professional seamstresses. Sewing machines were unavailable in school. Once I was married and had children, I taught myself how to sew, out of necessity.
Despite the hard times, the hunger and deprivations, they were also good times.

Happy reminiscing. Renate

Larch Trees

This photo was taken on my way into town on one of those rare northern Michigan November days when the sun shines and the temperature is moderate. The larch tree, which belongs to the genus Larix, is distinguished among firs by its deciduous foliage. I have not seen the Larch south of where I live now, in the north west corner of Michigan. It stands out in the Spring with its light green needles and then again in the Fall when the needles turn golden. The Larch tree seems to drop its needles far later than any of the other deciduous trees and thus stands out in late Fall. I hope you enjoy the photo. Renate

Friday, November 3, 2006

Hats, hats, and more hats

Each year I knit hats for our local elementary school. The school desperately needs them and the knitting of a hat gives me a break between the knitting of complicated lace patterns. For mindless knitting, hats beat everything else. And yet, I get immense pleasure out of knitting them. The hats have been finished since May of this year, but usually I take them to school sometime in the middle or the end of September. This year I've been procrastinating with taking photos and dropping them off. I am not too sure why. My daughter, Angie, finally got fed up with all these hats laying around the house, so she took matters into her hands and took pictures this evening . Alas, she photographed them on my messy bed, so I motivated myself and retook them. It's one thing to have a messy bed and another thing to show actual pictures to the whole wide world. So Monday, the hats shall get dropped off at the school. The weather has gotten cold, the snowflakes are flying although sparsely, and the wind is blowing somewhat fearful; a good time to get rid of them and have the kids wear them.
If you are interested, the rest of the hat pictures (all 30 of them) are in the photo album under "Charity."
Peace, Frieden, pax, paix,

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I did it...almost!

Another shawl designed and almost finished. I took the candle flame triangle shawl found on the net as an inspiration, but instead of only knitting the triangle, I decreased the pattern and made a square for the inner portion of a square shawl. I then added an inner border inspired by and based on a vintage design from Sarah Bradbury's site Now, "all" I have left to do is come up with a border and knit it. As all of us shawl knitters know the border is usually an excercise of endurance since it will take 1624 rows to knit all the way around. Oh boy, I'm sure glad winter is coming. The yarn is 100% Merino, amethyst, fingering weight from Brown Sheep Company. I bought a one-pound cone from This was my first purchase from this company and their service was excellent. The balance of the pictures are in the photo section under works in progress. Constructive criticism and comments are welcomed.
Peace, Frieden, pax. paix

Monday, October 30, 2006

Something had a delicious dinner last night...

...but it wasn't me. While I was dining yesterday evening on the humble lentil and Spaetzle (German Black Forest egg noodles), something ate one of my beautiful Buff Orpingtons. And "the thing" didn't even have the decency to clean up after itself. It left behind the skeleton, the feet and a few back feathers. And, to top it off, "the thing" seems to be health conscious, since it left also a whole lot of fat on the bones. The photo shows the Buffs when they were about three months old. As hens, they are a beautiful buff (almost rust) color and have been prolific layers until the recent molting season. So, it's back to putting up the barrier at night, so it'll be more difficult to get "at them." I can hear my dear departed mother saying "Renate du, bist faul gewesen." (Renate, you were lazy.)
Frieden (peace), Renate

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dreary Weather

The dreary weather outside was made more bearable by the picture of deer outside my living room window. I counted a total of six, but only five made it into the picture. Even the little ones had their winter coats on.

Angie's Mittens

My daughter wanted a pair of mittens, so here they are. Made from her homespun yarn and Muench Mohair. Thick and warm, they will hopefully help her cope with our Michigan winters.

Stash Enhancement Expedition

I did it! I went and spent money on commercial yarn at a most unlikely place: Michaels! (For those outside of the U.S., Michaels is one of those mass retailers where you can buy anything to do with arts and crafts.) I bought 17 balls of Paton's SWS (soy silk and wool) at $5 each. I feel a little bit as if I cheated my LYS, but at a cost of $5 vs. $8.25 there really is little contest.
The cone is Brown Sheep's Homespun fingering weight, color amethyst, from Paradise Fibers. What a pleasure to order from them. Their service is fast and courteous, and I will order from them again.

Friday, October 13, 2006

October 13, 2006

October 12, 2006

What a difference a day makes. On Thursday, October 12, we had beautiful fall weather, with lots of sun and fall colors. On Friday, October 13, the weather turned ugly and we had about 3 inches of snow. Jeff Foxworthy was right when he said, "You know you live in Michigan if you use air conditioning and heat in the same day."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Cats

Since they are so darn cute, I thought I'd share a bit of "my life with the critters." The critters come in many shapes and sizes. The chipmunks were very prolific this year, so were the Japanese beetles. This past summer brought Cedar Wax Wings, Baltimore Orioles, Finches, Hummingbirds, and a myriad of other birds. We've had wild turkeys, grouse and a wide assortment of ants. And of course deer. But, the cats are indoor creatures and the mice are getting awfully fresh. In fact, as I am writing this, a mouse just ambled towards the refrigerator while the cats are lolling some place in the house. Sam is a Persian/Siamese mix and Tommy has Main Coon and who knows what else in him. Unfortunately, the two of them think mice are playmates. They are too well fed to think of them as sustenance. Reminder to self: Put "mieces" poisoning on the "to-buy list."
Besides chasing mice (we live in the woods and it's getting cold outside since we live in northern Michigan.), the cats also like to take balls of wool and bat them around. One of them, Sam-I-Am, loves, and I mean looooves, camel roving.
I have started another knit-along. But more of that tomorrow.
(Peace, Frieden, Pax)

