If I Had a Hammer

If I had a hammer, I’d arrange all of my illusions about designing the perfect cabled sweater in a circle and smash them one by one.

Let’s take them in order of size.

1. Flow an interesting ribbing into the main design. I actually accomplished that, but there’s a new problem: the cables at the neck don’t flow into the ribbing. Or rather, they could if I worked hard enough, but this design has been on my needles since March—and on my nerves since July—and I simply don’t have it in me. So all the fiddling and charting I’ve already done to make sure this works for all sizes matters not.

It’s breaking my heart to let this go.

Therefore, K2, p2 ribbing is as interesting as it’s going to get.

2. Use a combination of raglan sleeves and saddle shoulder strips to create a feminine silhouette. I did that too, but when I tried to explain it in writing, my brain started to sizzle. And when I thought about doing it for all sizes, there was a cerebral meltdown that I’m still not fully recovered from. So all the ripping and knitting I did to change the sleeve to a raglan matters not.

Therefore, I’m following the lead of Irish knitters everywhere and going with a drop sleeve.

3. Keep the center cable fully intact at the neckline. In other words, knit a full repeat of the cable rather than cutting it off any ol’ where as soon as the sleeve depth is reached. I made it work for the prototype, but the cable has 36 rows, which is incompatible with a full repeat for all the normal sizes of a sweater. What’s even worse is that I knew this would be a problem going in, but I Scarlett O’Haraed the issue, and now Tara is burning.

But lookie here:

These cables look just fine.

The doyenne of crazy complex cable design, Alice Starmore, isn’t bothered by it, so neither will I be.

4. Publish this pattern by the start of the fall/winter knitting planning season, which is around August or September. (Apparently, knitters who don’t live in south Texas experience the type of weather during those months that turns their thoughts to warmth.) This required that a) my design was perfect from the start, and b) I enjoy having what amounts to a wool blanket in my lap while the daily high temperature could dehydrate a watermelon into a fruit rollup in about 11 hours.

Two negatives do not make a positive, and since there’s no such thing as a C-section when birthing a sweater, it will come out when it’s ready.

On the bright side:

1. After writing this post, I’m getting ideas about how I might could rescue two of my illusions from the hammer. (Not #4; it’s October. Plus, if I could go back in time, I can think of other more urgent and profitable things to do.)

2. I made up all these rules for my sweater, so I can change them.

3. Now I know why Irish knitters and influential designers don’t do anything edgy with these types of cabled sweater.

To Ponder: All things are difficult before they are easy.* |Italian Proverb|

*Especially when the difficulties are self-inflicted.

Of All the Hat Patterns In All the World

Kathleen Cubley fell in love with mine.

Who is Kathleen Cubley? She’s the editor of Knitting Daily, the blog of Interweave Press.

In last Monday’s post, my Voussoir Hat was featured “above the fold” as it were (which explains the mystery of why so many people favorited and queued it on Ravelry that day).

Wow, right?

Kathleen wrote: “Hats are where it’s at, and there are several really wonderful hats in Knits Gifts. The one that I really fell in love with is the Voussoir Hat by Robin Allen.”

She goes on to say that my hat reminds her of her favorite Koolhaas Hat, designed by wonder-boy Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed. What an honor!

Koolhaas Hat by Jared Flood; photo (c) Interweave Knits

I subscribe to Knitting Daily’s digest emails that arrive on Saturdays. They contain all of the previous weeks entries, so I didn’t know about her post until a few days afer the fact.

What a blessing, this. Unexpected and genuine praise from a well-respected industry expert.

To Ponder: From a thing’s possibility, one cannot be certain of its reality. |Roman Proverb|

Voilà: Paros Hat

Happy to announce my second pattern in as many months in an Interweave publication.

The Winter 2014 issue of Knitscene is out.

Get the Marled Look

And my Paros Hat is in it.

Stockinette with garter ridge stripes and a moving swirl.

On page 19.

The Details: Paros Hat by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

A marled yarn paired with a bright solid makes for an eye-catching effect in this simple unisex pattern. Choose your favorite neon contrast color to make it your own, or pair a more muted solid to make this a gift for anyone to wear.

