Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On lonely yarn

When our relationship was new, and CP wanted to impress me with his deep understanding of my love for knitting, he went to Peru alone to visit family and came back with this:


It's four skeins of Plymouth Indiecita DK weight baby alpaca. (Which I could've easily bought here at home, but I didn't mention that part.) I thanked him profusely, and set about finding a project for the yarn.

I'm still looking.

Three years later.

The thing is, I have problems with this yarn.

For starters, it's about 500 yards, which is an odd amount--it's not enough for a sweater, too much for a hat or mittens. It might be enough for a baby sweater, but that sounds a lot like a sweater that would be worn just once before being spit-up on and ruined.
It's very soft and warm, but knit up, doesn't have much structure. I tried using it to knit CP a pair of fingerless gloves, and it was just too . . . floppy. Men need, you know, manly gloves.

And the color. A muddy army green. Blah.

Because of the fuzziness of the alpaca, the yarn doesn't have outstanding stitch definition to begin with; add to that the dark, grim color, and any patterning is almost undetectable.

I don't know what to do with this yarn.

I can't sell it, I can't give it away--it was a gift! But I can't seem to find a project for it.

And I refuse to drag it to through yet another move only to be stuffed in a bin and ignored for a decade.

Readers, please, help me find something to do with this yarn!

(And don't forget, Friday is the last day to comment on this post and be entered in my Blogiversary giveaway!)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesdays with Dory

Today I'm vintage

Dear Dory,

My mother-in-law has decided she simply must come for a visit. I'm concerned that a stranger in the house for 4 days might upset my cats. What should I do?

Puzzled in Peoria

Dear Puzzled,

You should rent a hotel room.

No, really.

Even if your MIL is a very very nice person, she probably will not be a very very nice house guest. She will probably take over your bathroom for 45 minutes in the morning, even though you're the one that has to go to work. She'll probably stay up later than you, and make lots of unnecessary racket while you're trying to sleep. She'll probably order a bunch of junk online and send it to your house before her visit, and then force you to sit and watch while she opens each package, occasionally announcing that whatever it is is the wrong size/color/too heavy, and she'll just have to "leave it here." She probably won't stop talking for even 5 minutes.  She'll probably look at your wedding photos and announce that you were "fatter" then.

And she will definitely, definitely scare your kitties, who will have to spend those 4 days curled up in a closet--except at night, when they'll have to stand guard at the bedroom door, just to make sure The Stranger doesn't come in to attack you (which is pretty thoughtful/amusing).

So really, unless the visit is just one night, or unless one or the other of you is destitute and can't afford it (and I'd think about selling off some blood or organs!), rent a hotel room.

Have a purrrrrrrfect day!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Sampler: 'Round the Virtual Neighborhood

Thanks to everyone who has commented so far on my Blogiversary Giveaway post--I'm gathering up lots of project ideas! Don't forget to leave a comment on the giveaway post by June 1 to be entered to win a grab bag of yarn!

I hope everyone is enjoying his or her Saturday. I'd love to say that I plan to spend the day outside enjoying the first blast of summer weather, but instead, the following things are happening:

1. We are moving in 26 days.
2. We have to spend a week in Costa Rica before we move, which cuts the number of packing days remaining down to 19.
3. My mother-in-law arrives tomorrow for an ill-timed 4 day visit.

Last month CP's mom called and announced that she had to use up her miles before they expired, and therefore wanted to come visit us at the end of May. CP was apparently deaf to my suggestion that 3 weeks before we pack up and move to another state is probably not the best time for a house guest, so there you have it.

(I also feel the need to mention that over the last week, we've received 20+ packages for her in the mail--so not only are we trying to pack for our move, we're also simultaneously operating a postal annex.)

So while I spend the day intermittently packing, cleaning the condo and getting the spare room ready for our visitor, I hope you guys will enjoy perusing these interesting things I found on the Internet this week.

This onesie will be a must-have when I get pregnant!

 Use mason jars to dispense yarn!

This bag is calling out to me.

A new Simon's Cat!

You can't go wrong with Blueberries and Brie. It was fantastic.

