Retreat, retreat!!

I have a very brief post for you today.  But I have a very good reason.  Mark, my beloved, decided we needed to escape for a bit.  So that is precisely what we did.  He made all the arrangements and it was a lovely, relaxing, enjoyable weekend.

We stayed at 1875 Bed and Breakfast Homestead near Nashville, IN (not TN!).



Nashville, IN is a charming little town with an artist colony and all manner of cute shops and great food.  Did I remember to take pictures? No I did not.  Sigh.

But we had a great time.  I will admit to being a bit predictable in my acquisition of souvenirs.  I bought some books from a thrift books shop and stopped by The Clay Purl and bought a skein of yarn just for meeeeee!!


The Bed and Breakfast was beautiful, spotless and very comfortable.  I actually sat down for an extended time in their library and fireplace rooms just to read for a while.  Something I have not been able to do in a very, very long time.  Blissful.library



I would like to say I got to spend some good knitting time, however, there was a problem.  As my readers know, I have begun dyeing own yarn.  I enjoy the whole process and find using the swift relaxing and meditative as I skein and re-skein the yarns I’m working with.  But just this past week, for some inexplicable reason one of my most recent skeins got badly tangled.  It was a mess, but a nice yarn and a pretty colorway and, to those who don’t know me, I’m really, really stubborn when it comes to not letting something conquer me.  This tangled mass was NOT going to win!

I started detangling Thursday evening.  This was continued on Friday evening.  We had a 2 hour car ride to Nashville, my car knitting sat quietly to one side as I detangled.  After spending the afternoon in Nashville we stayed in our room to relax and watch a movie, still detangling.  We got home last evening and at long, loooooooooonng last I won!! Bwahahahaha.  Sorry, but that made me a little crazy.  I didn’t take a before picture of this mess but here is the skein now beaten into submission:


You can’t really see the pops of darker blue or purple in this picture, but I’m really happy with how it turned out.  I’ve been contemplating colorway names and after the aforementioned experience in getting it to this stage I’ve been considering such names as:

  • Victory or Death
  • Dye Sucker Dye
  • To the Victor Go the Spoils
  • Cackling Maniacally in Victory




A Reason to Celebrate

Can you ever really have too many reasons to celebrate?  We all have our favorite holidays.  Personally, I like Thanksgiving more than Christmas although I enjoy Christmas very much.  Some folks prefer winter holidays like these, others look forward to the fun and energy of July 4th or Labor Day.

Almost everyone loves a good holiday.  Scrooge didn’t, but he had a change of heart.  The Grinch didn’t, but he had an epiphany that changed him as well.  There are those (pre-change) that just don’t enjoy such things but most of us are ready for a good reason to have some fun together.

A few years ago I started recognizing that there were certain things that I loved so much and certain days that were so meaningful to me that I felt they deserved a holiday of their own.  I looked forward to them every year. I decided that just because they weren’t cultural or religious events to the degree that they had become National holidays didn’t mean that couldn’t celebrate them in whatever form seemed good.

So I started a still growing list of things I wanted to celebrate.  Here are a few:

I love the changing of the seasons.  I always have.  I have lived in places that didn’t really have 4 seasons and I missed the turning of Winter into Spring into Summer into Autumn.  So somewhere during the week of the first day of those seasons I will do something to celebrate it.  I don’t throw a lot of parties but there will be a meal with seasonally appropriate foods.  One year I bought a wind chime for my back porch with metal sculpture of the sun for the first day of Summer. And yes, I do indeed have a Pumpkin Spice Latte when Autumn arrives.

Pete Seeger on stage 1960I thought of the birthdays we celebrate.  George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr.  This gave me an idea.  I decided that Pete Seeger’s birthday should be celebrated.  He is a personal hero of mine.  I admire his courage and his tenacity and the longevity of his convictions.  He was in Civil Rights Marches in his younger days and in his 90’s made an appearance at the Occupy Wall Street Marches.  He seemed gentle, kind and inclusive and  he had a lot of chutzpah.  On his birthday I add another song either written or performed by him to my playlist. I might buy an appropriate poster to add to my very hippy-esque studio.   In case you’re curious, his birthday is May 3.

One of my very favorite personal holidays is Banned Books Week.  In the US it’s usually celebrated in late September.  This year it is September 24-30th.  I don’t only love to read Freadom(something I very decidedly do love) but I love the library itself.  I love its mission of not only making literature available to people no matter what their socio-economic status, but their core value of intellectual freedom.   So for this week, I gift myself with a new copy of some book that has been previously banned or challenged.  Those books get a shelf of honor in one of my bookcases.

Today I got to celebrate an event that I look forward to all year.  If the phrase Christmas in July weren’t so overdone, that’s probably what I would call this.  Today, was the first day of the annual Library Book Sale.  Now, I always love a good used bookstore.  But this event is massive.  We have a very large library system here, for which I am deeply grateful.  I once tried to get a job at the library, but I think I may have come on too strong with my love of books during the interview and I didn’t get hired.  I suspect they were concerned I might frighten the patrons with my exuberance.  Oh well.

