knitting & yarn, read

finally fine


a while back – when i owned the shop – customers fell in love with this vogue knitting cover project (winter 2013/14).

i didn’t have the enough color of koigu kpm (we were always more kpppm folks) in stock so i helped customers pick colors from other fingering weight yarns.


i chose spud & chloë fine for my personal version. and at the time i loved the colors. well really i still love the colors. but like so many shop projects, it did its job before i finished mine – it sold yarn. so it ended up in the ufo bucket. just after christmas i pulled it out and started working on it again. i love this yarn and the colors and the fair isle but it just wasn’t coming together. there was something just not quite right. maybe the color green needed to be brighter like the kelly green in the original. maybe all the colors needed to be brighter.

Digital StillCamera

i cut the yarn and searched ravelry for something else. i found this pattern. it had been in my favorites forever. and i thought my colors of fine would make a wonderful chevron striped scarf a la that famous italian designer whose stuff was impossible to get when he did a line for target a few year back. problem! with narrow stripes of different colors, its all weaving in and i couldn’t find a knit the ends in that looked right.  and for an adult scarf, that’s a lot of ends.

so away with it. what’s a knitter to do?

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 1.43.19 PM

back to ravelry and to the spud & chloe fine page. usually i look at the pattern ideas page but something told me to look at the projects tab instead. with 7402 projects by other people, SURELY there’s something there for me to knit with this yarn!!!!


lo and behold! i found this scarf/shawl by amy miller called 2nd avenue! perfect!

knitting & yarn, read

this is my jam!!!!

so several years ago i organized the arkansas fiber arts extravaganza with my friend betsy. when i got down to business (updating the website, getting class lists out, etc), betsy told me “i can just see you in your office, music blaring, and you getting things done!”

it’s true! i work better and faster with music. so i thought i share my personal work playlists. i hope you enjoy!

for blogging and writing. it’s got everything from adele to dixie chicks to green day to heart to john denver to katy perry to train. but the ones that i skip to …

for cleaning the house. i’ve been cleaning to bangles since 1994 when i grabbed it at hastings in conway for a few bucks!!! then joss stone entered the groove about 2002. i can’t clean without these ladies!

for working at the shop. i was obsessed with ABSOLUTE RADIO. its a london, england radio station with an app. great music and lots of lorrie fires. it’s dominated my music purchases for a few years. here are a few of the bands i discovered and re-discovered thanks to my anglophile tendencies.

in the car. driving alone in the car, it’s gotta be broadway.

but the be all and end all album for me is


knitting & yarn, read

let the games begin

i’ve never been able to participate in the ravhellenic games. i’ve always been too busy and when i owned the shop, i meant to do a shop event but it never came together.

so this time i’m participating.


i decided to do a cable lace cowl with some stash yarn. i bought this rowan lenpur linen (now discontinued) on a trip to dc in 2011 with my husband. i went to this wonderful shop in dupont circle called looped yarn works. it’s on the second floor and the owners and staff are wonderful!


and i’m going to make the waverleigh cowl by bonnie sennott


i started on friday during the opening ceremonies and i’m making good progress. man i love the olympics.

knitting & yarn, read

it’ll block out

being unhappy with a project usually won’t block out!

several years ago i wrote the following post to my blog, breckinridge diaries

I just can’t leave a mistake in my knitting. Even mistakes that only I know are there. I think that is why I have such a hard time finishing projects. I was working on my February Lady Sweater last night and I noticed a funny twisted stitch on the front, very close to the underarm. NO ONE WILL SEE IT but I will know it is there. So I keep telling myself that it will be tucked under my arm and I can’t rip back to the stitch because I MUST finish this sweater!!!!