Love this rustic looking Shire String from Younger Yarn.

Everyone enjoy the long weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Theoretical Thursday + Blogiversary Giveaway!

Welcome to Theoretical Thursdays, where I show you blobs of yarn that may eventually become, uh, things.

It's hot and humid, we're just on the edge of summer, so of course I'm working on two woolly sweaters. And to make matters worse, one is a men's sweater, so it's at least twice as large as any sweater I've ever knit for myself.


I finally finished slogging through the sleeves (they were miserable; I hate sleeves), and got them attached to the yoke, so now I'm working on the raglan decreases. This thing simply must be done by May 31. For this reason, we turned the AC on this morning--I was trying to hold out until June, but a heat wave starts today that will reach its peak on Monday with a high of 91, and I might suffocate under all this wool if I leave the AC off just to make some kind of symbolic point to Mother Nature about her refusal to follow the seasons appropriately.

The pattern is Terry's Pullover, and I'm knitting it out of Beaverslide Dry Goods Merino Mohair. The yarn has a good bit of barnyard detritus in it, but I think that's to be expected with these earthier, homegrown, rustic-type yarns. The only thing that really bothers me about it is that I can't get it to felt. Which seems like something these earthier, homegrown, rustic-type yarns should do quite readily. It's not the end of the world, but it does mean more ends to weave in.

(I feel I need to pause here to mention that the guy in the next cubicle just showed up, and is wearing 8 tons of whatever cologne it is that college frat boys insist on wearing. I feel like I've been transported back to a frat party circa 2001, only there's no cheap beer or body glitter.)

The second sweater is for me, and it's a somewhat cropped cardigan that I'm making short-sleeved, so fortunately that means it's much smaller and less oppressive:


(These photos are just lousy; only 28 days 'til we move to our new home, with a backyard just perfect for knitwear photography!)

The pattern is Miette, and I'm knitting it in the Tosh Mo I received in the Madelinetosh spring yarn club. This terrible photo really doesn't do the color justice, it's a lovely, sage-y silver. I don't know why I decided to knit this now--I really need to accept the fact that it's summer and look for a camisole-type project to keep me busy for a couple months.

And it just wouldn't be Learner's Per-knit unless I told you about something crazy, overly-ambitious and delusional I did. I don't want to disappoint you, so--I signed up for Tour de Sock! Six 9-day stages, six pair of socks. Last year there were apparently people finishing pairs of socks in TWENTY-FOUR HOURS. I can barely squeak out a pair in a month. But the money goes to a good cause, and I get six exclusive sock patterns, so even when I fail spectacularly, I can still look back on the whole experience fondly.

In preparation for the race, I've been working on a training sock:


This is the Crosswired pattern, and I finished sock #1 in about 10 days; sock #2 is languishing. Sigh. I've reversed the main and contrast colors on sock #2, so the cable is black--working the cables in black yarn is not fun. I might be blind by the end. But once I have a complete pair, my feet will be fully Hufflepuff-ed.

The TdS starts June 1, and you can still register!

And speaking of things happening in June, on June 2, Learner's Per-knit will celebrate its fifth blogiversary. FIFTH.


Certainly, we need to celebrate. So, here's a bag of yarn:


Right now, this is my yarn, but I'm going to give it to you. To 3 of you, to be exact (sorry, you have to share!). On June 2, I will divide this bag o' yarn among 3 of my blog readers, to thank you all for your support over the last five years.  

To be entered in my blogiversary giveaway, just leave a comment on this post, telling me . . . hmmm . . . oh, I know, telling me what kind of design project you think I should work on next! More accessories? A sweater? A vest? A knitted catsuit? Whatever floats your boat. Just leave a comment, and on June 2, I will pick 3 commenters at random to win some yarn!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesdays with Dory

Dory has graciously agreed to resume her weekly post, provided I don't accidentally replace her with sheep again. This week, she's going to give you some tips on moving your kitties. If you absolutely must.


Dear Dory,

My family is moving soon, and we plan to take our two cats with us. How can ensure minimal discomfort for them?