The sale is held at a local mall and there are tables from one end of the mall to the other heavily laden with books, DVDs, and audiobooks.  Everything is in decent to excellent condition and cheap.  This was about the 4th time I’ve gone.  Appointments and events get rescheduled to make way for this day.  I have a system.  I go early, I wear good solid running shoes and, no kidding, I take a large rolling duffle bag style suitcase.  For around $30 I can fill that thing up.

I’m a bit of a prepper.  My pantry and freezer are usually reasonably well stocked.  I have a garden and I preserve the produce and I buy what I don’t grow and preserve that.  As far as my knitting is concerned the phrase “Winter is Coming, Knit Faster” is more than just a meme.  This book sale is kind of my way of stocking up for the year.  I love the mental image of a winter storm outside and me with loads of books to choose from inside.  It is a cozy thought.  cozy

As a knitter, I always scope out the Arts and Craft book table.  At a previous sale I got 6 FiberGatheringreally nice knitting books with lots of information and patterns. This time I only came away with one. Fiber Gathering by Joanne Seiff.  It is a books inspired by the Fiber Festivals held around the US and boasts 25 projects related to knitting, crocheting, spinning and dyeing.  Score!

It was a good and satisfying day.  An enjoyable ritual that accompanies this particular holiday is deciding where the new books will be put.  I have a system understood by no one but me, but I enjoy stepping back and feeling wealthy seeing the abundance of books before me.

Do you have special traditions or off-the-beaten-path things you celebrate?  I’d love to hear about them. Or if  you don’t yet, if you were to start that, what would it be?  Please comment and tell me about them.  This could be interesting and fun.

One of the best things about these small personal holidays is that it can be as big or small as I want it to be.  There isn’t the pressure of having to host Christmas, for example and all the stress that can accompany that.  If no one else knows it’s Pete Seeger’s birthday, no biggie.  If I have everyone over for campfire on the first day of Autumn, it’s up to me.  The less pressure, the more fun.

As I have mentioned  in previous posts I have begun dyeing yarn and trying a number of experiments #playinginthedyepots.  Next week I’lll be talking about what I’m learning and include a photo timeline to show how the process is evolving.

Here’s a teaser photo till then:



Go celebrate something!


P.S. I’m thinking of adding some sort of free floating holiday so I can do it whenever I want.  Like “I successfully completed all the tasks on my to-do list! Day”.  That won’t come around too often, but at least it will be random 😀


A Moment in the Sun

I had an interesting experience just over a week ago.

But first, a little backstory.  I started this blog in February.  There were many reasons for doing this.  I love knitting.  I. Really. Love. Knitting.  And anyone who has known me for 5 minutes knows that if there is something I love or feel strongly about you will hear me talk about it.

My love of books.  An issue of injustice.  Raising backyard chickens.  Knitting. China. Dyeing yarn. Gardening. Ad infinitum.  To most people it would seem like I get carried away by a lot of things (true) and that I feel compelled to go on and on about them (also true).talk

Starting a blog was a good way of getting to verbalize my passion abut fiber and knitting without exhausting the patience of family, friends, or even random strangers.(True story)  Not infrequently I looked up mid conversation and realized that the eyes of today’s victim had already glazed over.  I was becoming the proud grandparent that whipped out the family photo album before you had a chance to escape.

Something had to change.

The nice thing about writing a blog is that it gives me a chance to express my delights without inflicting them on the unwilling. The people who land on this site and read my exuberant ramblings at least do so by choice, not by coercion.  The one exception being my faithful editor (Hi, Jen.  Thank you once again for your sacrifice 🙂 ).

So, although I would love to attract a nice, faithful audience.  You know, people who just hang on my every word and wait impatiently for my next post to come out.  Writing a blog is more about getting it out of my system than about the numbers.  Also, I knew as a new blogger it would be a while before I attracted an audience of any size.

So the other night, just over a week ago, I was winding down for the night.  Part of my routine before turning off my laptop for the night is check all the things one last time.  Facebook. Email. Instagram. I clicked over to my stats page just to see how many people had come by for a visit.

I looked. I paused.  I looked again.  Those numbers can’t be right.  Refresh the page.  I’m looking at high double digits here.  What happened?!

I was thrilled, delighted…confused.  surprise

Finally, after looking over things carefully, I understood what had happened.  I recently posted an interview with Maggie Menzel (Maggie Menzel: Knitwear Designer) who had her sock pattern Vinculum featured in the most recent issue of Knitty.   Almost as an afterthought I wrote a short email to Knitty giving them a link to the interview.  They in turn put a link to that post in their blog and BOOM! Traffic!

Each day I would check in more eagerly.  I would watch the numbers climb.  I would look at the wide array of countries represented in the visitors to my page.  Dance break!

To be sure, in the back of my mind, I knew that this was short-lived.  I do hope to have this on a more regular basis and that at least some of these visitors will return, but I also knew that not everyone who stopped by to read this post was going to instantly fall in love with my style or turn of phrase.  But I decided to shush the voices of reason and logic for a little while and just bask in the joy and the glow.   It has been a lovely and gratifying feeling.  I can almost swear I could hear “Ode to Joy” playing in the background.


I experienced a similar, albeit smaller bump when I wrote about the newly formed Tri-State Fiber Arts Guild in last week’s post In Real Life, when the link was posted on their Facebook page.

