31 March 2013

Sand & Sea Morlynn Shawl

I have to say that I am surprised at how much the knitting bug has struck me! I just can't stop. It's the perfect thing for the evenings! I began knitting this full sized shawl on March 2nd and finished it on March 27th. I love it ! The pattern is available on Ravelry and is called the Morlynn Shawl I like it enough that I may well knit a second!

I used a size 4 needle. The end result is a 66"(167.64 cm)  wingspan by 31" (78.740 cm) maximum depth at bottom.

The center section does get boring but as I knit I knew that it would be worth it. The lace edging is fun,easy and looks wonderful! The pattern is very well written and is very easy to follow - both written and charted directions are included.
The yarn that I used is Tosh Merino Light in Jasper and Sand Dune colorways. One skein of each is all you need, and you end up with just a very little bit left of the main color and some yards of the lace edge color. I love this yarn. It's got a lovely shimmer to it, and it's soft and lovely to knit with.

 In order to hold the two colors together just a bit more I bound off with a double strand so that both colors were included at te very end. It's a very minor detail, but I preferred the look.
Next up on the needles is another beaded Caladan shawl - Madeline Tosh Pashima in Tart (color below) 

24 March 2013

The Most Glorious Dessert

 I have to admit to having a sweet tooth. I'm not that fond of ice cream or pies - and even candy comes second to my love of cake and other delightful, ethereal sweet treats. DH goes hunting for special desserts to delight me, and last night he presented me with this jewel. I was absolutely astounded at how beautifully presented the special treat was. This dessert company, called Alki Bakery I think, makes some of the most elegant desserts that I have ever seen. All as luscious to eat as they are beautiful to behold, The things that they manage to do with think chocolate layers is amazing!
This little beauty had thin petals of white and dark chocolate, formed into a cup that looked like a tulip to me. I was expecting a minty flavor in the middle based upon the slight green color, but it was a delectable ambrosia like concoction instead. The dessert was a perfect balance of sweet but not too too rich. Amazing. It was difficult to eat such a beautiful thing - but I managed to devour it anyway, savoring each tasty morsel!

21 March 2013

My Favorite Multi Media and Writing Notebooks and Journals

Stillman and Birn Beta series hard bound notebook
Journals and notebooks have been a large part of my life for many years. In the late 1970's when I first considered 'journaling', which at the time was probably called having a 'diary', I just added notes to a calendar. From there I progressed to having a day planner that gave me more space to write - a small page a day. Next came the real journals (which I have tried blank, ruled and squared). 

Finally, when I began to do 'visual journaling' more often than not I found that I needed more than one kind of notebook. I now use a 'regular' journal for my daily writing, to do lists, things to buy or look for, books to read, films to see etc etc (see my favorites below) as well as a mixed media journal.  

My mixed media journal needs to have good quality, nice paper that is tough enough take the demands of wet media and, at times, 'distressing'. As always I had grand time trying a variety of brands. I finally found what I consider to be the best hardbound mixed media notebook around - the Stillman and Birn Beta series notebook. It's beautiful, clear white, 180# paper that holds it own against any mixed media or water techniques that you might want to use.
A mixed media piece in the works. I have used glues, lots of water and distressing on this page already with absolutley no bleed through or warping 
This chart indicates the many series that Stillman and Birn makes, what they are generally used for and how heavy the paper is. Stillman and Birn notebooks are available in either hard bound or spiral bound.

So - my mixed media journal is set. I am a fan of Stillman and Birn journals. I don't think that they have a peer when it comes to multi-media work with no bleed through or warping issues.

My daily journal writing, list making, note keeping journal also has a set of special requirements. I use fountain pens exclusively - so the paper in my journals needs to be fountain pen friendly with no bleeding , or worse yet, feathering issues. My long standing favorite daily journal/notebook is a Quo Vadis Habana journal. The are available as blank (my favorite), and ruled and come in three different sizes. I use the larger size. Quo Vadis makes a large variety of planners and notebooks...too many to include in a post.  I love the paper in Quo Vadis Habana notebooks - it's so smooth! Writing in them is a dream - thoroughly pleasurable. 

