Block by Block


I may have pushed off most of the things on my to-do list this weekend because a big box of yarn arrived on Saturday and with it I could start a fairly ambitious knitting project.

2 down, 28 mystery blocks to go!

2 down, 28 mystery blocks to go!

As ambitious as yarn bombing a tree? Okay, maybe not, but this feels more of a mountain to me than that project did because I have always preferred knitting small things or at least items that knit up quickly. A blanket does not, generally speaking, knit up anything close to quickly. Even the baby blanket I knit a year or so ago reminded me of the monotony of large shapes and how much I do not enjoy that kind of needlework.

The crab was much more enjoyable to knit than the blanket!

The crab was much more enjoyable to knit than the blanket!

Nor do I enjoy piece-work when it’s the same piece over and over again, so the traditional afghan made up of granny squares never really appealed to me, either. (Granny squares are crochet, of course, and I’m more likely to just keep going around and around to enlarge one than make the 60 or so needed for a modest throw. I tried that once but there was something a tad off as my concentric squares ended up a bit tilted as I went along–interesting effect, but not what I was going for.)

A green and white crocheted throw of concentric squares that tilt a bit with each round

Case in point… the tilted squares would be cool if I knew how to make them on purpose!

What changed my mind? I’m still not 100% sure, but it had to do with one of the many email newsletters I usually toss out but randomly read (otherwise I’d unsub and be done with it, but occasionally I want to know what they contain) and it happened to include a notice about the Cascade Knitterati Knit-a-Long. 30 blocks by different designers released over the course of the year via the Cascade newsletter. It was just starting, and it would yield a pretty decent blanket by the end. So I gave up filling in the no-spend block for that day’s habit tracker and ordered about 24 skeins of yarn.

Could I have knit it with my stash on hand? Perhaps. But I don’t really think I have enough of any one type or weight of yarn to make the project without buying anything at all, much less in colors that would all coordinate, so I might as well start fresh, right? Could I subscribe to the patterns, save them, and do them when I’m not trying to be very budget-conscious? I suppose I could have tried, but a project I don’t start now could take years to eventually get around to, if ever, so there’s a higher chance it’d languish on my hard drive instead of doing some good!

So goes my justification of the yarn purchase.

Now, full disclaimer, I’m not using Cascade 220, instead I’m subbing a similar superwash Wool of the Andes from KnitPicks because, at the time, I thought it would break the bank less. That now remains to be seen as the 220 in Cascade 220 apparently denotes the yardage involved, and the WotA is only half that per skein. Rookie mistake, definitely. That said, the first block took slightly less than 1 skein, so the 24 I have might get me through the bulk of the project. It depends on the patterns. Block 2, for instance, is stranded color work, so that takes up twice the yarn. I do have some spare WotA Superwash in my stash from knitting Todd’s Tardis scarf a few years ago, and while it’s not exactly the same colorway I’m using so far, I think the dark blue could coordinate with the merlot, briar, almond, bamboo, and pampas colors I chose if I use it as an accent or intersperse the blocks just the right way.

Or I could order more. We shall see.

Lessons So Far

Always order more yarn than you think you need. Not only could the yardage be different, but if you decide to switch around some color designations for the given patterns, you might fall short of the designers’ projections. I did not do this. I hope I will not knit to regret it.

I finished the first block a single afternoon, interspersed with a little work here and there–I’d reward myself with some rows after completing a different task.


Block #1, designed by Jacqueline van Dillen

Rows might not be the right word, though, as the first block was knit in the round; a different experience to be sure. The circular cast-on was awesome, though, and I foresee using that again when I do more center-out items since it’s far easier than the cephalopod-like machinations used to cast on and divide stitches on double points otherwise.

My knitting strictly from charts confidence got a bit of boost on this one, as well.

Block #2, designed by Shannon Dunbabin

Block #2, designed by Shannon Dunbabin

I got a little more than halfway through block two by the end of Sunday night (pesky responsibilities kept intruding) and set it aside until last night when I was determined to bliss out with the remaining squirrels and acorns. Knitting stranded color work flat is a pain. There, I’ve said it. I much prefer doing it in the round, but that’s not what the pattern calls for. Such is life, and it’s always good practice to do things that come less naturally, right?

All those ends to weave in, too!

All those ends to weave in, too!

The other thought I had while working on the blocks so far (other than the coolness of having a new blanket by next winter) was that these blocks will need blocking and seaming: some of my least favorite parts of the process. The blocking I’ll probably do in bunches, but I’ll have to hold off seaming until they’re all complete so I can get the best possible arrangement. I’m not sure I can just go with the flow and attach them together as I go.

Now I shall wait semi-patiently to see what block #3 will be!

Up a Tree With a Knitting Needle

In The Studio

Plus a crochet hook, some upholstery needles, and a pair of wire snips.


For the past few weeks, when I wasn’t at work, sleeping, or eating, I’ve been scrambling to finish the major project I started back in July: the Furry & Feathered Wildlife Yarn Bomb in conjunction with this year’s Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival.