~Moving in Maine

Dear Moving,

You can ensure no discomfort by not moving! Kittehs hate change. And also, car trips. And also, it's a lot of work getting fur all over everything in the new house.

But if you must move, here are a few tips:

First and foremost, I recommend getting this spray called Feliway. It's got some kind of kitty hormones or pheromones or something in it that helps calm us down, and can be sprayed in the carriers, car and new house. 

Get the kitty carrier(s) out a few days before the move, and leave it open for your kitteh to explore and become reacquainted with.  Spray some Feliway in there too, and line it with a towel or blanket that smells like you. Try tossing some toys in there so your kittehs think it's a relaxing, cozy hideaway and not a death trap. 

If possible, it's a good idea for you to go to the new house a day or two early and get a room ready for your kittehs--preferably a spare room that no one will need to bring any furniture or boxes into. You should put in a litter box, some food and water, and some things that smell like you (yarn?) and "home." They might also like something to hide in/under.

On moving day, spray the inside of the car as well as the carriers (or, in the case of my arch nemesis, Nelly, the two-laundry-baskets-taped-together-with-duct-tape) with Feliway. Before the movers arrive and things start getting scary, get your kittehs into their carriers/laundry baskets, take them to the new house and put them in their room (I'm pretty sure Kristen is going to put us in two different rooms, because she doesn't want to find that we've fought an epic battle to the death in her absence).

Then finish the moving process while your kittehs are out of the way--this way they won't panic and try to escape.

Once all the Big Scary Movers are gone and things are settling down, you can let them explore the rest of the house. They might hide for a bit, please don't try to drag them out, just let them be to get used to their new surroundings.

Also, remember that there might be a few accidents while your kittehs try to remember the new location of the litter box. Be patient!

Good luck with your move!

Look at that, seems like Dory was actually helpful for a change. I also recommend the Feliway spray to discourage scratching. I've used it to keep the cats from scratching up our new furniture with great success (CP recently dripped cement caulk and popcorn ceiling goop on the chair, making my efforts somewhat pointless, but there's no "make your husband a better handyman" spray, so what are you doing to do?).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Video Tutorial: Judy's Magic Cast-on

Wheee, I did it!


A video tutorial on Judy's Magic Cast-on.

Ten Things You Should Know About This Tutorial

1. I must have attempted to record it at least 10 times. I have no video editing skills or software, so I really had to get it right in a single shot.

2. A near-perfect take was ruined by a guy riding by on an insanely loud motorcycle. Jerk.

3. Dory suddenly developed an interest in me during take 3, meowing, and actually crawling across my lap, which she never does. She was subsequently banned from the room.

4. Takes 4-9 involved a lot of cursing. They were deleted.

5.  I used to have TWO size 6 16" circular needles, which would've been perfect to use for this tutorial. They have disappeared. So I don't have any matching 16" circular needles.

6. I couldn't find two 24" cables, so I started out trying to use a 16" fixed circular, and a 24" interchangeable. 

7. By take 9, I realized that it just wasn't going to work--the needle tips were two different lengths, making it impossible to hold them correctly and steadily for the video. So I switched to size 5 interchangeable tips on 32" cables; they were a little unwieldy, but the matching-length tips were more cooperative.

8. I spent a lot of time fussing over the capitalization of Ten Things You Should Know About This Tutorial, because the rules for pronouns and prepositions are in dispute. Ultimately I decided to just capitalize all the words.

9. It's definitely not perfect. But here it is:

10. I'm going to go watch the Orioles game now.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Sampler: 'Round the Virtual Neighborhood

You may have noticed that Tuesdays with Dory didn't appear this week. This is because I spent all of Tuesday thinking (desperately hoping?) it was Wednesday. I didn't even listen when Dory tried to tell me I was wrong. So I accidentally took over Dory's day with a post about sheep. Boy is she grumpy. But I think I can talk her into making her usual appearance next week.

If I don't accidentally pack her up in a box before then:

In the meantime, a look at some fun things to be found on the Internet.

