Distractions, or Why I Haven’t Been Knitting

I’m wearing a sweater! In April!

Hiking in Flagstaff.

Thrifting in Prescott. Oh, the jokes we made…

Tina was driving. I had no choice.

Snow! At the Snowbowl.

Hiking in Sedona.

To Ponder: If you have one true friend you have more than your share. |-Thomas Fuller-|



Voilà: Atomic Fingerless Mitts

I’ve waited six long years to see one of my designs on the pages of Knitty. I’ve told you about the submission and the acceptance, and now it’s time for the big reveal of my Atomic fingerless mitts.

Atomic Fingerless Mitts by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

This pattern is free for everyone throughout the land.

Pattern Details: Atomic by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

Ah, the 1950s—they gave us Velcro, Hula Hoops, Saran Wrap, Scotchgard, Liquid Paper, Mr. Potato Head, McDonald’s, and credit cards. Did all of that make the Atomic Era the best in recent history? Who knows. But its art and architecture are the bomb!

I constructed these mitts around a Scandinavian snowflake motif that looks both futuristic and modern. I chose the popular Atomic combination of blue and green for an outdoor cocktail party, but you might pair aqua with orange and enjoy a dinner of fried clams at Howard Johnson. Or switch out the green for red and hang out at the Tastee-Freez. Or Google the word Googie and let the results inspire your colors and venue.

Wherever you wear these, you’ll be coolest cat around.

Atomic Fingerless Mitts by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

Not Neil Gaiman’s* hands.

* Knit in the round
* Seamless
* Minimal finishing
* Charted and written instructions

Skills: Knitting, purling, stranded knitting, working in the round, working from a chart, researching techniques you’re unfamiliar with.

Finished Measurements:
Hand circumference, excluding thumb: 8″/20.25cm, stretches to 8.5″/21.5cm
Cuff edge to top of mitt: 10″/25.5 cm

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport (100% Peruvian Highland wool; 137yd/125m per 50g skein); MC Avocado, 1 skein; CC Winter Night, 1 skein.

Needles: US 4/3.5mm needles for small circumference knitting in the round, either DPNs, 1 long circular, or 2 short circulars

Notions: Stich markers, yarn needle

Gauge: 24 sts/31 rnds = 4″ in stranded stockinette stitch in the round, blocked
22 sts/30 rnds = 4″ in stockinette stitch in the round, blocked

Atomic Fingerless Mitts by Robin Allen | A Texas Girl Knits

*I kind of, sort of, maybe hoped I might make the cover of Knitty, but was prepared to see someone else’s design. I wasn’t, however, prepared to see Neil Gaiman. Wow. I’m in the issue with Neil Gaiman on the cover!

To Ponder: If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it. |-William James-|

Counting My Blessings: March 2015

My car is running great, my yoga classes are filling with students, and the water continues to run in my little red cabin. This month, I’m specifically grateful for these things:

1. My sister had surgery to remove a tumor on the inside of her skull, and not only was the surgery a success and the doctors let her go home the next day, they didn’t shave her head. That’s a blessing for her, but I was blessed that we didn’t have to do as my brother suggested, which is shave our heads in solidarity.

2. I love being self-employed, and am always looking for new ways to earn money that will work with my yoga schedule and still allow me to design knitwear. It looks like house- and pet-sitting is going to be one of those ways. I pet-sat for my friend Kate in February, and casually mentioned it in another yoga class, and someone asked if I did that, and I thought, well, yes, I guess I do.

I had my second gig this month, sitting two sweet Schnauzers, living in a house with this view from the back porch:

Surrounded by beauty.

3. As mentioned in my last post, I took an intro to sailing class at the local yacht club. The cost was only $30 for two full weekends of classroom instruction and sailing.

Rigging the J-22.

Catching the wind.

I don’t really get sailing, and I certainly can’t afford it as a hobby, but I feel blessed to have the time and money to take the class and to spend a few days with people who know everything there is to know about sailing.

4. Mountain laurels are in bloom.

Making my world smell lovely.

What are you grateful for lately?

p.s. I’m wearing The Sweater in the sailing photos (taken by my friend Sylvie).

To Ponder: Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. |-Howard Thurman-|

Counting My Blessings: February 2015

I never forget that heat, running water, health, clothes, and yarn are daily blessings, but my life is blessed in so many specific ways.

1. A customer from the farmer’s market—a gal who has bought a few things from me to give as gifts and who bought my Voussoir hat for herself—came up to me saying that she had lost her hat. She hoped I had another one in the same color, but I didn’t. I had some of the same yarn, however, and told her I would knit another one for her. I don’t normally do custom work, but she told me, “I love that hat and wear it all the time.”

Aw. How could I refuse her after a sweet compliment like that?