Check out their wonderful Face Book Page at:

This is the information about Quo Vadis Habana journals from their website:

Each Habana offers 80 sheets of exceptionally smooth, 85-gram paper.
It's the finest paper in the world for writing, and we know you'll love it, too.
Habanas also feature...
  • A firm, leather-like cover that's perfect for on-the-go writing
  • Elegant round corners for cover and pages
  • Sewn binding for enhanced stability and flexibility
  • An expandable inner pocket for notes and cards
  • ribbon bookmark so you never lose your place
  • Matching elastic band holds the notebook securely
Our paper, our commitment.
Habanas are made with acid free, chlorine free and pH neutral paper made in France from certified sustainable forests.

Quo Vadis Habana journals - Luxurious paper and a soft, warm to the touch cover and I love the color choices! My personal favorite is Anise - guess which one that is!

Another brand that I enjoy is the long time standby, Moleskine. Moleskine is touted as being 'the' writers journal" and was used by writers such as Hemingway, is is a "go-to" brand for many folks. My favorite thing about this brand is the size of their large size journal which comes in a soft cover or hard cover in blank, ruled, grided, colored, patterned, plain or 'character-ed' covers. It's fits easily in my carry all. There is nothing not to love about Moleskine, and I have used them a lot throughout the years.

The only 'con', for me, about  Moleskine is that their paper is not the most fountain pen friendly paper in the world. There is a significant amount of bleedthrough. I generally try to ignore it and use both sides of a page, but one could always just use one side to obviate the bleed through issue. Moleskine has such a large line of notebooks/planners and journals in colors, characters and multiple sizes that one could never go through them all. Check them out!

Moleskine FaceBook page:
Moleskine - long standing quality and vast selection of formats.

20 March 2013

Quilt Retreat on Vashon Island 2013

The flowering tree that I have 'adopted' and take images of every year!

I always look forward to our yearly quilt retreats to Camp Burton on Vashon Island, Washington. Vashon Island is closer to mainland US and Seattle than we are, but the town has not lost is funk the way our  island seems to have over the years  
Some years we enjoy some sun, but this year it was it was mostly cold, windy and rainy and so there were not many opportunities for walks along the beach which I had thoroughly intended to enjoy, along with some sketching on the deck that overlooks this lovely inlet. Hopefully next year!
This quilt, which was hanging in the front of Island Quilter, was made by Luke Haynes of Seattle. It's comprised of what looks like shirts and jeans. I was fascinated at the power of the piece.
Island Quilter, which is one of the most wonderful quilt shops imaginable is on Vashon Island. It carries the most complete line of Kaffe Fassett fabrics of anywhere (other than Westminster Fabrics I suspect!) They also produce quilt shows in the front of the shop. While we were there they had an exhibit of 'men quilters' that was excellent. Several people remarked that this exhibit of men's quilts was better than the show that had been held at the LaConner Quilt Museum last year.

A close up of the quilting detail
 Most unfortunately, there exhibit was hung without a lot of names on or near the quilts themselves and I was unable to locate the names of the creators of most of the quilts. Mr. Haynes was the exception - the name was taped to a chair near the quilt and was more easy to locate.
This group of quilts, made by some wonderful person whose name I don'tknow, really peaked my imagination. I love the way he used the 'traditional' log cabin block as a background for the thoroughly modern aspect of his figures. So well done!

Below is a detail shot of another "man made" quilt that I thought was quite interesting. There was an image of Abe Lincoln in the group that was done, very well done, by a young man that understand was only 16 years old (sorry - I did get a photo of it)

The beautiful quilt above was made by Kathie Passorini. She works at a quilt shop called Quilt Expressions. I will be doing some ordering from them because they have a very large selection of aboriginal prints which I love and I have found to be difficult to find. If you are interested, go to the site and enter 'aboriginal prints' in their search function. You'll be pleasantly surprised!

We had another delightful representative from another great shop in California that has a great online shop. It's called Quilter's Paradise and has been in business for 35+ years!

This is the pattern that I was working on. It's called "Many Blessings" and was designed by Darlene Zimmerman. I love my reproduction prints, and I love sleeping under these understated, comforting quilts. I began making this quilt in 2009 and just keep making those darn 25 patch squares. It seems endless, and I have to stop and switch to another project when boredom sets in. I actually got about 40 squares made. I need more than 90 for a Queen sized quilt. My version is much scrappier than this cover image on the pattern - that was far too restrained for me! I should have the quilt top finished in another year or so of retreats!

