Tuesday, July 13, 2010


This is my great grandmother. Her name was Sofia, and she was the first person I ever saw knit or crochet. This photo was taken of her in Lake Tahoe at my Uncle Louie's cabin. It's the only photo I've ever seen of her knitting.

She was Big Nana, to me, even though she stood only 4'10". She spoke Italian and very little English. She went to church every day, walking up and down the steep Filbert Street hill to go to Ss. Peter and Paul Church in North Beach. She rode the cable cars well into her 80's.

I grew up around the corner from Big Nana, who lived with Auntie Florence and Uncle Ralph. I visited her on many occasions and always found her sitting in her chair, working on a bureau scarf or doll clothes or something for a baby. Sofia lived to the age of 92, a gentle soul who helped me appreciate fine handmade things.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Marin County Fair 2010

Just some photos of the textiles on exhibit at the Marin County Fair. I didn't enter any fairs this year, but I still like visiting and looking at the entries. Not too much lace was exhibited, but some talented knitters won ribbons, nonetheless. Click on an image to see it larger.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Krokus in Progress

The past two+ months have been a bit tumultuous, with Dad in the hospital, his recovery, and adding a new puppy to our household. (Ellie has a new blog where you may watch her grow up.) I've finally gotten back to Krokus, which sat dormant for at least part of this time. Thank you, Adrienne, for spurring me to update.

I don't know what possessed me to think that I would finish Krokus in time to enter it in the San Mateo County Fair this year. Even if nothing had gone topsy-turvy, the timeframe for completion was still much too short. In addition, I had thought I was knitting 209 rows.

I found the Krokus pattern in the February 1989 Anna magazine, published in German by Burda. It was a lucky find. Several years ago, I had purchased a stack of old Annas from an online seller at a low price, and the collection included the elusive Lyra (in English!) and several other Herbert Niebling patterns. Of course, now many of the Niebling patterns have been republished, since interest in these fine works has increased. However, at the time of my purchase, I felt very lucky to have found these.

If you know Anna magazine, you're aware that the more complex charts are located on a large pull-out folded sheet in the center of the magazine -- sort of like the posters we would pull out of old Tiger Beat magazines as kids. I admit, as a young girl, I had a shirtless David Cassidy pinned on my wall, complete with staple hole near his bellybutton. My mom was not pleased. These days, my heart beats faster for Nieblings than popstars.

When I picked up Krokus again, I happily knit along at a good pace, and at Row 123 I guessed I would easily finish in a month or at the most two. Then I realized, as I looked at the photo of the finished piece in the magazine, that I had barely made a dent in this mammoth thing. And it was not 209 rows. It was 245. How had I missed that portion of the chart?

On the Anna pattern sheet, the chart is printed in several sections. One ends at 123, the next at 167; the next at 191; the next at 209. But I hadn't noticed the very long final section ends at 245 -- which would make it exponentially larger than I had envisioned. Then, of course, there is a very long, tedious bind-off. Okay, I've done Lyra, but I didn't think this one was going to be so time-consuming. Anyway, it will be ready for the next Fair, whether it's San Mateo or the State Fair. No pressure. Only another year to finish.

The lifeline I'm using is now in three pieces. It makes more sense than having one long lifeline that could break under tension. Did I say tension? No, there is no tension in knitting, just as there is no crying in baseball.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Normally, I would encourage a new or inexperienced knitter to ask questions of someone experienced. Find out everything you can about the art you love to practice. Then take your new knowledge and go forth into the world, enjoying your new skills and sharing them with others.

I would now like to make an exception to this rule of knitting etiquette. Please do not bother a knitter who is engaged in complicated lace knitting with multiple questions during a seriously difficult row of counting and manipulating stitches.

I would love to say that I can complete XX rows per train trip, but as the Krokus grows exponentially larger, I can barely finish one row during my brief 25 minutes on BART. Therefore, I stop in the middle of the chart row, and have to count back to the stopping point. And I have very little actual knitting time per trip.

Last night, on my way home from work, a friendly woman of about my age sat down next to me on the BART train. I had boarded one stop earlier and ritualistically unfolded my Krokus chart (because it's too large for an 8.5x11 plastic page protector), removed my rubber needle tip protectors, and carefully began counting stitches up to the spot where I had left off in the pattern chart.

This friendly woman, with her hair in tight ponytail and wearing a black Giants baseball jersey, plopped down in the seat next to me and immediately said:

"Wow! Is that knitting? What are you making?

I replied, "It's lace. Yes, it's knitting." I began thinking about the T-shirt I want printed with the standard answers.

"Lace? But what are you making?"

"It's a tablecloth."

"Wow, that's really difficult. I can't do anything like that. I can crochet. Do you want to see the hat I made?" Before I could answer, she began rooting through one of her bags and found a sweet crocheted hat with earflaps.