2. I have friends, who, after six months of listening to me fret about my psychotic neighbor, will still listen to me.

Why do paranoid people think that foil helps?

Some friends—the ones with money who think I should have just moved already, as if it were that easy—make a flippant comment and change the subject, but some understand the daily torture I endure. They can’t do anything, but they listen, and that is a true blessing.

3. A couple of weeks ago, I got a lead on a house out here in a really nice neighborhood that I wouldn’t be able to afford except that the owner was asking half the tax value of the house. It’s about 1,400 square-feet with a 650-sf detached garage on .61 acres surrounded by an 8′ deer-proof chain link fence. It wasn’t listed with a realtor, but the owner is the cousin of a friend.

That upper deck used to have a view of a lake until the trees grew.

It needed work, but nothing insurmountable, and it was livable in the meantime, and I was blessed by so many friends offering help and advice:

  • Angie looked at the house with me and agreed that it was awesome, and said she would help me update the inside.
  • Letty, a friend I’ve known since fifth grade, who has a serious career and rather a lot of money, was willing to let me borrow some so I could buy and move into this house before I sold my current one.

Different high schools couldn’t break up these freshmen.

  • Tina said she would loan me the money if she had it.
  • My brother, a man of infinite knowledge and talent, sent dozens of emails helping me find a way to make this work, and even offered to fix the roof and electric issues.
  • Kate offered her husband Eric, a full-time home inspector, to look at the house with a professional eye. They both came out on Valentine’s Day and Eric spent two hours going over everything. And he didn’t charge me! He’s getting a handknit hat, though.

There were many reasons I decided not to get the house, but the main ones were that a) I’m supremely lazy and would drag my feet on the DIY projects, and b) I wasn’t keen on the long-term costs of owning a property that’s three times bigger than the one I have now.

I was blessed a second time by everyone understanding my decision.

4. Kale is cheap and healthy, and dehydrates into The Best kale chip snack.

5. My Kettenglied Fingerless Mitts pattern was published in Knit Picks 2015 Spring Accessories Collection.

6. When I emailed my friend Sarah asking if I could live with her for a couple or three months in Tacoma, she wrote back, “Well of course!!” Just like that.

7. I have enough money to pay my bills, and a little extra to save.

What are you grateful for these days?

To Ponder: There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle; the other as though everything is a miracle. |-Albert Einstein-|

Counting My Blessings: January 2015

1. A couple of days after Christmas, I received a message from a fellow Raveller. She added me as a friend, then sent a note of introduction that read, in part, “Your blog is wonderful and I hope you keep designing and writing for a long, long time!” Really. She wrote that.

I’m so thankful that a) anyone at all reads my blog, and b) a girl who is half my age is inspired by it.

2. My yoga student Judy came to the first class of the new year with a cold bottle of beer—Dogfish Head Namaste. She saw it while shopping at Central Market in Austin and thought of me. Sweet, right?

Namaste is a Sanskrit word used by yogis everywhere.

I drink what I can afford, which is Lone Star Light in cans, so this was a nice upgrade.

It was unclear to both of us what the clapping skeleton had to do with its name, but we agreed that it was cool.

3. This exists:

A device that lets you sit and knit in warmth.

4.  A Mother Superior at a convent purchased my Ironheart Pullover pattern.

Ironheart Pullover by A Texas Girl Knits

What colors would a nun choose?

I hope she loves it enough to ask the Big PR Guy in the Sky to promote it.

5. The inside driver’s side door handle on my car has been broken for about two years, and I have to roll down my window to open the door from the outside. (I know…classy.) Then a couple of months ago, the outdoor handle snapped off when my door was frozen shut. I could still open the door, but I figured it was time to get both of them fixed. I ordered the parts on eBay and my sweet brother replaced both of them for the price of a Whataburger bacon cheeseburger. (And regardless of what he says, I DID help.)

6. Last week, I house- and dog-sat for my friend Kate. She and her husband live in a warm house full of floor-to-ceiling windows, a wrap-around deck, incredible paintings, a funky art collection, a hot tub, and home-brewed beer on tap.

The best part was seven days and six nights of absolute peace and quiet. No dogs barking in the middle of the night. No headlights shining into my bedroom window when Mr. Neighbor leaves for work at 0600. No redneck neighbors running power tools until midnight. No crazy neigbor and her foil-draped house. Just the sound of the creek running behind their house and the occasional Chewbaca noise when one of the dogs wanted his belly scratched.

(Well, okay, the best part was the beer on tap.)

7. New year’s resolutions=more yoga students=more sweet, interesting people coming into my life.

How have you been blessed this month?

To Ponder: Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys. |-Rita Schiano-|

One Approach to the New Year

The past few Saturdays, during my volunteer shift at the library, one of the patrons has smelled like woodsmoke.