My alternate project was making a sewing machine cover that will fit my Bernina 153 with it's small extension area attached. I don't like using patterns much, but I did find a pattern that provides a formula for making coves - so I can make them for any machine - as well as for any kitchen appliances that may require a spiffy cover in the future. This little project was done improvisationally, and it felt so good to just play and stitch away! I only have the machine quilting to do and it will be done - so I'll add photos of it soon. I've been meaning to make a cover for it for this machine for a long time because it sits on my work table and usually gets 'covered' by whatever stray piece of cloth is nearby when I end my day of stitching.

Ah! This was the view from the ferry on the way home. I wish we had some sun while we were away, but it made 'serious' sewing' easy and guilt free to do. I love the breaks that retreats provide but getting home is always the best! The comfort of home is always the best thing about going away!

11 March 2013

Sleepy Cat & Bird's Lodge

"Yawn! It's been a hard day around here... I need a nap"

Most of you who are owned by a feline know how much they love to snuggle in somewhere. Tillie has claimed the bed as her own since the first day that she arrived. She deigns to allow us to use it at certain times of the day and night!

Lately, she has developed a way tucking herself in without our help. She burrows in on one side of the bed and then winds her way underneath the cover until she finds the best place to lay her head.

"Why are you bothering me?"
"Now I'm ready for a snooze"
The images are not great quality - it was dark in the room and the flash would have irritated her highness greatly - so these are the best I could do!
I was asked to test a new product for a company (more on who when it is available), and the simple instructions read " make it artsy, craftsy, functional or fun". I must have had birds on my mind because I set to making this bird lodge from the material. It has been sent off, but I snapped these couple of pics before it went in the box. Quite honestly, I am not proud of the construction, but they did not provide enough to make another, better, one. 
I think if I ever get it back I may actually hang it in a tree and see what happens. The product would impede water. It might not work in cold weather but for the summer it would be fine around here. 
I added this sentiment which is viewable only if you look in through the hole. NOw I need to make another from a different material and make it look right!

05 March 2013

Gift Certificate Choice & Latest Knits

For those of you who may wonder what I finally ended up buying with my $50.00 gift certificate - here is the answer. I have to admit to spending far more time than was reasonable dithering about my decision. Books? Art supplies?  What would be something that I would use and remember my luck with? The answer may surprise you - as it did me when I finally pushed the 'buy me' button. Some of you know that I have had some back surgeries, have severe arthritis, fibromyalgia etc etc. Along with these issues my venerable desk chair is getting old, and the foam has compressed. I can't afford a new chair right now, but I decided to give one of the gel infused seat cushions a try. I can use it when I go to quilting retreats and lectures. The reviews are mixed but generally positive, and I know that I would not have thought to simply buy it myself. So thank you M. J. Rose for you generous windfall! I hope to review many more of your amazing books!

Knitting has been keeping busy and I am seriously wondering where this passion stems from. I certainly never thought to knit for most of my life. This project is called the "Color Affection" Shawl. Simple to knit with short rows. If you've never used short rows don't fear. They are very easy and after making this project you will know them inside and out!  These were the yarns I had selected. Madeline Tosh "Tosh Merino Light" in Olivia and Ginger and Malabrigo Sock in Arbol (the darker brown).

The Color Affection Pattern on Ravelry
Below is the finished shawl. I love this pattern and will, no doubt, make another in the future. It's a great pattern that you should really have a look at. If you're not a Ravelry member - how come? It's the best place for knitters and crocheters to explore. Inspiration and enjoyment - a great combination !

My next project is another beautiful shawl. This one is the Morlynn Shawl. Here's the Ravelry link.
 These images are awful but I'm sure one is not supposed to slurp the photos from the web - but I hoped to let you have a look at the pattern and also to give you a glimpse
, albeit blurry, of the final look
These are the colors I have chosen - Madeline Tosh, Tosh Merino Light in Jasper and Sand Dune.

03 March 2013

Circular Knitting Needle Comparison

When I use something a lot I have to admit that I try to find the brand that works best for me. I never thought that I would ever be a scissor snob until I found Dovo brand scissors and, of course I love my trusty Fiskars too. I became a scissor snob thank to Dovo. 