The happiness is less about cold numbers and more about the warm feeling of connectedness with the larger Fiber Community whether online or in real life.  It was less than a year ago that I discovered the knitting podcasts on YouTube (a bit late to the party) and dove in.  I subscribed, watched and listened, and enjoyed the personalities, the projects and just how very much I felt I had in common with so many of them.  Once I discovered it I had to join in somehow.  This blog is one of the ways I decided to do just that.  I never even bothered with Instagram until I discovered all the Yarn Porn available there.

My yarn stash has grown, my bank account has diminished.  I regret nothing. yarn

For many years the things I wanted to do were pushed further and further back to make space for all the many “ought-to’s” in my life.  Some of them legitimate, but a good many external pressures that really weren’t necessary.

This is what blogging, knitting, dyeing, and raising chickens has done for me.  These things have taught me to go ahead and make room for what I love and to let some of the pressures and expectations go.  If I only do the “have-to’s” I find myself reduced to a bread and water kind of existence.  A good question to ask is:  Do I really have to?  Or have I just been conditioned to think so?  Maybe the answer to that question is yes.  But it never hurts to ask, and I’m quite sure there are a few, even more than a few, to which you could say no.  Let that go, put down the water, and try a sip of wine instead. wine

Pardon me while the dishes wait and I go dance in the rain,


P.S. I’m currently negotiating for an angora rabbit to start raising my own fiber.

There’s that song again 🙂



In Real Life

I love the lively, interesting and wide-variety of people I can find in the online Knitting Community.  Like many of you, I have my favorite YouTube podcasters, as well as some audio podcasters that I watch or listen to regularly.  I enjoy browsing through Ravelry or Pinterest to see what’s new or what some of my favorite designers have been creating.  There are also the bloggers who share the same love of knitting and writing that I do and show me something new every time I read their posts.

I genuinely love the Internet for it’s ability to give us such a large resource pool for the things we love and wish to learn more about.  It takes our ability to connect with people who share our interests to a literally global scale.  Pretty awesome, right?

KatieHowever, I cannot go for a walk with Katie and Rollie of Inside Number 23.




I cannot go to Knit Night with Shannon of Soxcetera in spite of the fact that we have a lot of things in common

.  Shannon


I won’t even get to spend time trying a new natural dyeing technique with Sara of Yarns at Yin Hoo even though she lives closer and lives in a Chinese Tea House!!  I lived in China for almost 10 years so I find that especially cool.


I just want to hang out with all the knitters. Everywhere.


So, a really great thing happened this week.  No, I did not get to hang out with the aforementioned podcasters.  I did get to meet one that I had only previously seen on YouTube, but more on that later.

The great thing that happened was a first time meeting of a newly formed group called Tristatethe Tri-State Fiber Arts Guild.  I had received an email more than a month ago about the meeting that was to be held at a local library.  This definitely sounded like my jam, so I made sure that night was cleared of ANYthing so I could go.

It’s not that I don’t have friends locally with whom I love to knit, but I’m always excited when I get to meet someone who shares a passion of mine.  Also, I recently learned that KnitWitts, the LYS that I normally go to for Knit Night each Wednesday, is closing its doors at the end of July.  This was unexpected and I am very sorry to see this happen.  But the forming of this guild at this time almost seemed like a “one door closing, another door opening” kind of moment.  So, silver lining.

I was the first to arrive, being the rather eager person that I am, but I was joined within minutes by one of the organizers.   By the time the meeting was in full swing there were around 25 + people and all quite as passionate about their craft as I am.  The thing that delighted me the most, I think, was the wide variety of fiber arts that were represented.  Most, of course, were knitters or crocheters.  But there were also weavers, spinners, dyers, tatters and rug hookers.  There was also a wide range of age and experience among those present.

The lone gentleman present, Mark, works on historical projects and with a local historical site on Abraham Lincoln.  He has been spinning since 1984.  Another woman uses a spinning wheel that has been used by 6 generations of her family.  I also met the host of Strong Girl Knits.  These are just a few of the people that were there.  I hope eventually to do some profiles on this page about some of my fascinating fellow crafters. stronggirl

The Fiber community being what it is, the knitting and crocheting projects came out before the meeting had even started and at least half present were working away on something for the duration of our time together.  This made me feel right at home.  For most people there are 3 items that are always present whenever leaving home.  Keys. Wallet (or Purse). Phone.  For those of us seriously addicted to fibers, the project bag is most likely to come too.

As followers of this blog already know,  I am learning how to hand dye yarn.  (See Living and Dyeing and Yarn, Colors, and Friends) I’m really enjoying learning about this, the small experiments I have done so far and the larger ones that I will be doing very soon.  So I am very happy indeed to connect with others who have already had experience with different methods of dyeing.  I can’t wait to learn about their experiences as I gain some of my own.  As I said before, I love the Internet for the community AND for the information.  However, sometimes I have such a random, even obscure question it sometimes takes me a while to track down that information.  I love to meet people with whom I can just put a straightforward question to and hopefully get a much quicker response or at least a direction, than the time sometimes spent wandering endlessly on the Web searching for an answer.  I can get lost in there, the chances for distraction are infinite.

We will be meeting monthly.  People are encouraged to come early and bring projects that need a fresh set of eyes to sort out a problem.  There was discussion of organizing a Fiber Festival (Oh, happy day!), day trips, and demonstrations of various crafts and techniques.