I don't speak, uh, Norwegian? But, look! Knit wallpaper:

Saw a gorgeously styled white craft table over at Pottery Barn for a mere $1100, and then discovered this much cheaper alternative, less than half the price:

Love this color block towels kit from Knit Picks:

Really want some of Tricksy Knitter's notebooks and needle gauges:

 I stopped in Fibre Space yesterday to pick up my Stitch N Pitch tickets and stumbled across some GORGEOUS yarn from Hedgehog Fibres. I managed to talk myself out of buying some, but it wasn't easy!

The Knitmore Girls recommended the Knit Evenly app, to help you increase and decrease evenly--of course, I downloaded it immediately, because math = gross.

This blog full of unnecessary quotation marks is "hilarious."

And here's a picture of my other cat Nelly, just because:


Prize winners from the CCFA fundraiser should be happy to hear that I've finished sorting out the prizes, and they'll be going out in the mail next week! If you won an e-download of some kind, it's been sent, so check your Ravelry inbox!

I have lots of packing to do this weekend, but I'm also hoping to re-record my video tutorial on Judy's magic cast on--wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On festivities

My intention was to post my video tutorial on Judy's Magic Cast-on today, but after rewatching it, I've determined that my voice is not meant to be shared with the Internet. Also, I need to redo it with larger yarn and needles--small needles and fingering weight yarn are usually used for socks, but for tutorial purposes, they're just too small to provide a good visual.

So while I try to come to terms with my somewhat nasal Baltimore accent, I'll share with you some photos from Maryland Sheep and Wool!

Growing up in Baltimore, you can imagine I didn't have a lot of contact with barnyard animals, so I love going to these festivals and getting to interact with them.

Though I'm still highly disturbed by all the lamb cooking taking place just steps from the barns. Uck.






"That guy is WAY too tall!"


Last but not least, pygmy goats!

When I grow up, I want to own a sheep farm!

And now here's the good stuff: my haul.

I was happy to find the Verdant Gryphon booth relatively peaceful, I managed to pick up 2 skeins: one Bugga! and another Traveller. I also grabbed 2 skeins from Bijou Basin Ranch, which sells yak and yak-blend yarn. The red is a yak/cormo blend, and the other a yak/bamboo. Both quite soft.

The last two items are from local businesses--always nice to try something you really can't get anywhere else. The bright stripey skein is a fingering weight from Flying Goat Farms that caught my eye, and the fiber is a silk/BFL blend from Delly's Delights Farm.

We arrived at the festival around 10:30am, and were shopped out by 1--well, I was shopped out. CP was just bored. I missed the sheepdog show, sadly, but clearly spent plenty of time socializing with the other animals. 

Quite a few spinners were there, spinning on what I assume are portable wheels. CP kept asking me lots of questions about spinning wheels--which one is the best, how can you tell a good one from a bad one, what are the different features you should look at, etc.--which leads me to believe he has taken my dabbling in spindle spinning as a sign he should buy me a wheel. Very thoughtful, though perhaps a little premature!

We finished our day, as predicted, at Victoria Gastro Pub, then came home to watch the Orioles miraculously win a 17-inning game against Boston.

And as an aside, the new house is about 20 minutes from MDSW. I think maybe we'll rent out rooms next year . . .

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On branching out

You know what they say--don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Ravelry has been a good friend to me as both a knitter and budding designer--I have nothing but good things to say about it, and I've made some amazing virtual friends in the Ravelry community.

Still, it never hurts to see what else is out there. So, a couple months ago, I started cruising around Craftsy a bit. Their website hosts online classes and workshops dedicated to a number of crafts--knitting, crochet, quilting, jewelry-making, sewing (which I feel might get me into trouble in the very near future), weaving, even woodworking. They run $20-$30, and though I haven't purchased one yet, I have every intention of taking Laura Nelkin's Craftsy course on knitting with beads! Because beads = scary.

They also support project pages, a la Ravelry, and recently added a beta Patterns section.

So I thought, "why the heck not?"

You can now find MediaPeruana patterns on Craftsy as well.


(Also, I don't really know what fat quarters are, but they seem to offer quite a few deals on them, so quilters should check that out too!)

But wait, that's not all.

Crafters are taking over the Internet!