"Nice. I bet that keeps your ears warm," I smiled and tried to focus on counting stitches from the chart. One, yarnover, knit two together, yarnover, knit two together ...

"It does! I tried to teach my daughter, but she didn't like doing it. She wants me to knit for her! I'm a beginner, but you are doing something hard. How did you learn that? Have you been doing that for a long time?"

"Since I was a child." One, yarnover, knit two together ...

"Me, too! Since I was about five! And you??"

"Me, too." Five ... uh ... one, yarnover ...

"Oh, wow, but you're really good. How can I learn to do that?"

Counting paused now. Needles down. "You can learn from books, or from watching knitting videos or taking a class. Or find a good knitting group."

"Okay, I'll definitely do that."

I took advantage of the momentary pause in conversation and picked up the needles again. I found my spot and started knitting from the chart.

"Hey, what are you doing now? Is that knitting or purling? I think it's knitting."

"It's knitting."

"Okay, oh ... and what's that your doing?"

"Knit two together."

"Okay. Where is that on the chart?"

I point.

"Oh, it's a triangle. What's the circle?"

"It's a yarnover."

"What's that?"

Please ... make it stop.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Happy Easter!

This little peep tried to escape his fated duty as centerpiece sentinel, but he was unsuccessful.

Paul gets excited about decorating for holidays, and he always comes up with something creative. He suggested a vase filled with peeps after seeing something like this online. We did it our own way with daisies and tulips.

I am a bit of a peep fanatic at this time of year -- they just make me smile. We got a little carried away and dyed Easter eggs and filled some plastic ones with candy.

On the more traditional side, I found this very old glass egg-shaped candy dish tucked away with some of my mother-in-law's teacups and glasses. I cleaned it up, added a ribbon, and filled it with M&Ms. Paul thinks these treats are just for him, so the egg may be empty by Sunday.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Krokus - Row 64

I'm at Row 64. Only 182 more rows of increasing size to go! Yikes. Thanks to Yenju for the translation help. This Yubina cashmere/silk is lovely.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Who Is Marjorie Bruce?"

With curiosity piqued, I contacted Name Maker regarding the identity of the famous yet mysterious Marjorie Bruce. As I mentioned in a previous post, Marjorie Bruce has been the name printed on the company's sample labels for many years. Knitters, quilters and others sew the labels into handmade garments, etc. I remember seeing the name Marjorie Bruce on their catalog sample labels as a teenager (way back when).
I received an email reply to my question from Name Maker's Vice President of Sales and Marketing:

The original owners of Name Maker (in 1938) always used this name. We don't know if she was a real person, or if it was a made up name!

Thanks for asking!

Stephanie Sklar
VP- Sales & Marketing
Name Maker, Inc.

A mystery for the ages.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Krokus ... New Yarn, New Day

After knitting Krokus for about 40 rows or so, the stripes were evident. Even though I love this Almaza tencel from Just Our Yarn, it doesn't work for this intricate doily. I'll save it for a shawl with an all-over stitch pattern. I was hoping for a more subtle, watercolor effect, but it wasn't happening.

I switched to my blue
Yubina cashmere/silk. This is the same yarn I reviewed a while back, when I was swatching for the Princess Shawl. The Yubina is a little shiny and springy. It's superfine, a lot more delicate than the tencel. I'm still using size US0 needles. The start was a bit fiddly, but these Darn Pretty Needles made it much easier than my old steel DPNs.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Krokus, the beginning

I started a new Herbert Niebling doily, Krokus. This one can be found in Anna Burda, Feb 1989, and probably in some other books and magazines.

Just Our Yarn's lovely Almaza tencel yarn (10/2) is a very pale blend of light blues and teal. I'm using my new doily starter needles, called
Darn Pretty Needles -- they are darn pretty, and the stitches don't slide off. I have always used steel DPNs to start doilies, out of habit, no other reason. These are great, but I'll need to change to a longer set shortly, and then to a circular.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Woven Labels (and who is Marjorie Bruce, anyway?)

While I was wandering around at Stitches last week, someone asked me where to get woven name labels, the kind your grandma used to sew into clothing. Usually, they look something like this:

I couldn't think of where I had bought mine, because it was so long ago. When I bought them, I was very pleased. And wouldn't it be great, I thought, if my handknit sweaters lived a long time, and got passed along, and some day, someone would ask, who is this person who knit my favorite sweater? My ambition: perplex future generations.

Well, it was a silly notion, but name labels are still pretty popular. The company that made mine is still in business:
Name Maker. They have many different designs, and you can even have your own design custom printed (not woven). The basic designs, however, are woven.