Next month, the spinners in the group are going to bring in some of their materials and equipment to demonstrate.  I believe we will have a chance to learn to spin on drop spindle and on a wheel.  I’m very much looking forward to that.  Spinning my own fiber has been on my list of things to learn for a while now.  I have been holding myself back because I genuinely want to learn how to make all the things!! and currently I’m trying to not add yet one more craft to my growing pile of projects just yet.  So this will allow me to dip my toe in the water but hopefully not get swept away.  That is a very real risk.  Fortunately both my husband and my bank account help me practice restraint.  Most of the time.

So, while I will continue to delight in the Knitting Community that I am linked to through technology, I am so happy to learn, share and connect to my fellow fiberistas in the real world.





The Need for Knit

When I started this blog last February my first post was a fairly detailed explanation of just why I call this blog  Knitting In the Apocalypse.  Please feel free to go back and read that first post.  But, put briefly, the premise is this:  We all face crises in our lifetime.  Those that are capital Apocalypse, the things that affect many people on a large scale and the lowercase apocalypse, the things that are mainly our own personal wrestlings.  I, like many people, find solace and therapeutic value in working with my hands.

In my recent interview with Maggie Menzel: Knitwear Designer she mentioned this very thing.  She said that she was often most productive in her knitting during times of great stress, that the very act of picking up her needles caused her heart rate to slow and her tensions begin to ease. There’s even a podcast on YouTube called Stress Knits for the same reason.  It’s a common theme.

There have been a lot of changes for me in recent years.  Moving from Asia back to America, working in fairly stressful jobs, and simply the ups and downs and frustrations of normal life.  Like Maggie, I find myself reaching my needles more often during those times of high stress.  Each and every time I do, especially during those times, it is as if I discover its benefits all over again.  I will reach the end of a day, I will find a comfortable spot, pick up one of my projects and as soon as yarn flows over my fingers and the fabric grows and moves across the needles I think to myself,  as if for the first time, “I really LOVE this!”.  It’s like magic.

Right now, there’s a feeling of lowercase apocalypse happening.  There’s nothing dire happening.  Everyone’s healthy and projects and goals I have are inching forward, often more slowly than I’d like, but forward is forward.  In fact, if there was something even smaller than a lowercase version of this, that’s where I’d be.  The only things I have to stress me are that my garden needs weeding very badly,  my chicken coop is still not built, and some unexpected car repairs came up.  Annoying to be sure, but really, really small in the grand scheme of things.

So I was a little taken aback with how stressed I was feeling.  My logic and intellect recognized the “ordinariness” of these things, but my nerves just plain didn’t care.  But then it slowly dawned on me, in dealing with all these things the amount of time I was actually spending with my knitting had decreased pretty drastically.  I am rarely without a project bag close to hand to be sure, but I just hadn’t been able to reach for it as often.

The epiphany happened during one of the times I actually did get to sit for a bit with the Taina shawl I Tainahave been working on.  As I began knitting and I had that “I REALLY love this!!” moment, as I always do, I suddenly realized just how little time I had been spending doing this.   Like anyone who requires medication to manage mental or physical health issues, I saw at once that I had gone off my meds.  I’m thinking my family realized it before I did :).  But once I did catch sight of it, I knew I needed to get back on track.

This was really good news.  It meant I had an easy, tried and true solution AND it meant some of my languishing projects were going to get the love they needed.

I currently have 3 projects on the needles.  Besides the Taina shawl I am working on my Vanilla Latte socks and a double knit square for a blanket I am making.

I would have to say that currently Taina is my favorite.  Other than having to watch carefully on the rows that create the eyelet patterns it is simple garter stitch and very relaxing to knit.  It is definitely a good go-to when you want something to help you just recenter yourself and breathe.

As I mentioned in One for the Road I like to have things that challenge me in my knitting skills.  While knitting the Vanilla Latte’ sock I have been learning to Fish Lips Kiss Heel.  This has definitely been a challenge, but I think that once I get the hang of it, it will be one of my favorite heels.  In fact, once this pair is completed I plan to make several more pairs using it to become confident in it before learning a new heel technique.  Perhaps I will try the Strong Heel since Maggie was such a fan of it.

In terms of progress I am about to close the toe on the first sock and preparing to start the heel on the second.  Since I am very close to finishing my shawl, I think this pair will get the attention it’s been lacking and will be completed very soon.

Finally, I’m working on a double knit square.  Here is where I have to be mysterious and covert.  This is for a blanket I am intending to give as a gift for someone who may or may secretnot read this post.  So I must deprive you of the details for today.  But once this blanket is finished, which will be quite awhile I’m afraid, I will post pictures and tell you about the fun and trials and travails of creating it.  I am so, so close to the end of this particular square, but I made some mistakes in the last row I completed and had to put it down and take a break before I went back to it with fresh energy to see if I can deal with them.  Because there is a knit stitch and a purl stitch for each stitch it takes a good long time to do make things in this style.  I am literally 3 rows away from completion of this square so I am dreading the thought of not being able to repair it.  I may have to call in extra help on this one.  But I have every reason to hope it can be rescued and I can look forward to beginning the next one.

Breathing and Knitting.  Knitting and Breathing.

My apocalypses shrink in size if I remember to make time for these things.

I REALLY love that.