Now I seem to be searching for the perfect knitting needles - the perfect one for me at least. I have been enjoying the 'chase' and I think I am close to knowing exactly what my preference is, and want, in a knitting needles

I only use circular knitting needles. When I first taught myself to knit myself  that's what I used and my preference has not changed. I began knitting with Addi Turbo needles. That is the brand that my LYS sold and I have always loved how slick and fast they are. I have sets of Addi clicks interchangeables in both lace and regular.  Over time, I have discovered what I want in a knitting needle: metal, the pointiest tip possible, a fast knitting, slick, metal needle and a very flexible cable.

In this comparison I have used several brands - I tried to illustrate the same size ,4, , but I only have a size 3 in Signature Needles so that's what I used. It's the only size 3 in the group. I am not fond of wooden needles so I don't have any wooden brands in this comparison other than the Clover bamboo needle that I have used as a tip comparison.

I have not tried all brands of needles, obviously, so I can comment only on the ones I have tried. These are what I present here for a general comparison.

 The needle tips above right to left:
  1. Clover Bamboo: best quality Bamboo surface with a somewhat rounded tip. Many people   love working with bamboo, but I am not one of them because I find that they are slow!
  2. ChiaGoo Knit Red Lace fixed needle. I really like the pointy tip. They're quick and comfortable and I like the red, coated cable on this brand.
  3. HiyaHiya interchangeable: I am a big fan of HiyaHiya needles. They're light, slick and pointy with a cable that is similar to Addi click sets. I think the HiyaHiya cable is a bit more flexible.
  4. Addi Turbo fixed: these needles will always hold a soft spot in my heart as I used them exclusively when I began to knit. They have a generally much more rounded tip. The tip works alright for me in the smaller sized, but becomes far too round when I use them for worsted weights. I really do prefer a sharp point. 
  5. Addi Click Lace (Interchangeable): unlike the regular Addi Lace needles the click set is nickle coated rather than brass. I was surprised to see that when I got the set. I prefer the brass. When I inquired I was told that the nickle coating on the click set had something to do with the joins on the cables. I like Addi Lace needles. They are fast knitting and dependable. I'm not so fond of the Addi cable in general. It tens to be the most inflexible of the cables that I have tried. That holds true for all Addi needles that I have tried both fixed and interechangeable.
  6. Addi Click Interchangable Regular: pretty much the same as the Addi Turbo with generally rounded but still pointy enough tips in the smaller sizes.
  7. Addi Lace fixed: the same as Addi Clicks but with a fixed cable.
  8. Signature Needles: Size 3. This was a brand that I had wanted to try, but at $42.00 a pair they were not in my budget. DH kindly gifted me with sizes3 & 6 for the holidays. I love the cable on these needles! It is by far the most flexible of the bunch. The tips are, for me, the best - they are called Stiletto for a reason! Signature also offers a "Middy" needle tip for those folks who are not  fond of super pointy needles. The needles are smooth and lightweight. Lovely to work with. I found that there is a slight hesitation of the yarn as it passes over the 'colored' ares of the needle onto the uncolored tip. I wasn't sure how I would like that, but after using these for awhile I really do enjoy these needles and they are definitely on my short list of preferred needle brands now.
The weight of the needles is an issue for me. I had carpal tunnel surgery in the past and was finding that I was experiencing the symptoms again when I was using Addi's exclusively. It was a non-issue really because I could put my wrist brace on and move along. That being said, when I began to use some other brands, such as Signature, HiyaHiya, GhiaGoo and Karbonz, I found that my wrist and hand fatigue were greatly lessened with the lighter weight of these brands. 

In the image above I have added my most recent purchase to the mix. Right to Left:
  1. Addi Lace Click (interchangelable) size 4
  2. ChiaGoo Knit Red Lace (fixed) size 4
  3. HiyaHiya (interchangeable) size 4
  4. Knitter's Pride Karbonz. I am liking these! They are lightweight, strong, warm to the touch and have lovely, sharp, smooth points, although they are just a bit more rounded than the stiletto tips on Signatures. The carbon fiber is not as slick as some of the other, metal, brands and I wondered how I would like it but, as I knit along on my current shawl project, I am finding that I like these very well and would purchase some additional sets. Size 4
  5. Signature Brand size 3

Above: the cable on the Signature brand needles is, hands down, the most flexible, soft cord on the market, IMHO. I simply love it. They are a pleasure to work with and afford a bit more range in that they are flexible enough that a 32" will often work (if that's what you have on hand) when a 24" needle is recommended for the pattern. 