Maybe you've heard about Nimblestix? It's an in-development social networking and fiber crafts site, currently in beta.  I've been playing around over there, slowly adding patterns and projects, exploring the guilds and generally finding my way around. It looks like it's going to be a great new spot for crafting-and-socializing on the 'net.

I have 2 invites to give away to interested beta testers, so if you're curious, shoot me an email!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Sampler: 'Round the Virtual Neighborhood

Yet another exhilarating meeting at the office has kept me away from the computer most of the week (not sure which was my favorite part: translating a 2,500 word Spanish-language proposal into English inside two hours, or still being at the office at 9pm).

Fortunately Dory was able to contribute her regular Tuesday post, and today we're going to take another Saturday spin around teh Interwebz. I did manage to put together my very first video tutorial before the meeting started, so I'll have that up for you guys soon! For now . . .

This Ikea hack to make your own built-in bookcases is amazing!

This baked zucchini fries are absolutely delicious, even made with regular bread crumbs.

This Abbey Road shower curtain might need to find a home in our new house.

Black beans as a natural dye for yarn! And you can still eat them!

Check out some of the gorgeous yarn in Wandering Wool's Etsy shop!

And did you know that Leann over at Forbidden Woolery is offering her first yarn club??

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, so that means I'll be spending most of today frantically trying to finish mom's featherweight cardigan--wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesdays with Dory

I are a vegetable.

Dear Dory,

I recently found several unidentified balls of yarn lurking in my stash. How can I figure out what they're made of? I've heard you can light yarn on fire to determine if it's wool, but I'd rather not risk a raging inferno.


Flammable in Fairfield 

Dear Flammable,

It's true that setting fire to yarn can help identify its content--wool is self-extinguishing and will turn to ash, while synthetics will melt, rather than burn. But as you point out, you run the risk of lighting your home on fire--and kittehs do not like fire. Still, if you take the right precautions, a burn test can be useful. Cut off a strand of yarn, place it on a non-flammable surface (ex: brick), light the end and see what happens! Burning wool smells like burning hair, cotton or a plant fiber will smell similar to paper, and synthetics will of course smell rather chemical.

Another less risky idea is to knit up a small swatch and run it through a few tests. Does it felt in the washing machine? Then it's probably mostly wool (and not superwash). Does it refuse to block flat? That's probably a synthetic. Even if you're not entirely certain, now you have enough information to care for any garments made with the yarn in question, because you know how to wash and block it.

If you don't want to go to the trouble of knitting a swatch, you can also try spit-splicing the yarn--cut a strand, pull the plies loose and wet them, then try to felt them back together by overlapping the ends and rubbing them together between your hands. If they hold, you have wool; if they don't, acrylic.

Of course, superwash wool won't (or shouldn't) felt, so you may still be fooled.

You can also try the bleach test--bleach will dissolve wool, but not acrylic. Leave a strand of your yarn soaking in bleach overnight, and see what you find in the morning!

The good news is, even if you never figure out what your yarn is made of, your kittehs will still love playing with it and/or chewing on it.

Have a purrrrrrrrfect day!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday Sampler: 'round the virtual neighborhood

As I plug away at projects that should've been done yesterday, I thought I'd take a lazy Saturday to share with you some fun things I've spied around the ol' Internet as of late.

(they all sound amazing)

Any Game of Thrones fans? (Shhhh, I'm only halfway through book 2, so we're not watching this season yet)

I think a bench like this might be perfect for my yarn room--with some baskets, of course.
From Bed, Bath & Beyond.

 Make your own sourdough starter!

WEBS posted this great tip for tight knitters, when knitting in the round.

As an aspiring freelancer, I found the posts over at Clients From Hell both hilarious and terrifying.

How did people ever kill time before the Internet?

In other news, you may or may not be aware that MARYLAND SHEEP AND WOOL is this weekend! I'll be there tomorrow (Sunday), hopefully from around 10:30a until 1:30 or 2p. If you spot me, please say hi. I've heard tell that Miss Babs and the Verdant Gryphon will be peddling their wares, I hope the Saturday shoppers will have left me some. I'm also determined to come home with a niddy noddy.