I needed to get that out. I’m ok now. Back to finishing my sleeves…

i know many of you are laughing your heads off right now. this post was written/published in 2010 – long before kay and the YARN mart got me over my perfectionist tendencies.

pucker stitches in fair isle knitting usually won’t block out!

what makes this previous post even more funny (or ironic??) is that i have become such a laid-back knitter. when i lead the knit a long at the YARN mart, regular KALers teased me that anything “would block out!” see that was my go-to for most any problem.

uneven stitches – it’ll block out!

wonky join – it’ll block out!

sweater too small – it’ll block out!

but blocking will make a shawl with a lace pattern just shine! i wish i had a before of this shawl! it was so tiny before blocking!

so many knitters (new, old and in-between) have to fight that perfectionist tendencies. and some people are worse than others. every stitch needs to be perfect. but so many of the things we think are mistakes in our knitting are simply small inconsistencies in our tension and it really will BLOCK OUT!


knitting & yarn, read

25 Ways to Cut Back on Housework and Free Up Knit Time!!!!

Huckmom on Ravelry posted this the other day and I thought it was so funny that non-knitters might enjoy it too.

  1. Use a every flush toilet bowl cleaner. Sure it makes the water blue, but you don’t have to think about it being dirty all the time.
  2. Have cereal for dinner once a week. Choc full of vitamins. Let everyone know ahead of time to pick their favorite cereal. Saves you oodles of prep time.
  3. Use paper plates for a week when you have to finish that special UFO.
  4. Pay your teenager to grocery shop for you. Make them spot the sales. It is a great learning experience. Saves you the shopping, packing, driving and unpacking time!
  5. Barter with the teen for a handknit…..he wins for sure!
  6. Hang those towels up and reuse them a few times. After all, you are clean when you get out of the shower.
  7. Invest in a dark colored kitchen floor. No one needs to know how dirty it is but you!
  8. Clean the kitchen on the first of the month and don’t let anyone use it AT ALL for a week. This will keep the kitchen spotless. TV dinners were meant for a reason after all.
  9. Invite people over if you must and close all your doors except for the room you are forced to entertain in. Make it the kitchen. See * 8.
  10. Serve hot dogs once in awhile. Ketchup is a vegetable….
  11. Hire a cleaning service……I didn’t say these were all cheap ways to gain more knit time.
  12. Put the dog on the treadmill while you knit next to him.
  13. Put the kids on the treadmill while you knit next to them.
  14. Put the significant other on the treadmill while you knit next to them.
  15. NEVER clean unless someone is home to see it and appreciate it.
  16. Spray the shower down with cleaner a half an hour before you get in.
  17. Teach your kids to do their own laundry early in life. My kids did all their laundry once I read that Martha Beck taught her child (with Downs Syndrome) to do anything he could once he was capable……
  18. Consider a container garden…. easier to weed.
  19. Soap the car up right before a thunderstorm. (yes I have actually done this!!!!!)
  20. Cut the grass less frequently…it discourages weeds when it is longer.
  21. Keep a broom handy, it is less daunting that hauling around a heavy vacuum.
  22. Ask people to take off their shoes in the house…. they can show off their handknit socks.
  23. Invest in a Furminator. You wont believe it until you use it. I’m a believer.
  24. Find an orthodontist that your children can walk themselves to…….you’ll swear you live in that place otherwise.
  25. Tell your son he needs to learn to cook if he wants to be a fireman….(don’t they all at one point?)
knitting & yarn, read

don’t be scared!!!

walk right into that yarn shop! look around! buy something you have not idea what you are going to do with!

why you might ask am i telling you this?

one of my all time favorite yarn shops – looped yarn works at dupont circle in dc.

well the other day a BEGINNER KNITTER was telling me about her trip to colorado. i immediately asked her if she went to any yarn shops. and she said “oh no! we saw a yarn shop but i was too scared to go in!” she explained that she wouldn’t know what to buy or how much of it to buy!

fibre space in old town alexandria, va

i know! yarn shops can be intimidating. but they aren’t any different from other shops you stroll into during vacation. just walk in with confidence! you’re a knitter just like them!

now to the shopping and buying part. find a yarn you absolutely love! you love the color or the fiber or you’ve been drooling over it on ravelry! i know what you’re thinking – i don’t know what i’m going to do with it so i don’t know how much to buy!