While I was certainly on a knitting kick when I started the pieces, I think I’ll be abstaining from fiber work for a little while–I’m all fibered out!

Speaking of pieces, for the curious, here’s what went into the tree (and the patterns I used, for those inclined to try them out):

  • 15 Banana Leaves (adapted from CraftSide)
  • 2 Knit Monkeys (adapted from Alan Dart’s Chimps’ Tea Party)
  • 11 Bananas (also from the Chimps’ Tea Party, linked above)
  • 1 Crochet Monkey (from
  • 1 Parrot (from Knitted Pets–affiliate link)
  • 3 Crochet Butterflies (the large ones from
  • 7 Knit Flowers (from Little Miss Stitcher)
  • Plus various “vines” (no pattern needed, just single crochet over battery-powered LED strands or randomly knotted lengths of yarns)


I have no idea how many hours went into the above. I know each leaf, for instance, took two Criminal Minds, aka an hour and a half, but that it took more than a week of knitting every night after supper to complete the medium-sized monkey, closer to two for the large, but only a concentrated day for the small, crocheted one (and I was running out of time by then, so it was a godsend to be able to switch styles for him). I can say, however, that it took a little over 7 hours to install the pieces and parts onto my assigned tree over two evenings and a morning.


And when I was finished and had a break before the opening events actually started? I had no idea what to do with myself.

It’s not like I didn’t have anything to do–I’ve been putting off all sorts of things (including vlogging) for weeks. I decided to putter around on the internet for a while, watch a couple of episodes of The Crown, and start working on this post.


Around five o’clock I fed the dog and walked back to downtown (where Todd would meet me after he got off work) to see all the finished trees, the Re-Wilding exhibit and, super important, the party at Bacchus where the winners would be announced.

There were 4 known prizes, Best in Show, 1st, 2nd, and an honorable mention, with cash prizes ranges from $1500 to $250. When it came time to announce the winners, of course everyone was hoping for that top prize, but they actually started out by saying…

We’re actually gonna give an extra award that we don’t have a ribbon for because we struggled with it as judges…So the first award (it doesn’t have an envelope or a ribbon but you will receive one) is the Judge’s Choice for Technical Execution.

And then they called my name.

Now, I could be bummed about not winning one of the announced prizes [or even by not having a ribbon and envelope, considering the prize was created on the spot and I’ll learn later what the actual prize I won will be (aside from the bragging rights)] but I’m not bummed at all. Because to be one of the 5 artists (or teams of artists, most trees were completed by 2 or more people) recognized instead of the 18 or so that were not? Yeah, I’ll take it. Technical merit is not a dirty designation in my book. I’m a good knitter, I’m a technically adept artist. “Flawless execution” is an accolade I will take with pride because it matches my detail-oriented style of creativity. I thrive on the minutiae. It’s the right and left brains working together.

The other reason I’m pleased as punch is that, walking around to the other trees, I never had a moment of ‘oh, man, I should have done something like that!’

No regrets. I had a clear vision going into the project of how I wanted my tree to look and the finished tree looked a helluva lot like my concept sketch. Back when I decorated cakes I was always impressed when the finished cake matched what I’d seen in my head. That awe and satisfaction haven’t changed, no matter the medium. Plus I received a slew of compliments from other artists and people taking in the scene during the art walk, what have I to complain about?!

And who did those prizes go to?


Honorable Mention: Invasive Plant and Animal Species


2nd Place: Holiday Feast


1st Place: Twelve Days of Christmas


Best in Show: Spirit of the Wolf


The Great Eyelash Yarn Shortage of 2016

In The Studio

I have some leeway in my evening schedule this week, thanks to it being Todd’s turn to cook. Wohoo! Still loving this arrangement we started back when we first moved in together, way back in 2009. I don’t have any projects due in the next week, which means I could actually work on something just for fun. Except for the very large project that is the Yarm Bomb due in November.

But November’s a long ways away, right?

Sure, but there are a lot of pieces going into this project and I need to knit hay while the sun shines. Or something to that effect… (I do have a portion that involves crocheting with hemp, though no hay will be knit for my submission.)

And suddenly I realize that I may not have mentioned this project at all, tumbleweeds on the blog as they were for a while.

So… Thomasville Center for the Arts is doing an Art in the Open competition this fall, to coincide with Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival, and the theme is Furry and Feathered. Teams of up to 3 fiber arts will be yarn bombing the crepe myrtles along W Jackson St with proper cash prizes on the line!

If you guessed that there might be monkeys on the tree I’m decorating you’d have guessed correctly. My original plan includes 3 monkeys, one parrot, several butterflies, some flowering vines, and a hellovalotta banana leaves. Some of the yarn is being provided by the local yarn shop, but it won’t be in for a few more weeks, and that’s what I plan to knit the banana leaves out of, so I’ve been working in the characters.