And I highly recommend Victoria's Gastro Pub for anyone looking for a non-lamb lunch. It's about 20 minutes from the fairgrounds, and the asparagus fries are delicious (though the portion is a little skimpy). That's no doubt where we'll be eating.

Other weekend plans include lots of packing, and attempting my first tutorial--possibly video! I'm going to cast on for a pair of toe-up socks, and thought this would be a great time to put together a tutorial on Judy's Magic Cast On. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On ghosts of projects past

Remember in January, when I said I was going to knit 12 pair of socks this year?

You probably laughed.

And quite rightly.

It's May, so I should have 4 complete pair of socks by now.

And I only have 2.5.

Who saw that coming?

And the sad thing is, the 2 complete pair look suspiciously similar.

They're actually 2 different socks, but both use chevron patterning. You may recall the first pair I completed were the Achilles Heal socks. This time, it's Jaywalkers.


I first tried to knit these socks in July 2009. This may seem like an oddly specific thing to remember, but I remember quite distinctly because I was mugged in Belize and my socks, yarn and DPNs were stolen by some jerk who also managed to run up a $75,000 (yes, that's 3 zeros) cell phone bill (which of course I was not responsible for, but it never would've happened in the first place if AT&T had turned off the phone when I called and say "Hey, I'm in foreign country and some jerk just stole my cell phone!").

I loved the way that stolen sock was working up, so it took a long time to come to terms with its loss and try again.

But I'm glad I did, because as far as sock patterns go, it was engaging yet not overly complicated, and the socks are fun!


I used a yarn that's been sitting in my stash for quite a while, from the now-defunct Blue Hands Fibers. A few years ago, the dyer, Denise, had a contest to win a yarn club membership, and I won! This quite variegated skein had been sitting in my stash ever since, waiting for the perfect project to come along. It's made a bright, playful pair of socks, and soft too.


While I adore these, I'd also like to try knitting these socks with thicker stripes.  My original attempt was using Knit Picks Felici, which I think fits the bill.

Just give me another three years to get back to the pattern.

Blog readers who visit my page directly may have noticed new tabs at the top: Reviews and Tutorials. They're a bit empty now (you'll find my sock yarn review in there), but I hope to be adding content in the very near future. In the meantime, if anyone wants to send me anything to review (books, yarn, family cookie recipes, your latest haircut), just shoot me an email.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

And the winner is . . .

(We're preempting Tuesdays with Dory to bring you this fundraiser update; Dory will return to her regularly scheduled time slot next week!)

Yippie, we made it through the fundraiser, and raised $375! A big, big thanks to everyone who donated and promoted this event, as usual I'm amazed by your generosity! Truly.

And now, People Who've Won Things!

But first . . . I decided to do this the old-fashioned way. I wrote down names on a piece of paper, cut it into strips and folded them in half.


Then I went in search of my favorite Orioles hat. It seemed important to use it for this auspicious occasion.

But I couldn't find it.

I searched and searched.

Along the way, I got distracted by this, which arrived in the mail today:


And in the end, I never found the hat. Where are you, treasured pink Orioles cap?!?

But I digress.

I ended up using this Oh Snap project bag instead:


So, without further ado, here are the ten winners:



Susan D-H.

Dacia (what a fun name!)

Deirdre K.

Betty C.

Julie M.



Judy W.

Congrats all!

Here's the next step: send me an email ( with your name, mailing address and Ravelry ID. Please also tell me what crafts you do (knit, crochet, spin)--I have a couple prizes that are craft-specific, and I don't want to, for example, send spinning fiber to someone who doesn't spin.

I will pick prizes at random and send them to you.

You will receive them, and hopefully be happy!

If I don't hear from you, I'll try to use my highly-developed investigative skills to track down your contact information, but since I only have a name to go on, I may never find you. So, don't miss out on your prize, email me ASAP!

To anyone who may have missed out, while this particular fundraiser has ended, I will still be trying to raise money for the CCFA until June 9, so please feel free to donate!

And now, you may recall that before I started begging you for money 3 times a week, I used to talk about knitting! I think I'll get back to doing that tomorrow!