P.S. Finished Object!!





Living and Dyeing

I love getting packages in the mail.  Who doesn’t?  When I was in elementary school there was a song we learned in music class called the “Wells Fargo Wagon”.  The first line was:  Oh, the Wells Fargo Wagon is a’comin’ down the street.  Oh, please let it be for meeeee….”.

It was the UPS or FedEx of its day.  Whenever I see the trucks for either of these companies, that song pops into my head.  True story.

It’s been a good week for me. Because packages.  I have decided to start exploring the wilds of dyeing my own yarns.  I’ve spent enough time drooling over the yarn porn of the various Indie yarn dyers and decided it is time for me to join the fun.

This past week I ordered a variety of supplies to get me started.  I had already ordered a copy of Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece by Gail Callahan and begun reading it. I’ve been scavenging my cupboards and garage and thrift stores for tools that can be dedicated to dyeingbookthis process.  THIS week I finally started ordering the fun stuff.  In the mail I received 3 undyed skeins of wool of various type and weight, a sampler pack of 6 dyes, citric acid, a  yarn swift, and ok, so I threw in a new set of really pretty straight knitting needles.

Don’t judge.

Naturally these things all arrived the day before Father’s Day weekend.  This is a big event at our house and almost all of Saturday was spent cooking, with occasional spurts of cleaning.  We definitely had a great time with our family get together, but this also kept me from getting on with the fun!!!! 

I am not a patient person.

After I had ordered the supplies (but before they could arrive) I decided to do a bit of experimenting while I waited.  I happened to have on hand the remnants of a skein of undyed Tibetan Yak wool that had been given to me as a gift.  I had knit up a really nice cowl in the natural color but I still had a small ball left.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching knitting and dyeing podcasts.  As a result I had seen various ways of dyeing with food coloring.  I had undyed wool.  I had food coloring.  I had materials on the way.  I did not have patience.  Time to start.

I wasn’t really worried about perfection this time,  I just wanted to begin learning the process.  So after watching some tutorials,  I just jumped right in.

Without really measuring I pulled out several yards of the yak wool, pulled the white vinegar and food coloring from my pantry and got rolling.

For my first attempt I wanted a good purple that was more on the red side rather than blue.  So after my yarn had soaked and the water and been brought up to heat I started adding in the red and the blue.  I stirred the colors together and dipped a white piece of paper towel in to get a sense of the shade I had created until I was ready to try.  When I was done I had a very respectable reddish purple that I dubbed “Untrod Grape”.


This picture is not the greatest, it definitely shows as more brown, but in real life this is a nice shade of red-purple.  Take my word for it.

I’m working on my lighting.  I promise.

This, of course, only spurred me on.


Time for another tutorial on a different technique.  So:

I wound off another few yards of yak wool and went for phase 2.  From what I’ve read and heard I know you have to be careful when using multiple colors or you are just going to wind up with muddy water.  Which sounds like a funky colorway name, but not really what I was aiming for.

I only had the basic four set food color pack and I was curious to see how the colors would interact together.  After the prerequisite soaking in vinegar water, I carefully arranged my wool in the warm water.  I did careful drips of alternating color repeating each color twice.  I let this simmer together just long enough to start to have some blend but still retain each color.

I was a little surprised at the end product:

I think if the simmer time would have been slightly shorter the original colors would have been more obvious. Still, I’m not displeased with the result.  Since it has very Autumnal colors and tones to it, I decided it should be called October Hike.  I think this would look very nice as a cowl with a denim jacket.

I find it rather amazing the wide range of colors and tones you can create with just 4 very basic colors.  With my new stock of colors waiting for me and far more to choose from when I’m ready, it makes me feel like the possibilities are endless.  I like that feeling.

In both attempts I was just going by instinct and playing in my choosing, mixing,  and blending.  But when I truly get started I plan to keep careful notes and compile all the techniques and color recipes I like best into a notebook.

When fiber enthusiasts shop for yarns and wools,  some shop for just the right materials for an already planned project.  Others find inspiration as they browse and select yarns and colors for an as yet to be determined item.  I do a little of both.  Some skeins I just cannot walk away from even if I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with it.

I suspect my experiments with dyeing will be much the same.  I’ve now taken one yarn dyeing class and done these two attempts at home.  Each time I really liked what I wound up with but each time it was a little different than the picture I had started with in my head.  I think that is true of almost any creative pursuit though.   I am certain, with time and practice, I will be able to produce and repeat the colors that I want.  I also think that the creative Muse is a whimsical mistress and always has a glint of mischief in her eye when you think you’ve got it all figured out.

To the discoveries ahead,




Maggie Menzel: Knitwear Designer

I’ve been looking forward to releasing this latest blog post.

Just a few months ago, I had the very good fortune of meeting Maggie Menzel when she joined our Wednesday Knit Night.  She is so much fun to talk to and one of those people with whom I can go on and on and ON about all things knitting because she shares this passion.

Imagine my delight to discover that not only is she a knitwear designer, but one of her patterns was selected to be released in the most recent edition of the online knitting magazine Knitty.

This was a unique opportunity to pick the brain of a designer.  So Maggie and I met up to talk about her knitting journey, her process and her designs.  I hope you enjoy.