That’s a smell I can’t get enough of. So honest and comforting.

A couple of years ago, some new friends invited me to their New Year’s Day celebration where they had an outdoor fire going. I didn’t wash my hair for a couple of days because it smelled like smoke and I wanted it to linger.

After that, I ordered this cool incense sampler with seven natural wood fragrances.

Now I know what alder smells like.

I sometimes burn it in my office while I knit and watch TV shows on my computer.

And one of my favorite times of the year is when the county-wide burn ban is lifted and people set fire to their burn piles that they’ve been building up with felled or fallen trees and branches. It’s usually after a rain, so the fires are quite smokey, and when I’m driving along and sight one, I roll down my windows and start sniffing.

So this person who smells so heavily of woodsmoke at the library isn’t so unusual.

I smelled smoke every time I went to the information desk to chat with the librarian when I wasn’t checking out books and DVDs, so I knew it was a patron using a computer because the desk is right in front of the bank of them, and the computers see a lot of action on Saturdays.

Last week, I was at the circulation desk, annoyed that my black cashmere sweater was pilling so much, when one of the computer regulars, a woman whose face I know, but name I don’t, came up to me, smiling, and said she had gotten some great news. Her friend in Florida just paid her cell phone bill and she’s finally going to have phone service after being without it for a couple of months.

She likes to talk, and often starts conversations randomly. I had spoken with her a few times over the summer, mostly about how she had lost her employment due to a serious health problem and is having a hard time finding another job.

As she told me about an upcoming trip to see her teenage son who is living at a boy’s home in north Texas, I realized that she was the one who smelled like woodsmoke.

“Now I just have to go over to my neighbor’s house and charge my phone,” she said. “I don’t have electricity.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “Why is that?”

“I lost my job a while back and my husband is disabled and can’t work, and we couldn’t pay the bill, so they shut it off.”

And then it hit me: she smells like woodsmoke because she’s trying to stay warm.

If you’re reading this from your computer at home, your power is on. Your heat and air conditioning work, as does your refrigerator, stove, oven, microwave, blender, coffee maker, lights, washer, dryer, television, water heater, and phone charger. You have the money to pay the electric bill, so you’re healthy enough to work. You probably even have a car to drive to your job.

Isn’t that wonderful?

This year, what if we are grateful for what we have and don’t worry so much about what’s missing.

To Ponder: Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly. |-Tony Robbins-|

Counting My Blessings: December 2014

You know, when you start your day being grateful that you’re getting out of a warm bed after a full night’s sleep and that clean water comes out of the tap when you turn it on—not because you’ve had water problems lately, but because you live in a time and a place where it’s even possible—you can look at everything that happens to you the rest of the day as a blessing.

Here are some highlights from my month.

1. Last year, my friend and yoga student Jean and I were talking about keeping our drafty little houses warm without turning on the (expensive) central heat. I set my thermostat at 58 and use little electric space heaters in my bedroom and office. She uses a portable oil-filled space heater—one of those big ones that looks like a radiator that New Yorkers are always complaining about not working.

My bathroom is the warmest room in the house.

They aren’t too expensive, so I could have bought one, but I just don’t have room in my house to store it for the 10 months it’s not needed. Jean had an extra one that she let me borrow last year, and this year, when we had our early cold snap, she brought it to class for me to borrow again. Aw.

2. I always know when a package is coming in the mail because I’m the one who ordered it, but last week I opened my mailbox to a surprise Christmas gift from my BFF—three divinely fragrant handmade soaps from a company that her friend just started.

Thanks, Tina!

3. At the end of the farmer’s market on Saturdays, the food vendors trade their leftovers amongst themselves. I don’t participate because my knitting isn’t going into the compost bin if someone doesn’t buy it that day.

Last Saturday, one of the farmers came up to me as I was packing up and said I should come to his stand and pick out some vegetables. My friend Angie, who sells bread and pastries for the restaurant she works at, had given him two loaves of bread and let me have the vegetable trade. Aw. I got broccoli, garlic, and mixed greens.

4. My yoga students are always so sweet and generous, and especially so at Christmas. The students in my Tue/Thu morning class pooled their money and gave me an Amazon gift card. The students in my evening class gave me individual gifts: cash, wine, coffee beans, fruit, chard, raw cacao truffles, raw energy bars, raw honey from a sister’s bees, artisanal olive oil soap, Neutrogena sesame oil, a Specs gift card, yoga-themed notecards, handknit socks, a ceramic coffee go cup, copper earrings from Alaska, and a handmade copper-and-silver necklace.

Their friendship, kindness, and thoughtfulness are always a blessing.

Hannah always makes her Christmas cards; this year she tatted snowflakes.

Kate designed this necklace just for me. Wow, right?

Kate also decorated the gift bag.