This is the design I chose (stock photo, not my actual label):
They started in 1938 -- your grandma probably used these labels! From their website:

Name Maker, Inc. was established in 1938 as a fabric label company in New York City. Bernie Bryan, president of Notions Unlimited, bought the company in 1950 and rebuilt all of the original machinery for an Atlanta plant. Bryan’s transformed brand first offered mass produced personalized nametapes, sewing labels, and custom made labels. Bryan’s daughter Cheryl Dorrell joined the business in 1990, working her way from marketing to president. She added and developed several new products along the way. In 1996, Bryan semi-retired to Las Vegas and Dorrell assumed direction of the company.

As president for over a decade, Dorrell has become the driving agent for corporate growth at Name Maker. The company continues to generate exciting new personalized packaging concepts including a wide selection of personalized gift wrap, personalized ribbon, gift boxes and a new line of sewing labels. Media coverage has created increased awareness of the product line and attracted celebrity customers such as Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts, Dakota Fanning, Katie Couric, Tricia Yearwood, David Copperfield and Marcia Gay Harden. Name Maker is extremely proud of all its unique brands and strives to create only the highest quality products for its customers around the world.

And who is Marjorie Bruce? Well some of the labels on the website identify a needleworker named on the labels as: Marjorie Bruce. In the old days, ALL of the labels had that name. I really don't know why, and would love to know. If you know, please tell me. If I do find out, I'll post it.

And now for something completely different ...

A Wikipedia entry tells the tale of another Marjorie Bruce:

Marjorie Bruce or Marjorie de Brus (December, 1296 – 2 March 1316) was the eldest daughter of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots by his first wife, Isabella of Mar, and the founder of the Stuart dynasty. Her marriage to Walter, High Steward of Scotland united Clan Stewart and the royal House of Bruce, giving rise to the House of Stuart. Her son was the first Stuart monarch, King Robert II of Scotland.

Her mother, Isabella, a nineteen-year-old noblewoman from the ancient
Clan Mar, died soon after giving birth to her. Her father was then the Earl of Carrick, and her mother died the Countess of Carrick; she never became Queen. Marjorie was named after her father's mother, Marjorie of Carrick.

According to legend, her parents had been very much in love, and Robert the Bruce did not remarry until Marjorie was six years old. In 1302, a teenage
courtier named Elizabeth de Burgh became her stepmother. Elizabeth was about thirteen, only seven years older than Marjorie. On 27 March 1306, her father and stepmother were crowned King and Queen of Scots at Scone, Perthshire, and Marjorie, then nine years old, became a Princess of Scotland.

If you want to read more, go here. Oh, and if you find out who the Marjorie Bruce is on the labels, please comment.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Surviving Stitches West 2010

I’ve attended enough times to know that I must psychologically and physically prepare for the ordeal that is Stitches West, the annual knitapalooza event produced by XRX (the Knitting Universe) and held locally at the Santa Clara Convention Center for the last few years.

Classes are held behind curtains in various areas around the perimeter of the Stitches Market. The Market, however, is what draws me each year. Market vendors number nearly 200 and their wares comprise an overwhelming, wondrous mix of yarns, needles, notions, books, software, spinning accoutrements, and things you never knew existed.

A few truths about Stitches West:

Theorem #1:
You will see and/or meet a famous, or nearly famous, designer or knitting luminary at Stitches West.

Besides the goods, you’ll find the knitting glitterati – authors, teachers, artists, icons, movers and shakers of the knitting world – wandering about unawares. Yes, you can assault them with your praise, questions and complaints, if you’re not standing there awestruck and silent.

Remember the scene from the movie West Side Story when Tony first sees Maria in clear Technicolor at the dance, and everyone else is blurry? That’s sort of how it feels the first time you see Eugen Beugler, or Anna Zilboorg, or (insert name of favorite designer) wandering around with the regular people.

My advice to you is to prepare a few questions ahead of your trip, so that you won’t find yourself face-to-face with your favorite designer with nothing to say but: “You’re amazing … I … uh … love you” … followed by the blue-blazered security guards promptly carting you off to the stalker holding cell to await the authorities.

“She didn’t have a handstamp, and she said ‘I love you’ to
Galina. You just don’t do that.”

At least, when I met Gracie Larson from the
Lacy Knitters Guild of Mountain View, I was able to discuss Marguerite Shimmons’ doilies. Whew.

Theorem #2:
Preparation is necessary and manifold.