Personal History:

I’m Maggie Menzel,  I’m originally from Bloomington, IN which is a college town.  My parents are both professors, my Father, Kent,  is a Professor of Mathematics and my Mom, Suzanne, is a professor of Computer Science, so a super snotty background, haha.   I’m a midwestern girl.  I always loved being creative. I give a lot of credit to my sister Cassie for this. She would draw and so then I would have to draw.  But the real credit for my knitting comes from my Gran, my Mother’s mother.  My Gran is an amazing knitter.  When I was 10 years old, at Christmas, she gave me a beginning knitter’s book and 2 inches of scarf already made so I wouldn’t have to learn how to cast on and I could just go straight into the knit stitch and (laughing) it was with this terrible yarn, it was brown, variegated and scratchy..

Me:  Why does everyone start off with terrible yarn?!

Maggie:  I don’t know!! Part of it is that my Gran, bless her heart, has skin like leather, she doesn’t feel it!  I love her to death, she has amazing color sense most of the time, except with this yarn.   But she herself knits with the scratchiest wool because she doesn’t feel it.  Also because I was 10 she bought some cheap yarn.  So I started knitting this on US size 13 needles, which was smart, since I was a kid and had no dexterity.  She taught me to knit that afternoon and off I went.  It took me a year to knit that scarf, starting and stopping.  I gave it to my Mother the next Christmas.  And it was awful!   It had these sections that were super tight and then other sections that were super loose.  The edges were all wavy where I had accidentally increased and decreased; and my mother promptly lost it (chuckles) Which I cannot blame her for, because it was hideous. The yarn was hideous, it was scratchy and I was not a very good knitter yet.

Then I took a break for about a year.  But after that, all through middle school and through most of high school I went through this period where I just knit a lot of garter stitch scarves all the time.  Finally I met some other people who knit.  And meeting other knitters I thought “Whoa, I thought only old ladies did this! And me!” They were like “Oh, let’s try knitting a hat!” or “We’re going to try knitting these fingerless gloves” And I was like “Well, if you’re doing it, I have to do it too.”

The first pattern I ever followed was a sweater.  That was a dumb idea, let me tell you. And I picked the worst yarn for it.  I picked a bamboo yarn, which was really pretty but it was heavy so the sweater just weighed a ton, but I loved it and I’ve been hooked ever since, all because of my Gran.

Me:  I’ll bet she’s been a great resource when you’ve hit walls with your knitting.maggs

Maggie:  All through my youth, she was the first one to teach me how to knit a sock, for instance.  Unfortunately she’s always lived up in Maine.  But for years she would come and spend 2 or 3 weeks at Christmas.

Me: What are your most favorite and least favorite thins to knit?

Maggie: Right now I’m on kind of a sock binge.  Which, for anyone who is familiar with my patterns started with Stripe Strides, which is a series of patterns made specifically for self striping yarns that I created.  There’s actually two series, Stripe Strides and Stripe Strides 2.  Altogether it’s 10 patterns and ever since starting that,  all I want to knit are socks, especially socks with self striping yarn.  I’ve finished that project for now.  I don’t know if there’ll be a part 3, 10 patterns is a lot.   

Me:  You’ve released these on Ravelry?

Maggie:  Yes, I’ve considered putting out a part 3.  I have two more ideas in mind, but I don’t know if I have 5 more in me. Sooooo maybe someday.  Not soon, though.

Me:  Well, artists have their blue period and you had your sock period, lol, that’s ok.

Maggie:  I’ve been doing other socks recently.  Right now I’m doing colorwork socks.  Colorwork used to be my least favorite thing to knit, but it’s growing on me a little bit in this project.  Least favorite?  There are certainly things I knit less.  But I don’t know if I have a least favorite.  Really, if I’m knitting, I’m happy.  There’s a couple of techniques I haven’t tried yet.  I haven’t tried Enterlac yet, but I have to try because it looks so cool.  There’s nothing I’ve hated.

Me:  Are you a monogamous knitter?

Maggie:  No….but I don’t have 20 projects going at once either.  I could never keep track of that.  I have one project that is very long term and has been going on for 5 or 6 years.  It’s a scrap blanket so I only work on it when I have scraps.

I like to have one big and one little project.  So I usually have one quick, satisfying, easily finished project that I’m working on.

Me:  You said “As long as I’m knitting I’m happy”.  What moved you from just knitting to taking the next step up and start designing your own patterns?

Maggie:  (Pausing thoughtfully) Well, when I went to college I had this period of high [knitting] productivity.  Probably because I was so stressed.  Whenever I’m stressed I knit more.

At the time I was crocheting a lot.  I was crocheting the dolls that have heads bigger than their bodies.  I had a boyfriend at that time who wanted me to make one that had a head proportional to the body.  So I kind of looked for a pattern, I didn’t look that hard, but I thought, “I could probably do this myself”.  And I did!  And that became the crochet version for my basic doll body pattern.  That wasn’t actually the first pattern I published. 

At the same time I had made a simple scarf pattern, the Color Changing Scarf, and someone asked me to publish it. It is such a simple pattern I wrote that one up in an afternoon.  I knew nothing.  I didn’t even know about test knitting, I just published it.  Someone said, “you should get this tested” I said, “how do I do that?” and they pointed me over to some of the great testing groups on Ravelrycolor

It all just sort of snowballed on me and I became obsessed with pattern designing very quickly.  All of a sudden I had all these ideas for things.  Once I had done it one time I wanted to do it again.   It took me a long time to want to do it, but once I did, I was hooked.