Above: Signature brand on top and Kintter's Pride Karbonz on the bottom. The needle size imprint on the Signature brand is etched in the needled itself but does not change the smooth flow of the yarn over the needle. Knitter's Pride Karbonz imprint the size on the needle itself but it is also imprinted in black on the collar which you can just barely make out to the left of the white  imprint. 

The cable on the Knitter's Pride Karbonz is a bit less flexible than the Signature needles but it is more flexible than the cable on Addi's or HiyaHiya. The cable on the ChiaGoo needles falls somewhere between Addi and Karbonz; more flexible than Addi less flexible than Signature or Karbonz

This is the cable on the ChiaGoo Knit Red Lace needle. It sort of looks like a very miniature version of the cable that is used on many bicycle locks! 
Above: The connection on the Addi Click sets. You push and turn as you set the needle into the cable. They are very secure. I find a slight resistance as the yarns moves over the connection but not enough that I would not choose the brand
Above: The connection on the HiyaHiya brand interchangeable needles. It's a screw set - no chuck needed. I have found these to be very stable and I find almost no resistance as the yarn moves over the connection. It's a very smooth join. The cable on the HiyaHiya sets is similar to Addi's. A slightly deeper blue color and no where near as flexible as the Signatures or Karbonz but, there again, I really like this knitting needle set.

They are very modestly priced in comparison to any of the other interchangeable brands that I have used. They are presented in a lovely fabric case, have super smooth joins on the cables and excellent, smooth, pointy tips. I think HiyaHiya is an excellent bang for the buck, and I really enjoy knitting with them.
The screw on join for HiyaHiya
My personal favorites list in order of preference:

  1. Signature Needle Arts come the closest to being my perfect needle. I love the flexible, soft, smooth cable, the stiletto tips and the light weight of them. They are so comfortable to knit with! I would prefer that they did not have the ever-so-slight hesitation over the needle, but I am told that this effect lessons as, the needles are used, and I can see how this might be true. Terribly expensive and rather cost prohibitive.
  2. Knitter's Pride Karbonz: I like the light weight of them, the warm feeling in your hand, smooth tips and very flexible cable. Definitely 'doable' for my personal price point. They are a pleasure to use and I will be purchasing more I think.
  3. HiyaHiya: I am very fond of these modestly priced, fast, smooth needles with an effortless cable connection. The cable could be more flexible but it really it's not a deal breaker - it's good enough and I love the needles themselves.
  4. ChaiGoo Knit Red Lace: There is nothing not to like about these needles. On par with HiyaHiya as far as cost goes and quality. They are light weight, fast and pointy with good cables. I consider HiyaHiya and ChiaGoo to be quite comparable all in all.
  5. Addi Clicks, Addi Turbo, Addi Lace: How could I place these needles last on my list when they were my favorite for so many years?!

         Addi Lace fixed needles with the brass coloring. I will continue to enjoy using them. They are    excellent quality and remain a favorite.

         Addi Turbos fixed: The tips are just too rounded for my current preference, although I still love the super fast needling. The cables, now that I have tried others, is not among my favorites.
       Addi Click sets (Lace and Regular): They are very good sets that are beautifully presented. I will always love the slickness of the needles, but the cables are not my favorites and I hate how they can crimp up at times.I wish Addi would change their cable -
 then would most likely move up to place 1 or 2 for me!

The Bottom Line: when I can afford them, or when they are gifted to me, I will use Signatures as much as possible. After them I am currently rather enamored with Knitter's Pride Karbonz and beyond these two brands I remain happy to use either HiyaHiya or ChaiGoo brand. Of the two, if I had to choose only one, I would pick HiyaHiya, but they are both excellent choices; smooth knitting, lightweight with reasonable cables.

Enjoy your own knitting needles comparison tests. I think that what we choose as our favorite knitting needle is very much a personal preference choice, so I suggest that if you are considering what brand to buy, that you purchase one set of each brand. It's really the only way to make an informed decision and most of these needles are within reach financially speaking. Signatures are, at $42.00a pair, a luxury. Knitter's Pride Karbonz seem to run about 14.95 per set. ChiaGoos fixed are abour $8.oo a set and an interchangeable set of HiyaHiya's will only set you back about $99.00 - compared to Addi's approximate $170.00