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Just Knitting

Here are pictures of my interpretation of the Dutch Sampler M. This is a Yahoo group called KnitalongSamplerM. This is a reproduction of a Dutch Sampler by someone, perhaps a young girl, with the initial "M". Carla Meijsen of the Netherlands received this antique sampler as a gift from her husband and she has graciously shared the patterns with us.
This is the ultimate of "just knitting around." No particular use since we now have myriads of patterns, all written or graphed out for us, only the joy of having simple stitches of knit, purl, yarn overs, and knitting stitches together making a pattern.
If you want to knit along, just click on the group and join. It's never too late.
Peace (Frieden), Renate

And another Shawl in the Works

A new shawl in progress. Let's see that would make it shawl no. three on needles. This pattern is a triangular shawl--well maybe. I'm mulling over the final shape. It may also look nice as a square one. So the shawl is a design in progress. I can't give you a link to the pattern. My daughter says she got the pattern of one of her knitting groups, but the link apparently was broken. While it is called a candlelight pattern, the pattern looks to me like many of the leaf patterns one can find in lace pattern books. The shawl is being knit with Nature Spun fingering weight; color is amethyst.
Peace (Frieden), Renate

Of Peace and War

As I was walking out of my backdoor this morning, I saw our chickens and two fawns, with almost all of the spots gone, peacefully at the edge of the woods. The chickens were pecking for bugs and the deer were eating other green delicacies. Such a simple picture. And yet, the world, as always, is at war, whether in organized conflicts or individuals just at war with each other. As I watch television, I see the children of the world suffering unimaginable hardships and horrors. My soul is saddened by their suffering and my mind wanders back to my own childhood. You see I grew up in Germany during WWII. While I was protected psychologically by a loving family, I nevertheless experienced the horrors of war without really understanding them at the time. This was everyday life for me. It was only one day when the church bells started ringing that I was confused. After all the church bells never rang. I remember asking my aunt what the sound was and why the bells were ringing. She answered me with a simple, "we have peace." My five-year-old vocabulary was not familiar with that concept, and I asked "what is peace (Frieden)?" I can't remember my aunt's explanation, I only remember my puzzlement over the word. And I wonder what is going to become of the children of the world?
A few weeks ago, I became aware of the Afghans4Afghans charity. They are in desperate need of sweaters for children. I've finished one and have started another. They are due by November 2. So if you come by this post and know how to use two sticks and string, please knit one.
Peace, Renate

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Of Chickens and Pi Shawls

Just as I started writing this blog entry, the chickens--yes I said the chickens--came to the front door to pay a visit. They have a whole nine acres to roam about, but like to congregate on the front stoop. Go figure. I wish I had some clever parallel I could draw to life, but none comes to me.
On the knitting front, the forty-eight row section of the Mystery Pi knit-along shawl is done and is awaiting the next clue. The photograph shows off the section I just finished nicely. Since my daughter and I are currently competing for the 60" no. 7 (4.5 mm) circular needle, I just put an order in for more. We've decided to give the Knitpicks needle a try since they are to be similar to the Addi Turbos, but much less expensive.
Peace and Blessings, Renate

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Sandpit

The Sand Pit
Some folks ask where the moniker "The Sand Pit" originated.
We live in the northern part of West Michigan where there are mostly sand dunes--sand dunes with trees, with houses, with people. I sometimes jokingly say that most of Michigan is made up of sand dunes.
The house we bought came with nine acres of woods and one giant pit filled with sand right behind the house. I've been trying to convert this sand pit into a garden with bunny poop from our angora rabbits and chicken manure from the chickens. I figure that this process will take years, since we only have 4 bunnies and 8 chickens. Well, in that pit of sand grow some poppies, probably from seeds dropped by birds. And so the name "The Sand Pit" was coined one day when I was in a particularly silly mood, and the poppy became our logo. So there you have the long and short of it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Lace Knitting

I am enamored with lace knitting, particularly in shawls. As I knit and the pattern unfolds and becomes visible, I am always amazed that order and beauty comes out of what in the beginning seemed to be utterly chaotic. I am currently working on the Knit-A-Long Shawl from the EZasPi Yahoo Group. The shawl is knitted with handspun lace-weight yarn.

I have also started an Orenburg Shawl. This is going to be a long-term project since the yarn is commercial cobweb I picked up at the Michigan Fiber Festival. The yarn is a challenge, but I have promised myself that I will finish the shawl before I die.
Otherwise, I have a modified Einstein Coat (Sally Melville) on the needles and have started to dabble in Alan Dart's toy patterns. Unfortunately, I have to pay an arm and a leg for the patterns, since they are in demand in the US and mostly listed on e-bay. My first project is the Baa Baa Black Sheep pattern; however, I will have to sing "Baa Baa Brown Sheep" since I am using oddments I have on hand. Peace, Renate

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Knitting Blahs

I have the blahs, the knitting blahs more accurately. I'm at loose ends. No new projects planned. NADA! And the creative juices seem to resemble today's weather: dreary. I've finished a shawl for a friend and have started another one -- a knit-a-long with the EZasPi, a Yahoo Group. But it's only Tuesday and the next clues are not coming out till Friday. So, I have reverted to finishing UFOs. I'm knitting a Sally Melville's Einstein coat for myself--not with any particular enthusiams, however. I'd rather be doing lace, but Fall has arrived in northern Michigan, and the snow will fly soon. So it's time I get cracking and finish it.
The picture at the top of this post is the Shetland Tea Shawl from a Gathering of Lace. The shawl was knitted with yarn spun by my daughter.