Me:  There’s a lot of Math involved in writing a pattern.  Did you have certain books or resources that you went to when you started designing, or did you just do it yourself?

Maggie:  No, I didn’t know anything back then.  There are resources that I use now.  There are all these designers that I so admire that are able to figure out all the Math beforehand and then knit it or having someone else knit it.  I have never been able to do that.  I’ve always figured out the math as I went.  Once I get one size (for a garment), I’m able to do the math to get the other sizes.  But for the first size I always have to knit it myself.  I’ve knit ever single pattern I’ve ever published.

Me:  So you’ve been your own test knitter until recently.

Maggie:  Well, I’m my first test knitter.  But I’ve been really fortunate to have some very good test knitters to test my work.  I go to some excellent test knitting groups on Ravelry and get these amazing volunteers who are willing to sift through my errors, because I am not perfect enough to make a pattern without errors.  I give them a lot of credit, they’re fantastic.

Me:  Tell me about your process, the ups and downs of your designing.

Maggie:  One thing that was intimidating for me was after I had done a couple of patterns I started looking into how other people design and I started reading about how there was a “right way”.  The “Right Way” was to figure out ALL of the math and write everything down and THEN start knitting.  I was never going to be able to do that.  That was never going to be my process.  If that works for you, great!  go, have fun, I applaud you.  But that was never going to work for me.  Because the minute I have an idea I start knitting and then everything falls apart.  So I rip everything out and start again with a way to fix it.  That usually goes on about 3 or 4 times before I get something that I’m happy with.  My design process is not the most efficient at all, it’s incredibly inefficient.  People talk about how they swatch a bunch and figure out all the math.  That is the more efficient route, but I could never do that.  There’s always something I didn’t anticipate.  There’s things about the construction or stitch pattern that I just didn’t think of.

Me:  It sounds like you are a very tactile learner

Maggie:  I am a VERY tactile learner.  I have to do it to figure it out.  What I’m trying to say is, if that’s the way you are too, that’s ok.  Do it in whatever way works for you.  If the way I just described sounds awful, don’t do it that way!  But if what I described sounds like the way that works for you, it’s the only way that works for me, so go ahead and do it that way.”

Me:  So, THIS is the exciting news.  You’ve recently had a pattern selected to be released through Knitty, the online knitting magazine, in their just released Fall patterns issue.   

First of all, what pattern was selected?

Maggie:  It is called Vinculum and it is a cabled sock.  It’s really cool because I used a different kind of heel called the Strong Heel, which is not a particularly common one.  I found it on the Internet.  I spend a lot of time searching the Internet, searching for Vinculumdifferent types of heels and toes, because I’m a Nerd!! (laughing).  I first used this heel in Stroll which is part of Striped Strides 2 and I loved it because you get to go in continuous rounds almost the whole way.  Which means you don’t break your pattern when you reach the heel.  In Vinculum I used the Strong Heel so that I could keep the cable pattern going without having to cable on the wrong side of the work.

I was also able to add this really nifty little cabled gusset, which I’m quite fond of.  It makes me very happy to have all those cables everywhere.  So it’s just a very, very, very cable-y sock.  I submitted it to Knitty and was amazed and shocked when it got in!  I submitted it because “Why not?!” There’s no harm.

Me:  How long did they keep you waiting before letting you know it had been chosen?

Maggie:  Maybe a month or two?  It wasn’t a very long time.

Me:  What was your reaction when you found out you had been selected?

Maggie:  I called my Mom immediately!!  I freaked out!  How could this have happened to me?!  I was shocked and a little starstruck because Knitty always has these incredible designs and to be a part of that was really exciting for me.

Me:  Future Tense.  What are your knitting and designing goals from here?

Maggie:  That’s a good question.  Right now I’m working on another pattern that involves colorwork.  It’s another sock pattern because I’m obsessed with socks!

In terms of future goals I just want to keep getting better.  I want to be better at forming my patterns, better at making them clearer. and I want to continue to improve.

I look back and I started designing during my Freshman year of college, about 7 or 8 years ago and I’ve improved so much.  I want to continue to improve so I can be in things like Knitty.  It’s very satisfying to look back and see the improvement.

Me:  Before we actually started recording you said that knitting is “the fun” and you wouldn’t want it as a primary job because it would become “work” then.

Maggie:  That’s true for me.  Knitting has never been my primary source of income, which has always made it ok that I don’t make a lot of money off of my patterns.  If I were to make designing patterns my career it would become a job.  It would become work.  I’ve never wanted that for knitting.  I love knitting, I’m obsessed with it.  I don’t  want it to be my job.  I will continue doing it.  There’s no sign of it stopping.  But I’ve been known to go 6 months without releasing a pattern because there are other things happening in my life and the inspiration isn’t there at that moment.  That’s kind of sad for me, because I don’t really want those breaks, but at the same time, that’s the way that works best for me.

Me:  If it’s not your primary source of income, then the pressure is off and there’s no one hovering with a deadline and it can just stay fun.