got 2 ball of this at hancock’s in el dorado when they were going out of business. it was 75% off but can’t do much with 110 yards of super bulky (even at that price). although if i could have foreseen the future i might have gotten a pussycat out of it in january 2017.

when i first started knitting, i would go into a yarn shop while on vacation and buy a single skein of something. do you know how many single skeins i used to have?!?!?! and really you can’t do much with a 100 yards of worsted weight. ok there are a lot of headband and coffee cup koozes that you can knit with 100 yards of worsted weight but really?!?!?!

i bought this rowan colourscape chucky at little bo peep’s in eureka springs about 7 years ago. this was during my “i’ll buy everything you have just in case” phase.

then i started buying at least 500 to 1000 yards of something. just in case! but that can get expense quickly. your husband starts asking about “your budget” before you walk in. never a good sign.

then i decided i would have a plan. i’d “favorite” projects i loved on ravelry and when i got to the shop, i’d pull out my trusty phone, pull up ravelry and start shopping. that worked to a point. i mean i was buying with purpose. but i didn’t necessarily LOVE the yarn with the project. i was just making it work!

so i switched tactics again and this one really works for me (and my husband’s budget). i let the yarn tell me what it wants to be. i know that sound hokey and not at all me but it’s true. the yarn will tell you what it wants to be. sometimes it even screams it.

when i’m shopping i think about whether it wants to be a hat or a shawl/cowl or a sweater. and i have ballpark yardage requirements in my back pocket for different projects.

  • 400 yards of fingering = hat, shawl/cowl, pair of socks
  • 800 yards of fingering = really big shawl with lacy pattern
  • 350 yards of dk or worsted = hat
  • 500 yards of worsted or aran = cowl/shawl
  • 1500 to 2000 yards of anything = sweater in my size

so i fall in love with the yarn. i imagine what i want it to be. i buy accordingly.

here’s an example.

i bought this anzula for better or worsted at the last anzula trunk show we had. i feel in love with the color way. i think it was called gumball. but i had no idea what i was going to do with it. i bought 2 skeins. total yardage about 500 yards.

it didn’t scream hat to me. plus i had a little too much for a hat. and i thought it screamed shawl but not really. then while i was winding one of the skeins, i put the other skeins around my neck. COWL!!! of course.

now to find a pattern. i could have just designed one but sometimes it nice to let someone else do the heavy lifting. i looked at the pattern ideas tab under anzula for better or worsted but nothing jumped out at me. i looked at stephen west’s page because the color seemed right for him. still nothing.

then while searching cowls, i came across this pattern called sceite by lynn di cristina. none of the project pictures showed it in a multi colored yarn but i took a chance and it worked out quite lovely i think!

so don’t be afraid to walk into that yarn shop next time you’re on vacation and make a confident purchase! you’re a knitter! you know what to do!


knitting & yarn, read


i started this post on the evening of november 11, 2017 after returning from a party celebrating tom moerman’s life. i was going to post it the next week but needed to scan some pictures from old scrapbooks that were stored under the bed. i didn’t get around to it. then last tuesday (november 28, 2017), ruthann jack – a person my mom considered a sister – died suddenly at home. yesterday was her funeral and it seems like i can’t wait any longer to post this tribute.

mom, ruthann jack, unknown kid, donald jack, dad, and me during the january 1978 snow in front of 300 north woodrow

i grew up on an amazing street. just 2 blocks long but full of wonderful people and childhood wonder.

i now know that this childhood and these two blocks of tree lined suburbia were not the norm. this was a special place and special people.

carolee black, me, paul black, mom c. 1977. ms. matthew’s house, which was across the street from my house, is in the background.

i am remind of it everytime some of us get together. these people have been a part of my life for so long that i don’t remember a life without them. we came and went from each others’ houses. doors were rarely locked. i called their granny “granny.” all the parents watched out for each other’s kids. mothers cooked together and kids played together. we were a village before anyone talked about villages.