Sizes: 18 (19½)” circumference and 7¾ (8¾)” tall
Yarn: HiKoo Simpliworsted (55% superwash merino, 28% acrylic, 17% nylon; 140 yd 128 m/100 g): #654 forty nine shades of gray (MC), 1 hank; #007 kiwi (CC), 1 hank
Gauge: 20 sts and 32 rnds = 4″ in Paros Stitch patt on larger needle
• Size 4 (3.5 mm): 16″ circular (cir) needle
• Size 6 (4 mm): 16″ cir needle and set of double-pointed needles (dpn)
• Stitch marker
• Yarn needle
Skills Required: Knitting, purling, decreasing, working in the round, researching techniques you’re unfamiliar with.

NOTE: Pattern calls for Aran weight yarn, but this could easily be knit in a worsted weight yarn with little effect on size.

Lots of texture and visual interest.

To Ponder: There is only one success: to be able to spend your life in your own way. |Christopher Morley|

Rejection: Petal Tank by knit.wear

In July, I submitted my Petal Tank to knit.wear, and heard from them last week.

As we say here in Texas: El Paso.

On the bright side:

  • I don’t have to design a summer tank top in the winter.
  • Today’s weather forecast says it’s going to be only 97. Fall is in the air. :-)
  • My 2013 taxes are done.

 To Ponder: It is essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail. |C.S. Lewis|

Submission: Pillow to Knitscene

Every time I knit bulky wool on big needles, my hands hurt for two or three days. And every time my hands hurt for two or three days, I swear I’m never knitting bulky wool on big needles again.

But do you think I listen to myself?

Last week, I mailed my submission to Knitscene for their Accessories 2015 issue.

It’s for a pillow knit in bulky wool on big needles.

Using yarn left over from my Very Blackberry Pullover.

Time heals all wounds, you know.

On another note, I’m starting to list some vintage items for sale in my Etsy shop. I’ve added a Vintage on Etsy page to my blog where you can see them.

To Ponder:  I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit? If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes. All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be. Perhaps we should never procure a new suit, however ragged or dirty the old, until we have so conducted, so enterprised or sailed in some way, that we feel like new men in the old, and that to retain it would be like keeping new wine in old bottles. |Henry David Thoreau|

Counting My Blessings: September 2014

Adding to the blessings of health, shelter, transportation, no consumer debt, and regular income there are several more that make my life sweet and beautiful.

1. I celebrated a birthday recently, and my yogis took me to dinner at a nice seafood restaurant. Everyone has their favorite spot in class, so they’re next to the same people all the time (including me and the front row students). We usually spend the few minutes before class talking about whatever is on our mind at that moment, but these occasional klatches shuffle us together in a different way, and we have new conversations with new people.

Judy is trying to talk her husband into a scotch-tasting tour of Scotland. Vickie deals with feral hogs making foot-deep holes in her back yard by involving her entire family in a divot-stamping party. And Kate acquired a taste for raw oysters as a child at her grandmother’s knee.

Unending stories.

I love these little glimpses into their daily lives, and I especially love watching them connect with each other through their stories.

2. My long-suffering BFF Tina, has been listening to me go on and on and on about my paranoid delusional neighbor and my conflicted feelings about whether to tough her out or sell everything I own and start over somewhere that has four seasons and trees. She offers practical advice (that I argue with), and helps me keep my own paranoid delusions in check when I start to chicken little everything.

3. Tina also sent me a beautiful card that I keep on my nightstand and some cher pickleball gear for my birthday. (Because pickleball is what I was on and on about last month. Perhaps she’ll send me a new neighbor this time? :-)

4. I was asked to give a talk to the local Lion’s club about the benefits of yoga. My audience was mostly men in their 60s-80s, so I knew it would be a tough sell. After we pledged allegiance to the American and then the Texas flag (I had no idea there was a pledge), sang the national anthem and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, listened to a joke about a three-legged chicken, and ate lunch, I was introduced to the group of about 30 people. As I described some health issues they might be experiencing and how yoga can help, everyone was sweetly attentive (not fiddling with iGadgets—a blessing in itself). After the Lion’s roar that formally ended the meeting, one of them came up to me and said he wanted to try yoga!

5. A woman I didn’t know gave me a bunch of nice yarn and vintage knitting magazines.

6. My Voussoir Hat came out in Interweave Knits, and is one of the three most popular patterns on the Ravelry listing for the issue.

Insert Sally Field’s 1984 Oscar acceptance here.

7. I spent a few evening hours with my friend Angie, catching up after seeing her only briefly this summer. We sat quietly on her couch, ignoring the noise and antics of cats, dogs, kids, birds, a ferret, and her husband and his friend doing electrical work on their new addition, drinking wine and talking about new jobs and plans for the future.