The night before the trip to Santa Clara, I ritually gather the following items:

BAWDies badge and traditional purple ribbon – identifying me as a member of the Bay Area Wool Divas – my SF knitting group

ACKD badge – identifying me as a member of Adult Children with Knitting Disorders – my San Bruno knitting group

TKGA pin – identifying me as a member of The Knitting Guild of America

“Knitting takes lots of balls” pin – because it does, and you never have enough

Ravelry badge – bearing my Ravelry handle: OceanKnitter

Stitches Market ticket – purchased online and printed hastily at work the day before (get the coupon from Knitting Universe for $2 off admission)

Directions to Santa Clara Convention Center – because no matter how many times I’ve been there, I forget which way to turn in Santa Clara

Bottle of water and a snack – because the food and beverages sold in the Convention Center are not worth the price

Compact rain jacket – because it always rains on the day I go to Stitches West (guaranteed)

Money – because some vendors only take cash

Credit cards – because I need to buy things (many)

Cell phone – because there are no pay phones in the Convention Center or the adjacent Hyatt hotel, and your friends may be in classes and not around to loan you theirs, and then you will have to walk out to your car, across a busy street, in the pouring rain, to look for your cell phone which you forgot you left at home on the kitchen table (I found this out the hard way)

Theorem #3:
It is wise to shower, wash your hair, and move the car from the garage into the driveway the night before attending Stitches West.

On the morning of Stitches, I awoke to a brown-out in Pacifica. The lights were dimmed and brown, and I could not turn on any appliances. This was a strange event, one I had never experienced in my home. I could not make a piece of toast or fry an egg – my breakfast had been planned the night before, of course. Instead, I had cold cereal. I waited a half an hour for full power to return. No luck.

Oh well, I decided to get ready using the limited lighting. I took a shower and brushed my teeth. I did not have enough power for my hairdryer. I continued to reason Pollyannaishly. That’s okay; I’ll just be a curly girl today.

Then I remembered: the garage door. The lights were still browned out, and the garage door would not open. I had never pulled the red emergency ripcord before to open the door manually. In the garage, I stood on a stepstool and attempted to read the instructions on the red tag attached to the ripcord.

I then anticipated what would happen once the garage door was open. I would have to pull it down. AHA! Why didn’t the tag say to attach a rope or some apparatus to the garage door handles so that a shorter person can reach said handles to return the door to the lowered position? I got a belt from my husband’s closet and attached it to the handle. There, I was ready.

And I did it. I moved the car outside, noting the cold and fierce wind, and smiled at my ingenuity. I lowered the door, but it was not locked. Why didn’t the tag say it wouldn’t lock until the cord was reattached?? I retrieved the stepstool and after a minute or two figured out how to reattach the cord.

Whew. What a relief.

Ten minutes later, the power came back on.

Theorem #4:
It will rain at least one day at Stitches West.

It did rain, and I was prepared with a tightly rolled rainproof jacket in my totebag. (See preparation list in Theorem #2 and note fierce, cold wind mentioned in Theorem #3.)

Theorem #5:
You will find many exciting things at Stitches West Market.

What you’ve been waiting for … the LOOT!

I finally found some yarn to finish up the Spring Blossoms Shawl. What do you think? It matches well, doesn’t it? I’m crossing my fingers.

This lovely Pygora (goat)/Merino is from Humanity Handspun. Five dollars of every purchase goes to charity (this time to Haiti). The stuff is magically soft and evenly spun. I’m in love with the stuff.

These circulars from Deborah Doyle of Asciano Fiber Arts Tools in Sausalito are, by far, the most wonderful circulars I’ve ever seen or owned. The photos are not yet on her website, but you can see them right here. The cord is pliable and soft, and the wooden needles seem to flow right out of the ends – no sticky, jaggy spots. Her website describes the cord:

“… these will not kink dervishly – they lie quietly at all times like exhausted puppies …”
The wood is renewable cocobolo – Central American non-rainforest rosewood that is very hard. She has two tips: regular and lace. I got the smallest size (3) and the nice sharp lace tips. The wood is not oiled, lacquered or varnished. Pricey, but absolutely worth it. If one breaks during normal use, she will replace it.

The little doily-starter needles are from Ellen’s Half-Pint Farm and are called “Darn Pretty Needles” – I think that’s about right. They are US0 and perfect for starting all those lace tablecloths and doilies.

Last but not least, I purchased the Intwined Pattern Studio software so that I can start making my own charts. In the past, I’ve always used Excel with a knitting symbol font. This is so much better. I tested it at the show, and was quite impressed.

See you all next year at Stitches!

Friday, January 29, 2010


I finished this in two weeks -- because I needed to FINISH something! (I don't get no sa-tis-fac-tion.) It's from a leaflet called Intermezzo by Coats. Looks a bit Niebling-ish; I'm not sure of its origin. The pattern is in German, translated for me by someone on the Laceknitters Yahoo list.

Unusual doily shapes intrigue me. Inspired, I completed it just in time for Superbowl. It's a little longer than an NFL football. Or maybe it's a lime -- Margarita time?

The yarn is Zephyr. Size US0 needle. The finished size is about 18" from point to point.