2 short blocks in the heart of hillcrest. this magical place called north woodrow.

edith jack with a friend in front of 300 north woodrow.

the jacks lived in the big house at 300. four kids (3 girls and a boy), granny miller, and a black lab named belle. i think i was 7 or 8 before i realized that i didn’t have 3 grandmother – nanny (my mom’s mom), granny graham (my dad’s mom) and granny miller (the jack’s grandmother). they had a volvo station wagon named petunia and a jeep wagoner. we slid down their stairs in a sleeping bag and somehow no one got hurt. they were the first to get a computer on the street. we all made the trek to the 3rd floor and gazed at the machine with its giant bookshelf of manuals.

edith jack helping our blind santa read the tags on the presents. i’m the little head in the bottom right corner. how i never figured out that my dad was santa is beyond me.

the moermans lived at 303. tom loved jazz and food and beer. his daughter andrea drew a life size ballerina for my birthday party when i was 8. it was a ballet themed party and the ballerina was for pin-the-pointe-shoe-on-the-ballerina game. his wife elena was an amazing cook. their dog max was big enough to ride on and had a bark that could terrify the bravest of passerby (and make my mom practically break your arm!).

me and carolee black with real santa, c. 1979

the blacks lived at 301. two kids. a dog named boots and a cat named socks. paul used to terrorized carolee and i with an empty caulk gun he called the coody gun. we made chocolate covered peanut butter balls in their kitchen during the holidays (still my favorite!). we played in a huge tree with low strong branches in the alley out back. or in the ravine next to my house. carolee was my best friend and we are still best friends to this day.

paul black sticking his tongue out at the photographer!

the bilheimers lived at 315 and you didn’t dare walk on his grass – even to get to the swing he installed for us in his pine tree. he was a marine who fought at iwo jima. she was the high school english teacher at the blind school around the corner. she grew the most amazing roses.

ruthann jack showing me an amazing trunk for my doll clothes. i remember that trunk so well (and organizing my doll clothes in it!)

mr. kramer lived at 311. he remembered when his house was one of only 2 on the street. he lived alone and was scary and wonderful. our very own bo radley. he threatened some movers with a gun when the moermans were moving in. when they said they were calling the police, kramer ran across the street to the jacks and hid the gun in don’s desk. he loved mcdonalds and would bring us soft serve cones wrapped in napkins and put them in our freezer for later. he knew everyone’s dinner schedule and regularly arrived at a different house each night just in time to add another place at the table.

elisa and kim jack helping me with my turn at the piñata during my birthday party. probably 1978 or 1979. elisa and i had matching jumpsuits. and i’m amazed that i was allowed to swing a stick so close to my dad’s piano.

ms. fitzgerald lived at 312 and ms. matthews lived at 324. i only knew them as old ladies. ms. fitzgerald was a dyed brunette with cat eye glasses and a little yappy yorkie. ms. matthews was white haired and edged her grass with little battery operated clippers. ms. matthews locked herself out of the house and i was enlisted to climb thorough the bathroom window to unlock the front door. i was only about 4 or 5.

christmas dinner 1978. granny miller is in the foreground. mom (in the blue on the left), don jack, elisa jack, dad, uncle ish at the dining table in the jack’s house. aunt ruth and uncle ish came every year for christmas and ash only called me michelle (my middle name).

and christmas was so amazing. from my earliest memory till i was about 6 or 7, we spent every christmas eve at the jack’s house. they had a huge party and we would stay until about 10pm when they went off to midnight mass. we exchanged gifts, ate dinner, sang christmas carols and played board games. the fire roared in the fireplace and the kids drank hot cocoa.

then as we all got older, the party moved to christmas lunch. since i was one of the youngest and always up way too early on christmas day, i didn’t understand why my mom wouldn’t let me go down at 8am after we were done opening our presents. i had no idea about sleeping late! who would sleep late on christmas day????

mom, me, and dad in february 1979

but it is the winter wonderland of 1978 and then again in 1979 that is most vivid in my memory. snow isn’t a given in arkansas. and if it does snow, it might be a dusting. and even if it is an inch or two, it might not stick around till the end of the day. but those two winters (january 1978 and february 1979) when i was 4 and 5 it snowed and stayed.