8. I received so many thoughtful birthday gifts: fat Turkish figs, organic raisins, a handknit scarf, and a handmade card from Hannah; a bottle of Cabernet and a lavender-scented eye pillow from Chris; a handmade blown glass ornament from Sandy; a Daily Bread booklet and cash from Paris; a gift book about how great I am from Jewell; a Visa gift card from Shar; an Amazon gift card from the yogis who took me to dinner; a green stone pendant necklace from Angie; and a rare book and handmade pearl necklace from Kate.

Kate attached pearls to knitted silver wire, making 50 wishes for me as she worked.

The gifts were sweet and perfect, but the true blessings are the people and thoughts behind them.

What are you counting as blessings these days?

To Ponder: When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. |Tecumseh|

Submission: Kerchief to Interweave Knits

I dashed off another submission this week. This one to Interweave Knits for their Summer 2015 issue.

Magazines published by Interweave Press (Interweave Knits, Knitscene, knit.wear) use the same old-school submission form. You print it out, then hand write your proposal, including any schematics or sketches. Sounds easy enough, right? But look at how much room you have to tell them everything they need to know.

I’m getting good at writing small.

There’s space for four proposed items on the sheet, so you have to be concise. I’ve learned to type out everything first, then copy the info to the form. Still, I usually write all the way across the page, trespassing into one of the other proposal blocks.

It’s hard to describe this item I’m submitting. It’s part kerchief and part something else, so I knit up a mini version of what I’m proposing to help them envision and fall in love with it. I did more work on this swatch than I normally do, and I’m glad I did. I was able to work out some decrease issues that would have baffled me in a few weeks if the editor accepts it.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought of a good name for it, but it happened in the middle of the night. Whether I dreamt it or I came up with it during one of the squillion times I wake up to my mind skimming across the lake of my life, the name was perfect. I don’t, however, recall what it was.

It had something to do with Greek mythology and started with a C, but now, in the bright light of a late summer day, I can think of only two names.

One is Cassandra, who was fated by Apollo to prophesy the truth but no one would believe her (and was also the name of a character in later seasons of the X-Files who suffered the same fate), but even if I were dreaming, I wouldn’t have thought Cassandra was the perfect name for a kerchief.

The second is Cassiopeia, but I wouldn’t inflict five syllables on any knitter.

The constellation.

I even keep a pencil and paper on my nightstand to write down these brilliant nighttime cerebrations, but never pick them up because I always believe my ideas to be so sterling, there’s no chance I’ll forget them.

So, I did what I usually do, which is turn to the thesaurus. I quickly came up with Kermis Kerchief (I do adore alliteration), then packaged up the proposal and popped it over to the post office.

And, dang it, I didn’t take a picture of it. The design was rather involved, so I know I’m going to be sorry—unless I knit another one right away. Do you think I will?

I should hear yay or nay from Interweave Knits in a month or so. Please send up prayers and good thoughts that it’s a yay, okay?

To Ponder: A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. |Winston Churchill|

Rejection: Tee by Knitscene

Saturday’s mail brought my Padre Island Tee swatch in an envelope from Knitscene.

I’ve had more rejections than acceptances in recent months, so it would be easy to get discouraged, but I know that the competition for these national magazines is intense, and my chances of shining brighter than the well-known designers who are regularly published are practically nil to begin with.

Sometimes I could take or leave some of my designs, but this tee is a good one, so I’m going to keep it in my pocket.

I don’t have pictures of my design, so let’s enjoy this drive-in movie screen my paranoid neighbor erected between our houses.

She’s afraid of my nefarious activities concealed by the backboard.

On the bright side:

  • I can submit the tee for another spring/summer call for submissions.
  • I can knit it in wool and give it long sleeves and turn it into a fall/winter design.
  • I can get a job at the new grocery store coming to town and not worry about any of this ever again.

To Ponder: Paranoia is just another word for ignorance. |Hunter S. Thompson|

A Gift of Yarn and Magazines Part 1: The Magazines

A couple of weeks ago, during my Saturday afternoon volunteer shift at the library, I was able to get in one or two rows of knitting. I can usually knit quite a bit on those shifts because we’re not busy and because I work with a partner who loves to shelve books. But summers in Texas are indistinguishable from the molten core of a volcano and the library is air conditioned, which means more patrons and more checkouts. I can’t remember when I had time to even take my knitting project out of my bag.

But that day, I was knitting when a woman came to the circulation desk to check out books. She said, “Oh, I used to knit, but I don’t any more. And no one in my family knits.”