The parrot is more or less complete, though I feel like he needs a little something, maybe some plumage on top of his head? He’s mostly made of recycled sari silk that I’ve had in my yarn stash for ages. I had to order in the yarn for the monkeys, though, since I was going to need a bunch, and then had a merry time finding the last few skeins of eyelash/fun fur novelty yarn in some shade of dark brown to give the monkeys a bit more interest. Seriously, there’s a shortage of brown fun-fur yarn out there for some reason that I just cannot fathom. My supplier only had one skein to send me, the other supplier had none, the usual online suspects were no help, neither were JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels. Finally, on the bottom shelf at Hobby Lobby, I found three skeins of the stuff on Saturday.

Persistence pays off.

So now my monkeys can live up to their furry expectations.

Meanwhile, I also want to get caught up on the vlogs–I’ve got two weekends to edit and I want to do an August Favorites video, as well. I think that should just about fill up the week and weekend, then, when it’ll be time to start on my next design team project!

What projects do you have going on right now?


I So Needed That!

Everyday Adventures

And by that, I mean an honest to goodness day off this weekend.

I checked a big, huge item off my to-do list at work on Friday so it felt like a good time to start reclaiming some me-time on the weekends. It wasn’t a complete sloth of a weekend since I had to go grocery shopping and had a few design team projects to work on, but I made the most of it!

Saturday morning Todd took Duncan to the dog park so I could sleep in a bit. I was already awake when they left, so I put the time to good use by working on my current knitting project (Interweave Knits’ Washington Square Vest) and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Aside from a quick client call mid-afternoon, that’s what I did for the rest of the day, too, only switching to “work” mode after supper to put together this week’s menu and grocery list, pay bills, etc.

Sunday wasn’t so bad, either, from a non-taxing standpoint. I ddin’t have to go down to Tallahassee, after all (my former boss took a Sunday drive up my way and brought me a file I needed, instead), though Duncan totally wigged out when he found Bob in our front hallway.

Now, Duncan met Bob the day after we picked him up (Duncan, that is). He came to work with me several times after that and Bob was quite generous with the treats and pets. So I think we were both shocked that Duncan not only wouldn’t come to Bob as he stood just inside the doorway but barked his head off, fur raised on the back of his neck, and fear-piddled in the hall as he pulled a barking reverse.

Dude, way to be friendly.

Of course Bob thought it was hilarious and actually told Duncan “good boy” a few times. I’m not sure I agree! I’d like to have visitors over from time to time, our friends and what not, without Duncan losing his ever-lovin’ mind!

My theory is, because he’s never acted this way before, that he was spooked by Bob just “appearing” and that maybe, just maybe, if he’d been with me at the door to greet the visitor he wouldn’t have looked at his like an intruder?

Not sure. But we might have to give all future visitors a few treats to appease the beast.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

In The Studio

After several months under wraps (hah!) I can finally reveal my secret knitting project:

I pinch! But softly...

I pinch! But only softly…

My friend Alison is expecting her first baby soon and has created a nautical nursery for the little one to come. I don’t usually knit things like blankets (the monotony does not appeal), but baby-sized is different, right? It’s the Anchor and Hearts blanket pattern from Judy’s Knitting Page and was a great project for car trips, Friday night knitting, and keeping my mind and hands busy in waiting rooms. Big Red, there, is The Deadliest Crab courtesy of designer Amber Allison. He was an absolute joy to work up and I was a little sorry to see him go! I hear he was a big hit with the father to be, as well!

In less-secretive project news, I created a dolly diorama inspired by various My Froggy Stuff videos. Seriously, the things she makes out of paperboard, glue, and office paper are really impressive. This diorama is 28″x14″ and more details and in-progress pictures can be found over on the Helmar blog.

Landscaping for dolls is so much easier (and cheaper) than landscaping for myself!

Landscaping for dolls is so much easier (and cheaper) than landscaping for myself!

Check out her Secret Garden and Water Fountain tutorials to be amazed and inspired!

It was with a heavy heart that I said farewell to the Gauche Alchemy team this month. After three years it seemed a good time to bow out and make room for some fresh faces over there, but I’ll miss the behind the scenes hi-jinks and being in the know about what’s coming next.

Walking towards what's next!

Walking towards what’s next!

The Love My Fabrics team also came to a close in May at the choice of the company owner, and my last projects over there were a quilted hot air balloon wall hanging and the outfits you see the dolls wearing, above. I hope the fabrics are still available on etsy as they really are great for sewing for dolls with!

Up Up and Away!

Up Up and Away!

Finally, I was interviewed over on Paint is Thicker Than Water yesterday. Last fall I contributed to the Monster Chores coloring book collaboration, and Jennyann is kind enough to shine the spotlight on each of the contributors over the course of this year. It was a fun project to work on (the monsters are doing the opposite of the chores they are assigned) and you can sign up for Jennyann’s mailing list to receive a copy (though I think the link for that may be down at the moment–she’s in the process of shifting some things around on her site). As part of the interview I also shared some images of commissions I’ve completed over the last little while, some that have yet to make it to my portfolio site just yet, so that was fun to share, too.

Custom holiday card illustration a friend ordered last year.

Like this custom holiday card illustration a friend ordered last year.

Well, now that I’m down to only 1 design team and the store’s not going to be taking up all my time, whatever will I do?

Like I ever have to worry about running out of projects!