Maggie:  That’s very true.  At the same time I do want to be professional.  If someone pays for my pattern they should get a professional product.  The people who DO choose to be professional designers are amazing to me, but it’s not right for me.

Me:  What is your go-to color palette when choosing colors for designs?

Maggie:  I have a terrible, terrible weakness for brightly saturated colors, which make all of my patterns look like a kaleidoscope.  It’s not always the best choice, but I have such a weakness for bright colors, jewel tones.  Sometimes I start working on a pattern and I think, “Oh my goodness, I need to bring this back a little.  it is just blindingly bright. “  But I have so much fun with it.

Me:  This might be like asking to choose who is your favorite child, but do you have a favorite pattern?

Maggie:  I have favorites for sure.  Cirque is a favorite of mine, it just came together so nicely.  Scamper is a favorite of mine because although Strut was what started Stripe Strides, Scamper showed me it could be more than one pattern.  I love that series so much.  Stroll is another favorite from it.  Stroll took forever to get right.  I knit seven different socks before I finally got Stroll to be what it is today.  When it worked it was so satisfying. It felt so good to get it right.

Cirque          scamper   stroll



In terms of non-sock patterns Moiety is a favorite.  I used that pattern to raise funds for the ACLU.  I raised over $150 by selling that pattern for $1.

Me:  You said that’s not a sock pattern?

Maggie:  It’s a shawl pattern.  It’s free now, but throughout February I did that as a fundraiser.  I have such good feelings about that. So many people came together and they donated just a little, but over a hundred people came together to donate to that cause. It wasn’t a ton, but it felt really good to be a part of coordinating something that brought  support to something we believed in.  I felt so flattered by the people who messaged me thanking me and telling me how much this cause meant to them. How happy it made them that I was raising awareness for it.  The whole thing was such a wonderful experience.  I have a real soft spot for that pattern now.  But I have a soft spot for all of them, they’re all my babies.

Me: Process knitter or product knitter?

Maggie:  (thinking) I’m a product knitter, for sure.  I want the thing.  Which means, of course, I have a lot of “the things”.  I have an overflowing drawer that has hats and scarves and shawls and things in my apartment.  I can’t bear to part with any of them.  And my sock drawer is also overflowing. But I can’t bear to part with them either.  I keep fixing them when they get holes.

Me: (laughing) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Maggie:  Yes!

Me:  What has knitting meant for you personally?

Maggie:  I’ve always felt that when I am the most stressed is when I knit the most.  When I’m the busiest I knit more.  Which seems counterintuitive.  It seems like you should knit when you have free time.  When I have free time I don’t knit at all.  I knit when I’m stressed and it’s such a fantastic stress reliever.  When I pick up the needles my heart rate goes down and I just feel better.  Unless it’s a particularly stubborn project, in which case it does the opposite!

It’s also been a wonderful way for me to make friends.  Wherever I go, there’s always other knitters.  It’s a way for me to connect with people who I would not normally hang out with.  They aren’t my age or they aren’t from my school or job.  They are people I might not meet otherwise.  I love how knitting broadens my social circle. 

Another thing is that I can look back at my life and remember where I was when I was working on a certain project.  I can look through My Ravelry Page and it’s like my personal history from when I was 10.

Me:  How old were you when you released your very first pattern?

Maggie:  I was a freshmen in college, so I was probably 18, about 8 years ago.

Me:  Anything you want to say to any other budding knitters or designers out there?

Maggie:  I think that it always looks harder than it is.  Which is not to say it isn’t hard.  But all of knitting is just a combination of knits and purls. If you can do that, you really can do anything.  It might take some practice and it might take ripping it out 10 times, but you really can.

Me:  I’ve definitely been there.

Maggie:  Right.  It takes some patience and it takes some effort but it’s not as hard as you think it is, I promise.  It is but you can do it.

Me:  If you love it, do it.

Maggie:  Yeah.  If something looks hard or intimidating, a lot of times it’s really a lot simpler than it looks.  The first time I tried cables, it looked so hard and it wasn’t.  Then I tried cabling without a cable needle.  I thought, “Take your stitches off your needle?! That’s impossible they’re all going to fall out!!” But it wasn’t that hard once I actually did it.

So. “You can do it” is really the main message.  I believe anyone can do it.

Me:  I’ve seen that myself.  Things used to intimidate me.  I’d read a pattern and I’d encounter something I was very unfamiliar with and for the longest time I’d let that deter me and I would just find a different pattern.  But I finally decided I really wanted to learn some of these techniques and once I sat down with them I often found they were less difficult than I had anticipated

Maggie:  I mentioned earlier, I started knitting when I was in 5th grade and i didn’t even learn to do the purl stitch till I was in High School.  I didn’t do anything other than garter stitch scarves.  First of all, there was no one to teach me.  It didn’t occur to me to search on the Internet.   But once I was around people who were trying things then I had to try them too.  Once you do, it’s not as hard as you think it will be.  The things that were intimidating become easy once you try them. (End)


Please do go and look up Maggie’s patterns.  Especially if you are enjoy a fun sock pattern.  Maggie has at least 46 patterns on Ravelry and I’m sure we will see more added before long.   Maggie has no shortage of the creative talents.  In case you are curious, her day job is that of a professional filmmaker and animator.

Next weeks post:  Living and Dyeing

Much Peace,