Designing, Travel

actual knitting. really.

Brace yourselves, everybody. I’m about to show you some actual knitting on this allegedly-themed “knitting blog.” Can you believe it???

Throughout the last half of the summer, I had a series of secret projects on the needles (and on the crochet hook) that I wasn’t able to show you. Those projects are all happily with their true owners now, and I’m able to get back to some designing for self-publication, which means I can show you all the nitty gritty details along the way.

But first, just a couple pictures from my weekend at Vogue Knitting Live show in Los Angeles. First up, I think I got a real photo of the Grand Canyon! (There’s a joke behind this in my family – we drove to see the Grand Canyon for a summer vacation and when we got there, there was so much fog, you couldn’t see anything. I really mean it – you couldn’t even see if there was a pothole in the ground 5 feet ahead of you. So since I saw nothing, I was convinced that the Grand Canyon didn’t really exist. Well, until I snapped this picture, I guess….)

Grand canyon?

I was at the VK Live show working, so I don’t have any tales of classes or shopping, but I had a nice view from my hotel room in Century City with the Los Angeles hills in the background.


My favorite meal of the trip was at the West Coast chain of “Pink Taco.” I had beef brisket enchiladas. I love brisket, but now I know that its higher calling is to be sandwiched inside a corn tortilla smothered with cheese.

Pink taco

Pink taco

All right, enough of all that. I promised you knitting content, and knitting content you shall have. Let me begin at the beginning.

Many months ago, my cousins thought of me when they saw this postcard while they were traveling in the Southwest:

Zuni woman

The image is entitled “Zuni girl with jar,” and the back of the postcard informs us that “The Zuni, a Pueblo tribe, are located on the Zuni River in New Mexico. The Zuni are renowned as talented potters, silversmiths, and cotton cloth weavers.” As soon as I saw the postcard, I knew I’d come up with a design idea inspired by the girl, but it could only be allowed to percolate in my mind because I had so many other items on the needles at the time. What inspired me the most were all the strong right angles featured on the jar. In particular, the inverted triangle shape with the jagged edge on the top of the jar got me thinking about a similarly angular shawl…..

Once my secret knitting/crochet was completed, I grabbed the skein that I knew would be the perfect fit for this design idea that had been on my mental backburner all summer long.

Tart, iris, candlewick

Remember this photo from a couple months ago? That skein glowing on the windowsill on the right? That’s the one I chose – one skein of Madelinetosh Pashmina in “Candlewick.” I thought that the tonally-variegated gold color would be a great color for a fall accessory and a nice match for a design inspired by the people of the sun-soaked Southwest, the skein had enough yardage to become a one-skein scarf/shawl, and the merino/cashmere/silk blend of the yarn would be ideal against the more sensitive skin of the neck.

I knew that I wanted the design to be all about right angles and for some reason, I had also decided that it would be primarily garter stitch. I think that, after creating several designs in a row for publication, I was needing something streamlined and “back to basics,” if you will. A nice fat dose of garter stitch that shows off the subtle changes of the colorway and that gives the best texture to the scarf. Finally, I had also decided that I was going to knit it side to side for a little variation from your usual triangular scarf construction. All of these things had been subconsciously decided for me, honestly, while I was waiting to knit this design. So after swatching a bit with some leftover Pashmina yarn (of which I have a king’s ransom worth) to get the needle size, the gauge and the pattern of the design right, I was casting on in near-record speed.

Shawl start

Here’s my initial progress at the beginning of my flight to LA. And just a few hours later, I had covered a lot of ground (literally and figuratively…)

Shawl after

In fact, I was almost at the halfway point. It didn’t take me long to realize, however, that my speedy progress was a bad omen: my scarf was growing “width-wise” (which is really its vertical drop from the back of the neck), but didn’t have enough vertical length to wrap around the neck more than once. In the world of scarf design (or at least, in my opinion of scarf design), a scarf has to be really long and be able to wrap around the neck generously. I thought and thought about how to salvage what I’d originally done, but I couldn’t avoid it: the scarf just wasn’t long enough and the idea needed to be reworked and all of the knitting pulled out.


Sigh. This is a photo I took in the LAX airport on my return trip to NYC.

Since then, I’ve reworked the pattern design to lengthen the scarf and shorten its “width” and once I did that, it was full speed ahead again. So much so, that this is what I spent my Saturday night doing:

Zuni blocking

Zuni side

Zuni pattern

I couldn’t be happier with how this came out. I love the color, the texture, the shape, the contrast between the garter and stockinette to make almost a light-and-shadow effect, and the size of it – it’s going to be the perfect little thing to wrap around my neck for a pop of color this season. I especially love that last photo and the way that the morning light makes the stockinette pattern shine against the garter stitch background. Swoon!

I’ll definitely be releasing this design, which I’ve naturally dubbed the “Zuni” scarf/shawl, before the New York Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY in two weekends. I just need to write the pattern (HA – “just”) and get some modeling photos with Andrew at the camera’s helm.

So there you go – a knitting fix on this “knitting blog.” I’m feeling so inspired by the coming season, and have a lot more ideas percolating along in my head. Which is great, because we’ve all seen that stash of yarn in my bedroom, and it’s not gonna knit itself….

PS: One more photo to share, and with my Zuni girl postcard included for scale. My last secret project of the summer was a crochet project using the wonderful merino/nylon sock yarn from Black Bunny Fibers. I completed the project while flying back from Barcelona, and I was sweating it out the whole way because I was petrified that I would run out of yarn. Well, I made it, but literally with ONE GRAM to spare. Behold, my margin of error:


Now that’s a close call.

4 thoughts on “actual knitting. really.”

  1. WOW…what a gorgeous knit….!!!!!!! I wore the triangular scarf that you gave me for Christmas last year to the big “opening” last night…I felt very “fashionable”, and the added warmth was a bonus…thank you…!

  2. I love your posts ! all of them… Your trip to Spain brought back many wonderful memories for me, especially your photos of the weaver in Barcelona. Your Zuni inspired shawl/scarf is lovely, and the bright sun yellow is most appropriate. The young Zuni lady would be inspired by you as well, I imagine.

  3. I am so envious. I would give a lot to be able to simply design one shawl for myself, that would fit me exactly as I would like it to fit, and I don’t even know where to begin. And you turn out the most amazing and beautiful pieces, all in your own little head. You are truly gifted with a great talent. The “Zuni” scarf it gorgeous! Congratulations on turning the idea into an object of such beauty and warmth. 🙂

  4. Just beautiful. That picture is from the early twentieth century when the Smithsonian sent anthropologists to study the western tribes. There are a lot of traditional pottery designs that would translate into beautiful shawls. I commend you. I recently retired as a school administrator from Zuni. And your shawl reminds me also of the sunrise on the mesas and the Zuni Mountains.

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