Bummer, I thought, as I scanned the barcodes on her books.

“I have a bunch of yarn,” she said. “Do you want it?”

My first thought, was OF COURSE I WANT FREE YARN. But then I asked the critical question as non-snobbily as I could: “Is it wool?”

She said it was, and that some of it was cashmere from Italy that she bought without having any plans for. “You know how you go to a yarn store and just pick stuff off the shelves.”

I nodded, thinking, I don’t pick cashmere off the shelves.

I wrote my name on her book receipt and she said she would drop the yarn at the library for me.

Around 10:00 AM on Monday, I got a call from one of the morning shift volunteers.

I was there in 15 minutes.*

When I walked in, Jackie, who had called, smiled at me from behind the circulation desk. Take. me. to. the. yarn. NOW, I started to say, but remembered my manners and first thanked her for letting me know it was there. She held up a stitch dictionary she had been browsing through and assured me that she was just looking at it. “I like to cro—”

“There are books, too?” I asked.

“—chet,” she finished, then nodded.

Manners shmanners. “Where?”

Jackie led me to a two-shelf book cart in the back room near the kitchen. On the top shelf were four dusty file-size clear tubs stuffed with crack yarn.

Treasure chests.

Jackie watched as I opened each tub full of vintage yarn—Unger, Bernat, Del Avo, Indiecita, Lane Borgosesia, Katia, Brunswick—careful not to let any of the skeins leave my sight. I felt like a prisoner guarding my breakfast in the mess hall, ready to defend my haul against Jackie or some other crafting bully who wandered by and thought the yarn was just another donation, there for the taking.

On the second shelf of the book cart was what looked like a foot-tall stack of books and magazines, also vintage, and mostly from the 80s.

In reality, only about 7″ high.

What a collection!

Stitch dictionaries.


Pingouin and Phildar magazines.

Vogue Knitting magazines.

As with some books that came into my possession, these Vogue Knitting covers were so familiar to me, I thought I already owned most of them.† I didn’t, though, and they’ve filled in a lot of gaps in my collection.

Unfortunately, my knitting donor is a smoker. As soon as I can get the smell out of the yarn, I’ll do a post on what’s in the tubs.

Coffee grounds seem to be working to absorb the smell.

*There are other knitters at the library, including the director, whom I’m almost positive would not have exerted eminent domain over my yarn, but I wanted to get it out of their way as soon as I could.

†I did own them at one time, but they had been donated to Goodwill by a dumb college girl who had no idea what she wanted to do with her life, but was sure she would never knit again.

Voilà: Voussoir Hat

Interweave Knits just released their Gifts 2014 issue.

My Voussior Hat is in it!

Voussior Hat1 by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

I made this.

Voussior Hat2 by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

She looks like Pippa Middleton, no?

Apparently, the release happened last Friday (8/15), but I didn’t know about it until Sunday afternoon when this Google Alert popped up.

At first I was confused about how anyone knew about my hat when it’s supposed to be top secret until publication, but I clicked the link, and blimey, there she was on Ravelry—and favorited 40 times already!

Among my company in this issue are such influential designers as Veronik Avery, Annie Modesitt, Angela Hahn, and Cathy Carron.

This publication in an international magazine is an answered prayer, and I’m praying for more.

Voussoir Hat by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

In designing this hat, I was inspired by medieval cathedrals. A voussoir is a wedge-shaped stone used in building a vault or an arch. This hat fulfills my love of symmetry and my desire to create complex-looking designs with simple stitch repeats.

The close-fitting Voussoir Hat uses a combination of knits, purls, and twisted stitches to create a design that looks much more complex than it is.

Finished Size: 19 1/2″ circumference (unstretched) and 7 1/4″ long.

Yarn: Valley Yarns Northfield (70% merino,20% baby alpaca, 10% silk; 124 yd 113 m/1 3/4 oz 50 g): #18 pine green, 2 skeins.

Needles: Size 3 (3.25 mm): 16″ circular (cir) and set of double-pointed (dpn). Adjust needle size if necessary to obtain the correct gauge.

Notions: Markers (m); tapestry needle.

Gauge: 26 sts and 32 rnds = 4″ in charted patt.

Skills: Knitting, knitting through the back loop, purling, decreasing, working in the round, researching techniques you’re unfamiliar with.

Voussior Hat3 by Robin Allen - A Texas Girl Knits

To Ponder: True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new. |Antoine de Saint-Exupery|