5. The infirmed mother of my friend Chris came to live with her, and Chris had to get rid of the bed in her guest room to make room for her mother’s special bed, so she gave me the mattress—a queen-size Beautyrest that’s less than a year old.

She and her sister helped me get it into my house, which was a job, I tell you, because my property is on an incline and it’s stone steps all the way up. Chris also let me store my old mattress in her storage unit in case this one didn’t work out. (So far, my back likes it.)

6. My little red truck has been acting up the last couple of times I drove it, hesitating on acceleration. It felt like a fuel problem, so I put $20 of premium in the tank, hoping that would fix it. It didn’t. This is a second car (a blessing in itself), and I don’t drive it much, but when I need it, I need it. (Ref #5 above.)

Last week, I drove it here and there on some errands, hoping that I just needed to run more of the premium fuel through the engine, but that didn’t work either, and the problem seemed to be getting worse.

Before I took it to a mechanic, I tried one more thing: a fuel additive called BG44K.

Little can o’ magic.

I bought it at NAPA (from the same nice guy who had cleaned my corroded battery connections earlier in the month), drove to the Valero station, poured the stuff into the tank then filled up with regular gas. It worked immediately.

7. Jesus blessed us all with His birth.

Matthew 2:1-12

How have you been blessed this month?

To Ponder: The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life. |-William Morris-|


Counting My Blessings: November 2014

Living next to a neighbor with a mental illness means that things are ever weird over here in the little red cabin in the woods, but it’s balanced by plenty of good things.

1. For the second cold weather season, I’ve been selling my knitted wares at a local farmer’s market. I don’t go when it’s too warm because nobody wants to even look at wool, but I sell a lot—and get lots of compliments on my knitting—when I show up.

Finally—a cold day in central Texas.

2. My friend Shar has unwittingly become my therapist, listening to me tell the same stories about my crazy neighbor, rehashing my options, what-iffing my future, rejecting all of my own ideas only to revisit them again. The best part is that she acts as if it were the first time she’s heard everything.

3. When I told my BFF Tina that one of my possible plans for the future involved living with her for a while, she said, “Yay!” When I told her I wanted to attend poker dealing school so I could deal in Las Vegas, she said, “That’s a great idea!”

What fun this would be.

4. I bought a couple of tomatoes from the guy who runs the most popular stand at the farmer’s market, and he threw in some extra ones. They were frankentomatoes, but still.

Fraternal Toms.

Beautiful on the inside.

5. Knit Picks published my Snowman Draft Stopper as a free pattern on their website, and knitters are knitting it.

6. Knit Picks accepted my City Cowl pattern, which will come out next year.

7. The Flaming Sumac tree outside my office window is flaming.

Can you see the heart in the sky?

8. I have friends who care about me; shelter from rain and cold; a kitchen full of food; and a hot shower any time I want one.

How many blessings are you counting this month?

To Ponder: Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else. |J.M. Barrie|


Counting My Blessings: October 2014

In spite of some bizarre and challenging issues with a paranoid and delusional neighbor who believes I’m sending radio frequency waves into her house (seriously!—she tried to convince the sheriff’s office to file criminal charges against me), my life is blessed with infinite good stuff.

1. My friend Bob returned from a month-long visit to Canadia to visit his family, and returned with a pint of Captain Morgan rhum foncé for me. That’s a fancy way to say dark rum. It’s a blend of Caribbean and Canadian rum, and is not generally available in the United States of America. I don’t normally drink hard liquor, but nothing about my life has been normal lately. The rhum was quite tasty and I look forward to the next time Bob leaves for a month.

Worth a trip to Canadia.

Worth a trip to Canadia.

2. We had a cold snap in Texas. In early September. Calendarically still summer, and what they call the dog days of. It rained the day before, then the temps were in the low 60s the following Saturday. It was even too cold for my outdoor yoga class, so we moved it indoors. I wore long sleeves and knee-high boots the rest of the day. Bliss defined.

3. During my Saturday shift at the library I showed a little girl named Alyssa how to knit. She was maybe seven or eight years old. Those little hands and fingers trying to deal with yarn and needles. The powerful concentration trying to remember the movements.

4. Lately, I’ve been wrestling with making some major life changes, and my BFF Tina mailed me this magnet o’ wisdom as encouragement to git ‘er done.

Not that I live according to sayings on magnets.

Mind you, my life has already begun, but it’s all locked up in a box and nothing ever happens anymore.

5. A gal on Ravelry messaged me that she found my blog a few months ago and is “thrilled” to follow my successes. Aw.

6. I live in a free country that allows its citizens to vote their leaders into and out of office without inciting violent protests.

7. I sleep in a warm, comfortable bed. Every. Single. Night.

What blessings are you counting this month?

To Ponder: Every increased possession loads us with new weariness. |John Ruskin|