the great sledding hill in front of the arkansas school for the blind. west markham street is in the distance.

everyone was out of school and off from work. and just like other holidays, it was a reason to get out and have a party. we played in the snow and built a snowman (or two). we went sledding on the hill in front of the blind school. we all trooped down the street to pizza d’action. and one evening we walked up to hillcrest and the safeway on beechwood. i remember it seemed like the longest walk of my young life and i begged to ride on my dad’s shoulders.

me, 1978.

as an only child these kids were my siblings. i never wanted siblings of my own because i had them. edith, kim, donald, elisa, andrea, carolee, and paul. what more could a little girl want!

knitting & yarn, read

all hail elizabeth zimmerman!!!

elizabeth zimmerman is right! (isn’t she always?????) continental knitting is much less work than english style knitting.

yes i’m a lefty and continental is much “easier” for a lefty. or this is what i’m always hearing. yes, the working yarn is held in the left hand but that about as “easier” as it gets. and if you are a lefty, you’ve been living in a right handed whole a long time and you are used to right handed things!

but continental is not just for lefties! wanna knit more efficiently? more quickly? more evenly? if you convert i’m pretty sure you will do all these things. the stitch is the same. it looks the same. it sits on the needle the same. and purling really isn’t that difficult! (but who loves to purl anyway!)

most people think i learned to knit continental to begin with. i started later in life so i would have just taught myself that way, right?

nope! i actually learned english first. the book i picked up at michael’s in ’04… it explained the difference between english style knitting and continental style knitting. and i remember it clearly stating that continental style knitting was easier/better for left handed knitters. but for some reason, i decided to learn english style.

so i did and was quite successful at it until i began to explore complicated patterns. then things got…well…complicated. somehow i taught myself to knit english style but backwards! so if a patterns refers to the right needle, i would need to know that it meant the left needle for me. with cables and other complex stitch patterns, my knitting became a mess.

at a library book sale, i stumbled across a paperback old copy elizabeth zimmerman’s knitting without tears. she said (maybe demanded) that everyone learn continental. she made her argument and like any good informercial, i was convinced. and like most good informercials, it really worked. i knitted more efficiently! more quickly! more evenly!

but wait there’s more!!!!

how did i switch you might ask? well i knitted a garter stitch sweater for will (he was an infant at the time). it’s the vintage baby sweater by  kristin spunkland. because it was all garter stitch, i just concentrated on doing the knit stitch the continental way and after a whole baby sweater, i was converted! purling came with the next project but it wasn’t hard once my hands were used to knitting continental.

now i teach all my new students continental. some end up english style because their grandmother taught them and well… knitting is like riding a bike…

but many have thanked me for teaching them the quicker, more efficient, and more even way to knit… you might want to try it too!

happy knitting!


knitting & yarn, read

never run out of tail

one of the troubles with the long tail cast on method is making sure you have enough tail. i know there is a way to measure the amount of tail you will need by wrapping the yarn around the needles but that has never worked for me – EVER!!!!

a couple of years ago, someone (maybe mary?) show me this method of tying the inside and outside yarn ends together in a slip knot and casting on that way. and if you have a lot of stitches to cast on (like 120 for a hat or 628 for a ruffly scarf), then this NEVER RUN OUT OF TAIL METHOD is genius!

so i made a little youtube video (my first) to show y’all how to do it! i promise it will change your life.

WARNING: if you need to rip your project out completely after using this method, know that your cut yarn will be wasted.


knitting & yarn, read

y’all it’s fall!

well for today at least! in arkansas we have a saying – if you don’t like the weather, wait a few days and it will change. well this week we’re getting a blast of cooler weather. the perfect knitting weather!

ready for fall by isabell kraemer

if you start a sweater now and work non-stop you might just get it done in time for those christmas parties.

falling hearts by gabrielle vezina

or a little lace project for a challenge!

falling leaves hat by christine marie chen

but a hat is the truly do able project!

enjoy the cooler weather and the knitting that comes along with it!

happy knitting!